Aug 18, 2019
Romans 8:31-39 “Assurance”
Series: Romans
When Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, they came back with a report about the greatness of the land.  The food was great, the land was great, the people were great and their fortresses and defenses were great too.  All of them acknowledged the reality of the greatness and the potential obstacles that they would run into. Perspective, however, colored their response to that present reality. Ten of these spies responded in fear; only two would have echoed Paul’s words at the pinnacle of his writing in Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  They knew full well that it wasn’t going to be easy; they may have even known that they couldn’t do it on their own. But to them, it didn’t matter. God has promised them that land and they knew that with God on their side, nothing would stop them from victory! Questions to take home:
  1. Read Number 13-14, the account of the spies being sent into the land of canaan.  How does this account relate to Paul’s words at the end of Romans 8? Be honest for a moment: which group of spies do you think you would fall in?  How has that been challenged or confirmed in our Scripture today?
  2. The concept of Jesus as both judge of and payment for our sins cannot be understated!  It is the summary and conclusion of Romans 1-8. What does this mean to you? How does it impact you?  How does it challenge the way you practice your faith?
  3. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  There is also no separation from God for those who are in Christ Jesus!  How does this truth make you feel? How does it impact your faith walk?
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  • Aug 18, 2019Romans 8:31-39 “Assurance”
    Aug 18, 2019
    Romans 8:31-39 “Assurance”
    Series: Romans
    When Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan, they came back with a report about the greatness of the land.  The food was great, the land was great, the people were great and their fortresses and defenses were great too.  All of them acknowledged the reality of the greatness and the potential obstacles that they would run into. Perspective, however, colored their response to that present reality. Ten of these spies responded in fear; only two would have echoed Paul’s words at the pinnacle of his writing in Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  They knew full well that it wasn’t going to be easy; they may have even known that they couldn’t do it on their own. But to them, it didn’t matter. God has promised them that land and they knew that with God on their side, nothing would stop them from victory! Questions to take home:
    1. Read Number 13-14, the account of the spies being sent into the land of canaan.  How does this account relate to Paul’s words at the end of Romans 8? Be honest for a moment: which group of spies do you think you would fall in?  How has that been challenged or confirmed in our Scripture today?
    2. The concept of Jesus as both judge of and payment for our sins cannot be understated!  It is the summary and conclusion of Romans 1-8. What does this mean to you? How does it impact you?  How does it challenge the way you practice your faith?
    3. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  There is also no separation from God for those who are in Christ Jesus!  How does this truth make you feel? How does it impact your faith walk?
  • Aug 11, 2019Romans 8:18-30 “Suffering, Sovereignty, and Truth”
    Aug 11, 2019
    Romans 8:18-30 “Suffering, Sovereignty, and Truth”
    Series: Romans
    Talking about suffering is difficult; we all have our own unique experiences with the difficulties of this life, both small and large. Pairing this conversation with God’s Sovereignty, recognizing that nothing happens outside of His allowance can be even more troublesome. Debates about how God, who is the measure of all goodness, can allow such seemingly awful things to happen often end in confusion and questions. Paul takes on this difficult subject though, coupling it with God’s sanctifying work in our lives and reminding us that we don’t suffer alone. All of creation is groaning because of the effects of sin on it. All of it, including our own difficult experiences and pain, is a part of a growing process that, Paul says, will give birth to great glory and freedom on that great and glorious day when with all of creation we will see God and be with Him for all eternity. Oh, how we wait for that day! Questions to take home: Paul opens this section by talking about suffering in our lives. In what ways do you experience suffering? How does your experience of suffering draw you closer to Jesus? How does it make you more life Jesus? As we wait (patiently, of course) for the ultimate revealing of Jesus and the fullness of our Salvation, there are times when it seems too much to handle. How does it make you feel that, when we are overwhelmed, the Spirit of God is still praying on your behalf? What does that change for you in the midst of whatever trial you may be going through? Read Isaiah 43:1-3 & 55:8-9. Now read Romans 8:28 again. What is your definition of “good” in your life? How do you think that definition compares to God’s “good” plans for you? How does this comparison lead you to greater trust in God?
  • Aug 4, 2019Romans 8:1-17 “The Spirit of Life”
    Aug 4, 2019
    Romans 8:1-17 “The Spirit of Life”
    Series: Romans
    Before I chose to follow God’s call on my life, go to seminary, and ultimately become a pastor, I worked in the Emergency Room of a local hospital.  If you’ve ever experienced a significant career or job change, you understand that there is a whole section of my brain that contains the now useless knowledge that I attained there.  Stocking levels for rooms, billing codes, how to order supplies, and all sorts of other things that I’ll (hopefully) never use again.
     
    This is the sort of dichotomy that Paul has been describing between a life lived “to the flesh” and one lived “in accordance with the Spirit.”  Like the ER information, sin is still very much a part of my life, but I don’t live my daily life using, or even pursuing it; I seek to live into being a Pastor now.  And in following God, rather than this other life, I find myself growing deeper in my relationship with Him as well.
     

    Questions to take home:

    1. How do you think the life that is “set free from the law of sin and death” looks?  Read Romans 5:1-11. What similarity to your first answer did you see? How do you see these characteristics in your own life?

    2. Paul points out that believers have within them the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  What does he say this means for us? How do these words impact your view of the process of Sanctification (progressive spiritual development/separation from sin)?

    3. The language of Romans 8 changes in verse 12. Paul starts using the term “we” and using more intimate descriptions of our relationship with God.  What does the notion of “sonship,” being adopted as God’s children, mean? How does it deepen your understanding of God’s love and grace?

  • Jul 28, 2019Romans 7:7-25 “The Battle Within”
    Jul 28, 2019
    Romans 7:7-25 “The Battle Within”
    Series: Romans
    In battle, the ability to draw the enemy out into the open in order to defeat it gives an incredible advantage and ensures a certain victory.  The enemy has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and the full force of its strength is known. This sort on encirclement means unmitigated defeat for the enemy, be it through direct attack or through surrender by way of isolation and attrition. Paul, in his exposition of God’s Law, has revealed the fullness of sin’s presence in the hearts and lives of all humanity.  The Law has, in effect, put sin on full display so that all can see its full strength and depravity. At the same time, Scripture is also showing us the answer to this problem as well: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Messiah.  And with the full force of sin exposed, the full power of both God’s wrath and God’s grace are seen clearly in sin’s defeat on the cross! Questions to take home:
    1. Think back to the story of Adam & Eve and that of Israel, from Egypt to Sinai to the Promised Land.  What similarities can you identify? Where does God’s command (Law) come into play and what is its effect?  How do these narratives reflect your own life’s story?
    2. Think about the statement: “The problem here is not the Law, but rather sin’s presence within us.”  How does this statement change the way you think about the Law? How does it change the way you think about sin?  Where does Jesus come into this picture?
    3. Paul’s explanation of the Law shows both the depth of our sinful state and the magnitude of the salvation that we offered by the grace of God through Jesus Christ when we come to faith.  Take a moment to think about that. Share the thoughts and feelings that come to mind. Be sure to take time to thank God for this incredible gift!
  • Jul 21, 2019Romans 7:1-6 “FREEDOM! For What?”
    Jul 21, 2019
    Romans 7:1-6 “FREEDOM! For What?”
    Series: Romans
    Freedom, it is something that we as Americans celebrate as a part of our culture; it is the premise on which our country is found.  Freedom, however, does not imply lawlessness or anarchy. Christian freedom is much the same. Scripture says in 1 John 3:4 that sin and lawlessness are one and the same.  Christian freedom is not a license to sin, it is a freedom from the bondage of sin. When a person breaks the law, they are guilty of their transgression of it.  Their punishment is both just and right. However, if a person dies, they no longer be punished.  Scripture points to the fact that, in Jesus Christ, we have died to sin and to the law because Jesus Christ both took the punishment and, Himself, died.  Therefore, we are freed from the penalty of the law, taken by Christ on the cross, and are then freed to live in grateful and joyful obedience to it. Questions to take home:
    1. Read Psalm 19:7-14.  (For other references, see Psalm 119)  How does the Psalmist regard God’s Law?  What posture does the Psalm take with it?  How can our lives reflect this same regard and posture?  How does Psalm 1 speak to this?
    2. Read Romans 7:4-6 again.  How are we made free from the Law?  From what aspects of the Law are we freed?  What does it say we are to do with this freedom?
    3. Last week we talked about “respectable sins,” those small sins that Christians tend to deem as being acceptable.  Yet Scripture tells us that Sanctification is the process of being separated from sin. Last week we asked the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin in our lives; how have you listened and obeyed the Spirit’s promptings this week with regards to that?
  • Jul 14, 2019Romans 6:15-23 “Sanctified”
    Jul 14, 2019
    Romans 6:15-23 “Sanctified”
    Series: Romans
    Education prepares you for future employment.  However, as many of us have learned, a major amount of learning and growth in required “on the job” for every job that we’ve had.  No matter what job it is, you don’t really take on the title of the job for that specific company until you’ve learned and can work in the unique dynamics that make each job unique. Paul, having spoken of the truth of God’s justification of sinners by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ, now turns to the application of this truth.  Sanctification is living into the new identity that we have received and the freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ; it is justification applied. Justification is a declaration, Sanctification is a process.  Justification is a removal of the guilt of sin, Sanctification is a healing of the dysfunctionality of sin Questions to take home:
    1. Paul makes a sharp comparison between obedience to sin and obedience to Christ.  How are these different? Does Paul offer any middle ground?
    2. What is the difference between obedience to Christ and Christian legalism?  Which do you think is easier? How does Scripture call us to live and how does that impact you? 
    3. How do we reconcile the fact that we are “free from sin” but we still have sin in our lives?  What changes with regards to sin in our lives when we come to Jesus? How has that changed in your life?
  • Jun 30, 2019Romans 5:12-21 “The Significance of One”
    Jun 30, 2019
    Romans 5:12-21 “The Significance of One”
    Series: Romans
    There are few adults in the U.S. that will ever forget the events of September 11, 2001.  Planes crashing, buildings falling; death & fear were rampant across the media for weeks. Yet, even now, the memorial of the events of that day sits in the shadow of a building far greater and more magnificent than the iconic World Trade Center towers.  Freedom Tower, as it is called, stands as a message of resilience in the face of evil. No human on this earth will ever escape the reality of sin either.  Through the actions of Adam, we are all predisposed and naturally bent toward sin and away from God.  Yet, in the midst of the stark reality of this rebellion, God introduces His Son, Jesus the Christ, to bring about His great gift of salvation by grace.  The cross stands, overshadowing the reality of sin, and God’s grace exhibits an incomparably greater gift of life, one that completely erases sin and death. Questions to take home:
    1. Paul states, at the beginning of this passage, that “sin entered the world through one man…”  Who is this one man? What do you know/believe about him? What does Scripture have to say about this one man?
    2. Though not the main focus of this passage, we talked about two important doctrines today: Total Depravity & Original Sin.  How would you define these two doctrines in your own words? How do they impact your understanding and experience of salvation?
    3. Paul contrasts the greatness of grace over and above the reality of sin in human life and experience.  How have you experienced God’s grace in your life? Take some time to honestly reflect on this… and then tell someone about it!
  • Jun 23, 2019Romans 5:1-11 “Salvation Defined”
    Jun 23, 2019
    Romans 5:1-11 “Salvation Defined”
    Series: Romans
    This morning we talked about six truths that are ours when we are justified by grace through faith.  Rather than offer reflections this week, I encourage you to write them down and then reflect on what each one means to you personally.  What is one verse that was used that impacted you?  How can you apply each one to your life or current circumstances? Truth 1:  I have _______________ with God. Key Verse:  ______________________________ What does this mean for me?   Truth 2:  I am _________________ in _______________. Key Verse:  ______________________________ What does this mean for me?   Truth 3:  I ___________ in ____________. Key Verse:  ______________________________ What does this mean for me?   Truth 4:  I am ______________ of God’s __________. Key Verse:  ______________________________ What does this mean for me?   Truth 5:  I have _______________ in my __________________. Key Verse:  ______________________________ What does this mean for me?   Truth 6:  I have ___________ in God through Christ. Key Verse:  ______________________________ What does this mean for me?
  • Jun 16, 2019Romans 4 “Faithful Father”
    Jun 16, 2019
    Romans 4 “Faithful Father”
    Series: Romans
    Every good point needs an illustration; Romans chapter 4 is just that, an illustration. The Jewish people often look to their past for examples on how to live.  Great people like David, Joshua, and Moses would be people they would seek to emulate. There was, however, no one in their history quite like Abraham. Apart from being the father of their nation, Abraham’s legacy is one of unrelenting faith in God. Many Jewish people would have pointed to Abraham’s works of obedience or the fact that he was circumcised as reasons for his righteousness before God.  Paul, in illustrating his argument for justification by grace through faith in chapter three points out that Abraham believed God which led to obedience and all this before he was ever circumcised.  Genesis 15 says that this posture of faith is what God credits to Abraham as righteousness, which is the very same grace we see given through Jesus Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. Last week Evan talked through Romans 3:21-31.  How would you, in your own words, explain “justification by grace through faith” (3:22-25)?
    2. Paul appeals to the timeline of Abraham’s life as an argument for the priority of faith and its relationship to grace.  God called Abraham, he believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness, and then he was circumcised. What implications does this have in your walk with God?
    3. There is a relationship between faith and obedience that Paul is working out here.  They are intimately related to each other and both are important. What do you think their relationship is?  Which comes first? How does one impact the other?
  • Jun 9, 2019Romans 3:21-31 “Justification”
    Jun 9, 2019
    Romans 3:21-31 “Justification”
    Series: Romans
    Guest Preaching: Evan Crowe
  • Jun 2, 2019Romans 3:1-20 “God’s Faithfulness”
    Jun 2, 2019
    Romans 3:1-20 “God’s Faithfulness”
    Series: Romans
    With everything that we’ve talked about in Romans 1 & 2, one might come to the conclusion that we have no hope.  Left to our own abilities, that would be true. Paul says we have no advantage at all. The World is sinful. The people of God, despite having God’s revelation, are sinful as well.  We’ve all been unfaithful; no one, by themselves, can reach righteousness. But here, at our lowest point, when all hope is lost, that Paul reminds us of the greatest truth there is: GOD IS FAITHFUL.  Despite our sin, all that is in us that separates us from God, He has always and will always keep His promises. In His great mercy, God has provided us with the Law, so that we may truly know ourselves and therefore know our true need for a Savior. Questions to take home:
    1. Paul begins chapter 3 speaking of the advantage of the Jews.  What does He say that advantage is? What advantages do we as followers of Jesus have in today’s world?  What do you think Paul would say about them?
    2. Verse 3-8 create a false argument to justify sin.  How have you found yourself justifying sin in your life?  Have you ever knowingly done something sinful while thinking “there’s grace for that?”  In what ways does this cheapen God’s grace to you?
    3. When you hear the word “Law” used in the Bible, what do you think of?  The true point and purpose of the law is revealed here in verses 19-20.  How do Paul’s words match up with your own thoughts? How does this change or challenge your perspective?
  • May 26, 2019Romans 2:17-29 “Security System”
    May 26, 2019
    Romans 2:17-29 “Security System”
    Series: Romans
    Most people, at some point in their lives, have carried a life insurance policy on themselves and/or their spouse.  This insurance is meant to be security for if something unthinkable would happen; we never intend to have to use it and hope we never will.  We wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) dream of such a policy as a license to live recklessly, risking our life frivolously, thinking that our stupidity or carelessness could be made up for with money upon our death. This is, however, the very notion that Paul addresses with the church in Rome regarding Judaism.  They thought that, simply because they had the Law, they had the Land, and they had the sign (circumcision), they were somehow exempt from God’s judgment.  Claiming this led to hypocritical teaching and lifestyles that, rather than leading to God, led many away from Him. Paul’s thoughts lead to the obvious, but unsaid question: Does the Church do this too? Questions to take home:
    1. Paul lists off a number of things that Jews referred to themselves as a part of their religious identity in verses 17-20.  Do some of these feel familiar for us as followers of Jesus? Are there things in Christianity that we cling to for our religious identity?
    2. Hypocrisy is not so much about a desire to live up to high standards but rather about holding others to standards one is unwilling to keep themselves.  Where do you find yourself guilty of this? Do we as a church do this too?
    3. Read Deuteronomy 30:6.  What does “Circumcision of the heart” mean?  How does it happen? How do you experience this reality in your walk with Christ?
  • May 12, 2019Romans 2:1-16 “No Excuses”
    May 12, 2019
    Romans 2:1-16 “No Excuses”
    Series: Romans
    Whereas sin is a rather unpopular topic both within and outside the church today, Paul spends a considerable amount of time on it at the beginning of Romans.  Chapter 1 looked specifically at the “gentiles,” or those outside of the people of God, not privy to the Law or God’s covenant with Abraham. He turns his attention however, in chapter 2, directly toward the people of God.
     
    As God’s people, but then and now, it is very easy for us to look around and point our fingers at the sin in everyone else.  Yet what we fail to remember is that we, who so quickly pass judgment on others, are ourselves subject to God’s righteous judgment as well.  We fall into the same trap as the people of Israel, thinking that we will somehow be exempt from God’s righteous judgment, and so we pay no mind to our own sins.  Our Scripture today warns against such a stance.
     

    Questions to take home:

    1. Have you ever found yourself judging another person?  Maybe it was the way the looked or acted; perhaps it was something they were doing.  How did judging that person make you feel? How does that feeling impact your ability to show God’s love to them?

    2. Read verses 6-11 again.  How does it make you feel that the basis of God’s judgment is the same, equal and without favoritism?  If this is true, how does the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ give us hope?

    3. Last week in church we were asked to think of a deep, dark, secret sin that we hold in our heart.  We were challenged to bear that before God, repent of it, and give it to Him. How have you experienced new freedom in this past week?  

  • May 5, 2019Romans 1:18-32 “Speaking of Sin”
    May 5, 2019
    Romans 1:18-32 “Speaking of Sin”
    Series: Romans
    It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise when I say that talking about sin is unpopular.  We like to hear about grace and remember that Jesus offers forgiveness, however, we don’t like to be uncomfortably reminded that we do wrong.  Sin is something that we have swept under the rug; it is a subject we seem to avoid at all costs. Yet, despite our avoidance, it is as much a fact as any that sin is a foundational and integral component to the message of the Gospel. Our reality one of sin.  There are lists and lists of sins throughout the New Testament and one doesn’t have to look far to find out that we are guilty.  We cannot help it, sin is engrained in us and we cannot free ourselves from it. Simply put: we NEED a Savior. You see, without sin, there is no need for a Savior… no need for Jesus.  But thanks be to God, He provides a Savior and Salvation in His only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord! Questions to take home:
    1. Paul talks about the revelation of God’s wrath.  What do you think the term “God’s wrath” means? Where are some places that you’ve heard this term used?  Have they informed (for better or worse) your understanding of God’s wrath?
    2. Read verses 21-23 again.  What do you think Paul is saying here?  How have you tried to put God in a box? What was the result?
    3. There is a whole list of sins toward the end of the passage, all lumped together.  None is given more importance than the others. Do you find any sins you have committed in there?  Have you found yourself trying to justify your sin as “lesser” than others? What does Scripture have to say about that?
  • Apr 28, 2019Romans 1:1-17 “Bold Beginning”
    Apr 28, 2019
    Romans 1:1-17 “Bold Beginning”
    Series: Romans
    Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is one of the most significant letters in the whole of Scripture.  In it is contained the entire Gospel story as well as Paul’s explanations of what happened through the life of Jesus and what it means for us as believers.  He goes on to talk about the impact on the lives of those who follow Christ, the obedience that comes through faith. As he opens His letter, Paul sets the stage for things he is planning to write to the church in Rome.  He lays out who he is (calling), who Jesus is (Gospel), and what it means for his readers to believe in Jesus (faith).  Each of these “churchy” words comes loaded with meaning and also the assumption that, if you go to church, you know exactly what they mean.  As we begin our journey through Romans, we are going to clarify what Paul means when he uses these words and how they can embolden us to live our faith and proclaim the Gospel unashamed. Questions to take home:
    1. In the opening of his letter, Paul describes himself as being a servant of Jesus, called to be an Apostle, and set apart for the Gospel.  What do you think each of these terms means?  How do you relate to seeing yourself through a lens like this?
    2. Paul’s first impulse, when he thinks about the church in Rome, is to give thanks to God because of the reports of their faith.  Is this something that we do when we think about our fellow believers? Do you think others would/could do this when they think about Hopkins Community Church?
    3. Read verses 16 & 17 again.  What does Paul mean when he uses the word “Gospel”?  Where does the Gospel’s power come from? What is the impact?  How can you live in a way that shows you are unashamed of the Gospel?