Rethinking Your Life | Week 2: Choosing to Manage My Mind

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Romans 12:2 is one of the theme verses for this series: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” God is far more interested in changing our minds than He is in changing our circumstances. We always want God to change our circumstances. God wants to change your mind.

Have you ever noticed your mind doesn’t always obey you? That is the world of a teenager. There have been many discoveries in the last decade about brain development in young people. Thanks to the invention of the MRI, the ability to take noninvasive, real time scans of these young people’s brains, they discovered their brains are not done developing.

Before we had the MRI, everyone thought the brain was developed by age 6 or 7. It wasn’t until this new science that allowed us to see that the brain isn’t fully developed until the mid to late 20’s. There are parts of a young person’s brain that are significantly underdeveloped that make it difficult to do certain things and better at other things. There are two areas of the teenage brain that are underdeveloped. One area that is underdeveloped is the prefrontal cortex found right behind your forehead. This is where your brain’s office is and it’s responsible for critical thinking. This is where you have impulse control, wisdom, prioritization – you can do things in order, figure stuff out and follow directions, decision making, empathy – you can put yourself in someone else’s positions and feelings. These are just a few pretty important things. Right? Those things are difficult for teenagers.

Pause and think about this question, do you see young people as a problem to be solved or as a wonder to behold? You hear that the prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped. It’s easy to draw the conclusion.“Look! They’re broken. They’re dysfunctional. They’re incapable. We should isolate them and treat them like they are children.” Which of course is counterproductive to their growth in every way, especially to their spiritual faith. But if you embrace a “Wonder to behold” biblical perspective, that’s God’s view of young people. A Wonder to behold view is rooted in the understanding of Creation. God creating the universe and man. You begin see the underdeveloped area of the prefrontal cortex as an opportunity that was lovingly created by our wonderful God.

You start to notice things like a young person is not really good at risk analysis, but really good at taking risks which is critical to their development and their understanding of themselves and their world. A young person is naturally wired for passion. A passionate young person is a gift to our ministry, church and their families.

The other area that is underdeveloped is called the Temporal Lobe. The Temporal Lobes are responsible for emotional understanding and interpretation. They are underdeveloped in teenage girls and way more underdeveloped in teenage boys. Teenage boys have a real hard time understanding the emotion that someone else is expressing.

Two more things to point out about the teenage brain. The first one is neuron growth and pruning takes place before and after puberty. In the couple of years that lead up to puberty, the brain goes through a growth frenzy. Somewhere between 11 and 16 years old, millions of neurons are cut. Neurons are the information superhighway of the brain. It’s how information moves around our brain. The ones that are eliminated are the ones that are not used during the young and middle teen years.

This brings up a huge question for our student ministry. There are many forces that shape a young person’s brain for their life. We want to be one of those forces that God uses in the faith development of young people. How are we using that opportunity to shape and hard wire these brains for a lifetime of exciting faith?

We need to learn how to manage our minds because our thoughts control our life. You have good thoughts, you’re going to have good life. If you have sinful thoughts, you’re going to have sinful life.

“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.”  Proverbs 4:23 

We control what we eat. We control what we believe. We control what we drink, but we don’t always control what we allow in our minds. The Bible tells us that every action in your life starts with a thought. Your mind controls and shapes your life.

We need to learn to manage our minds because our minds are the battleground for sin. It’s where every temptation happens. It’s where every sin actually starts. The sin of pride, lust, hatred, fear, resentment, jealousy, envy, worry all start in the mind. The battlefield for sin is fought not around you, it’s fought in your mind. In Romans 7:22-23, Paul talks about this battle that’s constantly going on in our minds. “I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there’s something else deep within me that is at war with my mind and it wins the fight and it makes me a slave to the sin within me.” 

Paul says, “In my mind I want to be God’s servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.”  Satan knows that whatever gets your attention gets you, and so he starts with the mind, not with your behavior, not even with your emotions. He starts with your thoughts.

We need to learn to manage our minds because it’s the key to peace and happiness. An unmanaged mind leads to tension, a managed mind leads to tranquility. An unmanaged mind leads to pressure, a managed mind leads to peace. An unmanaged mind leads to conflict and chaos in your life, but a managed mind leads to confidence. “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, then there’s life and peace.”  Romans 8:6 

How can we use this time during these amazing years in helping young people wrestle with deeper questions? How can we help them to be honest about their doubts and seek better truth to replace those doubts. How can we develop a spirit of serving others and notice other people’s needs? These are questions we want to work on when it comes to brain development.

Hold your hand in front of you. Tuck your thumb under your fingers and close your hand. You’ve made a little brain model. The front part is the Prefrontal Cortex where logical and rational thought takes place. The thumb knuckle is a little almond shaped and sized gland called the Amygdala which is the fear center of the brain. The amygdala often overrides the prefrontal cortex. The underside of your curved fingers is like a blanket called the Anterior Cingulate. The Anterior Cingulate acts as a buffer between the Amygdala and the Prefrontal Cortex.

Think of it like a teeter-totter, on one side we have rational thought – Prefrontal Cortex – and on the other side we have the Amygdala – the fear center. In the middle you have the Anterior Cingulate. Whichever part of those three is dominant for you will have a huge part of your faith. If you have a highly developed Amygdala you will have a fear based faith. If you have a highly developed Prefrontal Cortex you will have a really rational faith. If you have a highly developed Anterior Cingulate it allows you to understand and experience God as compassionate, personal, and other than yourself.

How do we develop that part of your brain? Neurology has just recently caught up to what the Bible has been telling us – through prayer, meditation, and spiritual singing. Those are the dominant ways we develop that part of our brain.

We must feed our minds with truth. Matthew 4:4 says, “People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every Word of God.” We‘ve got to feed our minds on the truth, which means we’ve got to feed our minds on this book. How often? All the time. “I rise early… to cry out for help and to put my hope in your words.”  Psalm 119:147  There are over 7,000 promises in the Bible. If you need hope and if you’re feeling hopeless, it means you’re not spending enough time in this book because if you get these promises into your life, you’re going to be a hopeful person.

“Lord, how I love your Word. I think about it all day long.” Psalm 119:97

Psalm 16:7 says this: “Even in the darkest of night, your teachings fill my mind.”  There was a time when David had so many enemies, he was actually a fugitive. He was hiding in caves, and no matter what happened in his life, he balanced his mind with the truth of God. Psalm 119:95 is one of the Psalms that he wrote during this time, and he says this: “Even when wicked people hide to ambush and kill me, I quietly keep my mind on your decrees.” 

If you’re going to strengthen that Anterior Cingulate we must free our minds from destructive thoughts. Your mind has to be liberated. You have to fill your mind with the truth on a daily basis. Satan’s going to fight you on it, he’s going to battle you and you’re going to have to fight to free your mind. Why? Because of these three enemies. The first enemy of our mind is our old nature. In other words, you have an old way your brain wants to work. “I see in my body a principal at war with the law of the mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells inside of me.”  Romans 7:23  In other words, I’m a hostage to my thoughts. Do you often find yourself doing things you don’t want to do? Your old nature is not your friend. It is the source of all your bad habits.

Your mind lies to you all the time. Just because you think something is true doesn’t make it true. Just because you feel something is true doesn’t make it true. Your mind and your emotions often lie to you. Part of growing up is learning to know the difference between what you think and what is true? “Those who are dominated by their old sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit, think about things that please the Spirit.”  Romans 8:5

The second enemy of our minds is Satan. If you have Christ in your life, then you have power greater than Satan and he cannot force you to do anything. The only way he can influence and control your life is by suggestion. When he puts the suggestions in your mind, we call that temptation. When you don’t learn how to balance your mind, you don’t know how to manage your mind. 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul talks about a guy who had sinned in the church. He says, “I’ve forgiven that man… [I didn’t hold onto a grudge. Why?] so that Satan won’t outsmart us. For we’re very familiar with his evil schemes!” Did you know that anytime you refuse to forgive anybody, you’ve fallen for Satan’s trap? God is not the one who wants you to hold onto hurt, Satan is. He wants you to hold a grudge and be unforgiving.

The third enemy of our minds is the world’s values. “All that is in the world …[and then it lists what’s in the world] the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not the Father, but is of this world.”  1 John 2:16  The world is crazy. It was all give in to the lust of flesh, the lust of the eyes, give in to the pride of life, passion, possession and position, give in to sex, salary, status, give in to living for yourself. Now the world demands perfection. You had better not given in to passion ever in your past and we’re going to comb through every social media post to find where you messed up.

“Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons that we fight with are not the weapons of this world. [The weapons of the world today are primarily political. We don’t use those weapons. The Bible says our weapons] have divine power, and what do they have divine power to do? To demolish strongholds.”  2 Corinthians 10:3-5  We’re in a wrestling match with our thoughts and we got to pin them down. It’s a mental battle. Now, it says that in your mind you have what are called strongholds. A stronghold is a lie that we believe. Satan is the father of their lies. Anytime we believe a lie about God, that’s a stronghold. Anytime we believe a lie about ourselves, that’s a stronghold. A stronghold can be a personal attitude. People can have a stronghold in their brain of worry, depression, resentment, envy or pride.

If we are going to balance our Anterior Cingulate, we must focus our minds on the right things. There are three simple steps to balance your mind. First, think about Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:8 says, “Keep your mind on Jesus Christ…”  Hebrews 12:3 says, “Think about Jesus’ example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying.”  What gives you the power to keep on going when you feel like giving up? Think about Jesus.

Number two, think about others. “Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.”  Philippians 2:4  Stop and intentionally think about others. Use that Temporal part of your brain. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think about each other and let us help each other to show love and do good deeds.” Anybody who starts thinking about other people is going to shine in this world because most of the world isn’t thinking about other people, they’re just thinking about themselves.

Number three, think about eternity. “Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.”  Colossians 3:2  Heavenly minded people always have done the most good in this world for thousands of years. So think about heaven. Think about eternity. “No eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9  Those spiritual songs coming out of your mouth make a difference. Make it a priority to develop a practice of daily prayer, meditation, and spiritual songs so you can experience God as personal and compassionate.

Remember that important question we asked earlier, do you see young people as a problem to be solved or as a wonder to behold? Can you see from the stuff we talked about that God sees young people as a lovingly, perfect wonder to behold. Yes – annoying at times but “A Wonder to Behold”.

 


 

Check Back

Briefly check back on your discussion from the last week, “Think Again” and the six reasons we need to think about what we think about.

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

It’s important that I manage my mind: (1) because my thoughts control my life! (2) because my mind is the battleground for sin, and (3) because managing my mind is the key to peace and happiness.
Three daily choices for a healthy mind include:

1. I must feed my mind with truth,
2. I must free my mind from destructive thoughts
3. I must focus my mind on the right things.

Read Romans 7:7-25

Discussion & Application

• Start with a little fun. Describe a time you were relieved to finally learn the right way to do something after persisting for a time doing the wrong thing (for example, pressing the wrong button on a remote or the wrong key on a computer)
• What stood out to you about this message?

“Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. (Our weapons) have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish any argument and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

• A stronghold is a lie that we believe such as a hedonistic or materialistic worldview – or an attitude of worry, envy, or pride. What does 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 above say is the result when we confess to God that our thoughts have gone off in directions we don’t intend?
• Share how God has freed you from strongholds in the past.
• What strongholds do you need freedom from today?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week. Pray for one another in your group and ask the Holy Spirit to help you feed, free and focus your mind.

Next Steps

Begin nailing down your SERVE Day project. July 18th. You can get ideas and/or register your project https://rockbrook.org/serve

 

Seeing People As God Does

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When you’re under stress, your natural biases tend to rise. When we are under tension, we are more prejudiced toward other people. And we’ve all been under tension lately. Now, the Bible calls this self-centered and even sinful bias, the sin of partiality.

“Fear the Lord and judge with integrity, for the Lord our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.” 2 Chronicles 19:7 NLT

God is a just God. The word righteousness and justice are the same. God hates injustice. He hates perverted forms of revenge and justice. God does not tolerate partiality. Partiality is just an old English word for what today we would call prejudice or discrimination or bigotry. There are different kinds of prejudice. We can be prejudice based on someone’s appearance, age, achievement, and wealth. The area of partiality, we’re addressing today is racism.

Any time we talk about race, there are no easy answers and it’s easy to get it wrong. There are all kinds of attitudes as we approach the sin of racism. There is the attitude of being actively involved in bigotry. There is the attitude of being uncomfortable and actively avoiding this topic. There is the attitude of being insensitive to what hurts others. There’s the attitude of apathy. Those who would say, “I’m not a racist, I’m not an avoider, I try not to be insensitive, but I just don’t care.”

But if we’re a follower of Christ, we’re commanded to care. God wants us to care. Today many are saying it’s not enough just to not be a racist, we must be an anti-racist. Christ followers already have a word for this. What God wants all of us to be is a reconciler. A reconciler is somebody who is building bridges. God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation in a society that we see being more pulled apart, more polarized, more demonized, more distracted, and more divided.

If anybody needs to have a peacemaker it ought to be God’s people. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers. They will be called the children of God.”  God wants us to be reconcilers. Why is this such a big deal to God? Why does God hate racial prejudice so much? Let’s look at four reasons.

Racial prejudice questions God’s creation. It was God’s design that we would be different. A prejudice person is essentially saying, “God, you made a mistake in creating that person. You should have made them like me.” It is a blatant expression of pride, arrogance and narcissism.

“From one man (Adam) He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boundaries.” Acts 17:26 NLT

We all came from the same source, anyway, Adam and Eve. We did not choose when we were born, the color of our skin, who our parents are, our background, the culture, the nationality. It doesn’t say anything about our character. What a foolish thing to look down at someone else about.

Racial prejudice is a sign of ignorance. When we celebrate division or look down on others because of their race, we reveal our darkness, our foolishness and that we don’t understand God’s plan and purpose.

“But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 2:11 NIV

Anytime we show favoritism or any shame, we are walking around in blindness and in darkness. On the other hand, the opposite is also true. The wiser we become in life the more wisdom we have, the more unprejudiced we’re going to be.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 NIV

Knowledge shows up on tests, but wisdom shows up in relationships. All of those are relational words, not intellectual words. Wisdom shows up in relationships.

Racial prejudice disobeys the Great Commandment. What is the Great Commandment? Jesus summarized all of God’s law in one sentence and Paul repeated it in Galatians 5:14-15.

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:14-15 NIV

He is saying if instead of showing love we attack and tear each other apart we’re only destroying ourselves. The division, the angry words, the sarcasm is just tearing us apart. The Pharisees came to Jesus and they asked, “Okay, you say, love your neighbor as yourself, the most important command next to loving God with all your heart.” They asked, “Does that just mean literally my neighbor or does it mean everybody who exists?”

Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan as an answer to who is our neighbor and the good Samaritan if we remember is about racial reconciliation. The hero in that story, the good Samaritan, is a hated minority. The Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. The church, which is the family of God, is to be the answer to racism and every other kind of prejudice.

Racial prejudice is a series sin. God hates racism. It’s a sin that angers Him.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” James 2:8-9 NIV

Racial prejudice is one of the world’s most prevalent sins. No matter where we go in the world, groups of people hate other groups of people for sinful reasons. The racial reconciliation and getting this out of our hearts is not some minor issue to God. It’s at the heart of the gospel. The gospel means good news, so here’s the Good News. We Christians know that’s possible. We know that people can change by the power of God. When Christ’s love comes into our lives it changes us.

About 250 years ago, John Newton was a vile and vulgar man. He was a slave trader. He was English and he would go to Africa, steal Africans and then transport them to America and sell them as slaves. But God got a hold of this man and Jesus Christ entered his heart. His heart was so softened, he became a pastor. John Newton wrote the words of the hymn Amazing Grace.

That song, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”  was written by a slave trader. “I once was lost but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see.”  This is a man who had a total transformation. This song that is sung all over America, was sung three days ago at the funeral of George Floyd. That’s the power of the Gospel.


How can the power of the gospel go to work in our life? How do we root out this racial prejudice in our lives?

We must learn to see people as God does. We must learn to look at people like God does. This doesn’t happen naturally, it has to be learned. We’re going to need to ask God for help. How do we learn to see everybody who comes into our lives the way God does?

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

We’ve got to look at the heart. Not only are books judged by their covers, and houses are judged by their curb appeal but people are judged for ignorant, sinful reasons.

Jesus: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” John 7:24 NIV

How do we judge correctly? By seeing people the way God sees them. The Bible is full of examples of cultural prejudice and racial prejudice. The whole book of Jonah and everything that happens to Jonah is because Jonah hated the people God was sending him to preach to. Jonah knew if he went that God would forgive them and Jonah did not want to forgive or see God forgive the race that Jonah hated.

Even Peter, one of the greatest disciples had to overcome his prejudice against non-Jews. He had been raised as a strict Jew and a strict Jew couldn’t even touch a non-Jew, which were called Gentiles. In order to spread the gospel, God had to give Peter a dream to break through his prejudice against people that weren’t like him. God gave him a dream to prepare him, to reach non-Jews around the world. Peter goes to the house of Cornelius, who was a non-Jew, he was a Roman. Peter goes to his house, which is really illegal for a Jew to do in those days.

He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Acts 10:28, 34-35 NIV   

We need to start asking God to help us see people differently.

We need to listen to everyone with respect. We must listen to everyone regardless of their views with respect. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, but we listen to them with respect. Prejudice is a failure to listen. The less we listen to people, the more prejudiced we’ll be. The word “prejudice” actually comes from the word to “prejudge.” When we prejudge somebody without listening to them we are prejudiced.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 NIV

Do we want God’s righteous purposes in our nation? Yes. Do we achieve it through anger? No. Does that mean we should never be angry? No. Of course not. There are a lot of things we should be angry about. There’s a difference between godly anger, anger for somebody else which is selfless, and human anger which is centered on self. When we get angry, anger blocks listening.

As a reconciler in the world, a representative of God, we need to learn a couple of skills on how to diffuse somebody when they’re angry. We need to listen to their hurt not their words. When people are angry they say all kinds of mean words they don’t believe, they will later regret and wished they hadn’t said. We’re more sympathetic to people who are hurt than we are to people who are angry. When you reinterpret their anger as hurt it makes us more willing to listen. If we do this we will become wise.

We also need to learn to use the phrase, “we agree.” Phrases like, “we agree” and “tell us more” will make us a peacemakers. We’re not suggesting we just agree with whoever is talking and whatever is being said, just encouraging us to find common ground. We’ll never find solutions if we can’t even mutually express there is a problem. We don’t have to agree with everything to find something to agree on and build from there.

If someone says, “Black Lives Matter,” can we not say, “we agree?” Can we not agree on the fact that black lives matter? We’re not talking about an organization, we’re not talking about every solution that’s being proposed. But that statement and that fact.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1 NIV

As peacemakers, we can find agreement in the pain. There is something powerful when we start with, we love you. We agree with you. We want to stand with you. When we speak, when we post, when we respond, we represent the body of Christ. We represent the truth of God, we don’t want to say anything that harms the body of Christ.

We must love everybody the way Jesus does. There’s nobody we’re allowed to not love. Even if we could not find any agreement. We’re still to show them love.

Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  John 15:12 NIV   

How does Jesus love us? Unconditionally, freely completely and continually. How are we to love other people and other races? Unconditionally, freely, completely, and continually. This is hard, but we need to spend our lives trying learn, and asking God to empower us. Love is very practical. How in the world are we ever going to build a society like that with all of the differences, all of the violence, all of the hatred and all of the prejudice on many different sides? God’s plan to change society, to bring people together is the church.

God’s plan to bring people together is the church.

The church is to model harmony and unity and fellowship and reconciliation. Paul explained the church this way.

“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:13,27 NLT

We are all needed in the family of God. We’re all needed in a church home. We need each other because none of us are complete in ourselves. We all have weaknesses. None of us can have all of the gifts. We can’t model reconciliation by ourselves. It’s easy to love people who are like us. But if God’s going to teach us real love, He’s going to put us around people who are different.

We need the church because we find our identity in relationships. Our world is fracturing more and more into many different divisions. There is a crisis of identity in the world. It is probably the most common crisis in modern culture. People are saying, “I don’t know who I am. What gender am I? What culture am I? What race am I?”

We see this struggle everywhere in race and sexuality in our place in the world. Why? Because when relationships are broken, people don’t know who they are. God wants to tell us that we’re His.

A sincere recognition of Christ’s sacrifice realigns our values in such a way that makes prejudiced views impossible.

For the person who believes in the gospel, any individual they encounter falls into one of two categories: either brothers or sisters in Christ or those who are separated from God and to whom they are called to minister. Only the injustice of what was done to Jesus on the cross is powerful enough to stop injustice in our world.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last week, “Faith That Provides” “Offer God what you have and trust him to give you what you need.”  Any more observations from your discussion last week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

God hates racial prejudice because it: (1) questions God’s creation, (2) is a sign of ignorance, (3) it disobeys the Great Commandment, and (4) is a serious sin.

If we are to root out racial prejudice in our lives, three steps that we can take are to: (1) see people as God does, (2) listen to everyone with respect, and (3) love everybody the way Jesus does. God’s plan to bring people together is by understanding that we’re one church and that our primary identity is that we all belong to God’s family.

Read the story of The Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37

Discussion & Application

  • Romans 14:10 (ICB) “So why do you judge your brother? And why do you think that you are better than he is? We will all stand before God one day, and he will judge us all.” Take a moment to ponder the questions asked in that verse. Why do some people think they are better than others because of their race?
  • Growing up, what was your family’s view of racial prejudice? Was it ever discussed?
  • Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Think about disagreements you’ve had with your spouse or with a friend, or even the disagreements about race today… How might interpreting someone’s anger as hurt, and finding common ground of agreement help us be more constructive?

“Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:13,27 (NLT)

  • Think of a time that you struggled to find your own identity in the wrong area (race, nationality, language, economic status, etc.) Discuss in your group how this struggle would have been avoided if you had started from your identity in Christ. What specific steps can you take to see your primary identity as a Christ follower?

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week. Finish your group by praying for unity. Thank God for making the people in your group the way he did. Pray some of the scriptures from your outline.

Next Steps

1 Corinthians 12:13 mentioned baptism. Have you been baptized? Prayfully consider it and take that next step.

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Easter | Resurrection = Hope

The greatest things we can have and give to someone else in these days is hope. The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…” Ephesians 1:18 NIV

You’ve got eyes on your face. You also have eyes in your heart. We all see the same things, but we see them differently. We filter the world through the things we’ve experienced, the worries we have, the good things that have happened to us, the bad things, the wounds we carry and the disappointments in our life. We pray that God’s light would flood your heart and life, in order that you may know His hope. That hope is found in the resurrection.

When Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 AD, there were only about 120 followers that were true to His message at that time. Today, 2,000 years later, 2.3 billion people in the world, claim to be a follower of Christ. How in the world did that happen? How did this little band of poor people 2,000 years ago expand into billions? In a word, the resurrection. It’s the most significant event in all of history.

Now, understand the difference between resurrection and resuscitation. They are not the same. People get resuscitated all the time. If you faint, we’ll resuscitate you. If you go into a coma, you can be resuscitated. There are people whose heart stop beating for a certain number of beats, you may be resuscitated.

Jesus’ resurrection means He was crucified by far the most brutal, torturous form of capital punishment ever invented. They beat Him, shoved a crown of thorns into His skull. They scourged Him. They made Him carry a heavy cross up the mountain. They lie Him down and nailed His hands to the cross. They didn’t want Him to suffocate on the cross, that would be too easy, so they bent His legs nail His feet so he’d have to push himself up to breathe. Death on the cross took a long time. They took a spear and they stuck it in His side to make sure He was dead. He was buried in a tomb for three days and then He came back to life. Only Jesus Christ has done that. That’s not resuscitation. That’s resurrection.

That single event changed all of history. What it did is it turned the first followers of Christ into the most hopeful, resilient amazing people the world has ever seen. Followers of Jesus are still the most hopeful people on the planet today. We have far more hope than anybody else in the world because of what Jesus Christ did at the resurrection. Anyone can have this hope. Let’s look at some legitimate reasons God gives us to have hope.

1. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven.

Jesus repeatedly said over and over, “I’m going to be handed over to be killed and on the third day, rise again.” If He didn’t come back to life, then we have every reason to doubt that His death means anything for us. But He did, and now the cross means something powerful for us.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7 NLT

His death frees you from weight, shame, condemnation, ultimately you having to die for sin. But Jesus said, “I came to die for your sins, so you don’t have to die for them.” The cross was brutal. Why would Jesus go through that? Who killed Jesus? Who is to blame for Jesus being on the cross? It wasn’t Judas, the betrayer. It wasn’t Caiaphas, the high priest. It wasn’t Pilate, the Roman governor. It wasn’t even the crowd who turned on Him and said “Crucify Him! Give us Barabbas. A man who was guilty.” It wasn’t the Roman soldiers.   

The first answer is this, God did. It was His plan when He sent Jesus to earth.

“6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 9 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. 10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.” Isaiah 53:6,9-10 NLT

It was God’s plan. Yet, now notice the change in tense. “When his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of descendants.” In other words, there will be people who will follow Him. The first part is in past tense and then it goes to future. This passage was written 700 years before Jesus Christ. This is a prophecy and Isaiah, in 700 BC, is telling and predicting exactly what’s going to happen to the Messiah, the Savior, the son of God who comes to Earth, and this happened exactly how it happened. It’s the whole reason He sent Jesus to earth. If Jesus hadn’t wanted to give His life for us, it wouldn’t have happened.  Jesus said I came to earth to die. It was for that purpose.

The second answer to who put Jesus on the cross is this: we did. If we could save ourselves, do enough good things, follow God’s law, break our sin nature, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross for our sins. He was doing it so we could be saved. Even on the cross in all of that pain He wasn’t thinking of Himself, He was thinking of us. He cries out, “Father! Forgive them…”

“He was handed over to die because of our sins, [It was our penalty he was paying] and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” Romans 4:25 NLT

Completely forgiven. There’s someone reading this who, you’ve never truly known you’re forgiven, or you’ve never truly felt forgiven. You feel like if anyone knew the real you, you would be hopeless. God knows the real you. He sees it all. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about the name and the work of Jesus Christ. It’s about a cross that once and for all settled the judgment that hung over your life and now there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Be free.

2. The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope, we’re no longer afraid to die.

Jesus broke the power of death. Yes, without Christ, we are left for dead and we should be afraid. But Christ has conquered the grave. The individual sins that you’ve committed, that’s not even the whole issue.   Before you know Jesus Christ and are covered by His blood, any good thing you do, God could not care less about, because we’re spiritually dead. God wants you to know and trust in Jesus so the power of the resurrection can have an impact on your life. Jesus broke the power of the fear of death. The fear of death is a universal fear. Everybody has it, all over the world.

But what did Jesus do? He came back to life. If Jesus Christ had not resurrected from the dead, you would not even know that there’s life after death. You might be able to look at some evidence from creation, like the pattern and cycle of nature…actually, nature, science, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, all give us evidence of an afterlife, but you wouldn’t know. You’d have nothing to prove it. So, Jesus Christ proved it. He came back said, I’ve conquered death. There is greater life after death, and that’s good news.

Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT

There’s hope. One of the things that’s difficult to explain without the resurrection is the sudden change in the disciples because at the crucifixion and after, they’re all scared to death. They’re running, they’re defeated, they’re depressed in despair. Three days later they’re ready to take on the Roman Empire. What happened? They had seen Jesus. They were eye witnesses. Paul lists just a few of the eyewitnesses.

“Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all… I also saw him.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NLT

For 40 days He has multiple meetings with a lot of different people, friends. This is what’s called definitive evidence. Conclusive proof. Having hundreds of eyewitnesses would stand up in any court, anywhere in the world. This is why the church exploded. Within years, there were 30,000 members of the church just in Jerusalem, then it had grown to nearly a half a million, and it exploded all over the Roman empire. Why? Because of the resurrection, there were so many eye witnesses.

So, the Roman Empire started what was called the great persecution. For the first 300 years of Christianity, it was illegal to be a Christian. If you made the decision to say, I’m going to become a follower of Christ, you are more likely to be fed to the Lions in the Coliseum, crucified yourself or beheaded. Why did people become followers? Because of the hope. Do you know all but one of the original disciples were murdered; John was the exception. Stephen was stoned to death. James was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was in prison in Rome, and then he was executed. Read the last words of Paul right before he goes to the execution, “I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I’ve kept the faith.”

Christians were fearless in the face of death. Why? Because they knew there was more to life than just here and now. You know what baffled the Roman empire was how unafraid Christians were to die. Paul says it like this.

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Philippians 1:21 NLT

He says, “Either way I win. If I’m alive, I’m just going to live my purpose, the purpose that God created me for. If I die, I just get to go to heaven sooner. I can’t lose.” What do you do with a guy like that? There’s someone reading right now who is terrified of dying. And it’s greatly affecting the life God is giving you now. You don’t have to be afraid. Anyone who believes in Christ, will live even after dying. Do not be afraid.

3. The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have an eternal home waiting for us.

We know as followers of Jesus; death is not the end. It’s just a transition to better things. The last of Jesus 12 disciples to die was a guy named John. He was the only one not murdered because the killings wouldn’t take. So, they exiled John to a prison colony on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. There he wrote the last book of the Bible, which is called the Revelation. It is a vision God gave him of what the end times and heaven are like. What is heaven going to be like? Well, in a word, it’s indescribable.

It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be amazing. Why? Because look at the earth. This is a broken planet. This is a fallen planet. Nothing works perfectly on this planet, and yet there’s still a lot of beauty. Sun rises, sun sets, mountains, farm land, forests, and this is an imperfect planet. Imagine what a perfect place is going to be like with all the sights, sounds, tastes and the colors where it’s absolutely perfect.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

The more we see the earth with all of its abuse, affairs, assaults, rapes, violence, racism, prejudice, war, terrorism, and pandemics; the more we need trust Jesus and look forward to Heaven. And the more we should be ready for it.

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NLT

To make it through this life, you need hope. Not just a wishful thinking, but a hope you can be certain of. You can’t be good enough to get this hope of an eternity in heaven. You need a savior. That’s what Jesus came to be. If Jesus didn’t need to die on the cross for you, then it was a total waste of his blood. There’s only one way. Before Jesus went back to heaven, He said to his followers,

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 NLT

You need Jesus Christ. The way, the truth, the life. You need an eternal home, an eternal reward that’s driving your purpose and mission. How you’re living your life? Disconnected from God? Going through the motions without meaning and hope? God knew that on Easter Sunday, 2020 you’d be reading to this. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now, God loves you and has been preparing you for this moment.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NIV

God knew you couldn’t save yourself. And He loves you. He did it for you. Believe.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last series, “Getting To Know God.” God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable and sovereign. What do you think you will remember most from that series?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything. This Easter we’ll ask why the resurrection still makes followers of Jesus the most hopeful people on the planet today.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

Discussion & Application

  • Read Romans chapter 4. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven. What stands out to you about this? How does it impact you? Do you believe you have been completely forgiven?
  • Philippians 1:21: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we’re no longer afraid to die. How has your fear of death changed as you know God better?
  • Jesus promised: “I am going to prepare a place for you…” The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is that we have an eternal home waiting for us. How does knowing your eternal home and reward is waiting for you in Christ change how you live now?
  • What are some other reasons the resurrection gives us hope? His power… His love… His purpose in our lives… Can you think of some more?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Who in your life needs the hope of the resurrection? Pray for them.

Next Steps

Write out a thank-you note to God. Thank Him for loving you first, forgiving you, for sticking to His promises in the past. Thank Him for the promises that give you hope for tomorrow and an eternal home in heaven.

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Christmas! A Good Time To Get Your Hopes Up

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Today we know the news of the birth of Jesus Christ as good news because we know what went on to happen. But it wasn’t good news to the people who heard it for the first time. In fact, it terrified everyone.

At the first Christmas, everybody was afraid. Every one of the main characters had to deal with a different kind of fear. What’s interesting is we still deal with these same fears today. But the message of Christmas is this: Do not be afraid.


Five Fears in the First Christmas

  1. Mary faced the fear of inadequacy.

Mary was a teenage peasant girl planning to get married. But an angel interrupted her plan by telling her that she was pregnant with the Son of God.  She’s engaged to a guy named Joseph. She is told that the child is going to be the promised Son of God? The government is taking a census, her fiancé has to go to his birth town. So while pregnant, she has to go on a long journey with him. There’s over a dozen reasons to feel worried and inadequate.

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:29-34 NLT

2. Joseph faced the fear of disapproval.

Imagine: Your fiancé tells you she’s pregnant and you know you’ve never had sex with her. Then she claims that God made her pregnant and the baby is the Son of God. Imagine the ridicule, the shame, the gossip, and the criticism heaped on Joseph.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18-20 NLT

3.  The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change.

Put yourself in the shoes of the shepherds. They’re out lying on the grass and tending their flock of sheep. Suddenly, they have life changing news and the sky lights up with stuff they’ve never seen before

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Do not be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:8-10

When God shows up, it can be unsettling. But God doesn’t want to scare you. He says do not be afraid.

4. King Herod faced the fear of losing control. 

Herod was the king of the Jews. He’s was actually king of Judea and he was hated by the Jews because he wasn’t a full Jew. He ruled with a heavy hand because he was paranoid of losing his throne. He was so paranoid that he had his brother in law killed for fear of him taking over his throne. He had his mother killed, had his wife assassinated, and had his two sons assassinated.

So, when he hears that Jesus “the king of the Jews” is being born he freaks out, yet again. He orders the death of every baby in Israel under two years of age to try to prevent Jesus from growing up. And Mary and Joseph are warned in a dream. They take Jesus to Egypt.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn  king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King  Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. Matthew :1-3

5. Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed.

Zechariah’s wife was named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the cousin of Mary. Elizabeth and Zechariah were older and had prayed their entire life for a child. They finally give up hope because they were past child bearing years. They were afraid to hope because they’d been disappointed so many times.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for years and years to have a baby, but it hadn’t happened. When Zechariah found out Elizabeth was pregnant, his first instinct was disbelief. He was afraid to get his hopes up.

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer.Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. Luke 1:11-13

Zechariah had been disappointed so many times he just didn’t believe it. He would go on to say, “How can I be sure?” He wanted God to prove it to him because he didn’t want to hope again. Some of you can relate to the fear of disappointment that holds people back. By the way, Zechariah’s long awaited son, you may have heard of him. He grew up to be called John the Baptist. And John the Baptist was the forerunner, kind of the announcer of the Messiah who said, he’s coming; get ready.

Which of these five fears are holding you back?

If any of these five fears ring true in your life you really need the message of Christmas. Because if we’ll do what God told Mary and Joseph and everybody else to do, we’ll conquer our fears.

How to Defeat Your Fears

1. Surrender your life completely to God every day!

Start the day saying, “God I’m full of fear. I’m giving you the good, the bad and the ugly of my life right now.” Mary overcame her fear of inadequacy with this statement:

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38 NLT

Have you ever said that to God?  Have you ever opened your mouth and said to God, “God, you’re my Creator and whatever you want to do with my life, I want to cooperate with.” Have you ever done that? If you have not, you are living in constant tension.

God’s going one way and you’re going a different way and this tension creates fear in your life. We hit dead ends all the time with our plan, but God’s plan does not have a dead end. Your confidence becomes in Him and not in yourself.

2. Stop listening to the voices of fear.

Fear is contagious. You’re going to have to change what ideas you allow in your mind if you want to move out of fear. What you watch and what you listen to.

Would you agree that we’re in a pretty negative culture? It’s easier to just be against stuff and negative and fearful. And sometimes those voices are inside you too. And you have to stop focusing on yourself. We need an objective outside source because we often get it wrong.

Many of us would agree with the prophet Jeremiah, who hears God’s call on his life and out of fear says,

“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” Jeremiah 1:6

We’re focused on our inadequacies and the approval of others. But, God doesn’t respond with, “No, Jeremiah! You’re not young, and you do know how to speak! You’re capable and talented and you can do this!”Instead, he tells him not to focus on himself.

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Jeremiah 1:7-8

God doesn’t respond to our fears of inadequacy with reassurances of our strength but with a reminder of His strength.

Stop thinking about yourself, stop listening to voices of fear, and start listening to God.

3. Fill your mind with music that praises God.

Because when you’re scared to death, all your attention is focusing on you. To get rid of fear you’ve got to get the focus off you and get it on God. When you turn your focus on God, that’s called praise. That’s called worship. One of the best ways to get this kind of focus on God is through music.

Do you know what Mary did when she was so frightened about the job that God had given her? She sang about it.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47,49 ESV

Worship holds so much power and helps you get the focus on God. It is no accident that Christmas is the most musical of all holidays. Why? Because at the first Christmas everybody sang. Mary sang. Elizabeth sang. The angels sang. The shepherds sang. Even Zechariah wrote a song. You should learn from them and make faith filled music a part of your life.

4. Base your hope on the promises of God.

In the Bible there are promises from God to you about your finances, sex life, relationships, and career. About your past, present, and future. Promises about forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

But if you don’t know them you can’t put your trust in them. If you don’t trust them and surrender to them, you can’t claim them. They’re like gifts that you’ve never unwrapped.
They’re like somebody writing you a check and you never cash it.

It’s time to base your life on the promises of God. This is what gave Mary confidence. Elizabeth noticed this. And in Luke Chapter 1 Elizabeth said to Mary: “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’” You believed God will keep his promises.

That’s what gave this young peasant girl enormous confidence in an incredibly fearful situation. She believed God would keep His Word. When you start doing that you will be blessed too.

The Greatest Promise

We must remember the most important promise. It’s the promise that when you die you can go to heaven if you trust in the Son that he sent at Christmas. That’s called the promise of eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV

That’s the greatest promise. Jesus Christ came to earth at Christmas to die for your sins so you don’t have to pay for your sins. But Jesus didn’t just come to earth to forgive your sins. He didn’t just come to earth to get you into heaven if you trust in him. He also came to eliminate your fears here and now.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15

Have you believed so that you might have eternal life?


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week, “A Good Time for Good Times.” How has that message and conversation helped to keep your Christmas perspective and joy from being robbed this Christmas?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Today, we know that the Christmas story is Good News—God became flesh in order to save us from our sins. But for those who experienced the Christmas story firsthand, the news scared them to death. When you read through the Christmas account, you’ll find that the characters faced five familiar fears

  • Mary faced the fear of inadequacy. (Luke 1:29-34)
  • Mary faced the fear of disapproval. (Matthew 1:18-20)
  • The shepherds faced the fear of sudden change. (Luke 2:8-10)
  • King Herod faced the fear of losing control. (Matthew 2:1-3)
  • Zechariah faced the fear of being disappointed. (Luke 1:11-13)

If you’re facing any of these fears, it doesn’t mean there’s something defective about you, and you can defeat them! How?

  • First, surrender your life completely to God every day. (Luke 1:38)
  • Second, stop listening to the voices of fear. (Jeremiah 1:6-8)
  • Third, fill your mind with music that praises God. (Luke1:46-49)
  • Fourth, base your hope on the promises of God. (Luke1:45)

Hope can’t be based on what you think. It’s based on what God promises. Memorize the promises of God and lean on them when you’re afraid. The greatest promise? John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Now, if you haven’t already, spend some time in the Word. Read Luke chapters one and two.

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message?
  2. Is there a time in your life you’ve ever struggled with one of the five fears?
  3. What does it look like to surrender your life completely to God every day?
  4. “Fear is contagious.” How have you seen this to be true?
  5. What are some things you need to stop listening to in 2020? With what could you
    replace it?
  6. In this message, we focused on basing our hope on the promises of God. Specifically, the promise of salvation and eternal life for whoever believe. (John 3:16) What are some other promises from God we can claim? Prayer Focus: Thank God for his promises and ask God to help you listen and trust him more than any other voice, even yourself.

Tell Someone Else

With whom could you share this message of Christmas? How could you be a voice of hope and peace, rather than fear.

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Brand New

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“So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NIV/NKJV

Those who are in Christ, they believe in Jesus Christ as the way the truth and the life. If you are in Him, you may be in a place of danger and temptation, and may fail in many ways, but the Lord Jesus has redeemed us.

Old things have passed away. Now that we have trusted Christ. We no longer identify with Adam. We are no longer bound to sin. We are no longer people of the world. We were born into a sin nature, that has passed away.

We are a new creation.

Too many people have never approached God with the concept of “new”. Most have resigned themselves that God will just improve their messed up sinful life. The New Year is a reminder for Christians that we are defined by newness.

So this New Years weekend, let’s talk about the new things that we have when we become a Christian, when we are in Christ.


A Christian is Defined by Newness

1. NEW BIRTH

Jesus was having a conversation with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a deeply religious man. What he was looking for was someone powerful enough to overthrow Rome and build a kingdom.

“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  John 3:3 NIV

Jesus interrupts Nicodemus to tell him, you don’t know about the kingdom I’m building. I’m not here to overthrow a government, I’m here to overthrow what’s condemning you. God doesn’t intend to change the old nature. It can’t be changed.

God isn’t in the self-help business. He’s in the new life business.

New birth is necessary because we need a new nature. Why try to patch up an old life when God can give you a new one? Just like you didn’t have anything to do with your physical birth, only God can give you a new birth.

2. NEW HEART

Some of you used to have a hard heart. God doesn’t only soften your heart, he gives you a new heart.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26 NIV

3. NEW LIFE

The hardest thing to give someone is something they don’t know they need. God says, “I want to give you a new life.” We don’t think we need a new life, because we have a life. God says, “I’m saddened that you call that living.”

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  Romans 6:4 NIV

The believers power over sin and the ability to lead a new life, stems from identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. From God’s perspective, Jesus’ death to sin is ours as well. His rising to new life means that we also begin to lead a new life. And in the future our bodies will also be raised.

This is why the New Testament commands to baptize by immersion, to be buried in the water. Baptism symbolizes the death and burial of the old way of life. Coming up out of the water symbolizes resurrection to new life with Christ.

If we think of our old sinful life as dead and buried, we have a powerful motive to flee from sin. We can choose to treat the desires and temptations of the old nature as if they were dead.

4. NEW DESIRES

Isn’t it amazing how after you identify yourself with Christ, just naturally, things that you were okay with, you’re no longer okay with?

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24 NIV

You have new desires. This passage in Galatians talks about walking in the Spirit. We learn to walk by trial and errorPeople want more & more seminars on the Christian life; thinking the more they learn the less they’ll fall. You’re still going to fall. You need to step out and lean on the Spirit of God and fulfill the new desires. Get up and start again.

5. NEW FAMILY

When you give your life to Christ you have a new family. God created everything so he could have a family. Now when I say that, I’m not saying God was lonely. Before God created anything, there was God existing three in one. The trinity. God wasn’t lonely. He had everything He needed. It was so good, He decided to create the Church to share that connection.

Jesus: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35 NIV

In God’s kingdom, one’s true relatives are determined not by blood, but by a faith relationship. God’s family is accepting and doesn’t exclude anyone. Although Jesus cared for his mother and brothers he also cared for all those who loved him. Jesus did not show partiality; he allowed everyone the privilege of obeying God and becoming part of his family.

6. NEW FOES

When you get close to God, some people will not like it. You might get treated differently or get laughed at. They’ll treat you like Jesus. Some people will not like you. They’re going to say weird comments. They’re going to say offensive things.

Jesus: “Everyone will hate you because of me.”  Luke 21:17 NIV

In this passage, he’s telling his disciples that you’ll even get killed, but in the end not a hair on your head will perish. By standing firm you will win your souls. It echos of David in the Psalms saying, what can man do to me?

“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”  Psalm 118:5-9 NLT

7. NEW SERVICE

We serve from a new motivation. Before, under the law, there was no joy. The flesh had no desire to follow the law.

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”  Romans 7:6 NIV

We’re joined to the living Christ. We are to serve Him, not on the motive of we must do this or ought do this, but on the motive of wanting to please Christ. We’re set free and in love we give ourselves to Jesus. We serve him because we love him.

When Jesus talked to Peter, do you love me? Peter said, you know I love you, but you know what a failure I am. Jesus said, you’ll bring forth fruit, feed my sheep. Peter is the man who opened the door to the Gentiles and preached the first sermon at Pentecost.

God has a lost world, what will you do with Jesus who died for you? You can serve Him.

8. NEW STRUGGLE

“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”  Galatians 5:17 NIV

Your old nature is going to want to do things. You can’t get rid of your old nature this side of heaven. John says if we have no sin we deceive ourselves. We have two natures. The flesh warring against the Spirit and the Spirit warring against the flesh. They’re in conflict. Have you experienced that? You know that hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” Do you ever feel it?

We’re prone to wander and we’re prone to worship. But praise God for the struggle. Some aren’t struggling today, they’re fine with wandering. They’re fine with doing whatever they want.

Freedom isn’t doing whatever you want. Freedom is being able to do what is right. Freedom is the choice to do what is right.  It is not doing whatever you want, because there is no guarantee that what we want is good.  Freedom is the choice to do what is right. To do what is good.

9. NEW MERCIES

His mercies are new. You can’t outrun, they never tire or become old.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”  Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT

Jeremiah was down when he wrote this, but he saw one ray of hope, the mercy of God. Maybe you are down and you think God’s grace and mercy has run out on you. You can’t exhaust the mercy of God. It’s a new season, it’s a new day.

10. NEW HOPE

God’s not in the escape plan business, He’s in the restoration business. In fact, in the end we don’t escape earth and go to heaven. God is going to purify the earth with fire and bring heaven to earth. The earth will be perfect.

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”  2 Peter 3:13 NIV

What are you looking forward to? We can joyously look forward to the restoration of God’s good world. Whatever limitations you have on your body, you will not have those forever. Whatever sickness you’re fighting, you will not fight that forever. We have a new hope, the return of our king, Jesus Christ.


Grow Your Faith in 2019

In the next couple of days we’ll start making resolutions, goals, plans and budgets for 2019. What’s your plan to grow in your faith? If you want to grow in your faith, Rock Brook has a plan in place to help. 

KNOW GOD  |  WEEKEND SERVICES

Everything begins with a knowing relationship with God. That you Know God. We want you to have a real encounter with a real God. That’s the goal of our weekend services, to help you Know God, and if you already know Him, that you’d know Him better.

FIND FREEDOM  |  SMALL GROUPS

Once you know Him, He wants to help you with areas that hurt so badly. Areas of addiction. Areas, that don’t only disappoint God, but they disappoint you. Areas where you feel trapped and hopeless and the old things haven’t passed away.

Some people have this inverted, they think they need to get it all together before God will ever accept them.

You don’t change your life to get to God, you get to God to change your life. He accepts you just the way you are. Once you know him, the power of God comes in your life to Find Freedom.

This is why we love Small Groups. They’re not mini-bible studies. Not mini-church services. You’ve already had that, it’s an opportunity for you to connect, encourage and grow together. You need people that can help you and you need to help others.

Life change happens in the context of relationships.

DISCOVER PURPOSE  | GROWTH TRACK

You can’t see what your life is about because all you see is the old. Once you settle that, the lights come on and you see the new. Yout can stop looking through the lens of yesterday and start looking through the lens of tomorrow. You begin to realize you’re here to do something.

You’re not an accident, no matter what narrative your parents or someone has put on your life. Growth Track is a great way to help you with this. We can begin to connect the dots of your personality, gifts and passions to find out your purpose here on earth.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE  |  DREAM TEAM

Do something with your life that brings about the new. You can make a difference in Jesus name. Many people want to make a difference, but it only lasts if you do it in Jesus name. One of the most fulfilling things you’ll do is help someone. You cannot do what you do, on your own. That’s why we have the Dream Team, where we serve together.

Here’s the issue:

When I don’t see God’s vision for my life, I’m in danger of settling for an earthly counterfeit.

Everything God does, the devil creates an earthly counterfeit. It makes some promises, but never delivers. The devil will offer you everything and deliver you nothing. He offers you a counterfeit to God’s vision. It looks something like this.

Instead of Know God, I want to Know MeI’m going to make it about me. I just need to find myself. I just need to live my best life.

Instead of Find Freedom, we want to Find Fame. We build our own name. We want to be famous in this building or this company.

Instead of Discover Purpose, we want to Discover a Platform.

Instead of Make a Difference, we want to Make a Dime

It’s a promise that is so empty. We don’t want you fall for the counterfeit. We offer ways for you to take these spiritual steps.

Lean in this year and see where it takes you. See if 2019 is your best year yet.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on Restoring Joy? How did trusting God’s plan, letting go of resentment and following God’s light one step at a time affect your Christmas joy?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: 2 Corinthians 5

Too many people have never approached God with the concept of “new”.  Most have resigned themselves that God will just improve their messed up life, but they could never be their best. The New Year is a reminder for Christians that we are defined by newness. A Christian is defined by newness.

  • New Birth (John 3:3)
  • New Heart (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • New Life (Romans 6:4)
  • New Desires (Galatians 5:24)
  • New Family (Mark 3:35)
  • New Foes (Luke 21:17)
  • New Service (Romans 7:6)
  • New Struggle (Galatians 5:17)
  • New Mercies (Lamentations 3:22-24)
  • New Hope (2 Peter 3:13)

Application

  1. Which of these ten things that are new, stood out to you the most?
  2. Have you identified yourself with Jesus Christ through baptism? (For more information about baptism, visit rockbrook.org/connect/baptism)
  3. Do you feel the struggle that Galatians 5:17 describes in your life? How so?
  4. How have the people in your life responded as you’ve started growing closer to God? Have they been supportive? Have they been perplexed or frustrated? Discouraging?
  5. Where is your hope today?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage with hope as a result of this message? Who needs to hear about the new life that Christ offers?

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