Weekly Sermon Reflection
By: Reality SF
Are You Ready to Obey Jesus? (Or Willing?)
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on what it means to obey Jesus and bring our lives into conformity with His life and teachings. In his sermon, Dave explained obedience to Jesus as adjusting the pace and boundaries of your life to what Jesus commands. And that includes every area of your life: relationships, forgiveness, service, power, sexuality, money… the list goes on. As you think about what it means to bring every part of your life under the Lordship of Christ, here are a few questions to consider:
1. Do you feel ready to surrender all of your life to Jesus? (Even in areas where it feels unfair or irrational to you?)
2. Perhaps you’re not yet ready to obey Jesus in every area of His teaching. Deep down, what do you feel like you can’t let go of?
3. If you feel like you’re not ready for complete obedience to Jesus, are you at least willing? What would you like to say to Jesus about your willingness?
4. If you are willing to obey Jesus in every area, what is motivating your obedience? (Be aware that it might include things such as control, pride, fear, self-preservation, or pursuit of fleeting pleasure — whereas mature obedience to Jesus is motivated by delight in God’s will and pursuing the good of others.)
In What Ways Do You Know Jesus Right Now?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on knowing Jesus through meditating on His life and teachings, practicing His way of life, and experiencing His intimate presence in prayer and worship (sermon here). As you consider these three ways of knowing Jesus, here are some reflection questions you might find helpful:
Think about some of the stories and teachings of Jesus you’ve recently read in the Gospels. Which parts resonated with you as aspects of the Jesus you know? How was that helpful or encouraging? Which actions or words of Jesus scandalized you or made you uncomfortable? Did you run from them, or bring that experience to Jesus in prayer?
In his sermon, Dave outlined four practices of Jesus in His earthly ministry:
1) prayer; 2) simple and sacrificial living; 3) intense study and meditation upon God’s word and God’s ways; and 4) service to others, especially the poor and marginalized. Which of these four practices do you find it easy to make your own? Which ones do you struggle to practice, and why?
In our relationship with Jesus, there will be seasons of consolation and desolation. If you are in a season of consolation (meaning great emotional closeness with God), what is the Lord teaching you about Himself right now? What are you learning about yourself? You might instead be in a season of desolation — a “dark night of the senses.” If that’s you, first ask yourself: “Is there persistent sin in my life that I need to repent of?” Or, “Have I gotten lazy in my pursuit of Jesus?” If neither of those are the case, God may be inviting you to know Him in deeper ways beyond your rational and emotional senses. What might that mean for you? How might God want to transform you at a deeper level?
Whatever you are currently experiencing in your relationship with Jesus, listen to the words of St. Ignatius: “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life with God.”
What Have You Been Purified and Set Free For?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on how we can become like Jesus by walking in the light, confessing our sins, and taking in the forgiveness of Jesus. In his sermon, Kevin Cooke reminded us that the Lord encourages us to share and confess our sins not as a way to shame or punish us, but as a way to set us free. In addition to setting us free, Jesus also purifies us, making us clean. As you reflect on God’s grace in forgiving your sin, consider:
What is Jesus purifying and setting you free for? In other words, what good things can you now do with your freedom?
Without the burden of those entangling sins, what can the purified and freed version of you do? How does he or she treat others? Think about others? Serve others? Pray for others?
What does that version of you, walking in the light and empowered by the Spirit, now have the capacity to be?
God is in the process of making you more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). And as you become like Him, you are becoming more and more like the loving, fearless, joyful person God created you to be.
Two Sunday Sermons on God’s Presence
Yesterday, two guest speakers preached two different sermons at Reality SF:
At the morning gathering, Toby Kurth spoke on God’s presence throughout Scripture and how it daily influences and forms us as followers of Jesus. Find Toby’s teaching here.
At the evening gathering, Christian Huang continued our series “Becoming Like Jesus” in 1 John by speaking on God as light and the different ways we respond to His nature and presence. Find Christian’s teaching here.
We’ve decided to post both sermons because they highlight different aspects of the same topic: the reality and nature of God’s presence and how we as human beings respond to it. We encourage you to make time to listen or watch both teachings this week, because together they offer a fuller picture of how God’s presence purifies, heals, redeems, renews, and empowers us.
Here are a few reflection questions applicable to both sermons:
1. How do you find that you naturally respond to God’s presence, light, and truth?
2. How would you like to experience God’s presence?
3. How can God’s presence and light impact your own presence with others in daily life? (Consider family, roommates, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.)
What Has Failed to Satisfy Your Deepest Desires?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus as the eternal bread of life who truly satisfies. In his sermon, Dave suggested that we sometimes experience hints of this transcendent life in earthly things — such as a relationship, traveling adventure, or new job. But inevitably, the power of the experience fades, failing to satisfy the deeper longings of our hearts.
Jesus addressed this human tendency by saying to the crowds, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27). Here, Jesus is referencing a well-known passage from Isaiah:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?”
This idea of “spending our money on what is not bread” gets at our seeking ultimate satisfaction in things or experiences other than God. Thinking about your own life, consider the following reflection questions:
1. Within the last year, what is something that you expected to deeply satisfy you, and how did it fall short?
2. Bring this disappointment to the Lord. If you have never acknowledged or really allowed yourself to feel the emotions associated with it, try doing so now. Bring those feelings to your Heavenly Father and ask Him for healing.
3. How exactly were you hoping this thing, experience, or relationship would satisfy you? Is there a way that Jesus can satisfy that longing or desire in you?
How Do We Put on the Armor of God?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on the forces actually at work in spiritual warfare and what it means for us to put on “the armor of God.” In his sermon, Dave encouraged us to think of the armor outlined in Ephesians 6:13-17 as bringing the spiritual life into our physical bodies. Though we may try to over-spiritualize this image of putting on the armor of God, the message is really about fighting spiritual warfare with spiritual disciplines — in other words, getting the spiritual life into our physical bodies in how we think, act, and live. This is how you stand against the schemes of the enemy:
- Put on the Belt of Truth by living a truthful life based on God’s truth instead of the lies of Satan.
- Put on the the Breastplate of Righteousness by not only receiving the righteousness given to you by Jesus, but also by living rightly with your body.
- Have your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace by being quick to speak the good news of Jesus wherever you go, whenever there’s opportunity.
– Take up the Shield of Faith by trusting in Jesus and believing the Scriptures and God’s promises in all that you do.
– Put on the Helmet of Salvation by receiving salvation by grace and then living a life worthy of God’s gracious calling.
– Take up the Sword of the Spirit by preaching the Gospel to yourself and living according to its message of hope and renewal.
As you do all of that, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). Ask the Lord what it looks like for you to put on the armor this week. Discuss this practice with your community, along with the sermon. Our CGs are currently in Regular Time material, which you can find here.
Are You Aware of the Battle Within?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on the multiple levels of the spiritual battle we’re in, from a worldwide level down to what’s happening within us. In his sermon, Mark Sayers spoke of the battle that rages inside each one of us between the flesh and the Spirit. But what exactly do the flesh and the Spirit mean? To find out, it’s helpful to keep reading in Galatians:
14 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
1. What stands out to you in the above passage?
2. What acts of the flesh above do you see cropping up recently in your life? Why do you think they are cropping up?
3. What would you like to say to Jesus about what’s cropping up in you? Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).
4. If you are a follower of Christ Jesus and belong to Him, what does it look like for you to crucify the flesh with those evil passions and desires?
5. How might you instead pursue life in the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit?
How Are You Fighting Against the Evil You See?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on the very real struggle of spiritual warfare in the Christian life and how we can fight it. In his sermon, Pastor Dave warned that when we try to fight against evil by condemning and villainizing people, we actually end up fighting for the evil spiritual powers at work rather than against them. The alternative Jesus presents is: to fight against demonic powers; to nonviolently speak truth to evil and corruption; and to love, forgive, and bless enemies. (In fact, Jesus went so far as to die for His enemies!) When you are faced with the temptation to fight against evil by condemning and hating people, here are some steps toward responding in the way of Jesus:
1. Remember that this person or group of people are broken human beings made in God’s image. God loves this person or group of people and desires for them to be redeemed.
2. Recognize your own temptation toward hatred, bitterness, and self-righteousness. Repent if you have actually given into it, and ask for God’s grace and forgiveness.
3. Ask Jesus to give you a heart of love for this person or group of people. May the Lord fill your heart with forgiveness and compassion—the kind that says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
4. Pray God’s best for this person or group of people. Ask God to open their eyes to His truth and goodness. Pray for repentance, redemption, and reconciliation with those they have harmed.
5. Pray in Jesus’ name against the spiritual forces behind the evil you are seeing. Call it out and ask God to break the power of it.
6. Discern if there are ways that the Holy Spirit is inviting you to creatively and lovingly respond to the evil you see with words and actions.
Why Don’t We Pray At All Times and in All Ways?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we began our series on spiritual warfare by addressing the importance of prayer and how we ought to approach it. In his sermon, Pastor Dave focused on the command in Ephesians 6:18: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (emphases added). With all those “alls” in mind, Dave asked, “Why don’t we pray like this?” He went on to propose several ideas, which are helpful to accompany with some reflection questions:
1. We just don’t get around to it. We’re busy people, and on top of that, we have a deep-seated fear of missing out. For you, what do you find yourself prioritizing over time with God in prayer?
2. We misunderstand the nature of prayer. Deep down, perhaps we doubt that prayer really works—that it actually changes anything. Do you struggle with this? Consider Jesus’ encouragement in Luke 18:1-8.
3. We’re not lifting all of our heart and mind to God. Perhaps distraction, preoccupation with temptations, boredom, or even lack of faith deter us from prayer. But what if you actually brought all of those things to God when you prayed? Imagine asking Him to help you and to unite your heart to His. That is the way toward “praying in the spirit,” which Dave described as being deeply connected and alive to God at all times and empowered by Him so that when you pray, you are praying from a place of being with God.
What Keeps You from Leaning Back on Jesus?
In his first sermon back from sabbatical, Dave Lomas shared an image of discipleship as leaning back on Jesus, just as the beloved disciple did in John 13:21-29. In this metaphor for the Christian life, a disciple knows Christ deeply and is attuned to what matters most to Him. To be able to practice this way of life, Pastor Dave recommended these three things:
1. You have to show up. Regular, daily prayer is crucial. How can you pursue consistency in silence and solitude with God?
2. You must put away distraction. Technology and entertainment can hinder us from deeper soul matters such as faith, forgiveness, healing, integrity, and even mortality. What is currently distracting you from your relationship with Jesus?
3. You need to let go. You may be capable of setting many ambitious goals and cleverly achieving them—and, you may be tempted to bring this kind of striving into your relationship with God. What might it look like for you to release control of your relationship with God to God?
Summer on the Mount Teaching Series
What Hinders You in Practicing Jesus’ Teachings?
At Sunday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ invitation to stability through the intentional practice of His teaching. In his sermon, Matt Barrios shared that Jesus, in calling us to this stability, offers a remedy for the instability of life in our world. As you consider all that we have learned over these last three months in the Summer on the Mount series, reflect on these questions:
1. Having heard Jesus’ teachings about life in God’s Kingdom, do you understand them? If there are some parts that you’re confused about, how can you find clarity?
2. Do you overcomplicate (or oversimplify) any of Jesus’ teachings so you can avoid practicing them? If so, what might more authentic faithfulness and practice look like for you?
3. Do you have any fears about what practicing Jesus’ teachings might cost you? What are you afraid of losing?
Are You on the Narrow Path? How Can You Tell?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on the narrow way of Jesus and how it leads to true life, freedom, and transformation. In his sermon, Toby Kurth said that as we pursue the narrow and often difficult path of following Jesus in our world, Jesus Himself will lighten our burden and transform us through the power of the Holy Spirit. And as we are transformed through relationship and dependence upon Jesus, the people around us will also be transformed. As you begin this week, consider these reflection questions about Jesus, His path, and your life:
1. Is the current path you’re walking on one that you can walk arm in arm with Jesus?
2. Are your beliefs about Jesus actually leading to good fruit in your life? (Think about the Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.)
3. Who are the main influencers in how you live your life? Are their words compatible with Christ’s words?
What Are You Asking, Seeking and Knocking for?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:7-11 to continually pursue our Father in Heaven through prayer. In his sermon, Britt Merrick highlighted a problem in how we typically view prayer – as a means to our own ends and desires. God’s great purpose in prayer, however, is to bring us to Himself in daily, dependent, and loving relationship. We are generally results-oriented, while God is process-oriented; we are radically goal-oriented, while God is radically relationship-oriented. And though prayer often does have goals and results, God is most interested in communing with us and forming us. As you approach prayer this week, consider:
1. What do I most often ask, seek, and knock for? What does this reveal about my heart?
2. What is usually my ultimate goal in prayer?
3. When I don’t get what I ask for, do I doubt God’s goodness? How can I be reassured of His goodness?
Have You Been Judged? Have You Wrongly Judged Others?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1-6, 12 to not hold others in condemning judgment but rather to offer compassion and truth in love. In her sermon, Ruthie Kim encouraged us to move away from a heart posture that condemns and shames others. Instead, she invited us to shift into the powerful position of Christ-like love, where we affirm the value of every human being and desire God’s best for them.
As you consider the role of judgment in your life, reflect on these questions:
1. Have you been judged and shamed, and is that impacting the way you relate to others?
2. What is your natural heart posture toward those closest to you in daily life? (Think about family members, roommates, coworkers, friends, and neighbors.)
3. What would it look like for you to choose love and care as your natural posture toward these people? What would doing so require of you?
4. Bring all of this to Jesus, and ask Him to transform your heart. Invite the Holy Spirit to empower you to operate in this way.
What Should We Do with Our Worry and Anxiety?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ command not to worry but to instead entrust ourselves to the gracious, attentive care of God. But how do we do that? In his sermon, Tim Chaddick offered a few ideas:
First, meditate on these three truths in Matthew 6:25-34 that can help disarm worry:
1. Worry is contrary to common sense. (v. 25-27)
2. Worry is an enemy of faith. (v. 28-30)
3. Worry is a matter of the heart. (v. 31-34)
Second, choose to view moments of anxiety and worry as invitations to prayer. When you find yourself worried or anxious about something:
– Pray continually, as often as the worry comes to mind. God’s mercies are new every morning!
– Pray specifically, sharing with God exactly what is bothering you. Ask the Lord to provide for your needs, but also ask Him to help you understand why these specific circumstances trouble your heart so much.
– Pray thankfully, remembering that God is a good Father who has provided for you in untold ways—so you can trust Him with what is worrying you now.
What Do You Treasure the Most?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:19-24 to pursue God as our ultimate treasure instead of the fleeting pleasures of wealth. In his sermon, Rashad Clemons defined treasure as something of exceptional value that is kept safe. So reflect on this question: what do you treat as exceptionally valuable and go to great lengths to protect? (Often we can discern what we truly treasure most by looking at what we spend the most time and money on.) Next, consider what heavenly treasures you pursue (or would like to pursue). Bring all these realities and desires concerning treasure to Jesus, and ask Him what continued faithfulness looks like for you. Then discuss this experience along with the Scriptures and sermon using this week’s CG material.
Can You Bring Your Deepest Desires to God?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5-18 on the ways God satisfies our deepest desires through the spiritual disciplines. In his sermon, Al Abdulla addressed our common struggle to discover what we truly want in life. Though we often shift ways of finding satisfaction, it’s always to fulfill the same root desires: to be seen, to be significant, and to be secure. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus affirms these desires as good, and He seeks to point us to who truly satisfies them: His Heavenly Father. So this week, take Jesus’ instruction to pray alone in a hidden place to your Father in Heaven. As you pray through the Lord’s Prayer, what is happening to your desires? Is God sorting them out? Is He satisfying them? Is He reshaping them? Discuss this experience as well as Sunday’s Scriptures and sermon with your community using this week’s CG material.
Who Is the Primary Audience of Your Life?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1-4 about how we practice good deeds and for whom we do them. In his sermon, Ryan Jones addressed the pressures we feel in our culture to perform for others and craft our public image. As you think about your life so far this year—the work you’ve done, the time you’ve spent with people, and the things you’ve posted on social media—who have you done it all for? Spend some time in silence and solitude with the Lord this week, and ask Him to reorient your heart and mind. Meditate on Scriptures like John 16:27, Romans 8:14-17, and 1 John 3:1, and receive the truth of the Father’s love for you. Then discuss this experience as well as Sunday’s Scriptures and sermon with your community using this week’s CG material.
Who Are Your Enemies? Can You Love Them?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ very challenging commands of how to respond to and love our enemies. In his sermon, Josh Waidley helped us to clarify who our enemies are: your enemy is anyone who you view as less than yourself. In doing so, you refuse to see them as an image-bearer of God. Applying this definition, who are currently your enemies? How does it feel for you to honestly label them as such? As a first step toward coming to love our enemies, Jesus calls us to pray for them. So bring this person (or people) before the Lord. What do you need to honestly share with God about them? Can you ask God to give you a heart to love them? Discuss this process as well as Sunday’s Scriptures and sermon with your community using this week’s CG material.
Are Your “Yes” and “No” Trustworthy?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on the costliness, danger, and folly of making vows. Jesus points back to the practice in the Old Testament, and He says don’t do it at all! Don’t swear by anything. Instead, He commands us to simply say “yes” or “no.” In your relationships, would simply a yes or no suffice? In other words, can your friends, family, coworkers, roommates, etc. actually count on you to keep your word? Discuss this with your community using this week’s CG material.
A Changed Heart Leading to a Renewed Life
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law, and how this impacts the ways we approach righteousness and anger. In his sermon, Jeremy Treat explained how Jesus upholds God’s commands and brings a deeper righteousness that can change us at the heart level. Through the cross, Jesus frees us from our sin and gives us His righteousness—so now we can genuinely think and live as whole human beings empowered by the Spirit. But what sort of change does this produce in our lives? Discuss this with your community using this week’s CG material, focusing on the specific struggle of anger.
Salt and Light: How Can You Partner with God?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on what the Bible says about light and how often, God Himself is described as light. As we studied what this tells us about the Lord, we then considered what Jesus might have meant when He told the crowd, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). In her sermon, Ruthie Kim proposed that Jesus is inviting us to partner with Him in God’s mission of rescuing, restoring, and renewing the world. So what does it look like for you and your community to partner with God in His mission? Discuss while using this week’s CG material and ask the Lord for wisdom and the power of His Spirit!
The Beatitudes: Does the Kingdom Surprise You?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on Jesus’ announcement in the Beatitudes of who is blessed and who belongs in God’s Kingdom. As you heard these words and listened to Pastor Britt teach on them, were you surprised by how this Kingdom works? How does it differ from the ways you’re prone to view the world? What do these truths tell you about God? This week, we encourage you to study the Beatitudes with your community and discuss with one another how to respond to the realities of God’s Kingdom among us. View this week’s CG material.
Will You Slow Down Before Taking on the Yoke?
At yesterday’s gatherings, we reflected on the importance of slowing down to Jesus’ pace and lifestyle in order to experience true life, joy, and peace. In his sermon, John Mark Comer put this question to us: “Will we continue at breakneck speed through life and just try to work in a little of Jesus’ stuff along the way? Or will we radically alter the pace of our life, slow down, and take up the easy yoke with Jesus?” Jesus’ yoke is His teaching, which we find in the Sermon on the Mount. So as we begin this series, we encourage you and your community to become more familiar with Jesus and His overall message through this week’s CG material.