Interacting with the Sermon
Synopsis of the Sermon
This weekend, Pastor Rich Nathan spoke about contending for the core truth of the Christian faith when the truth is under siege. In the early church tradition, there was a core of Christian teaching handed on by the apostles to Christian leaders (1 Cor. 15.1-5). In Jude’s day, false teachers were entering the church, following dreams and prophecies that were contrary to this core of Christian teaching (vv. 3-4).
In contending for the faith, there is a necessary distinction between dogma, doctrine, and opinion. The core teachings that Jude is telling Christians to contend for are what Roger Olsen refers to as the dogmas of the faith; the fundamental truths that are essential to Christianity. Doctrine refers to tenets of the faith that are important to a particular tradition, but are not essential to the Christian faith. Opinions are the many speculations that Christians can legitimately disagree about. Although fights in the church almost always occur at the opinion-level, the false teachers Jude speaks of were teaching heresy. Jude speaks to the hyper-opinionated and the hyper-tolerant, saying that only the core message is worth fighting for.
The false teachers were teaching (v. 4) a misunderstanding of grace and freedom. The basic notion of freedom the false teachers were claiming is the freedom to do all without restraint as long as others aren’t harmed, the same basic notion we see today. This notion is not the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude calls the autonomous false teachers, “ungodly,” because he is showing that our relationship with God deeply impacts the way we do life, and actually informs our morals. Rather than a “shrinking funnel” of life lived without restraint, life in relationship with God through Jesus is a “widening funnel” free of addiction guilt, and shame. In an increasing way, we begin to turn to God to satisfy our desires, and see our desires change to be like God’s.
Jude is saying that the fruit of autonomy, substituting our own, baseless, personal law for the law of God, will result in spiritual and eternal destruction. The false teachers insist on autonomy because they do not understand sustaining grace. The book of Jude says that when the every facet of the truth is under siege by a million different opinions, the one thing that will get us through is grace.
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 are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?
- Has anyone found themselves arguing about doctrines or opinions that you now realize are not a part of the core message of the gospel that Jude says is worth fighting for? What was the result?
- Has anyone experienced consequence from living by the notion that grace gives us the freedom to do whatever we want? What impact did this thinking have on your relationships and other facets of your life? What has thinking/believing differently had on your life?
Study Goal: Freedom in Christ occurs through a deeper work of grace that, in an increasing way, changes our desires to be more like God’s. The common understanding of the Christian life in our world is that we are forced to resign our natural desires, and submit to the will of God for our lives; a will that will be totally opposed to what we actually want to do. “God, I really want children/to get married/to have this particular career, but you want me to sell everything I have and give to the poor” (a misinterpretation of Matthew 19). In Christ, we see that our desires are not a vile part of us that must be suppressed into extinction. Grace gives us the option we did not have before; to have the ability to choose what we are “slaves” to: slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, or slaves to righteousness. The two roads have opposite ends. The former road leads to spiritual death in this life, and eternal death the next. The latter road results in the fruit of the spirit in this life leading to sanctification, and eternal life in next.
Without this deeper work of grace that causes us to begin to find fulfillment of our desires in Christ alone, our desires turn on us and make us their slaves. The desire for a spouse can turn to result in being satisfied with anyone who will give you attention and satisfy your need for companionship and to be fully known, no matter if this person is abusive, careless, or puts their needs above all else. The desire for a particular career can turn to getting ahead being taking precedence over anything else, even if it means lying, cheating, and manipulating your way to the top. Neither will lead the fulfillment of the initial desire, but result in a greater emptiness. What we thought was freedom – to do whatever we desire, so long as others’ safety is not jeopardized – is, in fact, not freedom but slavery. Thank God that we no longer have to remain dead in our sin, but grace has freely opened up the door to a new way of life.
Context: Romans 6:15-23 drops right into Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome living directly under the shadow of Caesar. The letter follows the ancient Jewish pattern of slavery and rescue. Humanity is in slavery to sin, which even the law cannot defeat. Faith in Christ’s coming to the world, death, and resurrection rescues us from the law of sin and death freely by grace. Paul is arguing that this grace makes us no longer slaves to sin, but free.
Read Romans 6:15-23
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey —whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- (v. 16) What rhetorical question does Paul ask if his audience is aware of? (a. don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey?). What options does Paul say that there are? (a. to offer yourself as slaves to sin or to obedience). What does each result in? (a. Death or righteousness.) What does Paul mean when he says that sin leads to death? (a. not just bodily death, but spiritual death now; separation from God).
- (v. 17) For what does Paul thank God? (a. that the recipients of the letter have come to obey from their hearts the teachings of Christ.) As Christians, we too can thank God for this; that we have been set free. (v. 18) What does it mean to be set free? How is this different from being free to do whatever our desires are?
- (v. 19) Is the progression that Paul assumes (that indulging impurity and wickedness leads to more wickedness, while acting out of righteousness leads to holiness) correct? Give an example of how you have seen this progression play out in your life, or in the life of someone around you (examples included in the “Study Goal” section.)
- (vv. 20-22) Grace means that Christ has entered our lives. This will diminish sin, not promote it. Sanctification, the result of being “slaves of righteousness,” describes increasing obedience to the Lord as faith grows. Give an example of this grace at work in a specific area of your life.
- (v. 23) Kingdom theology explains that eternal life does not just begin after bodily death, but begins when Jesus enters your life. How does this change our understanding of v. 23?
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.
- To anyone who feels some of their desires need to be suppressed in order to be more Christ-like, or feel angry because a desire of their heart has not been met: name the desire and share it with the group or a group member. How have you been quenching that desire thus far? (Ignoring it, praying for it quietly and alone, indulging it, suppressing it…?) God does not ask us to ignore our desires, but to bring them before him. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you what desires he’d like to more fully satisfy in you, and how.
- Is there an area of your life that, at one time in the past, you would turn to for fulfillment or a “quick fix,” but has recently become a struggle again? Confess that with a group member, pray and ask God to give you the sustaining grace to keep going to him for all joy, to release all worry and anxiety, and to fully satisfy all parts of yourself. Remind the group that there is a level of authority the enemy loses through the simple obedient act of bringing what is hidden in the dark to the light through confession.
- Are there any sins of your past that you are debilitatingly ashamed of? Perhaps sins you’ve never brought to the light, but you dealt with/are dealing with yourself (even “small” things like fleeting thoughts or impulses that God can free you from)? Confess them with a group member, and pray to receive God’s cleansing and removal of guilt and shame.