How to Bear God’s Image (James 3:1-18)

Sermon Recap

God’s first act in Scripture was creating the world by speaking. The first job he gave to Adam—the first image bearer of God—was to name the animals, to express creativity by speaking. We have the privilege of bearing the image of God, and we bear God’s image when we speak like our Father

1. The Power of Speech

James 3:1-5 recognizes the power of speech. It seems small, but it carries great power.

2. Speaking Like Satan

The first sin humans committed was speaking like Satan (Genesis 3). James highlights 4 characteristics of the tongue that can be so destructive: 1) the tongue is a world of unrighteousness (Jas. 3:5-6); 2) the tongue destroys life (Jas. 3:6); 3) the tongue is untameable (Jas. 3:7-8); and 4) the tongue displays our double-mindedness (Jas. 3:9-12). 

3. Speaking Like Jesus

We speak out of the abundance of our heart (Luke 6:44-45) and we ought to speak like Jesus if we have faith in him, because he makes us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus IS God’s Word (John 1:1) and he IS the image of God (Col. 1:15-20). We get to participate in Christ because we are united to him by faith. We speak like Jesus when we speak from faith

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • This is the longest section in James on a single subject. What do you think was happening in the church at the time that would lead James to write this? (Look especially at Jas. 3:1, 13-16.)

  • Why does James appeal to our identity in Christ (and our neighbors’ identity as God’s image bearers) to call us to speak in love (Jas. 3:9-12)? What are the implications of 2 Cor. 5:17 and 1 Cor. 15:49 for this? 


  • Sinful speech is a faith problem (Rom. 14:23). How does an untamed tongue betray a lack of faith in Christ in your own life? 

  • What fears and feelings make you speak in selfishness? What fears and feelings keep you from speaking boldly in love? 


  • Meditate on 2 Corinthians 5:17 this week, and pray this passage back to God. Tell him you believe you are new in Christ. Confess the ways you struggle to walk in that newness. Ask him to make this promise true in your speech.

  • The sermon encouraged us to ponder who is one person we can bless with our words. Who is that person for you this week? What do they need to hear from you? Ask for the Spirit’s guidance. Step out in faith and encourage that person!

How to Have Faith (James 2:14-26)

Sermon Recap

Martin Luther called James “an epistle of straw” because of this passage. James 2:24 seems to contradict other passages in Scripture like Galatians 2:16 that teach we are justified by faith alone. But where Paul was writing about how to become a Christian, James is describing how Christians should exercise their faith in Christ and what it should produce.

1. We Want Easy Faith

James 2:14-17 describes easy faith, a faith that produces only words not obedience. Easy faith is easy, not demanding. There are several reasons to want easy faith: 1) because we are busy, 2) because we want control; 3) because we are afraid; and 4) because we don’t have faith

2. Faith That Gives Life Is Faith That Gives All

Easy faith is demon faith (James 2:19). But true faith gives all because, 1) faith unites us to Christ, connecting us to the Vine who makes us bear the fruit of obedience (John 15:5). Specifically, faith produces the fruit of 2) costly worship (like Abraham, James 2:21-23), and 3) risky love (like Rahab, James 2:25). 

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • Read Galatians 2:16 and 3:7-14. Paul says justification is by faith alone. How should we understand this in light of what James writes in this passage? 

  • Read John 15:4-11. What parallels do you see between Jesus’s call to “abide” in him and “bear fruit,” and what James teaches in this passage?


  • The sermon listed four reasons we may want “easy faith.” Which of them resonated with you? Are there other reasons you are tempted by “easy faith?”

  • James teaches that faith that gives life is faith that gives all. What keeps you from giving all for the sake of Christ who gave all for you? What in your life are you tempted to love more than him? Confess this and ask for his forgiveness! 


  • Abraham’s faith led him to costly worship, Where in your life is there costly worship, worship to God that hurts you to give? Where are there opportunities to give God this kind of costly worship? Identify one specific opportunity and do it this week.

  • Rahab’s faith led her to risky love for others. Where in your life does your faith in Christ produce risky love for others? What opportunities do you have to love others in a risky way? Identify one specific opportunity and do it this week.

How to Be Fair (James 2:1-13)

Sermon Recap

God warns us of the danger of showing partiality based on external appearances, especially among the people of God, and gives us a better way to live by the mercy of Jesus Christ.

1A. The Folly of Favoritism - It Denies the Gospel

God says favoritism is rooted in selfish, evil desires within us that use people to get things that advance our own agendas. This goes against the heart of Christianity, where believers can offer to God nothing more than their failures and sin. In Christ, regardless of our earthly standing, all Christians are rich in faith, heirs who have an inheritance that God gives and cannot be earned.

1B. The Folly of Favoritism - It Break God’s Law

The law of God doesn’t only convict us of sin or inability to save ourselves but it also shows us the best way to love. We need the law to remind us that we are all subject to the same authority under God. Favoritism is our attempt to usurp God’s law of love and become a god for ourselves. Instead, love fulfills the law which is why Jesus loved us perfectly for our sake.

2. We All Need Mercy

Many people think the solution to favoritism is fairness. But fairness doesn’t always work, especially when we consider what we deserve for our sins before God. What we really need is mercy. We need to know that if we screw up, we’re still loved. We need to know that when we live in a manner that doesn’t earn a right to be God’s favorite, we are still His beloved children. Only then will we begin to change how we see and approach others; without partiality or judgment but mercy and love.

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • How have you been guilty of favoritism? How have you been a victim of it?

  • Why does favoritism contradict the message of the gospel? What does it reveal about the heart of someone who demonstrates partiality?


  • How does God’s law of love (Rom. 13:9-10) keep us from favoritism and help us love our neighbors better?

  • Why is the solution to favoritism not fairness but mercy? What areas of your life have you been shown mercy when a fair judgment would’ve turned out poorly for you?


  • Reflect, confess, and repent of areas in life where you judge others based on external appearances that don’t honor God. Rest in His mercy, knowing you’re forgiven of these sins.

  • Who are the people in your life that are often victims of partiality and don’t receive favorable judgments? Consider ways in which you might serve and love them this week.

How to Be Free (James 1:19-27)

Sermon Recap

We have all spoken too quickly and said things we have come to regret later. Many of us likely feel stuck in this sin or some other. How do we break out of sinful habits? How can we be free?

1. What We Think About When We Think About Freedom

We need to see that we don’t understand the word “freedom” in the same way that James does (James 1:25). We have all been influenced by things like the Port Huron Statement, which reads:

The goal of man and society should be human independence, a concern not with image of popularity but with finding a meaning of life that is personally authentic…. This kind of independence does not mean egoistic individualism—the object is not to have one’s way so much as it is to have a way that is one’s own. (Port Huron statement)

We tend think of freedom as personal authenticity, being the unique individual I want to be. But this misunderstands the nature of freedom as God created it for us.  

2. Obedience Is Freedom

James was uniquely qualified to paint a portrait of obedience, because he grew up with Jesus. He witnessed the perfect representation of obedience to God in his older brother. 

  1. Obedience proceeds from faith: Christianity is not about input-output, give God to get from God. It begins with faith in Christ, and that trust leads us to obey (James 1:18, 21).

  2. Obedience is hard: James says we have spiritual Alzheimer’s (James 1:22-25). We need the Spirit to heal and lead us to obey. 

  3. Obedience is blessed: This is a promise we can trust in (James 1:25). Even if we suffer in the moment, God promises blessing in obedience. 

  4. Obedience is love for God and others: This is why he calls us to visit orphans and widows in James 1:27. 

Fish are free so long as they are in the water. We are free so long as we swim in the “perfect law… of liberty.” God is love; we were created by Love for love

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • Read Mark 12:29-31 and James 1:18-21. Why are hearing God’s Word and obedience related?

  • Read Luke 6:43-45. Why does James focus on speech as evidence of true religion (James 1:18, 26)?


  • What do you think of as freedom? Is it personal authenticity or obedient love? Why?

  • James teaches that love is our freedom. Why is this so difficult for us to believe? How does the work of Christ on our behalf set us free to love God and others?


  • Recall a recent instance of when you were quick to speak or quick to anger. Tell a Christian brother or sister about this. Talk together about how you failed to love and how a posture of obedient love would change your speech. 

  • Where are there “widows and orphans” (vulnerable and marginalized people) in your life? Find one way to serve them in the next week. How will you make this a habit? (This obedience may be hard, but remember it is blessed by God and you can trust him in the midst of it!)

Trials and Temptations (James 1:9-18)

Sermon Recap

For a lot of us, our excuse for giving into temptation is to say, “The devil made me do it.” How do we make sense of the trials we face? Where do temptations come from in light of our circumstances?

1. Tried and Tempted

Trials aren’t only a form of adversity. Prosperity can test us too. Regardless of adversity or prosperity, trials we face either lead us to be thankful or be tempted. The Bible show God testing his people but James 1:13 makes clear he never tempts. How can that be? We must remember that the occasion for temptation is not the same as its cause. Temptations don’t come from outside of us but from within, a product of our desires. Desire in and of itself is not the problem but abnormal over-desire for something other than God is. Trials reveal what temptations lie within our hearts.

“The soul that loves God seeks no other reward than that God whom it loves. Were the soul to demand anything else, then it would certainly love that other thing and not God.”

- Bernard of Clairvaux

2. Fighting Temptation

To fight temptation, we must also see that tests also reveal an opportunity to take hold of God’s goodness and grace available to us. God always provides a way out in our temptations in Jesus (1 Cor. 10:13), who faced down every temptation without sinning. Yet despite his perfect obedience, he suffered the death borne of all our selfish desires. By faith in him, we are not slaves to our desires but freed from them to love God over all else. We can echo King David’s prayer in Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you."

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • Even though James uses the same word to describe them, what are the differences between a trial and a temptation? Who is responsible for each of them?

  • Why is desire not a bad thing in and of itself? Why is Christianity not about getting rid of all desires but the right ordering of our desires?


  • What temptations have you given into that you have blamed on outside circumstances or other people? Do you think those things are truly at fault?

  • How does Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father in the face of every temptation serve to encourage us as we face temptations? How does his death on the cross help us?


  • List out 2-3 trials you’re facing right now. What 2-3 temptations have emerged from these trials? Pray that you would resist them and trust Jesus.

  • Memorizing and repeating God’s Word to ourselves helps us resist temptation. Take time to memorize James 1:17 and recall it when you face temptation this week.

How to Be Whole (James 1:1-8)

Sermon Recap

In the 1960s, Howard Hughes bought more land than anyone else in the Las Vegas area, because he liked the idea that he could always get a sandwich no matter then time of day. Joan Didion, in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, connects this millionaire idiosyncrasy to the American (and especially Californian) character:

That we have made a hero of Howard Hughes tells us something interesting about ourselves, something only dimly remembered, tells us that the secret point of money and power in America is neither the things that money can buy nor power for power’s sake… but absolute personal freedom, mobility, privacy. It is the instinct which drove America to the Pacific, all through the nineteenth century, the desire to be able to find a restaurant open in case you want a sandwich, to be a free agent, live by one’s own rules.

We all tend to think that leading an integrated, flourishing life means taking control of our own lives. James begins his letter by addressing exactly that. But his answer to how to be whole is completely different than our idea of it. 

1. Take Control

James starts his letter by telling us what we should do in the midst of suffering. Our natural response is to take control, to either become the victor or play the victim. This tendency traces its roots back to Eden. James says that, when Christians try to take control of our lives, we are being “double-minded,” saying Jesus is King, but living like we are. 

2. Joyful Surrender

Rather than take control of our lives in the midst of suffering, James calls Christians to joyful surrender. We can be joyful in trials because we know that King Jesus has our pain in his hands, for our ultimate good (Hebrews 1:3). And it’s in surrendering to his perfect will for our lives that we become like him: perfect, complete, whole. God takes us through suffering to show us we have nothing but him… and that he is all we need (Psalm 73:25-26).

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • Read Romans 5:3-5. What similarities are there between this passage and James 1:1-8? What differences do you see?

  • Why should the biblical truth that God is in control of all things and that he is good lead us to rejoice in trials? Where do we see these two truths taught in Scripture?


  • What trials are you going through right now? Do you tend to take control by becoming a victor or a victim? Why?

  • How does a Christian’s desire for control make them “double-minded?” How did Jesus model wholeness in the way he joyfully surrendered to the Father?


  • Make a list of all the areas of your life that you try and exert control over. Confess this to God. What does it look like to give up control in one of these areas?

  • What is one trial in your life right now? Take 2 minutes each day this week to meditate on the truth that Christ holds that trial in his hands, and has allowed it in your life to perfect you. At the end of the week, did this make a difference? Share this with someone in your CG.

Bunkers and Humility (Psalm 19:12-14)

Sermon Recap

In telling of his conversion to Christianity, David Brooks writes that the “siege mentality” is one of the greatest obstacles that Christians put in the way of others on their spiritual journey.

This can slip quickly into a sense of collective victimhood. The “culture” is out to get us. We have to withdraw into the purity of our enclave. The odd thing is that the siege mentality feels kind of good to the people who grab on to it. It gives people a straightforward way to interpret the world—the noble us versus the powerful and sinful them. We have the innocence of victimhood.

Pretty soon Christianity isn’t a humble faith; it’s a fighting brigade in the culture war.… Pretty soon you get these wild generalizations about the supposed hostility of the outside world.… Pretty soon you wind up with what Rabbi Sacks calls “pathological dualism,” a mentality that divides the world between those who are unimpeachably good and those who are irredeemably bad.

Rather than hide in a bunker as if we are under siege, Christians are called to engage humbly with the world around us, with eyes open, hearts submitted and feet firm. 


1. Eyes Open

Ps. 19:12 makes it clear that we don’t understand how deeply and pervasively our sin goes. We are all much greater sinners than we realize (Psalm 40:12). Bunker Christianity keeps our eyes closed to our own faults. But we can’t come to a deep understanding of God until we see how sinful we can be. John Calvin writes:

Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and—what is more—depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone. To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in all the world would not gladly remain as he is—what man does not remain as he is—so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts, and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery? Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.

Humility in Christ says we know we are worse than we think and desperately need God’s grace.

2. Hearts Submitted

When we recognize that we are worse than we realize, we become aware of how sin controls us (Psalm 19:13). Taking control of our lives means letting ourselves be controlled by sin. Submitting our hearts to God gives us confidence in his love for us in Christ (Romans 6:10-14).

3. Feet Firm

We fight a bunker mentality and the sin in our own heart by meditating on Christ and his Word, keeping our feet firmly rooted in him (Ps. 19:14). 

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • The doctrine of human depravity says we are thoroughly broken by sin. How does Psalm 19:12-14 support this idea?

  • Read 1 Corinthians 4:4. How does this relate to Psalm 19:12?


  • Reflect on David Brooks’s quote. Have you experienced this “siege mentality” in the church? Have you perpetuated it?

  • Read Matthew 7:21-23. Why should this humble us? How should this blow up our bunkers?


  • This week, try your best to avoid complaining, gossiping or blameshifting. What do the “words of your mouth” reveal about the “meditation of your heart?” Share with someone you’re close to. 

  • Our identity in Christ should lead us to walk with confident humility. Where do you lack confidence? Where do you lack humility? Pray this week for grace to walk in confident humility this week. 

Uncommon Kindness (Acts 28:1-10)

Sermon Recap

As we’ve reflected on the law of God written on the hearts of every human being, we recognize there are things Christians share with all mankind that should be recognized and celebrated. There are limits however to what people can actually know by common grace. How do we as God’s people best communicate God’s saving grace by means which every person can understand?

1. The Blessing of Kindness

Paul is shown uncommon kindness by the Maltese after the boat he’s prisoner on is shipwrecked. It’s a beautiful picture that kindness is not just for Christians. None of us would want to truly live in a world where only Christians are capable of showing kindness. It’s a blessing to know God allows non-believers and believers alike to be kind.

2. The Limit of Kindness

What our passage shows us though is that kindness is not enough to save. Being nice people doesn’t rescue the Maltese from their spiritual lost-ness. As Christians, we often forget that as well. We sometimes make the mistake of valuing and protecting kindness over gospel truth. The world needs more than kindness. It needs Jesus Christ.

3. The Language of Kindness

So how do we reconcile the blessing and limit of kindness? Gospel hospitality rooted in the kindness shown to us by Christ. We demonstrate an alien kindness in a culture that keeps its doors short, alienates people based on racial, social, and political lines. We welcome people with the welcome of Christ, counting nothing as sacrifice, turning strangers into neighbors and eventually family in God.

"Niceness"-wholesome, integrated personality-is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power, to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up "nice"; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world-and might even be more difficult to save. - C.S. Lewis

Gospel hospitality is welcoming people into your living space and treating strangers as family so God can turn some of them into friends. - Tim Keller

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • Why is it a good thing that God has allowed all mankind to demonstrate kindness? What kind of world would it be if this were not the case?

  • When have you seen kindness and hospitality make people friends who you would never expect to be?


  • Are there ways in which “niceness” and being kind to others is a form of self-justification for you? That kindness is more the root of holiness than Christ is?

  • Have you desired to keep “nice" and “kind” relationships with your co-workers, neighbors, and friends at the expense of sharing truth with them? Why?


  • Think of two or three people who you’ve desired to receive God’s welcome in Christ. Pray for them. Then contact them and spend time with them over the next couple of weeks. Invite them over, share a meal, and develop a relationship with them.

  • Hospitality, kindness, and welcome should not be individual endeavors. Find a way to join other believers in showing hospitality and kindness, knowing Jesus has always used the church to welcome the world.

Love the Law (Psalm 19:7-11)

Sermon Recap

The middle of Psalm 19 is a love song to the Word of God, specifically God’s law. C.S. Lewis said, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” Most of us have never thought of composing a love song to the law of God. That’s exactly what David does. This passage is here to teach us to love God’s law.


1. The Character of the Law

God’s law is a reflection of his character. This is why David says the law is 1) perfect, 2) sure, 3) right, 4) pure, 5) clean, 6) everlasting, and 7) true and righteous. When faced with the mirror of God’s law, we must admit that we are not good like God. The law shows us our need for grace. 

2. The Blessings of the Law

If you don’t know you’re sick, you don’t go to the doctor. If you don’t know you’re spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), you won’t go God for forgiveness and life in Christ. The law: 1) revives the soul, 2) makes wise the simple, 3) rejoices the heart, and 4) enlightens the eyes. The law leads us to the gospel.

3. The Wonder of the Law

We think the law is there to ruin our fun. But is actually there to show us what the good life looks like. It isn’t like bricks and broccoli—useful nutritious. It’s like gold and honey. 

Cultural forces extol the alleged thrill of sexual escapades, the novelty of one-night stands and triumphs of unending libidinal conquests. What they can’t know is the unspeakable joy when a woman who’s slept beside you for 25 years rolls over in the morning and says, “I love you.” Imagine how mind-blowing that is: this woman who knows everything about you, whom you’ve disappointed a thousand times, is still here

Reflection and Discussion Questions


  • What can the law do for us? What can’t it do for us? 

  • We often think the OT is about the law, and the NT is about the gospel. Read Psalm 103 and then read Matthew 5:17-48. Does this strict distinction (OT has law, NT has gospel) hold up? 


  • The law of God is like a mirror, showing us the ways we fail to measure up to his standard. Look again at Christ’s words in Matthew 5:17-48. Which of his commands have you broken in the last week or month? 

  • Read Isaiah 53:3-6. Jesus died to forgive the sins you’ve committed this month, this week, and this very day! Does that give you joy? Pray and ask him to make his grace come alive to you!


  • Choose one of Jesus’s commands in Matthew 5:17-48 that don’t make sense to you. Write it on a post-it and put it where you will see it. Ask God to show you the “honey” of it this week. 

  • Choose one of the 7 characteristics or 4 blessings of the law. Talk to God about it, and ask him to give you that characteristic or blessing this week. Then pay attention to see how he answers you!

Gravity & God’s Law (Psalm 19)

Sermon Recap

Listen to Week 1 and learn why we called this series Both Bibles.

The gospel makes very little sense in our culture. Saying “Jesus saves,” simply begs the question, “from what?” This is partly due to the fact that general revelation has been misunderstood in our day. Without an understanding of general revelation, special revelation won’t make any sense. We have to help people get the first in order to understand the second. 19th century theologian, B.B. Warfield wrote of how important each is to understanding the other:

[I]t is important that the two species or stages of revelation should not be set in opposition to one another…. They constitute together a unitary whole, and each is incomplete without the other.… Without special revelation, general revelation would be for sinful men incomplete and ineffective, and could issue… only in leaving them without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Without general revelation, special revelation would lack that basis in the fundamental knowledge of God as the mighty and wise, righteous and good, maker and ruler of all things, apart from which the further revelation of this great God’s interventions in the world for the salvation of sinners could not be either intelligible, credible or operative.


1. Law of Nature

Psalm 19:1-6 is a celebration of the unbreakable natural law that God has put into creation. The sun is the most powerful force in our solar system, it is a “strong man” that “runs his course with joy” because God—through the law of gravity—has commanded it! Like gravity, God has placed a moral law into the heart of every person.

2. Law Breakers

Unlike the sun, we don’t obey the moral law, which is why David writes what he does in Psalm 19:12-14. C.S. Lewis put it this way:

[H]uman beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. [And] they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in. 

Our law breaking has caused a chain reaction in the universe that has spread brokenness all across it (Romans 8:19-22). The human race has gone off course, and the entire universe is following suit.

3. Law Keeper

David asks that God would “declare me innocent from hidden faults” (v.12). David is a law breaker; only a law keeper could be declared innocent. Jesus Christ is that Law Keeper who stood in our place, gave us his innocence and takes our guilt upon himself (2 Cor. 5:21).

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. What are some examples of the moral law that every person knows innately? Which of these would your neighbors agree on?

  2. Where else in the Bible is the idea of “natural law” taught?

  3. Why does death follow from breaking the moral law that God put into creation?

  4. Why does the rest of creation suffer from human beings breaking the moral law?

  5. Only Christ Jesus can declare us innocent (Ps. 19:12). Find a passage of Scripture that speaks to the way he makes us innocent before God. 

Bring It Home (tangible ways to live the truth daily)

  1. Listen for two people quarreling this week (children, neighbors, family members). What kinds of things do they say? Do you hear any appeals to the natural law?

  2. Take 5 minutes to listen to your conscience one day this week. What is it saying to you? Does it tell you to do things you don’t want to hear? Do you hear it convicting you of law breaking? 

God’s Forgotten Word (Psalm 19)

Why “Both Bibles?”

The short series we started this week in Psalm 19 derives from the way the passage transitions seamlessly from talking about God’s general revelation (the way he reveals himself in nature) in Ps. 19:1-6, to discussing God’s written Word in Ps. 19:7-11. The abruptness doesn’t disconnect these “Words,” but shows that they both reveal God (though in different ways). Theologians through the centuries have talked about the “two books” of God’s self-revelation, like the Belgic Confession does in Article 2:

We know Him [God] by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All which things are sufficient to convince men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to His glory and our salvation.

We often forget natural or general revelation in the church, focusing solely on the Bible The Bible is authoritative and infallible, and we should not forget that! Yet, God’s general revelation in nature is helpful and has much to teach us. We should see him in “Both Bibles.”

Sermon Recap

Psalm 19 has an abrupt transition from verse 6 to verse 7. One moment it speaks of the heavens above, the next it’s proclaiming the beauty of God’s Law. While this transition seems out of the blue, it isn’t. Psalm 19 is about God’s Word, written in the Bible and imprinted on creation. God’s self-revelation in creation is God’s Forgotten Word.


1. God’s Word, God’s Initiative

God is like Jason Bourne: if he doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be (Isaiah 55:8-9). But he does want to be! Because of that, God reveals himself in creation. 

2. God’s Word, Written and Spoken

People will often oppose faith and reason or science and Christianity. But we should not accept this, because all truth is God’s truth. Human interpreters get God’s Word wrong. But God’s self-revelation is not wrong, either in creation or Scripture. 

3. God’s Word in Creation Reveals His Character (and Ours)

In Psalm 19, God’s creation reveals his power and glory. And general revelation (God revealing himself in nature) reveals our character too, as people who fall short and are accountable to that God (Romans 1:18-20).

4. God’s Word in Creation Reveals Our Need, But Can’t Meet It

If we’re honest, Psalm 19:12-14 is the right response for us in the face of God’s self-revelation. The heavens declare God’s law; the Scriptures declare the gospel of Jesus and meets our need for divine forgiveness. 

Reflection and Discussion Questions

  1. Is general revelation (God’s self-revelation in creation) a new concept for you? What other places in the Bible point to this idea?

  2. Why is it an act of God’s grace to us that he would reveal himself? What does grace mean? 

  3. Why is it tempting for us to oppose faith and reason, or science and Christianity? What are some examples of this in your own life or in our culture? Why should Christians never fear truth?

  4. What does nature reveals about God’s character? What does it reveal about yours? 

  5. Why is general revelation insufficient to bring a person salvation? 

  6. Why does the psalmist end on Psalm 19:12-14? What should this tell us about how we should approach God and think about ourselves? 

Bring It Home (tangible ways to live the truth daily)

  1. Find a beautiful spot in nature this week. Spend some time taking it in, and prayerfully ask this question: What does this place show about God’s character? Write down what you learn.

  2. When your neighbors outside the church talk about God or spiritual things, what do they say? What aspects of what they say are correct? Write them down! This is common ground we share with them! How does this support the idea that God reveals himself in nature? 

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.

A Great Enough God (1 Timothy 2:1-7)

One of the biggest limitations as to why we are not the presence in our city that God desires us to be often has less to do with how opposed the world is to the church or not enough resources. It comes down to God’s people embracing God’s heart for all mankind and his desire to see all come to salvation. Only by faith and prayer can we have the impact we desire in the places God has us.

1. A Big Enough Heart

When you consider the context of the Ephesians church that Timothy was leading, the gospel was the most rebellious, revolutionary truth you could proclaim. God giving us Jesus as the ransom for all who believe flew in the face of the performance-driven spirituality of that day. The gospel reveals the very heart of God, that he loves to love and is merciful and gracious to all who receive him.

2. An Open Enough Offer

God’s heart shapes the way in which the gospel is offered. It is universal and free, going out to all people and making no demands of its recipients to earn it. This challenges the common misconception that God enjoys doling out punishment. The church is to proclaim the gospel of Christ with that very same heart, placing no limitations on who hears and responds to it.

3. A Wide Enough Prayer

To proclaim the gospel well, we must pray well. Our prayer must cast a net as wide as God’s desire for those who would be saved. Prayer keeps us from tunnel vision, humbling us, and reminding us that those who may have disagreements with have the same need for Christ as we do. We particularly pray for those in authority, not that they might make things easy for Christians but to work for the common good and that the gospel would flourish.

Reflection and Application

  1. When you consider our cultural climate, how revolutionary is the gospel? What kind of reaction would you receive if you were to tell people about it at work or school?

  2. How does the fact that God has ransomed Jesus Christ for us affect how we relate to God? What do you think it would be like if you had to pay the price to earn God’s pleasure?

  3. How do you reconcile God’s desire for all to be saved and the reality that not everyone believes in Jesus? Does this make him less powerful or a liar? 

  4. Why does the gospel and God’s universal, free offer of it destroy the common misconception that God enjoys the destruction of others?

  5. How might your prayers change in reflection of the gospel and God’s heart for the lost?

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.


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.”


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..


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.


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.


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?