Synopsis of the Sermon
John Wesley is a great example of the “U-shaped life” for many Christians. He began his career as a pastor in a new English colony in Georgia. He fell in love with a woman named Sophie, but he never was able to tell her his feelings. When she married another man, he was crushed and decided to refuse her communion. He was sued by her husband for defaming her character and he left in disgrace. But only a few years later he became the leader of one of the major Christian revivals in history. Jesus himself shows us the “U-shaped life.” He descended and living life in a human body and became a servant – even allowed himself to be killed in disgrace. But then he ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father.
He ascended and he sits at the right hand of God and that means that his work is finished. His life and death fulfilled all the prophecies that had been foretold about Messiah. Jesus finished the work of continual sacrifice for sin. In his death, Christ took on all the wrath for all the sins of all time and gave us all access to God. He sits at the right hand of God which means that Jesus converts, preserves and protects us. Our own conversions are a miracle and that we are able to continue following Him is also a miracle. Jesus also prays for us and the effect of his prayers are great because he is a priest forever and his prayers never cease for us. Not only that, but Jesus’ ascension brings us gifts. His victory has gained for us an ability to access His Spirit and gifts of that Spirit.
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?
- What were your thoughts about the ascension before hearing this talk? What do you think people outside the Christian faith think about the ascension of Jesus and it’s importance?
The author of Hebrews is uncertain. Many attribute the letter to Silas or Apollos. The author is an educated Roman citizen and is primarily writing to a Jewish audience. In the ancient world, animal blood sacrifice was commonly understood to be a necessity to rid people of sin. The author of Hebrews is addressing this tradition and showing how it was insufficient to permanently rid human beings of the sin that separates us from God.
Read Hebrews 10:1-18
10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
- VV. 1-4 (observation) What evidence does the author of Hebrews give for animal sacrifice not being enough? (the sacrifice had to continue to be offered year after year, and people continued to feel the guilt from their sins.)
- VV. 5-10 (observation) Why does the author say that Christ’s sacrifice was better than the sacrifice of animal blood? (Christ “came to do God’s will” V. 7 and His sacrifice was in a human “body” V. 10) (interpretation) Why do you think that it was important for Christ’s sacrifice to be with a human body? (A human body was needed to be sacrificed for all human bodies. Humans are the ultimate in God’s created beings, so the blood sacrifice should had to come from them)
- VV. 11-14 (interpretation) What is the significance of Christ sitting at God’s right hand? (refer to the sermon this week) (application) What does it mean that Christ has “made perfect forever” (a permanent state) those who are “being made holy” (something that continues to happen). (It’s good to discus the tension between Christ’s sacrifice for sins that reconciles us to God once and for all and the continual process as Christians of being made holy. How do we balance these two things? How can we be engaged with how God is changing us but not fall into legalism?
- VV. 15-18 (observation) What does the new covenant look like? Read this passage in context; it is quoted from Jer 31:33-34. (The law will be written on our hearts and minds and no longer on paper. There will be a personal relationship with God Jer 31:33. All men and women will be able to know God without being taught Jer 31:34. God will forgive us and not even remember our sins Jer 31:34.)
- (interpretation/application) What do you think it means that the law is written on our hearts and minds? What difference does it make? How is it possible that we can all know God without being taught? (Use this opportunity to discuss the Holy Spirit and His role in our Christian walks. Do any of these benefits of the new covenant affect those who don’t know Jesus?)
- (application) How does it make you feel that God “remembers your sins no more”? Do you feel capable of absorbing this truth? Are you able to forget the mistakes of your past? How can we release these things that haunt us to God?
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.
- Break down in groups of 2-3 – best to split up men with men and women with women in case there is sensitive information. Spend some time confessing anything that haunts you from your past. Keep it short and simple – and for those who are listening, don’t encourage or give advice. Just listen patiently. When the person is finished sharing, lay hands on them and pray for them the words from 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Then just pray for God’s presence and love to be known to them.
- If your group is newer and not ready for major vulnerability, take some time to share some things you are asking God for. Rich taught in his message that Christ, the perfect priest, prays for us and his prayers are so powerful because he sits at God’s right hand forever. What do you feel is impossible right now? Where do you need God to intervene? Where do you feel powerless in your own life or in the life of someone you love? Pray for each other and read Heb 7:23-25 as an encouragement to one another.