Synopsis of the Sermon
The bible views life differently from contemporary America. Our culture could be described as expressive individualism. “Am I happy? Am I satisfied?” It’s all about “me” instead of “we.” The bible challenges our culture and views individuals as part of families.
What we see from today’s text in 1 Samuel is that first, our value is not tied to our recognition—either for who we are or what we’ve accomplished. The bible is about obscure people. The world gives value to what doesn’t matter—the Lord values what no one else recognizes.
We also see that our value is not tied to what we have. Hannah didn’t have children, but as her name indicated (“grace”)—what’s important is what she is by virtue of God’s work in her life. What we are by nature (our looks, our talents, our ability to bear children) is not as important as what we are by grace.
Third, we see that our value is not tied to what God permits to happen in our lives. The text says that despite the fact that Hannah obeyed and sacrificed, God “closed her womb.” The bible teaches us that everything that happens to us God has allowed, but not everything that He allows is His ideal will. One day He will end all evil. When we do choose to obey, we, like Hannah, can experience now the life to come.
Fourth, we see that our value is not tied to how our family treats us. All families are tainted and “dysfunctional” and they do not necessarily represent what God thinks of us.
Finally, children’s value is not tied to what the culture thinks. Then, in the days of 1 Samuel, children were very important. Today, however, it’s as if children don’t matter at all.
As followers of Jesus we ought not to get our values from the culture. We should be living by a different set of values—not “expressive individualism” but rather offering the world an alternative family—a place to belong where people are valued according to what God says is important.
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?
- How have you personally seen and/or experienced the “expressive individualism” that is so prevalent in contemporary America?
- Where do you see biblical values challenging contemporary culture? Discuss.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
It is believed that Paul wrote a total of four letters to the church at Corinth (only two of them are included in the canon of New Testament scriptures). The church had multiple problems, including immorality, confusion about spirituality and the gifts of the Spirit, and false teaching. 2 Corinthians is Paul’s last letter, and in he commends them for responding well to his corrections, informs them of upcoming plans and includes some teaching about the true nature of Christian ministry. The passage we will study is addressing this purpose—describing some basic and foundational truths about the Christian life.
- Read the passage out loud and then have the group identify the major themes—noting repeated words and phrases. Based on this passage, have the group, in their own words, define what it means to be a Christian and what the aim or goal of Christian ministry is.
- What do you think it means when Paul writes he is “not trying to commend himself” to them? What do you think are the things Paul “takes pride in?” What would you say is Paul’s primary motivation for all that he does?
- Based on this passage, Paul was clearly more concerned with what God thought than what others thought. He was shaped by God’s values. How do you think Paul was able to be free from cultural pressures of his day? Discuss.
- What do you think Paul means when he writes about regarding people from a “worldly point of view?” What is an example of a worldly point of view? What point of view does Paul have of people? Of Jesus?
- How do you think our world today views Christ and views Christians? How do you think Paul would conduct himself as follower of Jesus if he were alive today?
- Verse 17 is the high point of this passage. Break it down and explain what you think each phrase means: “in Christ;” “new creation;” “the old;” “the new.”
- How do you think verse 17 should affect how we think of others? How we think of ourselves? Explain.
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.
- There may be some in the group who struggle with their self-concept, because of past experiences (failures or disappointments) or even how their families related to them. They really need to lay hold of what God thinks! Allow some time for sharing and then pray for those who need to believe and experience the truths found in verse 17.
- We continually find ourselves at odds with the culture, particularly as families with children. The pressure to conform is great! Perhaps there are some who need both wisdom and grace to know how to live as Christians in their neighborhoods, schools or at work. Encourage the group to be transparent about the issues they face. Allow time for sharing experiences and words of encouragement before praying for those who need prayer. We benefit greatly from the testimonies of others.