STUDY | Spend the week studying Matthew 15:1–20. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | True honor flows from my heart.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
TAKING A STEP BACK
Successful movies are often followed by a sequel that continues the story from the first film. Sometimes filmmakers decide to make a prequel, which goes back in time to give the origins of the characters. This has been a popular and lucrative trend in Hollywood recently. Just look at movie franchises like X-Men, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit.
Last week your group discussed what honor is and why it’s important. This week we want to take a step back and look at where honor begins. Let’s go to the origins of honor and where it starts—in the heart.
Q: Why is it important to understand where honor comes from?
Honor isn’t something you show from the outside. It comes from what’s inside you already. Jesus was more concerned with the state of people’s hearts than their actions. Yes, you can show outward allegiance to God and His ways. But what really matters is what is in your heart. Jesus taught that whatever is in your heart is going to come out. True honor flows from your heart.
Q: Who is someone you know who honors God and others. How do they show it?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders in Jesus’s day. People looked to them as the experts on how to have a right relationship with God. However, when you read the gospels, you see that Jesus was regularly in conflict with them. Why would Jesus be at odds with the experts? Because their lives told two stories, one from the outside and one from the inside. On the outside, they were moral and upright. But what was on the inside told a different story. Their hearts weren’t changed by God. Jesus said they gave lip service to God, but in reality, their hearts were far from Him.
Read: Read Matthew 15:1-20. What was Jesus’s main problem with the Pharisees?
Q: What does it mean to have a heart far from God?
OUT OF THE HEART
Jesus goes on to say what defiles a person (or makes someone an inauthentic believer) is what comes out of their heart. His disciples were confused, because they saw how much Jesus offended the Pharisees. After all, the Pharisees were the go-to experts on God, right? Jesus tells His disciples, “Don’t pay attention to them. They’re blind people leading other blind people. Whatever comes out of the mouth comes from their heart. Every evil thought or action ultimately comes from the heart. These Pharisees are hypocrites.”
Q: Where do you see Pharisee-like behavior around you today?
Q: In what ways can you be like a Pharisee?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
Honor flows from the inside-out, not the outside-in. You can’t act your way into honor, because honor comes from your heart. Honor starts in the heart, and it is the true path to showing real honor.
Three honor blockers can keep your heart from showing honor. Let’s look at each of them.
First, bitterness can keep your heart from showing honor. There are people you know you should honor and you hesitate to do it because you think they don’t deserve to be honored. Maybe it’s a leader in your church or a parent or someone who has wounded you deeply. Bitterness will make you judge someone and conclude they are unworthy of honor. When your heart is embittered, you’ll justify not showing honor.
Second, selfishness can keep your heart from showing honor. Selfishness always leads to self-deception. You’ll look for reasons to remain selfish and have things your way or refuse to see a situation any way other than yours. Selfishness thinks in black and white terms. “I’m right. She’s wrong.” The reality is that life isn’t so black and white.
Third, hypocrisy can keep your heart from showing honor. The Pharisees thought honoring God with their lips and actions was sufficient. But God cares more about your heart. What you do always comes from where your heart is in relationship to God. Are you doing something good to please God or look good? Is your heart truly for God or are you trying to win points with Him and get noticed by others?
Q: Which honor blocker do you identify with? Why?
Q: How does God help you overcome these honor blockers?
GET INTO THE FLOW: ASK AND ACT
A true heart that loves and honors God is ultimately a gift from God. You can’t get it on your own. Therefore, ask God for a heart that loves Him above everything and seeks to honor Him. This is something supernatural that only God can do. When you come to faith, God puts His Holy Spirit in you and gives you fresh desires and affections for Him. Without the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t desire God or be moved to honor Him.
When our desires and affections are changed, we act differently. What comes out of our hearts isn’t bitterness, selfishness, or hypocrisy. There’s a genuine seeking to please God and honor Him with our lives. Faith is action, and faith moves to honor God in all we do and point others to His glory and worth. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Q: How would you live differently if you lived out the truth that the Holy Spirit gives you a heart that loves and honors God?
Q: Who is one person you can share the glory and worth of Jesus with? How and when will you do it?
FIX YOUR GAZE
Prequels go back to the beginning. They show the origins of the story. The story of the Bible always comes back to Jesus. Jesus told His followers this (Luke 24:13–35), and we need to remember that a life that honors God and others is a life that reflects who He is and what He did.
Honoring God means seeking to worship Him in every area of life. That’s what Jesus did. He wanted every word and action in His life to reflect the glory of the Father (John 5:19–29). If you struggle to bring God honor in your life, fix your gaze on Jesus, who did everything to make God magnificent and infinitely valuable to those around Him. A changed heart will always seek to honor God in everything.
Q: How well do you reflect to those around you who Jesus is and what He has done in your life?
Q: What’s one thing you can do to fix your gaze on Jesus this week?
Spend time honoring God for who He is and what He has done in your life. Ask Him for specific ways you can honor Him and others from the heart.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read John 5:19–29 and reflect on how Jesus sought to bring the Father honor through His life.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
A Heavy Yoke
“Jesus makes a clear distinction between the Old Testament, which was the commandment of God, and the Pharisaic tradition, which consisted of merely human pronouncements.” The Pharisees took the commands of God and added to them; they increased the burden of laws on God’s people. That’s what legalism does. It makes rule-following and morality more important than the higher principle of the law.
Same Old Story
Jesus references the prophet Isaiah when He quotes from him in vv.8–9. What the Pharisees were doing was nothing new. People have always been inclined to give lip service to God and worship externally rather than from the heart.
Clean vs. Unclean
As the Son of God, Jesus had the authority to declare what was clean and unclean. The Pharisees thought they were the authority on this, which is why they were offended by Jesus. See also Matthew 12:1–8 and Jesus’s statement on the Sabbath.
Living Like a Pharisee
Many people attend church and Bible studies while having pet sins on the side. This is essentially living like a Pharisee. Jesus teaches that God isn’t pleased with one who simply lives for Him on Sunday morning or Wednesday night and leaves Him out of the rest of the week.