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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
What we’re doing in the weeks leading up to Christmas is anticipating the approach or arrival of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Historically, Advent anticipated not only Jesus’ first coming at Christmas, but Advent was also an anticipation of Jesus’ second coming when he gathers to himself his children and judges the world. For this Advent series we’re looking at portraits of Jesus from the book of Revelation.
The book of Revelation presents Jesus as our Pastor and Shepherd (also John 10, Heb 13:20, 1 Pet 2:25, 1 Pet 5:4, Rev 7:17). When reading Revelation, there has been an “unfortunate interpretive tradition” where everything is read allegorically. In Rev 2 & 3, we want to take a historical approach rather than allegorical. So the writer, the Apostle John, compared the seven churches and their imperfections to the church in the New Creation. One take away is that Jesus has a message for every church throughout history living in this old broken fallen creation. He is our Pastor and we need to listen when our Pastor speaks to us. So, what would Jesus preach on? What would he say?
• Jesus would affirm us – as he does in the messages to each of the seven churches. If we are going to grow and thrive, we need to be affirmed.
• Jesus would also warn us. Jesus corrects and warns his church. We all need correction, if we are going to thrive and grow. It is an act of love to correct in grace. Not blasting people; not sharing why someone is a total failure – but correct in grace.
• Jesus would teach us. Every strength has a corresponding weakness attached to it (Ex. Optimists may struggle with discouragement, self-confident people may struggle with pride, hard-workers may struggle with love and grace, etc.). If there is a mark of the church to lean into this Christmas it would be love (John 13:33-35).
• Jesus would speak to us about our need to suffer (Rev 2:8-11). The NT teaches that the greatest issue that exists regarding the extension of the gospel in every time and in every place is the willingness of individual Christians to suffer so that this gospel message gets announced (John 12:24-26). There is nothing great ever achieved without some degree of suffering, without some deprivation.
• Jesus would speak to us about our need for truth (Rev 2:12-16). The writers of the New Testament know the healthy teaching, which applies God’s Word to real life will result in healthy living. And they also know that bad teaching and bad counsel will result in bad living. Rich asks, “What are we filling our souls with?
• Jesus would speak to us about our need for sincerity (Rev 3:14-19). Many good things were going on in Laodicea, but they were lukewarm about Jesus – their souls were nominal and superficial. Of course, Jesus would prefer not that we be cold, and certainly not that we be lukewarm, but that we be hot, burning in love for him.
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
• What were one or two things that resonated with you about this weekend’s sermon?
• Share a funny family Christmas story, or one from spending a Christmas with your spouse’s family.
Read 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV):
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
The apostle John, as in the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, is familiar and known to his audience. He has a close personal relationship with them – calling them loved ones and his children. They are also already believers. 1 John is a pastoral letter encouraging a “back to basics” faith that doesn’t neglect foundational practices and beliefs. Like his audience, we all need some reminding and encouragement about central truths, regardless of how long we’ve been following Jesus. Consider reading 1 John 3:23-24 which provides the context for this passage in chapter 4. 1 John 4:1-6 unpacks some implications of believing in Christ, then John moves (for the 3rd time in the letter) to address the social implication (Stott, says social test) of our faith – namely loving one-another. Why is reciprocal love the plain duty of Christians? It is, as John began to say in 3:16, that God purposed to reveal himself in Jesus Christ (8, 16); through Christ we experience God’s love (10-11); and God continues to love in and through us (12-13) – these are the reasons why we must love each other. Also consider reading John 13:33-35 where Jesus sets forth the command to love one-another.
• What are you like when someone tells you “you should do something”? What is one reason why we should love one another (7, 11)? Read John 13:33-35 – does it change your attitude if Jesus, your Savior, says it? But Jesus doesn’t just tell you to do something he didn’t first show you himself how to do, right? What is the greatest act of love you have ever committed? What is the greatest act of love ever bestowed on you by another person?
• (7-8) What does John contrast in these verses? What two things are true, if we love God and others? Someone once said “Love is like the language of God” – it’s hard to really know someone if you don’t share a common language.
• Have you ever experienced closeness with God because of a particular love-action toward another person? Please share.
• (7-8) What is the source of love? What behaviors, or disciplines, encourage love in you? Share a practical example.
• Two times (8, 16) scripture says, “God is Love”? What have you heard, or believe, that phrase to mean? (Important to affirm that God in substance, in being, is distinct from creation. He is spirit (Jn 4:24). God is not a feeling or emotion. One clear interpretation is God’s nature, his fundamental personality, is loving – all of God’s activity is loving.) Have you ever encountered God’s presence in a way where a part, or most, of the experience was a profound sense of His love? Please share.
• (9) What is one revelation of God’s love? What are some others you know of from scripture? (10) What is the essence of God’s love (Eph 2:1, Rom 5:7-8)? So how might Christian love differ from worldly love? (Even non-Christians love others, but the distinct quality of Christian love is that it doesn’t depend on the goodness, or worthiness, of the one receiving it. Who can be excluded?). Have you experienced this kind of Love or have you ever shown this kind of love? Please share.
• What implication does v. 11 make about the way we are to love? Describe some shared qualities that should exist in the ways we love one another? (self-sacrifice, humility).
• Why do you think John begins verse 12 with, “no one has ever seen God”? Read Revelation 2:4. How do you think that verse relates to this passage in 1 John?
• (12) What two things are true if we love one another? What does it mean that his love is made complete (some translations say ‘brought to perfection in us’)? (His love is complete in us when we love, because our love reveals the unseen God as real and true to those we love and those who observe that love.)
• What do you think your non-Christian friends and family members would say about your capacity for and expression of love?
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
• Ask the Holy Spirit for an outpouring of His love to saturate all of you relationships and interactions, so as to point others toward Jesus. Over the next week, record instances of evidence of this blessing and take time to thank God for using you in this way.
• Practically, is there anyone in need in your small group of Christ’s love being expressed in and through you? Ask God what how he wants you to love others in your small group.
• If you’ve never experience the all-consuming love of God, invite some friends to pray for you to tangibly meet God in that way.
• Ask for discernment about how you can become a more loving Christian. Share with others what you know works and doesn’t work, and pray for encouragement to press in to growth and change.