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Rethink Christianity

Big Idea of the Series: This four-week sermon series wrestles with the common statement: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Christianity, by default, is a religion in the common definition of the word. The answer, then, seems to be less about losing our religion than finding a pure one. The aim of this series is to explore what it means to have a pure and un-defiled religion by considering elements like our motives for religious activities, obedience, humility, hypocrisy, and authentic community.

Week 4

Text: Hebrews 10:19-25

Topic: Community

Big Idea of the Message: Our faith must be based on a personal relationship with Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we can do it alone. Pure religion takes place in an authentic community of believers.

Sermon Ideas and Talking Points:

  1. American individualism has emphasized a personal relationship with God to the point that many people who call themselves Christians think church is optional. But intentional Christian community is a nonnegotiable part of being a healthy and effective believer. “Christianity is not a religion for solitude and solitary. The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” – John Wesley
  2. This article from Christian Post says, “Satan’s primary goal in the thousands of his various attacks on us is to take down our faith…His primary goal against the church is to fragment the formidable force of united faith and isolate believers, weakening the church and making individuals more vulnerable,” http://www.christianpost.com/news/4-ways-to-fight-satans-favorite-weapon-166921
  3. The devil is like a lion, looking for someone to devour (see 1 Pet. 5:8). This video shows how lions like to hunt by isolating a target. The first rule of the Safari: always stay with the group! The same rule applies to believers. See here: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/worlds-deadliest/deadliest-lions-zebra?source=relatedvideo.
  4. One way to overcome the possibility of deceiving ourselves into a false sense of religiosity is to live in holy community. We all need authentic relationships with others who will speak the truth of God’s Word into our lives even if it’s not what we want to hear. But we can only be held accountable to the depths that we really want to be. If your church has a small group ministry, be sure to mention it this week and provide an easy way for people to access information about joining one.
  5. Consider passing out individual candles (like one would use at a Christmas Eve candlelight service) as people walk into the service. At the close of your service, take a moment to light those candles and have people in each row light the person’s next to them. Alone we may produce a little flame, but when we shine together, we can light up an entire room. We are better together in the Kingdom.

Hebrews 10:19-25 Amplified Bible ® (AMP)

A New and Living Way

19 Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, 20 by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh, 21 and since we have a great and wonderful Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, 22 let us approach [God] with a true and sincere heart in unqualified assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]; 24 and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, 25 not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
  2. What are some of the reasons people you know have left church?
  3. Why is it easy to sometimes believe that we can be a Christian without being a part of the church? Is this true?
  4. Why is church vital for Christians?
  5. How can I pray for you?

Thank you for visiting  😀 

If you found this series helpful, please share with your friends and followers.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. I look forward to Seeing you inside the next weeks Sermon

Week 3

Text: Amos 5:11-27

Topic: Worship, Motives

Big Idea: We can perform all the religious acts we can think of, but if we are doing them for show, God will reject them. God doesn’t require our perfection, but He does desire pure hearts and honest motives



Rethink Christianity

Big Idea of the Series: This four-week sermon series wrestles with the common statement: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Christianity, by default, is a religion in the common definition of the word. The answer, then, seems to be less about losing our religion than finding a pure one. The aim of this series is to explore what it means to have a pure and un-defiled religion by considering elements like our motives for religious activities, obedience, humility, hypocrisy, and authentic community.

Week 3

Text: Amos 5:11-27

Topic: Worship, Motives

Big Idea: We can perform all the religious acts we can think of, but if we are doing them for show, God will reject them. God doesn’t require our perfection, but He does desire pure hearts and honest motives.

Sermon Ideas and Talking Points:

  1. This song by Jon Foreman is an artistic expression from God’s point of view based on this specific text from Amos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UihssQZoUd4.
  2. Here again is a rebuke about performing religious acts for show instead of from a pure heart—in particular, acts of worship like singing. Does this text mean that people shouldn’t raise their hands in worship? Or wave a flag or dance? Of course not! There is too much Biblical evidence of God being pleased by such expressions of worship—as long as they are sincere. The key element is motive. We cannot know someone else’s motive for their expression of worship; we can only know our own. If we raise our hands—or keep them down—out of a concern for what others may think, such expressions are not acceptable to God.
  3. Comparing King Saul and King David is a great way to illustrate God’s priority of a pure heart.1 Samuel 13:5-14 tells the story of Saul’s presenting a burnt offering to the Lord when it wasn’t his role. When Samuel confronted him for doing so, Saul made excuses for his error. Samuel’s response: “Now your kingdom will not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart,” (v. 14). David, on the other hand, was a lustful, adulterous, lying murder. When he was confronted about his grievous sins, David broke down. He repented. There were consequences, but his throne wasn’t taken away. One might be confused by God’s responses. Saul lost his throne over a religious act, making an offering; and David slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, lied about it, killed the husband, and got to keep his kingdom? How is that fair? The key factor is the two men’s heart attitudes, their motives, revealed when they were finally confronted. One was repentant, and one made excuses. We all mess up, but our heart’s desire to obey God is revealed when we realize it. May we be like David who wrote this verse after he was broken for his sins: “Create in me a pure heart, O God; renew a steadfast spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10).
  4. Amos 5:16-20 talks about the “day of the Lord,” the day we will all stand before God and give an account of our lives. Amos warns that those who falsely think of themselves as religious will be sorely disappointed on that day because they will be rejected when they expect rewards. They will receive judgment for neglecting others in need (vv.11-12). In the same way, 1 John 4:17-21 connects confidence on the day of judgment to loving others: “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
  5. How can we know if we have pure motives or not? Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” When we spend time in personal Bible reading, the Holy Spirit will bring our secret motives to light. Our job is to be honest with God and with ourselves and, when He points out a wrong motive, to quickly agree with Him and change it.

Amos 5:11-17 Amplified Bible ® (AMP)

11 Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor And demand a tribute (food-tax) of grain from them, Though you have built [luxurious] houses of square stone, You will not live in them; You have planted beautiful vineyards, but you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great (shocking, innumerable), You who distress the righteous and take bribes, And turn away from the poor in the [court of the city] gate [depriving them of justice].
13 Therefore, he who is prudent and has insight will keep silent at such a [corrupt and evil] time, for it is an evil time [when people will not listen to truth and will disregard those of good character].
14 Seek (long for, require) good and not evil, that you may live;
And so may the Lord God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said!
15 Hate evil and love good, And establish justice in the [court of the city] gate. Perhaps the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph [that is, those who remain after God’s judgement].
16 Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord, “There is wailing in all the public plazas,And in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’And they call the farmers to mourning [for those who have died]And professional mourners to wailing.
17 “And in all vineyards there is wailing,
For I will pass through your midst [in judgement],” says the Lord.
18 Woe (judgement is coming) to you who desire the day of the Lord [expecting rescue from the Gentiles]! Why would you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness (judgement) and not light [and rescue and prosperity];
19 It is as if a man runs from a lion [escaping one danger] And a bear meets him [so he dies anyway],
Or goes home, and leans with his hand against the wall And a snake bites him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, instead of light, Even very dark with no brightness in it?
21 “I hate, I despise and reject your [sacred] feasts, And I do not take delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 “Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings and your grain offerings,I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fattened animals.
23 “Take the noise of your songs away from Me [they are an irritation]! I shall not even listen to the melody of your harps.
24 “But let justice run down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream [flowing abundantly].
25 “Did you bring Me sacrifices and grain offerings during those forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? [Certainly not!] 26 You carried along your king Sikkuth and Kayyun [your man-made gods of Saturn], your images of your star-god which you made for yourselves [but you brought Me none of the appointed sacrifices]. 27 Therefore, I will send you to go into exile far beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
  2. What was the cultural situation of this passage?
  3. How is it possible to give the vibe that we are worshipping God, and yet not really worship God?
  4. When you think of the less fortunate, what words come to mind? Are they words that God would use?
  5. What can you do to bring some justice to your world this week?
  6. How can I pray for you?

Thank you for visiting  😀 

If you found this series helpful, please share with your friends and followers.

Yours sincerely,

 



Rethink Christianity

Big Idea of the Series: This four-week sermon series wrestles with the common statement: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Christianity, by default, is a religion in the common definition of the word. The answer, then, seems to be less about losing our religion than finding a pure one. The aim of this series is to explore what it means to have a pure and un-defiled religion by considering elements like our motives for religious activities, obedience, humility, hypocrisy, and authentic community.

Week 2

Text: Matthew 23:1-36

Topics: Hypocrisy, Humility

Big Idea of the Message: Jesus rebukes religion done merely for the sake of appearance. Pure religion serves God and others out of humility.

Sermon Ideas and Talking Points:

  1. In this passage, Jesus adamantly corrects the religious tendency to care about the appearance of things on the outside while neglecting the inside—what really matters. To illustrate this concept, bring with you to the service some various foods and items covered unrecognizably in chocolate coating. Make sure to include sweet things like fruit or Oreo cookies as well as surprising things like sausage or a grasshopper or a piece of sponge. You could even add fancy nuts or sprinkles on top of some to make them appear really appetizing. During the service, present them all on a fancy platter and ask for a brave volunteer to help you conduct a taste test (a teenage boy would be a perfect pick). Warn him or her that some of the delicacies are typical treats and some are surprises. Ask the volunteer to try each thing. How important is it to them that the treat is truly “clean” on the inside?
  2. “People may not believe what you say, but they will always believe what you do.” The first people who will notice an inconsistency between our actions and our words are our children. In verses 3-4, Jesus describes the religious leaders’ tendency to require of others what they do not perform themselves. Ask your congregation: are there any contradictions in what you tell your kids and what you show them?
  3. In verses 11-12, Jesus distinguishes between pure religion and false religion by emphasizing humility over greatness. This story is an illustration of such: “A farmer went with his son into a wheat field, to see if it was ready for the harvest. ‘See, father,’ exclaimed the boy, ‘how straight these stems hold up their heads! They must be the best ones. Those that hang their heads down, I am sure cannot be good for much.’ The farmer plucked a stalk of each kind and said, ‘See this, my son! This stalk that stood so straight is light-headed, and almost good for nothing; while this that hung is head so modestly is full of the most beautiful grain,’” (D. L. Moody, ed. John W. Reed, 1100 Illustrations from the Ministry of D. L. Moody).
  4. Can you serve God and others, and keep it a secret? Not everything has to be posted on social media!

Matthew 23:1-36 Amplified Bible ® (AMP)

Pharisaism Exposed

23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in Moses’ chair [of authority as teachers of the Law]; 3 so practice and observe everything they tell you, but do not do as they do; for they preach [things], but do not practice them. 4 The scribes and Pharisees tie up heavy loads [that are hard to bear] and place them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger [to make them lighter]. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries (tefillin) wide [to make them more conspicuous] and make their tassels long. 6 They love the place of distinction and honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues [those on the platform near the scrolls of the Law, facing the congregation], 7 and to be greeted [with respect] in the market places and public forums, and to have people call them Rabbi. 8 But do not be called Rabbi (Teacher); for One is your Teacher, and you are all [equally] brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth [who guides you spiritually] your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not let yourselves be called leaders or teachers; for One is your Leader (Teacher), the Christ. 11 But the greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be raised to honor.

Eight Woes

13 “But woe (judgement is coming) to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow those who are [in the process of] entering to do so. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you swallow up widows’ houses, and to cover it up you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation.

15 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte (convert to Judaism), and when he becomes a convert, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears [an oath] by the sanctuary of the temple, that is nothing (non-binding); but whoever swears [an oath] by the gold of the temple is obligated [as a debtor to fulfill his vow and keep his promise].’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the sanctuary of the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And [you scribes and Pharisees say], ‘Whoever swears [an oath] by the altar, that is nothing (non-binding), but whoever swears [an oath] by the offering on it, he is obligated [as a debtor to fulfill his vow and keep his promise].’ 19 You [spiritually] blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears [an oath] by the altar, swears both by it and by everything [offered] on it. 21 And whoever swears [an oath] by the sanctuary of the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears [an oath] by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you give a tenth (tithe) of your mint and dill and cumin [focusing on minor matters], and have neglected the weightier [more important moral and spiritual] provisions of the Law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the [primary] things you ought to have done without neglecting the others. 24 You [spiritually] blind guides, who strain out a gnat [consuming yourselves with miniscule matters] and swallow a camel [ignoring and violating God’s precepts]!

25 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and robbery and self-indulgence (unrestrained greed). 26 You [spiritually] blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the plate [examine and change your inner self to conform to God’s precepts], so that the outside [your public life and deeds] may be clean also.

27 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 So you, also, outwardly seem to be just and upright to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets and decorate and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have joined them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the [allotted] measure of the guilt of your fathers’ sins. 33 You serpents, you spawn of vipers, how can you escape the penalty of hell?

34 “Therefore, take notice, I am sending you prophets and wise men [interpreters, teachers] and scribes [men educated in the Mosaic Law and the writings of the prophets]; some of them you will kill and even crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues, and pursue and persecute from city to city, 35 so that on you will come the guilt of all the blood of the righteous shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah [the priest], the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, [the judgment for] all these things [these vile and murderous deeds] will come on this generation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
  2. Have you ever done something “religious” in order to look good in front of others? What was it?
  3. How does social media effect how we serve God?
  4. What’s one thing you can do for someone else this week, that won’t bring you any attention (other than from this group)?
  5. How can I pray for you?

Thank you for visiting  😀 

If you found this series helpful, please share with your friends and followers.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. I look forward to Seeing you inside the next weeks Sermon

Week 3

Text: Amos 5:11-27

Topic: Worship, Motives

Big Idea: We can perform all the religious acts we can think of, but if we are doing them for show, God will reject them. God doesn’t require our perfection, but He does desire pure hearts and honest motives



Rethink Christianity

Big Idea of the Series: This four-week sermon series wrestles with the common statement: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Christianity, by default, is a religion in the common definition of the word. The answer, then, seems to be less about losing our religion than finding a pure one. The aim of this series is to explore what it means to have a pure and un-defiled religion by considering elements like our motives for religious activities, obedience, humility, hypocrisy, and authentic community.

WEEK 1

Text: James 1:19-27

Topic: Obedience

Big Idea of the Message: Religion is worthless unless it is accompanied by holy living as a result of loving God. There is a religion, a system of belief and practice, which is pure in God’s eyes: believing His Word and obeying it.

Sermon Ideas and Talking Points:

  1. Christians are known for saying, “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Yet, Christianity is a set of beliefs and practices; therefore, it is a religion. Perhaps more accurately, Christians want to emphasize the way Christianity is unique from other world religions in that it is based on a personal relationship with God by His grace through faith in Jesus. The following chart from a secular source compares many of the world’s religions in a simple way: http://www.religionfacts.com/big-religion-chart
  2. James likens our tendency to hear God’s Word without obeying it to looking in a mirror and forgetting what we look like. In other words, it’s ridiculous.
  3. In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” A love relationship with God through Jesus is not only necessary for holy living, but also the first step in obeying God. Right living is a fruit; relationship with Jesus is the root. One might also put it this way: if you have an obedience problem, you really have a relationship problem.
  4. Twice in this passage, James warns us against self-deception, that is, thinking of ourselves as religious but not actually living the way God wants us to (see vv. 22, 26). One way we may deceive ourselves is to think religious activities like reading the Bible and praying are the measure of godliness. Yet James tells us clearly there are two tests for knowing if our religious activity is worthless or valuable: 1) what comes out of our mouths and 2) our care for others who can’t give us anything in return (Jesus called them “the least of these”). You might conduct a simple litmus test experiment to illustrate this idea. Using clean cups, put distilled water in one cup and water plus clear vinegar in another. Test them with litmus test strips. The glasses may look the same, but only one will taste refreshing! Only one will clearly be proven by the litmus test to be neutral. In the same way, our mouths and our care for the helpless clearly indicate whether our lives are “pure religion” (v. 27) like pure water or “defiled” like gross vinegar water.
  5. How can we obey God’s Word unless we know what it says? I encourage you to participate in a daily reading plan that is simple and easy to follow.

James 1:19-27 Amplified Bible ® (AMP)

19 Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; 20 for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us]. 21 So get rid of all uncleanness and all that remains of wickedness, and with a humble spirit receive the word [of God] which is implanted [actually rooted in your heart], which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth]. 23 For if anyone only listens to the word without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets what he looked like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and faithfully abides by it, not having become a [careless] listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he will be blessed and favored by God in what he does [in his life of obedience]26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious [scrupulously observant of the rituals of his faith], and does not control his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religion is worthless [futile, barren]. 27 Pure and unblemished religion [as it is expressed in outward acts] in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit and look after the fatherless and the widows in their distress, and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the [secular] world.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
  2. What do you think of when you hear the word “religion?”
  3. What is the kind of pure religion that the Bible describes?
  4. What’s one thing you do to keep yourself from becoming someone who talks about religion, but shows none of the grace and love that should go along with it?
  5. How can you make more of an effort to read the Bible these next couple of weeks?
  6. How can I pray for you?

Thank you for visiting  😀 

If you found this series helpful, please share with your friends and followers.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. I look forward to Seeing you inside the next weeks Sermon

Week 2

Text: Matthew 23:1-36

Topics: Hypocrisy, Humility

Big Idea of the Message: Jesus rebukes religion done merely for the sake of appearance. Pure religion serves God and others out of humility.