Synopsis of the Sermon
This weekend, Pastor Rich Nathan continued the Family Mess 2 series with a study of three Kings: King David, King Absalom, and King Jesus. He looked at what made each of them successes or failures as Kings, and how we can apply those lessons to our lives.
First, Rich introduced us to King David, the “Ineffective King.” Rich said that David was ineffective for four main reasons. First, David was an absent father. Rich reminded us that kids spell love “T-I-M-E.” Our modern society is full of examples of parents that are successes socially or in the business realm, but that fail with their kids because they give them the leftovers of their time. Second, David lived an inconsistent life. Rich showed us how David’s inconsistencies in the way he lived had an adverse effect on his children, his son Absalom in particular. Third, David was a neglectful disciplinarian. When David’s eldest son, Amnon, raped his sister Tamar, David did nothing to either protect Tamar or discipline his son. For whatever reason, possibly to save face in the wake of his own scandal with Bathsheba, David tried to sweep the situation under the rug. Rich reminded us that whenever we try and hide sin rather than engaging in full disclosure, we immediately compromise our integrity and spiritual death begins to creep in. Finally, David was content with incomplete reconciliation. When Absalom began to express the results of his brooding anger toward his father, David was passive, content to wait until the last moment to reconcile with his son, and even then engaging in reconciliation that really did nothing to heal past wounds or fix the current situation.
Second, Rich introduced us to King Absalom, the “Bitter King.” Rich made it clear that bitterness that is left to fester ultimately destroys us, and Absalom’s growing, cancerous bitterness was foreshadowed by five signs. The first is the sign of resentment. This may look like being unable to think of someone positively, or just being in a state of settled anger against someone. The second is the sign of revenge. The burning desire to get even with someone can also take on many faces, from withholding sex from your spouse to being cold to a coworker to gossiping about someone in the church. The third is the sign of reminders. When we are allowing bitterness to grow inside of us, we will be reminded by it everywhere we turn. The fourth is the sign of reaction. Bitterness clearly has a hold on us when small situations set us off, when we act out or explode at something small. Absalom exhibited this by setting his cousin’s field on fire when his Father wouldn’t come talk to him. The last sign is the sign of rebellion. Bitterness has boiled over in our lives when we act in outward rebellion to our object of bitterness, just as Absalom did to his father, David.
Finally, Rich introduced us to King Jesus, the “Forgiving King.” Unlike King David, who refused to initiate reconciliation with his son, King Jesus actively works to reconcile us to him and does so by his death on the cross. Unlike King Absalom, who is self-seeking, King Jesus is self-sacrificing, willing to give up his own life so that we might be reconciled to him eternally.
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?
- When in our lives have we encountered a King David, an “Ineffective King?” This could be individuals in our own lives such as a parent or a church authority, or it could be certain character traits that we recognize in ourselves.
- When in our own lives have we encountered a King Absalom, a “Bitter King?” this could be individuals in our own lives, or it could be certain character traits that we recognize in ourselves.
Study Goal: How do we become a community of people that follows in the footsteps of the Forgiving King rather than the Ineffective or Bitter King? In this study we will examine specific things to pursue and specific things to avoid as individuals and as a community so that we will continue to bring our lives under the rule and reign of the Forgiving King.
Context: It is somewhat difficult to establish the context of the Letter to the Hebrews. Its author is unknown (some have suggested Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, and Luke, among others) and its date is also in question, falling somewhere between 60 and 90 CE. The intended audience is also not entirely clear, as the author never explicitly states who he/she is writing to, but the letter’s content makes a strong case that Hebrews was indeed written to a Jewish community of believers with a goal of showing how Jesus fulfilled various aspects of Jesus law and custom (“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.” Hebrews 1:1-2).
Hebrews 12:14-17 is in the middle of a section where the author, because of the “great cloud of witnesses” that we are surrounded by (the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11), is exhorting his/her audience to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). Just what this looks like is continued throughout chapter 12, and what we will engage in our text today.
Read Hebrews 12:14-17
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the LORD. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
- (v.14) According to verse 14, what two things are we supposed to pursue? (a. Peace and holiness)
- (v. 14) What is the consequence for others if we are not holy? (a. Others will not see the LORD.)
- (v. 15) According to verse 15, what are we supposed to make sure our brothers and sisters “do not miss” and what are we supposed to make sure they stay away from? (a. The grace of God and bitterness)
- (v. 16) According to verse 16, what two things are we supposed to make sure our brothers and sisters stay away from? (a. Sexual immorality and godlessness)
- (v. 16) What was Esau’s act of godlessness? (a. Selling his birthright for a single meal, see also Genesis 25:29-34)
- (v. 17) When Esau had realized the importance of his blessing and wanted to inherit it, what happened? (a. He was rejected, see also Genesis 27:30-40)
- (v. 14) Whose responsibility is it that we live at peace with “all men?” Theirs, or ours? What does this mean for us in our personal lives with those that are especially difficult to live at peace with? (a. Many possible answers. It is certainly our responsibility, and this could look like a myriad of things. It almost always looks like humbling ourselves to the other person and being willing to self-sacrifice. See also Philippians 2:3-11)
- (v. 15-16) In verses 15 and 16, the author makes it our responsibility to protect our brothers and sisters from bitterness, sexual immorality, and godlessness. What does this practically look like in our own communities? Do you know a brother or sister that is living with a root of bitterness, or has become content to indulge in godless or sexually immoral actions? How can you help lead them away from that and towards that grace of God? (a. Many possible answers. One thought to stress is that whenever we confront a brother or sister, we always want to hold truth firmly in one hand and radical love firmly in the other. We want to stay away from condemnation and lean into a firm, honest, loving call out of sin and death and back into the grace of God)
- (v. 16) In a moment of hunger, Esau threw away one his most treasured possessions, his birthright, to satisfy his stomach. What examples of ways that our immediate desires can tempt us to throw away God’s most precious gifts, and how can we protect ourselves and others from doing so? (a. Many possible answers.)
- (vv. 14-16) This passage begins with calls toward individual responsibility in verse 14, and then shifts to calls toward our responsibilities toward others in verses 15 and 16. What may the author be trying to point out in the way he/she structured this passage? (a. Many possible answers, one is “if we are not first individuals of peace and holiness, then we will be unable to protect our communities from bitterness, sexual immorality, and godlessness, and unable to lead them to the grace of God. We cannot protect others from things that we haven’t first destroyed in ourselves.”)
- (v. 17) Esau could not regain his birthright, but we follow the Forgiving King who is “devising ways that a banished person might not remain estranged from Him” (2 Samuel 14:14). When has God forgave and restored you even after you had, like Esau, thrown his precious gifts aside? Don’t be afraid to share! We all fall short of the glory of God, and sharing such stories helps keep us humble. Also, it is edifying to the body to hear stories of God’s goodness to us even when we have not been good to Him!
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.
- As a small group, see to it that no one in your group “misses the grace of God.” Pray in small groups that the grace of God would come and fill each other up, handing over any burdens that we might be tempted to carry ourselves.
- Maybe there are some in your group that have a person (or persons) in their life that is nigh impossible to live at peace with. Minister to them, praying that God will give them the power through the Holy Spirit to take on the responsibility of peacemaking, just as Jesus took the responsibility of peacemaking onto himself. Also pray encouragement for them, because God loves peacemakers (Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”)
- If we want to protect our brothers and sisters from bitterness, sexual immorality, and godlessness, we must first be people of peace and holiness. Pray for the Holy Spirit to come and do transforming work in your hearts. This might also be a good time to address and confess and unconfessed sin so that more of our heart is open to the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Pray for your communities, that they would be protected against bitterness, sexual immorality, and godlessness. If any of these issues come up with specific people in your group, give specific ministry attention to them so that the Holy Spirit can root those things out of their heart.