Small Group Curriculum

Live by Grace

08.21.16 | Our House

PREPARATION

Spend the week studying Mark 2:13-17. 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 | for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members and their openness to God’s Word.

LANDING POINT | Living with grace is living and loving like Jesus.

Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion

  1. Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
  2. No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
  3. No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
  4. 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. 

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.

Last week your group discussed Pinelake’s third distinctive value, leveraged living, and how we are to live in a way that impacts others. To do this, we need to live with an awareness of God’s purposes for our lives and how the Holy Spirit guides us in them.

This week you will discuss Pinelake’s fourth value, family-focused. This series seeks to show you what the Pinelake community is like by focusing on distinctive values that mark our church. We’ve used the metaphor of a house to show that we, the Church, are a “spiritual house” being built by God for His purposes. The Church isn’t just a collection of believers who gather on Sundays. It’s a family living on mission together.

No Christian should do life alone, and God has designed His Church to be a community that helps individuals and families understand the Gospel and how Jesus calls us to live with grace. Living this way changes our lives and relationships, both inside and outside our community.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in this series? Why is this lesson important to you?

What examples or stories come to mind when you think of the Church as a family?


LEARN

Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.

Jesus, a friend of sinners

When you look at the life of Jesus, you notice He built relationships that extended beyond the walls of the synagogue, the place of worship in Jewish communities. He frequently engaged with sinners, a term that referred to those religious society deemed unworthy of a relationship with God. Jesus saw things differently. He saw people’s pain and brokenness and gave them friendship. He entered the mess of their lives and showed them God’s love and grace.

What would keep you from engaging others in relationship like Jesus did in His life?

The call of Matthew

One example of this kind of friendship is the calling of Matthew (or Levi) in Mark 2:13-17. Matthew was a tax collector, and Jews hated tax collectors. [1] And, yet, Jesus told Matthew to “follow Him,” which was an invitation into relationship. Immediately, Matthew leaves his tax booth and became Jesus’ disciple.

Later in the story Jesus eats dinner at Matthew’s house with other tax collectors and sinners. The Jewish religious leaders this and were scandalized. They asked, “Why does this man associate with sinners?” Jesus’ replies that “it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In what ways did Jesus and the religious leaders view the sinners at Matthew’s house differently?

Sharing a meal with God

Sharing a meal in ancient times was considered an intimate act. By inviting someone to dinner you were essentially saying, “I want to be your friend and welcome you into my life.” That is essentially what Jesus said to those at the dinner table. This episode—among many others—demonstrates God’s grace towards those on the margins of society. Jesus, who was God in human flesh, welcomes any and all to His table.

Identify someone God may be leading you to build a relationship with in your life. How might you start a friendship with them?

Changed by grace

While Jesus modeled grace-filled relationships, that doesn’t mean He ignored or tried to play down sin in people’s lives. Jesus loved people too much to leave them where they were. After forgiving a woman caught in adultery, He tells her, “Go and sin no more.” Our experience of God’s grace changes us, so that we lead very different lives.

Jesus isn’t the tolerant, “live and let live” caricature many make Him out to be. Jesus understood the destructive power of sin. He saw how people’s choices destroyed lives, families and relationships. That He could not tolerate, and that’s why He came to us—to bridge the gap sin created between humanity and God.

Recall a time when someone loved you too much to leave you where you were. What happened? How did it change you? 


LIVE

Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.

Called to be a blessing

God has given His people a mission: to be a blessing to others. To bless is to act in a way that benefits another person; you work to see them become better or prosper in some way. In other words, you’re a blessing if someone is better off for knowing and interacting with you.

Jesus was a blessing to others. He exposed the riff-raff and outcasts of society to God’s love and mercy. Jesus welcomed sinners into His life without condemning them or condoning their sin. The Gospel blesses a fallen world by revealing that, “we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” [2] Do people see the Gospel’s message in how you live and relate to others?

Explain the following statement in your own words: “Jesus welcomed sinners into His life without condemning them or condoning their sin.”

What’s one thing your group could do (or change) to make the Gospel more evident in your community?

Marked by love

On the night before His arrest Jesus told His followers, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [3] This is Jesus’ family code. As brothers and sisters in Christ, everything we do should be marked by love. Not hate or pride or selfishness, but love that leads to acceptance, humility and self-sacrifice.

Jesus loved unconditionally, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to human beings. Only when we experience the love of God in Jesus do we see a kind of love that knows no boundaries and is deeper and wider than we ever imagined. Jesus loved differently, and we are to do the same.

Describe what a community marked by love looks like. How do people treat one another? How does that differ from the way other communities interact?

Why is it difficult for us to love unconditionally? How do we set limits on our love?


LEAD

Select 1 question from this section to answer.

Change in community

Jesus invited Matthew into a community that radically changed him. He turned from his former life to follow Jesus into new life and purpose. God made us to live in community; it’s something ingrained in us that we desire, whether we know God or not. We need relationships and God has blessed us with a community of believers that walk with us through the ups and downs of life.

The blessing of community is something God intended for us to tshare. That’s why we invite others to experience the life-changing story of Jesus (the Gospel) and become part of God’s family. People need to see the Gospel lived out. They need to see it in the way we treat each other, our family, our neighbors and our co-workers. This kind of love draws people to us and, ultimately, to Jesus.

Consider your own conversion. What role did any individuals or groups have in leading you to faith?

In what ways have you been blessed by your group? What effect has that had on you personally?


PRAY

Begin by considering Jesus’ life and how He loved sinners and called them into new life with Him. Acknowledge that you, too, are a sinner saved by grace who owes everything to God for the blessings you have received. Ask God to show you ways to live with grace at home, in the office and in your neighborhood. And pray for God to open the way for others to experience His Gospel in your community.


FOLLOW UP

Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:

Ask the group to share any stories or lessons God is teaching them in light of this week’s lesson.

Read John 8:1-11 and reflect on how Jesus handled His encounter between the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees and what this story reveals about God’s grace.


COMMENTARY

“Follow me.”

Jesus spoke about following Him 23 [4] times in the Gospels. To be a follower of Jesus is to be His disciple. The term disciple is defined as “an apprentice or pupil attached to a teacher or movement; one whose allegiance is to the instruction and commitments of the teacher or movement.” [5] As a disciple you are to orient your life around Jesus and His teachings. Everything you do must come back to the truth of the Gospel and how it changes you, inside and out.

You are part of a movement of disciple-making that God began when Jesus walked the earth. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 tells us that movement is still underway and that our primary goal in life should be to “make disciples of all nations” (v.19).

Demonstrating the law of grace.

Brennan Manning, in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (Multnomah, 2005), writes about Jesus’ relationship with sinners:

Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them [...] Jesus sat down at table with anyone who wanted to be present, including those who were banished from decent homes. In the sharing of a meal they received consideration instead of the expected condemnation. A merciful acquittal instead of a hasty verdict of guilty. Amazing grace instead of universal disgrace. Here is a very practical demonstration of the law of grace—a new chance in life. [6]

An incarnational community.

In their book The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community (Jossey-Bass, 2008), Hugh Halter and Matt Smay use the term incarnational community to refer to the type of community that reflects the way Jesus engaged others in His life and ministry. They highlight four practices that should be evident in an incarnational community:

1. Leaving. Jesus left the privilege and comforts of His relationship to the Father to obey His call.
2. Living Among. Jesus lived among people for thirty-three years and built relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds.
3. Listening. Jesus listened to peoples’ stories and showed a genuine interest in them. He was also familiar with their pain and suffering.
4. Loving Without Strings Attached. Jesus loved people unconditionally, regardless of their past sin, present actions, family heritage, ethnicity or gender.

 

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1. “Tax collectors were despised by their fellow first-century Jews for their collaboration with Rome’s occupying forces and extorting higher-than-justified levies to enrich themselves dishonestly.” R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1737.
2. Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (New York: Riverhead Books, 2013), Electronic Format.
3. John 13:34–35.
4. Matt. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21; 19:28; Mark 1:17; 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23; 9:59; 14:27; 18:22; John 1:43; 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; 21:19; 21:22.
5. Philip L. Shuler, “Disciple,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 198.
6. Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2005), 22, 29.