Study Guide Introduction

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Monday, June 1

The Warm-up:

Think of a time when a united cause did more damage than good…

The Insights:

This week we are taking a closer look at the church. This past Sunday was Pentecost, the day we celebrate the birth of the church. Today we will take a look at a passage that speaks about the danger of unity bound together by arrogance and agendas that attempt to compete with God. In a sense, today’s passage helps ground the story of the birth of the church which we will look at tomorrow.

The Passage: Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lordscattered them over the face of the whole earth.

The Questions:

  • In what ways do we attempt to be equal with God (with a tower that reaches the heavens) and make our name as great (or greater) than God (so that we may make a name for ourselves)?
  • What happens when a leader acts like a god and is left unchecked?
  • Why do you think the people refused God’s command to “be fruitful and fill the ends of the earth” not wanting to be scattered?
    • What commands do we refuse because the alternative seems safe and comfortable?

 

Tuesday, June 2

The Warm-up:

Think of a time when a united cause created or advanced goodness…

The Insights:

Yesterday we looked at the story of the Tower of Babel and the danger of a cause united in arrogance and selfishness. Today we look at the undoing of chaos with the birth of the church. The people of God called to be united under the rule and reign of King Jesus, aligned with His Kingdom. With the Tower of Babel God actively worked to stop the advancement of arrogance and evil. With today’s story we see God (through the outpouring of God’s Spirit) actively working to unite a diverse people to advance God’s Kingdom.

The Passage: Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.

Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

The Questions:

  • How can Pentecost be seen as the anti-Babel story?
  • In the Babel account, humanity was acting on its own. What did the church rely on for its strength?
    • What do you rely on for your strength?
  • Allegiance to Jesus transformed Peter from a fisherman into a leader, a fisher of men. How has allegiance to God transformed you?

 

Wednesday, June 3

The Warm-up:

What can a people committed to one another accomplish?

The Insights:

Today’s passage gives us insight into what the early church practiced and valued. As you read the passage think about what we still do today. What has changed?

The Passage: Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The Questions:

  • What did the early church do and value?
    • What has changed and what has stayed the same?
    • What would you bring back or add?
  • What was the end result of the church living the way it did?
    • Where are we seeing that in our church community today?
    • Where are we falling short?

 

Thursday, June 4

The Warm-up:

How can the church be seen as the great equalizer?

The Insights:

When God created the church, the dividing wall between the Jews and everyone else was nullified. The church did not diminish the importance of one group over the other. It reconciled and restored humanity back to God’s original intent. We are all God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus!

The Passage: Ephesians 2:8-22

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The Questions:

  • How does understanding that we are all God’s handiwork and had things prepared in advance for us to do give us value and place us on equal footing?
  • What walls and barriers do “Christians” have with various denominations and expressions they don’t identify with?
    • What happens when we allow these denominational differences to divide us?
    • What truths can we pull from this passage to help us overcome these differences?

 

Friday, June 5

The Warm-up:

How important is it for followers of Jesus to be together?

The Insights:

Today’s passage is short but important, especially given what we are currently experiencing. As followers of Jesus we are called to encourage each other toward love and good deeds. We are called to be together…

The Passage: Hebrews 10:23-25

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The Questions:

  • How can we gather together and encourage each other while honoring social distancing and doing no harm?
    • What tools do we have to help us “be the church?”
  • How does “how we meet” hurt or help our witness as followers of Jesus in the midst of the pandemic?
  • Who do you know right now that needs some encouragement?
    • How can you encourage them this week?

 

Saturday, June 6

The Warm-up:

How is the church a great example of unity and diversity wrapped up in one entity?

The Insights:

Today’s passage is all about being unified in our differences! Each of us is unique and offers something different. At the same time, those differences make us stronger if we are all working together toward a common goal. Strengths are expanded and weaknesses are minimized. The key is being submitted to the common goal and being humble enough to function in your role. If either of these fail the entity is weakened and eventually falls apart. It is no different with the church.

The Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:12-28

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

The Questions:

  • What happens when one part of the body goes rogue and acts differently than it should?
  • As the church, where does our strength and direction to move together come from?
    • What examples from history show the church’s successes and failures in this regard?
  • How can we as individuals and as a corporate body ensure that we are being led by Jesus through the strength of the Spirit?