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This is for Everyone

This Grace is for Everyone

This Grace is for Everyone

Note to Leaders:

The fall semester ends on December 10, and the spring semester will run January 29-April 29.  During the break we will not be writing sermon discussion guides. However, if your group has been using them and is meeting during the break, here are a couple of short studies you can use in the interim.


Introduction

All of us at some point experience regret.  There are things that we’ve done that we wish we hadn’t.  And sometimes those past failures begin to define us.  Maybe we got a DUI, cheated on our spouse, got fired, went to jail, abused drugs, or became addicted to pornography.  And those past failures can come to define our present reality. We allow them to define who we are.

  • Think back to when you were a kid. What was one occasion in which your parents caught you doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing? What happened as a result of that?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read John 8:1-6

  • What sticks out to you the most about this story?

  • What do you think the Pharisee’s true motives were?

It’s a pretty vivid picture: a woman, caught in the act of adultery, humiliated and condemned by those who caught her. What’s more, these people brought her before Jesus in order to use her for their own ends—to trap Him.

Like the Sex-traffickers of our day, they have no concern for this woman.  She’s only a means to their end, so they catch her in the act and drag her through the streets with probably nothing on but a sheet she grabbed in desperation on her way out.

  • Put yourself in this woman’s shoes. What would you have thought? How would you have felt?

  • In what ways do you identify with the woman in this passage?

  • All of us are guilty of using others for our own ends at times.  What are some of the ways you do that in your life, and what can you do to begin to change that?

Have a volunteer read John 8:7-12.

At first, Jesus won’t answer the Pharisees’ question about what to do with the woman.  He just sort of ignores them and goes on writing in the dirt.  But they keep pressing, so finally He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Of course, none of them can.  None of them are without sin.  Even the self-righteous Pharisees recognize that they are not perfect.

  • Why do you think we are so quick to condemn others when we ourselves are just as guilty?

Jesus was the only one in that crowd, the only one in history, who could have thrown a stone at that woman.  He was the only one who could honestly say, “Actually, I have done it all right every time.”  But what does he do?

Full of grace and truth he says, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

He doesn’t condemn her.  He doesn’t punish her.  He doesn’t make her feel bad.  He gives her grace.

But at the same time, he doesn’t excuse her behavior.  He doesn’t say, “What you did, the way you’re living, it’s okay, just keep right on doing it.”

Jesus knew that the woman needed grace.  She needed forgiveness.  But he also knew that she needed to change because there was something better for her out there.  She no longer needed to go looking for love in all the wrong places, to try to fill her brokenness with a man who didn’t truly love her.  Instead, she could heal that brokenness through the love of a God who would forgive her and reach down and pick her up and shield her from those who didn’t care and sought to do her harm.

Jesus did not condemn this woman.  He gave her grace.  But he also loved her enough to tell her the truth about how her life could be so much happier and more fulfilled.

  • What do you think was going through that woman’s mind as she walked away?

  • How can we be people who don’t condemn people or ignore their sin but rather who give grace freely and speak the truth in love?

  • How can we accept this grace in our own lives?


Extra Credit

You may not have time to get to this section, but if you’re looking to discuss this topic further, continue on.

Have a volunteer read Romans 8:1-2.

Paul echoes the lesson we learn in John 8, reminding us that because Jesus has died and paid the full penalty for our sin, we no longer have to be in bondage to shame and condemnation. We are free to live in the full acceptance of God. Amazingly, Jesus, who is the Light of the world who sees and exposes our sin, also died on our behalf for the same sin He exposes.

  • How does our relationship with God change when we truly believe that we have been accepted and not condemned?

  • How does that knowledge change the way we should interact with each other?

  • What practically is keeping you from believing that you are free from condemnation?

  • Are you tempted to live inside of the shame of your past? Why? What do you think Jesus would say to you right now about your past?

This Hope is for Everyone

This Hope is for Everyone

Hopelessness is a difficult thing, and this feeling that your situation will never improve is usually accompanied by a deep loneliness.  Rarely does someone who is surrounded by people who love them feel hopeless, even if the situation is hopeless.

One of the most remarkable things about Jesus was his ability and—more importantly—his willingness to bring hope to the hopeless.

  • When is a time that someone has brought you hope?


Understanding

Have a volunteer read Luke 5:12-16.

This man was an untouchable.

Leprosy is a horrific skin disease that was, in Jesus time, incurable and thought to be highly contagious.  It weakens the victims’ entire body, discolors the skin, harms the vocal chords, causes a loss of sensation in the extremities, has a terrible odor, and leads to sores on the face.

In that day and place, a person with leprosy was forbidden to touch or even live near anyone who did not have leprosy and, if someone got too close, was required to shout “unclean” in order to warn the person to stay away.  The religious leaders taught that if you touched an unclean person, then you would become unclean like them.

So added to the terrible physical trauma of leprosy was isolation. You wonder how long it had been since this man experienced the touch of another person’s hand on his hand, the last time he had been hugged by a child, kissed by his wife, felt the embrace of a friend, or the last time he had even been bumped into.

  • When is a time when you have felt isolated and cut off?  What pulled you out of that isolation?  Or if you currently feel isolated, what would pull you out of it?

People were to avoid all lepers, and all lepers were to avoid people, especially religious leaders who could not afford to be unclean.  These leaders prided themselves in being so holy, so close to God that they where unapproachable to any of the marginalized people of the day.

But Jesus was a different kind of a religious leader.   The great irony is that the only religious leader the leper could approach was God himself!

Jesus was the most approachable human being that ever walked this planet.  Prostitutes, tax collectors, little kids, brilliant scholars, lawyers, widows, and uneducated fishermen all sought him out and were welcomed.

  • What impact do you think Jesus willingness to not only heal but to reach out and touch this “untouchable” man made on him?

  • Who are the untouchables in our society, the people who we’re told either implicitly or explicitly we should avoid?

At Eastside our vision is that we would Pursue God in our weekend services, Build Community in our small groups and on serve teams, and Unleash Compassion here at home and around the world.

In the last year $3.2 million Eastside dollars were invested in Compassion causes globally and locally; 5,000 Eastsiders helped build homes for families in need in Mexico and 801 of us traveled to Mexico to serve; and 3,224 people served in our local communities, loving on kids in low-income schools, appreciating first responders, cleaning up local parks, bringing meals to victims of domestic violence, putting together hygiene kits for homeless individuals, advocating for foster youth, and serving survivors of human trafficking.

  • If you’ve been involved in unleashing compassion locally or globally this year, share about that experience with the group.

Have a volunteer read Isaiah 58.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline in which we abstain from food in order to focus our minds and hearts on God and draw closer to Him.  In this chapter, God is telling us through Isaiah that fasting alone is not enough, that if you simply abstain from food and act unjustly, God isn’t going to listen to you.

Verses six and seven here are especially noteworthy: “Is not this the fast that I choose: … to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (ESV)

You notice that God doesn’t say to help people from afar?  He doesn’t say to send money to a soup kitchen, vote to build a homeless shelter, or donate your used clothes to Goodwill.  Those are all good things, but that’s not what God is telling us to do here.  Instead, he says, “You share your food when you see someone who is hungry.  When you meet someone who doesn’t have a place to live, you invite them to live at your house.  When you see someone who needs clothes, you give that person clothes.”

John Ortberg writes, “In a contagious world, we learn to keep our distance. If we get too close to those who are suffering we might get infected with their pain. It may not be convenient or comfortable. But only when you get close enough to catch their hurt will they be close enough to catch your love.”

Nobody ever touched a leper, because if you touched one, you might get infected, but when Jesus touched this man with leprosy, Jesus did not get infected.   Jesus infected him with life and hope and joy.

Once you get infected by Jesus’ touch you move through your school, your workplace, your neighborhood, and your own home with contagious joy that flows from a deep gratitude.  This isn’t obnoxious, pushy religion but rather a peace, a healthy confidence, and a humble heart full of compassion that touches those around you.  When God has changed your life, when Jesus has infected you, it’s hard to keep it quiet. It’s hard not to want to touch the world the way Jesus has touched you.

  • Has Jesus’ touch infected your own life?  If so, what impact has that had on how you engage with those around you?

  • What can you do in your own life to be more approachable, like Jesus was?

  • What could our group do together to reach out to people who are neglected and marginalized?

This Church is for Everyone

This Church is for Everyone

Introduction

God has always intended His Church to be a place where all people are welcome, people of every background, race, upbringing, age, culture, and political perspective.  The Church is meant to be a people who demonstrate the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bring together people who are nothing alike—people who otherwise might even hate each other—and unite them in love around the person of Jesus.

Have volunteers read Acts 2:21, Romans 1:16, and 2 Peter 3:9.

  •  When people walk through the doors of Eastside, what signs are presented through your words, actions, and demeanor?
    • Welcome!
    • I hope you have a great time.
    • If you’re lonely, I’m available to talk.
    • If you’re in need, I’m here to help.
    • If you’re questioning, I can help you find the answers.
    • If you’re stressed, this is a place of peace.
    • If you look, act, talk, think, vote, or believe differently than I do, I’m glad you’re here.
    • I’m too busy to talk.
    • You didn’t dress appropriately.
    • I’d prefer people like you not come here.
    • This isn’t a place for people with questions.
    • You need to figure out your own problems.

Understanding

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:36-49.

Saying this woman “was a sinner” or “lived a sinful life” was a nice way of saying that she was a prostitute.  And a prostitute would have been the last person welcome in the house of a strict religious leader like a Pharisee, but she walks in anyway.

She’s there to see Jesus, to give him a gift. She starts crying and she’s so emotional that her tears wet His dirty feet.  She’s been given no towel, so she starts wiping his feet with her hair. She doesn’t care about the religious pretense in the room because she was desperate.

Nothing breaks through pretension like desperation. She was not invited. She was not on the guest list. She wasn’t in the club. And she didn’t care!

  • When is a time you have taken a bold step out of desperation?

Too often those of us who have been following Jesus a long time think like Simon the Pharisee, “That person’s a sinner. We can’t let her near us.”

We don’t like it when someone comes to church smelling like alcohol or tobacco or weed.  We don’t like it when someone comes to church who is homeless or a prostitute or tattooed.

We forget that there are really only two kinds of people: sinners and Jesus.  If we’re not Jesus (and if you think you are, we have some great counselors to refer you to), we’re sinners.  And it’s only because of what God has done for us—not because we’re any better than anyone else—that our lives may look a little different.

  • Why do you think church people are often so judgmental of those who are different?

  • What group of people do you personally struggle to accept and why?

  • The truth is that as God’s people we are called to love and welcome everyone not just when we’re inside the four walls of an Eastside campus but in all of life.  How can you be more open to people who aren’t like you both at church and in your everyday life?

Have a volunteer read John 3:16.

Value is determined by what someone is willing to pay for an item.  It doesn’t matter what an appraiser says an item is worth or what you think it is worth.  What matters is what someone will actually give you for an item.

We look at some people and say, “You’re not worth the air you’re breathing.”  God looks at them and says, “I’ll pay for you with the price of my only Son.  That’s how valuable you are.”

Whether you love God or hate God, love the church or hate the church, if your picture of God is anything less than that of a God who loves you, you’ve got the wrong picture of God.

  • His love is for frat boys and girls gone wild. 

  • His love is for kids that have been showing up for Sunday school since they could breathe and for those who have never been through the door of a church.

  • His love is for those with special needs and victims of rape.

  • His love is for Hell’s Angels bikers, for gang members, for kids with 2 moms, for people who are counting their days clean and sober.

  • His love is for fire fighters, farmers, truck drivers, dishwashers, stockbrokers, single moms, rednecks and seminary graduates.

  • His love is for people with secret lives and stagnant faith.

  • It’s for politicians, factory workers, tattoo parlor owners, foster kids, and meth dealers.

  • His love is for families falling apart and families pretending they have it all together.

  • His love is for prostitutes looked down on by the religious elite.

God’s love is for everyone, and His love is for you.

  • Do you truly believe that God loves even those who do terrible, horrible things?

  • What is your reaction to the idea that God loves you no matter what?


Application

Have a meal this week with someone who is different from you, someone who makes you a little uncomfortable.  If deep down you’re honestly a little fearful or a little resentful of people of a different race, have lunch with someone from that race.  If you’re straight laced and don’t understand the guy covered head to toe in tats, have someone who has more ink than Bic over for dinner.

There’s no agenda here.  Don’t try to change anyone or fix anyone.  Don’t ask them why they are a certain way.  Don’t expect them to be a spokesperson for everyone who is black, white, Hispanic, gay, tattooed, pierced, rich, poor, homeless, etc.  Just get to know them as a person who Jesus loves.