04 | For the Glory of God

 

1 Corinthians 10:23- 11:1

As we end Strong Church Part 3, Paul sums up his directions on navigating the world as witnesses. Jesus has given us a clear mission - to make disciples who make disciples - and we're called to make that mission the organizing principle of our lives. Make your motive God's glory, your aim the good of your neighbor, and your heart tender toward those who do not know the grace of God in Jesus, and then live the life God has given you.

FOR REFLECTION:

1. Read 1 Corinthians 10.23-11.1. Paul summarizes his directions for navigating in the world as witnesses: Aim to glorify God, seek to build up your neighbor, and look for opportunities to extend the message of grace.

2. God’s glory is about 3 things - his reality, his personal presence, and his beauty. Unpack what each aspect of his glory means. To what degree have you experienced God’s glory personally? Where are the “glory battlegrounds” in your life currently? 

3. Seeking to build up your neighbor means having compassion that leads to action. What are some of the places where compassionate action is most needed in your context? Are there ways you and/or your community are or might begin to meet those needs?

4. Paul’s hope is that many people would know the joy of salvation by grace in Jesus. To what degree does this hope motivate you? What opportunities has God given you for the gospel lately?

April 14, 2019 | Steve Hart


 

03 | Staying Low

 

1 Corinthians 10:1-22

Living as a faithful witness to Jesus is challenging, in part because the message of the gospel is so contrary to the priorities and practices of our culture. But there's another challenge, more subtle and powerful: How do we live as faithful witnesses to Jesus when the priorities and practices of our culture are often so attractive, promising immediate fulfillment and happiness? The temptation is to take the good things of the world - success at work, happiness in the home, the freedom to recreate - and turn them into idols, allowing our affection and allegiance to be pulled away from Jesus. How do we live in a world full of idols, and keep our minds, hearts, and lives devoted to Jesus?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

1. Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-22. Paul is bringing a strong word of challenge to Christians in Corinth who are self-assured in their faith, confident that they’re standing firm. What seems to be the lesson? See particularly v.12. 

2. The attitude described in v.12 is presumption. What is presumption? What did it look like for Israel, according to v.1-10? How does it show up in our lives today?

3. Paul says that beneath our presumption is our idolatry: When we’re unaware of the motivations of our hearts, we’re prone to be arrogant or self-assured in our faith. How does awareness of our heart’s motivations help to free us from presumption?

4. Paul says that God allows trial in our lives to help us see what our hearts really worship and trust, so that we’ll be set free to rest in the faithfulness of God to us in Jesus. In what ways is God doing that in your life today? 

April 7, 2019 | Steve Hart


 

02 | Missionary People

 

1 Corinthians 9:1-27

Part 3 of our Strong Church series (1 Corinthians 8-10) is all about navigating life in the world as Christian. We know that Jesus has come to suffer, die, and rise, victorious over sin. We also know he'll return soon to establish his kingdom of grace, justice, and holistic flourishing. How ought we live in the in between? In this week's text, we're urged to live as a missionary people, orienting our lives around the advance of the gospel. Being a missionary in the everyday requires sacrificing our entitlement, immersing in our culture, and staying faithful to Jesus as we graciously and courageously engage our neighbors with the good news of the gospel.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-27. Paul is responding to accusations that he’s not a “real” apostle because he’s unwilling to take money from the Corinthians to support him and his ministry. Notice that in his defense, he actually shows us the nature of Christian witness -we can live as faithful gospel proclaimers in a culture that is not receptive to our message.

2. What is Paul’s defense in v.1-18? Why is he unwilling to take what is rightfully his? How does Paul’s sacrifice of his rights serve to advance the Gospel (see v.12)? What happens to Christian witness when we hold on to our rights or entitlements?

3. Consider v.19. What is his posture toward those with whom he wants to share the Gospel message? 

4. Consider v.23. What is his motive for living a life of gospel witness? How might this motivate us?

5. With whom has God given you favor? What aspects of the gospel might be good news to them?

March 31, 2019 | Steve Hart


 

01 | Freed to Serve

 

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

We're launching Part 3 of our Strong Church Series, looking at the challenges of living as Servants of Jesus in a world that doesn't yet know his gracious reign. We've been given incredible freedom through Jesus, and we need to learn how to live with that freedom as we relate to one another, to our neighbors who don't yet know Jesus, and to a world that is still in active rebellion to Him. This week, we consider the ways in which we serve and love one another as God's family, particularly when our convictions regarding the things of this world differ. Our love for one another - particularly in areas of disagreement - is one of the greatest testimonies to the truth of Jesus' present reign.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

1. Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. This section (chapters 8-10) is about navigating life in the world; not an easy task for someone wanting to be faithful to Jesus and love his or her neighbors. Paul urges the church toward 3 things: Truth, Humility, Sacrificial Love.

2. Truth (v.4-6): What does Paul say is the center of the Christian faith? Why is he saying this here? What is the implication he draws in v.7-8?

3. Humility (v.1-3). Paul has some strong rebukes for those who think they’re knowledgeable. What is he saying? How does being known by God lead to humility?

4. Sacrificial Love (v.9-13). While this text is focused on relating to one another in the body of Christ, the fact is that all people are made in God’s image and are people for whom Christ died. How ought that shape our engagement with one another and our neighbors?

5. Where in your life are you engaging with people who don’t share your spiritual beliefs? How can you engage them with truth, humility, and sacrificial love? What might be one next step toward deepening relationship and having gospel conversation?

March 24, 2019 | Steve Hart


 

Baptism

 

Romans 6:2-4

Baptism says what we believe and who we are. We believe in Jesus as a a savior God who died for us. I am His child, with His people, with eternal hope because of the cross and I belong to this people. While the baptism itself is not faith or grace, it is a powerful, symbolic, and most necessary way to make our proclamation that Jesus is Lord.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

1. Have you been Baptized? When?
2. What has the significance of baptism been for you?
3. How does your baptism connect to following Jesus now?
4. If you have not been baptized, and want more information about it, contact us.

March 17, 2019 | Scott Cooley


 

06 | Joy and Tension in Singleness

 

1 Corinthians 7:25-40

We wrap up Part 2 of our Strong Church series with Paul's reflections on the joys, benefits, and challenges of singleness. Christianity embraces singleness as a unique and beneficial calling - Jesus was single, as was Paul - and Paul argues that it is in many ways preferable to marriage. At the same time, he's wonderfully pragmatic: singleness means celibacy, and that is no easy calling for sexual beings. In the end, we're all made for a love and intimacy with Christ that marriage and sex only hint at, and living in the anticipation of the coming fullness of that love frees us to be single or married with joy, selflessness, and contentedness.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

1. Read 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. The best way to understand “the betrothed” is “those who have not married.” Paul’s clarifying for the Corinthians the benefits and pitfalls of singleness, arguing that singleness is uniquely advantageous. What benefits of singleness does he mention?

2. Considering Paul’s positive vision of singleness, why do you think marriage is so often assumed to be the ideal? To what degree does Paul agree or disagree here?

3. What are some of the biggest challenges or tensions for single people in the church and the world?

4. How can single people steward the gift of singleness well? How can married people honor and encourage them?

5. How can we as single and married people mutually encourage one another toward “undivided devotion” to the Lord (v.35)?

March 10, 2019 | Steve Hart


 

05 | Live As You Are Called

 

1 Corinthians 7: 17-24

No matter where you find yourself, what ever life situation that salvation now finds you, it finds you for the sake of sharing that salvation where you are. God hasn’t made a mistake in where he has put you, and he fully intends on you living out your salvation exactly where you are: in your family, with your coworkers, at your school, in your neighborhood. A strong church is God’s people living out their salvation right where they are with intentionality and humility.

March 3, 2019 | Scott Cooley


 

04 | Sex, Singleness, and Marriage

 

1 Corinthians 7: 1-16

The bible offers a unique view of human wholeness, and no where is that more obvious than in regards to singleness, marriage, and sex. In a culture full of mixed messages, the bible shoots straight: our bodies and our sexuality are gifts from God and need to be stewarded well for the sake of our own and other’s flourishing. In marriage, that means mutual honor, care, and commitment to one another and to the sexual union. In singleness, that means honoring the body in celibacy and learning to cultivate non-sexual intimacy. Surprisingly, married people can worship God by having regular sex and single people can worship God by not having sex! Only the gospel - the good news of God’s intimate love for us in the gift of his Son - can dethrone sex, set us free from the need of it, and free us to enjoy it as God intended.

February 24, 2019 | Steve Hart