We must beat the rap of Religion, or we will become Religious People & Ruin Everything.
In your opinion, what ingredient will ruin a dish or meal for you? (example: garlic, cilantro, fish, anchovies, etc.)
This weekend, Pastor Zac energetically introduced our new sermon series, Religious People Ruin Everything. He started with some definitions to clearly understand the difference between following a religion and following the gospel. Religion says “we can do it”; we can bridge the wide gap of our sin and rebellion that separates us from our Holy God by doing good works, by following God’s commands, and by being “good people”. Followers of the gospel believe that we are sinners, and the ONLY way to be reconciled to the Father is recognizing, confessing, repenting from our sin, believing that Christ died for us and took the punishment we deserve, and surrendering our lives to Him. In other words, religious people believe that they can bridge the gap to God, whereas gospel followers know that only Jesus can bridge that gap. So how does this look practically speaking? Pastor Zac outlined some very useful, clear and distinguishing principles for us:
- Religion operates on the principle – Our obedience leads to His acceptance. The Gospel operates on the principle – His acceptance leads to our obedience.
- Religion speaks for reputation repair. The Gospel speaks for redemption.
- Religion waits and watches for weakness. The Gospel runs and rescues the weak.
- Religion passes out tickets of judgment. The Gospel passes out tickets to eternity.
He closed with encouraging us to be those Christ followers who allow Jesus to work through us, to pass out those tickets to eternity. Our words and actions should reflect the abundant life that Jesus gave us so that others would want to be a part of “our family.” Think about that this week as we walk in the grace and forgiveness that is the gospel!
Read Luke 19:1-10.
1. What was it about Zacchaeus that led the Jewish people of his day to “know” he was a sinner?
2. When did Zacchaeus make the decision to turn his life around and surrender it to Jesus?
3. How can you tell Zacchaeus was a changed man?
4. What do you think is the significance of calling Zacchaeus a “Son of Abraham”?
5. Faith leads to changed behavior. How has God’s acceptance led to your obedience? What changes might God be calling you to make?
Read Matthew 26:57-68.
6. What does the Sanhedrin represent in this passage?
7. How did the witnesses distort (possibly unknowingly) what Jesus said in verse 61? Hint: See John 2:19.
8. Discuss why you think Jesus remained silent. Bonus: Do you know the Old Testament prophecy this fulfilled?
9. What did Jesus declare in verse 64, and what were the implications?
10. The Sanhedrin did not for a moment consider that Jesus’ words were true. They sealed their own fate as well as His with this decision. We all must make this decision individually- to accept the free offer of redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Who can you share this Good News with this week?
Read Luke 15:11-32.
11. In the Parable of the Lost Son, which character represents Religion? The Gospel?
12. How did the older brother attempt to underscore the younger brother’s weakness? How do you think he would have liked his father to respond to his brother’s homecoming?
13. How is the father’s response a picture of our Heavenly Father’s attitude toward sinners who repent?
14. Everything the boy had hoped for in the faraway country, he found at home- clothes, jewelry, friends, feasting, celebration, love and assurance for the future. The difference was where he first demanded these riches, he later surrendered all in his willingness to become his father’s servant. His father did not expect him to earn his forgiveness, just like no amount of good works can save us from our sins (see Eph. 2:8-10). The prodigal learned the meaning of misery in the faraway country and the meaning of mercy when he returned. Share with your group the contrast of the world’s misery with ways you have experienced God’s mercy and love with your return “home” to the Father through faith in Jesus.
Read Luke 9:49-50.
15. Why do you think the disciples acted this way? Look back at verses 37-40 for a hint. What was Jesus’ response?
16. Can you think of ways Christians behave in this way today?
17. What practical steps can you take to focus on unity in the body of Christ so you can effectively spread the gospel and “pass out tickets to eternity”? How can you pray for each other as you take these steps?
A lot of scripture was covered this weekend, and this week’s discussion questions reflect that. Remember to allow the Holy Spirit to work in your group. You do not have to ask and answer every question. You may want to choose to focus on only one or two of the scripture passages to allow your discussion to go deeper.
1. He was a Jewish tax collector. These people were very unpopular with their fellow Jews because they collected taxes for the Roman Empire. Anything they collected over what was due to the government, they could keep. They were seen as traitors.
2. When he met Jesus. He took no time to “think about it.” He was forever a changed man.
3. His outward actions demonstrated his inward change. Jesus accepted him, and Zacchaeus chose to obey.
4. Calling Zacchaeus a “Son of Abraham” was significant because even though Zacchaeus was one of God’s Chosen People, he was still lost. Regardless of his or even our genealogy, each of us has to make our own personal decision to follow Jesus. Similarly, no matter how wicked our sinful past may be, through confession, repentance and surrendering our life in faith, we will be forgiven and made new.
5. Answers may vary
7. The witnesses account was incorrect because Jesus was referring to His body, not the actual temple building. Saying He would destroy the building was considered a blasphemous boast.
8. He was not concerned about “reputation repair.” In fulfilling Isaiah 53:7, Jesus remained silent. He could not deny He made this statement, and an explanation to a group of religious/worldly-minded people would have been futile.
9. He declared His royalty and declared He was the Messiah. This was seen as blasphemy, punishable by death.
10. Answers may vary.
11. The older brother and the younger one on his return; the father.
12. See verse 30. “this son of yours”…Answers may vary.
13. He not only accepted the boy back, he rejoiced at his homecoming and honored him with a feast! One day, we as believers will have a seat at the greatest feast ever!
14. Answers may vary. You may discuss the contrast of emptiness vs fullness, dead vs life, weakness vs being rescued, burdened vs free, etc.
15. Out of jealousy. This man that was not a part of the group chosen by Jesus was able to do what they could not- that is to drive demons out in Jesus’ name. Their pride was hurt, but Jesus says there is no room for jealousy in his Kingdom.
16. We look at ways we are divided such as down denominational lines. We focus on what divides us instead of what unites us.
17. Remember, when Faith Promisors share the Good News, we are God’s representatives first and foremost. We must focus on being His instruments, growing His kingdom and His Church. We are never to pass out tickets of judgment.