Woven in the Word

Fear Not (Isaiah 43:1-5)

Sermon Recap

In Isaiah 43:1-5, God tells us to “fear not.” We are his children, he is our Father, and he invites us to come to him with our fears and anxieties and let him be our comfort, our consolation. 

1. The Source of Our Consolation

Isaiah 43:1 shows us that our consolation comes from the character of God. He is: 1) a God who reveals himself, 2) the Creator, 3) the Redeemer, 4) a God who calls us by name, and 5) the God we belong to. God himself is the source of our consolation.

2. Our Need for Consolation

All of us fear something. We all need consolation. Isaiah 43:2 tells us we need not fear in the midst of the waters (that which we cannot control) and the fires (that which we must endure). We can even count our trials as joy (1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4) because God uses them to perfect us. 

3. The Nature of Our Consolation

God meets our need for consolation by promising us the best kind we could hope for: He promises to be with us! God himself, his presence and peace, is our consolation.

4. The Reason for Our Consolation

Why would God bother to console our fears? It is because we are precious in his eyes, because he loves us (Isaiah 43:3-4). God’s love is the solid ground on which we can rest our hope in the midst of fear and trial.

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. God gives us a series of truths about his character to help us combat fear. Why does God tell us divine truth to do this? 

  2. Which of the five truths about God’s character do you find most helpful in combating fear? 

  3. God commands us to “fear not.” Why would he tells us what to do with our emotions? Can an emotional state be true or not? Can one emotional state be pleasing to God while another is not?

  4. What causes you to fear most in life right now? Is it something overwhelming that is simply beyond your control? Or is it a trial that you just have to get through? (Or is it both?!?) What comfort does Isaiah 43:2 offer you?

  5. Is God’s presence enough of a comfort for you? When in the Bible is God’s presence sufficient for his people? How do you know God is with you even now?

  6. God promises consolation to you because of his great love for you. He proved his love in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Do you believe that Christ is all the proof of God’s love you need? 

Bringing It Home

This is a new section with suggestions for how to tangibly live out the truth of this week’s passage.

  1. Memorize this song and sing it when you feel frightened or alone (the Malawi team sang it for the care workers in Mcheneke!)

  2. Tell a brother/sister in Christ about the negative emotions you are feeling. Ask that they pray the truth of this passage over you.

Woven in Joy & Gratitude (Colossians 3:16)

Sermon Recap

One of the holiest moments in my life happened at a campfire in Zambia at the home of Stai, a widow and caretaker to her three orphaned grandsons. She didn’t have enough food to make dinner, she was abandoned to poverty by the men in her extended family, but she sang praises to God around the fire. She embodied the call of Colossians 3:16 to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” She was a beautiful example of joy and gratitude.

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1. Joy and Gratitude Flow from the Gospel

Jesus said believing the gospel would fill our hearts to overflowing (John 7:37-38). The reason we should sing with joy and gratitude is because of all the riches and blessings we have received from God in Christ! Our whole lives should be about worship now (Romans 12:1).

2. Singing Lets Joy and Gratitude Flow Out of Our Hearts… 

1) …Through Our Bodies

Singing is a full-bodied action that activates the whole person.… Singing requires us to call on parts of the body that might otherwise be rather dormant—stomach muscles and vocal chords, lungs and tongues. And since singing seems to tap into our joints and muscles, song often pulls us into dance or raising our hands in praise. Thus in song there is a performative affirmation of our embodiment, a marshaling of it for expression—whether beautiful songs of praise or mournful dirges of lament.… In short, music and song seem to stand as packed microcosms of what it means to be human.     -James K.A. Smith

2) …With the Church on Earth…

When we sing God’s praises, we are united with our brothers and sisters in Christ, like I was united to Stai as she sang praise to God (Romans 15:5-6).

3) …And with the Church in Heaven…

When we sing praise to God, we are united to the eternal rock concert that is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 7:9-12). 

4) …Resulting in Christlike Character.

Through singing praise to God, we become the kind of people who can follow Paul’s words in the next verse: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. Do you enjoy singing God’s praises? Why or why not?

  2. Have you reflected on your spiritual poverty apart from Christ? Why is there a link between our poverty and gospel joy (see Matthew 5:3)?

  3. Why is it important to involve our bodies in worship? Why are many Christians reticent to do so?

  4. How does singing praise to God unite us to other Christians in the church?

  5. Do you believe that singing praise to God unites us to the church in heaven? Why should this truth fill us with joy?

  6. What impact on Christlike character does singing have? How does singing God’s praise prepare us for eternity in his kingdom?

  7. What is one song or hymn that you have memorized that has brought you comfort or joy in the past? What is one song or hymn you enjoy that you would like to commit to memory for the same reason?

Woven in Truth-Telling (Colossians 3:16)

Sermon Recap

God loves to delegate. When he created the world, he gave it to humans to rule over and be fruitful and multiply in. When Jesus rose from the dead, he started a new creation. He is the King, but he doesn’t do everything himself. He gives crucial role to members of his church to tell each other the truth, to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.”

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1. Passively Prosper in Divine Abundance

To get rich in America, you have to work hard and beat the competition: you have to be a Martha (Luke 10:38-42). But the call to “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” is a call, not to work harder to get divine approval, but to sit at Jesus’s feet like Mary and receive the abundance of his blessings.

2. Preach the Gospel to One Another

In calling us “teach… one another,” Paul is giving a specific command, not to give advice about just anything, but to tell each other about Christ (Col. 1:28). Rather than fear what others will think of us when we speak up, we should tell one another the good news in faith that it will build up the church (Eph. 4:15-16).

3. Prepare for Rebuke

It is scary to “admonish one another.” We hate the idea of being judgmental. But correcting each other in wisdom and gentleness is an act of grace as we help each other walk in the light of Christ (1 John 1:5-9). We should be open to receiving rebuke and be willing to give it in love.

4. Put on the Fear of God

The reason we don’t speak truth to each other is that we fear man (Prov. 29:25). But the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). This means that telling each other the truth “with all wisdom” requires that we fear God and not man. Truth-telling is only safe when we fear the God who loved and saved us in Christ Jesus.

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Jesus say Mary had “chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42)? Why is sitting at Jesus’s feet to receive his grace the gospel way?

  2. Do you believe you have to work for God’s favor? How is it difficult to rest in what Christ has done for you?

  3. Why does God call all members of the church to preach the gospel to each other? Why not just listen to the pastor on Sundays?

  4. What stops you from telling others the gospel? Is that rooted in faith?

  5. Why is receiving correction an important part of the Christian life?

  6. Who is one person in your life that “admonishes” you? Thank God for them! Who is one person in your life that you can wisely and gently admonish?

  7. Why is the fear of God essential for anyone who wants to correct or tell the gospel to others? How does the fear of God give wisdom?

Woven in Relationship (Colossians 3:16)

Sermon Recap

People talk about a growing loneliness epidemic the past couple of decades. Surveys show a rise in people feeling lonely, left out, and lacking companionship. Typically, we assume this is related to age, life stage, or activities there are no particular factors that make loneliness a bigger issue than others. The real reason why this is an epidemic is because we were all created to be in relationship..

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1. Relational Problem

The brokenness we experience in loneliness is centered on sin. Sin is anti-social in nature, dividing us from others. All of our sinful postures are self-centered. God calls us to live a different way. What he calls us to in Colossians 3 isn’t a change of personality or greater self-will. We need a supernatural change that comes from outside of us to address our relational problem.

2. Relational People

Only the grace of God can call us into rightly ordered relationships, centered on the gospel. In Christ, we receive a community of relationships that isn’t an ideal to aim for but a reality we participate in. God’s grace primarily works corporately, not individually, necessarily weaving us to one another by the Spirit.

3. Relational Practice

This corporate, relational living is put into practice in three main ways. We let the word of Christ dwell richly in us, soaking in God’s Word and pouring it out over one another. We teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, speaking the truth in love to one another. It means we are both teachers  and students before one another in Christ. Lastly, we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs before God and to one another. It is how our church encourages and instructs one another.

Reflection and Application

  1. Do you ever feel lonely? What do you think is the cause of your loneliness?

  2. “Sin is anti-social.” Do you agree or disagree? How have you seen it be this way?

  3. How does the grace of God necessarily make us relational with one another? Why should this affect the way we think about our church community at Grace Alameda?

  4. What would it look like for the word of Christ to dwell richly within us at Grace? How does it change the way we engage one another?

  5. Do you feel like you are both a spiritual teacher and student in your relationships at Grace Alameda? What does it take to grow in this area?

Woven in the Gospel (Colossians 3:16)

Sermon Recap

If the doctor told you had a terminal illness that could be cured with one pill, you would take the pill! You wouldn’t put it in a display case and look for another cure. You’d take the cure you were given. The gospel is the pill that saves us from sin and death that we all need to take by faith.

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1. Gospel Cure

Theologian Peter Kreeft helpfully explains the gospel in medical terms to give us a clear understanding of what we believe. There are the 1) Symptoms (problem), 2) Diagnosis (cause), 3) Prognosis (solution) and 4) Prescription for treatment (how to get the solution)

  1. Problem: Death - Willful separation from God is death itself. Every human being suffers from this spiritual affliction (Col. 2:13; Rom. 3:23)

  2. Cause: Sin - We separate ourselves from God so that we can be in charge of our lives. This is what the Bible calls sin.

  3. Solution: Christ - God doesn’t leave us on our own but pursues us in Christ (Col. 1:18-20; 2:13-14).

  4. Prescription: Faith - We receive Christ and his salvation by putting our trust in him (Col. 2:6-7).

2. Take (and Give!) Your Medicine

There is a difference between my confessional faith (what I say I believe), and what drives me each day (functional faith). I may confess Christ, but function as if I believed performance or approval or sex or money were my saviors. This is why Paul tells us to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Col. 3:16): we need to help each other receive the cure of the gospel.

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it so important that we get the gospel right?

  2. Why did God give Jesus as the cure to sin and death? Why couldn’t we just take a pill?

  3. How do we receive the gospel cure?

  4. Why do spiritual outlooks like Buddhism or modernity appeal to us? Why are their problems and solutions convincing to so many people?

  5. What functional faith do you live out of other than the gospel? How would you put it in terms of 1) problem, 2) cause, 3) solution, and 4) prescription?

  6. How does that functional faith contradict confessional faith in the gospel?

  7. Why do we need each other in Christian community to functionally live out of the gospel cure?

Woven in Christ (Colossians 3:16)

Sermon Recap

Union with Christ is an immensely important Christian doctrine. St. Paul refers to it 216 times in the New Testament! But it isn’t there just so we can read about it. The Word (Jesus himself!) is in us so that worship will come from us. The amazing reality of our union with Christ should lead us to worship.

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1. The Word in Us

Philip Graham Ryken defines union with Christ this way: “The doctrine of union with Christ teaches that the Holy Spirit joins believers to Jesus by faith, and that by virtue of this spiritual bond we both receive Christ himself and all his benefits.” What does it mean to receive Christ and all his benefits? It means:

  1. We receive his life (John 15:3-7).

  2. We receive his love (Ephesians 5:25-33).

  3. We receive his presence (Ephesians 2:19-22)

These are transformative truths. We were dead, but are now alive! We were alienated from God, but no enjoy his generous love! We were alone and without hope, but now enjoy his presence! And they should lead us to worship.

2. Worship From Us

When Abraham Lincoln first visited Richmond, VA, toward the end of the Civil War, a group of freed slaves surround him and knelt to him. The transformation they enjoyed––from slavery to freedom––led them to worship. It should be much more so with us who have, not a president to free us, but God himself who has chosen to make his home with us in Christ! The Word in us should lead us to worship.

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. Can you think of any places in the New Testament that teaches our union with Christ? Are there any indications of a future union with Christ in the Old Testament?

  2. Do you believe you are spiritually dead without being united to Christ? What difference does this make in the way you see yourself? God?

  3. Why does Paul use such intimate language to describe God’s love for us in Ephesians 5?

  4. How should God’s presence with us lead us to be transformed in our lives?

  5. Do you believe that your real life is with Christ in heaven? How should this change the way you see the everyday details of your life?

  6. Do you believe that your neighbors who don’t know Christ are spiritually dead and alienated from God? How should your union with Christ change the way you see them? How should it change the way you treat them?

  7. How is the church a training ground for living as if your union with Christ is true?