RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #8 - Renewal of Prayer

READ – 2 Chronicles 6:12-21

Scholars of Chronicles all agree – chapters 6 and 7 is the highlight of the whole book. In fact, you could say that these chapters are the highlight of the entire Old Testament story. It was a time of peace and an era of great prosperity for Israel. But more important than any of those things, it was a time when God was present with His people and to the world in a way He had never been before in the temple. The implication of this is if you miss the point of the temple, you’ll miss the point of this whole book and you’ll miss the central place where renewal is found - in prayer. Prayer is the point of the temple. 2 Chronicles 6 – the high point of the whole Old Testament – is a prayer for the renewal of our prayers.

SUMMARY: One of the main sources of our frustration with and neglect of prayer is that we are too focused on what we are supposed to do and say in prayer and not focused enough on what God wants to say to us in prayer.

“I'M HERE”

The temple was God’s way of telling Israel and all of humanity “I’m here.” There is a great tension in the bible when it comes to God’s presence. Does God dwell in a mysterious thick darkness far off and separate from humanity (6:1)? Or does he dwell close to us, so near that He’s always there when we need Him? That we know where to find Him? (6:2) Theologians call this the tension between God’s transcendence and God’s immanence. In Solomon’s prayer we learn that the temple was God’s way of resolving this tension – to show he had not and will not give up on his purpose, goal and mission for this world – to dwell with us (see Revelation 21:1-5).

The symbolism and language describing God’s presence in the temple points beyond the OT to its greater reality fulfilled in Jesus. In John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Jesus, God tells us “I’m here” in the most personal, complete way possible. In Christianity we find the only belief system that offers us a God to whom we pray that can say to us, in all genuineness, no matter what we are facing, “I’ve been there and I’m here for you.”

“I HEAR”

Related to our struggles with the absence of God is another difficult question about prayer. When we do pray, is God listening? Does it make any difference? How do I know God hears my prayers? Solomon gives God a reason why God must listen in 6:19-20. He prays that God would “regard our prayers” because we pray “toward the place you have promised to set your name.” God’s name is a rich concept throughout Scripture. Like any name, God’s name represents who He is and what He does - His actions & attributes. Praying in God’s name is how God’s actions and attributes are made accessible to me/my situation. God’s name is about divine accessibility.

What we see from the larger biblical story is that the temple’s purpose as a place of prayer in God’s name is fulfilled and intensified in Jesus. He is the greater temple, the “place” where God’s name is fully known, the way to complete and full divine access. Instead of praying toward the temple, Jesus said we are to pray in his name. “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) When we pray in the name of Jesus, we are trusting our prayers are accepted and have access to God not because of how much we pray, what we say in prayer or the faith we bring to our prayers BUT only because of Jesus’ perfect life and saving work. Praying in Jesus’ names means we can have the confidence that God’s actions and attributes are made accessible to us and our specific situation when we pray in Jesus’ name.

“I FORGIVE”

Solomon concludes his prayer by asking God not only to hear, but to forgive when his people pray toward the temple in his name.  Hearing God say, “I forgive” is meant to bring an experience of liberation, release and freedom every time we hear it. It should never grow old. Shallow forgiveness is one of the most common reasons why we don’t regularly experience renewal in our relationship with God.

There are 2 ways we remain on the surface of forgiveness’ renewing power: 1) We reduce our need for forgiveness - If we are honest, most of think, “Forgiveness – of course, it’s God job to forgive me. Nobody’s perfect!” Forgiveness is taken for granted, assumed and emptied of all its power. Only when we own the depth and seriousness of our sin can the words “I forgive” set us free. 2) We refuse to forgive ourselves – Paradoxically, we can also magnify our sin in such a way that we refuse to receive forgiveness from God. We hold onto our failures, mistakes, shortcomings. The reason we can't forgive ourselves for falling short is that we are looking to ourselves and our goodness, performance and success to save us. What they say about us is more important than what God says about us. God longs for us to hear him say, “I forgive both your badness and your attempts at being good enough. Be free!”

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      How would you describe your greatest difficulty or challenge when it comes to prayer? How does it help to change the focus from what we do and say to what God wants to say to us?

3.      Where do you most need to hear God say to you, “I’m here”? How does knowing that Jesus entered into human experience, suffering and temptation help you with what you are facing?

4.      It was said in the sermon that, “We struggle with prayer because we think our access to be heard and be listened to is based on our name (our own actions and our attributes). We wonder if are we good enough, praying enough, consistent enough, saying the right things, with enough passion to get God’s attention to hear us and answer our prayers.” Do you struggle with this? How does praying “in Jesus’ name” set us free from being so focused on our prayers?

5.      When we pray in Jesus’ name we can pray knowing the Father never says no to the Son. This means Jesus will take our imperfect prayers and perfect them for us. Read the quote below. If we really believed this, how might it change our prayer life?

This is our comfort because God answers every prayer, for either he gives us what we pray for or something far better.

-Soren Kierkegaard.

6.      In what ways do you take God’s forgiveness for granted? In what ways do you refuse to forgive yourself (see the chart below for help.) How does the gospel show us both the seriousness of our sin and the inadequacies of our goodness? How does the gospel show us that we are truly and fully forgiven?

How could hearing God say to us (again and again), “I forgive” bring about a renewal of liberation, freedom and joy in our lives?

How We Refuse to Forgive Ourselves

  • I can’t let it go. How could I do that? 
  • I should be better, should do better. I’m holding this against myself.
  • I see myself primarily through the lens of my failures, shortcomings and sins.
  • I keep replaying it in my mind. I dwell on my failures, shortcomings and ongoing struggles.

What God Says When He Says “I Forgive”

  • I've let it go.
  • I don’t hold this against you.
  • I don’t see you through the lens of your sin, failure and weakness.
  • I won’t bring this up against you ever again.

Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven...Here is comfort for the distressed, but praying soul. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears; yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music; that tear has been caught by God and treasured in the lachrymatory of heaven...Our God not only hears prayer but also loves to hear it.  

-Charles Spurgeon

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #7 - Renewal of Wisdom

READ – 2 Chronicles 1:1-13

The transition from 1 Chronicles to 2 Chronicles follows a major transition and change in Israel. The nation’s greatest leader and model king, David, has died and passed the leadership baton to his son Solomon. In describing this leadership transition, Chronicles puts a strong emphasis on the continuity between David and Solomon. But Chronicles also emphasizes something that Solomon excelled at that it never mentions as one of David’s strengths. It’s what Solomon realized he most needed to navigate the massive changes and challenges he and his people were facing. It’s what the the Christian faith says is necessary (maybe most important) during times of change, transition and upheaval in our lives and in our world. It’s what turns times of change and transition – that bring all kinds of disappointments & difficulties – into times of renewal. It’s wisdom.

SUMMARY: Because our lives are marked by constant change and because we live in a rapidly changing world, our need for a renewal of wisdom has never been greater.

THE DREAM QUESTION

Solomon officially began his reign by leading a massive assembly of worship with all the leaders of Israel (1:16). That night (2 Kings tells us that it was in a dream) God appeared to Solomon and said to him “Ask what I shall give you.” God is offering Solomon a divine blank check! He’s saying, “What do you want? Ask anything and I’ll do it.” Isn’t that our dream question? Wouldn’t we all love to have God ask us, “What do you want me to do for you?” with the understanding that - whatever we ask for - He’ll give us? This is especially true when we are facing a difficult transition in our lives.

In the gospels, we find that this question was one of Jesus’ favorites. In Mark 10:35-52, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” twice – in order to draw out the one thing that people felt they needed to be fulfilled, satisfied and whole. The first lesson of this text is that in order experience renewal, in order to get to wisdom, we must begin by first (honestly) answering the question posed to us by God Himself - “What do you want me to do for you?”

THE SURPRISING RESPONSE

Solomon doesn’t ask for any of the things a typical king in his time would ask for - wealth, fame, power, victories, control or the approval of the people. Instead, he asked for wisdom and knowledge to lead the people and God said, “I will give you that.” Surprisingly, the best response to God’s question, “What do you want me do for you?“ at any time in our lives, but especially during seasons of personal and cultural change is, “Give me wisdom.” God will always answer this prayer.

What is Wisdom? The best short definition of wisdom is “know-how.” Wisdom is made up of two parts - knowledge and the ability to know how to use it in practical, everyday situations. Bruce Waltke says wisdom is “masterful understanding.” JI Packer - wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.

Why do we need it? If wisdom is knowledge applied to our specific situation, then any change in our situation calls for fresh wisdom. If our lives are constantly changing, then we have a constant need for fresh wisdom! Knowing information (or theology) is necessary but it isn’t sufficient. We also need to know our situation and how the knowledge and information we have applies to our situation.

Since the pace and complexity of cultural change is unprecedented, our need for wisdom has never been greater. Though we have access to more information and knowledge than ever before, wisdom for dealing with our cultural changes, divisions and disagreements appears more elusive than ever. Solomon’s example is an encouragement to every Christian and every church to make it a top priority to ask for and seek wisdom.

How do we get it? There are at 3 least important steps alluded to in the text: 1) Always start at the beginning. Solomon began his reign with worship. This was Proverbs 9:10 in action - “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Worship precedes wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the submission of our intellect, desires and will to God. 2) Ask for it – We must admit our need for wisdom. This takes humbly realizing our inadequacy and inability to handle life’s changes on our own. 3) Allow time for it – Solomon’s writings and the other wisdom literature of the bible show us that wisdom is the fruit of prayer, patience and dialogue.

THE ULTIMATE ANSWER

Solomon is an example to us of how to respond to transition in our lives and world by seeking wisdom from God. But following Solomon’s example isn’t the ultimate answer for our need for wisdom. For one, reaching Solomon’s level of wisdom is an unattainable goal – he was the wisest of all people in the Old Testament. But even more to the point – the wisdom we need often seems so inaccessible. Proverbs 2:5 says, “If you seek wisdom like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Often our search for wisdom is either half-hearted or fraught with mystery, like looking for hidden treasure.

The gospel is that God has uncovered for us the hidden treasures of wisdom in His Son. In Luke 11:29 Jesus says, “The Queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and look – something greater than Solomon is here. Jesus is talking about himself. He’s saying the Queen of Sheba gave up everything to hear the wisdom of Solomon. In Jesus, we see that God gives up everything for us to have the wisdom of the gospel.

The apostle Paul, In Col 2:2,3 writes in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The gospel provides us with the lens to interpret our lives and the world. The cruciform wisdom of the gospel is the hidden treasure God gives us in Jesus. Though the wisdom for our life transitions and cultural changes may not always be straightforward, the gospel provides us with wisdom that ensures that our “hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, reaching all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, Christ” (Col 2:2).

The ultimate answer to the dream question, “What do you want?” in any circumstance is, “I want Jesus more than anything else.” That is ultimately and finally the wisest response in any situation. What we need is not first an answer, more insight or more information – we need a person.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2. What one thing in your life would you ask God for if he appeared to you in a dream and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Be honest. What one thing do you think – if God gave you – would lead you to a renewed sense of life, vitality and happiness?

3. What personal change or transition (current or upcoming) do you most need wisdom for in your life? Which

cultural change or issue do you feel you most need wisdom for understanding how to respond?

4. Read the quote below from Andy Crouch’s Tech-Wise Family. Do you agree? If wisdom is more rare and precious than ever before, what implications should this have for you personally, your family and the church?

“Knowledge, these days, is very easy to come by - almost too easy, given the flood of search results for almost any word or phrase you can imagine. But you can’t search for wisdom - at least, not online. And it’s as rare and precious as ever - maybe, given how complex our lives have become, rarer and more precious than ever before.”

5. Of the 3 steps listed in “How do we get it?” (above) which is most challenging or helpful to you? What would

it look like for you to incorporate this step into your life as you seek God’s wisdom?

6. How does it encourage you to know that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ? How does the statement below help you address the hardest personal or cultural changes you are facing right now?

The ultimate answer to the dream question, “What do you want?” in any circumstance is “I want Jesus more than anything else.” That is ultimately and finally the wisest response in any situation.

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #6 - Renewal of Worship

READ – 1 Chronicles 23:1-6; also refer to chapters 23-27

In 1 Chronicles Chapters 23-27, we read what is essentially King David’s organizational flow chart for the staff of the temple and the leadership over the nation of Israel. Our first reaction might be, “What could be more irrelevant to my life than an ancient organizational flow chart!?!” But consider this – take one look at an organizational chart and you will learn a lot about a community or an organization. The list of names and responsibilities shows you what everybody is doing and why they are doing it. What if you could make an organization flow chart of a person’s life? Imagine a chart that shows a person’s relationships and responsibilities and that illustrates where all their time, money, energy, dreams are spent. You would learn a lot about this person from what is and isn’t on the chart. What would be on your chart? What would it show you about what you are doing and why are you are doing it?  This is where 1 Chronicles 23-27 applies to us –it shows us what a life ordered and organized around worship looks like.

SUMMARY: Since worship is the central matter of life, we should pay attention to how our lives are ordered and organized around what we worship.

HOW WORSHIP IS CENTRAL TO EVERYTHING

The 65 chapters of Chronicles cover almost 500 years of history, tell the stories of 22 kings and weave in many themes related to spiritual renewal, but if there is one thing that is central to the entire story - it is the temple at Jerusalem. The temple was David’s obsession, Solomon’s greatest accomplishment and every subsequent king in the book is evaluated on whether or not they ordered their priorities around the temple.  1 Chronicles 23-27 show us how David set up an organizational system to display the centrality of worship at the temple: Chapter 23 tells us about the priests in the inner/holy courts of the temple; Ch. 24 about the musicians in the main courts of the temple; Ch’s 25-26 about the gatekeepers and treasurers at the gates and the outer portions the temple and Ch. 27 about the leaders who were spread out in the rest of the land. The picture is this - Every aspect of life in Israel reverberated out from the temple. Worship was at the center.           

Chronicles 23-27 illustrates both how life should be and how life is. The Bible tells us that to be human is to be a worshipper. Everyone worships. Every person’s life is structured and shaped by what they most value, seek after and pursue. Every person is a temple to something. If all of us worship, then all of us have an order of worship (a personal liturgy), a way of organizing life around what is most central to us. To be renewed in our worship of the God of the bible requires that we pay attention to the order and organization of our lives. Looking at our personal liturgy will show us what we really worship and how our lives may need to be re-ordered around God.

HOW GOD RENEWS US IN WORSHIP

Clearly, David paid great attention to every detail of how worship was ordered and organized in Israel. What we find in these chapters are four roles given to the tribe called by God to serve at the temple – the Levites. Each one of these roles was a key piece of how someone experienced a renewal of worship. Each was a part of how the worship experience re-oriented the worshipper to a world where God is the central reality. Each one teaches a lesson about who God is and who we are. Each role shows us something of the kind of embodied practices that re-orient and re-center us on the gospel.

 1. GIVING – First, God renews us in worship through the practice of giving. In 26:20, 22 we are told who is given responsibility to oversee the treasuries and dedicated gifts brought to the temple. Every worshipper who came to the temple was given an opportunity to give. In 1 Chronicles 29:5-9, David called Israel to given willingly and freely as an act of worship. The people responded with generous gifts and experiencing great joy (29:0) What’s the lesson? There is a reciprocal relationship between our joy and our giving. Our joy follows our giving and our giving follows our joy. Another way to say this is that what we worship we give toward; what we give toward we worship. Where our treasure is there our heart will be also (Matt 6:21).

2. GATEKEEPING – Second, God renews us in worship through the practice of gatekeeping (Ch 26). Gatekeepers were essentially the bouncers at the temple doors. Their job was to welcome in what did belong and keep out what did not belong in God’s holy presence. Every time you came to the temple, you met a gatekeeper and were forced to ask, “What am I bringing with me into the presence of God?” What’s the lesson? A part of our regular order of life should be to ask, “What am I welcoming into my life and what am I keeping out?” To be a Christian means letting Jesus be the gatekeeper of your life and soul.

3. SINGING - In Ch. 25, we see how David made singing & music a part of the organization of temple worship. In 25:3, musical worship is called prophecy. Singing was an essential part of hearing, remembering and receiving God’s word in a personal way. 25:7-8 tells us that singing was to be led by skillful, excellent and trained musicians.  GREAT care was taken to make singing a part of people’s worship. In Ephesians 5:18-20, we find that singing is just as essential in the New Testament – singing is how we are filled with the Spirit (the presence of God!). What’s the lesson? Music and singing should be a regular part of our daily and weekly order of life. We need to think about how we can make “melody of our hearts” (Eph 5:19) the song of the gospel.

4. CONFESSION -  Looking at David’s organizational chart for worship, we find that confession was the final, climactic step in worship; for being renewed in God’s presence. Three of the four duties listed for priests (in 23:13) have to do with dealing with the sinfulness of people who were coming to worship a holy God. The priests communicated the seriousness of sin (through sacrifice) and always sent the people away with the blessing of God’s forgiving and renewing grace. What’s the lesson? Regular confession is God’s counterintuitive gift for renewal – by confessing our sins we see the gravity of sin and the even greater magnitude of God’s grace for us in the gospel.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      Do you agree that “to be human is to be a worshipper?” Read the quote below from David Foster Wallace’s speech “This Is Water.” If “in the day to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism,” how should that impact the “organizational flow chart” of our lives?

.... [I]n the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship... is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things... then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough... Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you... Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. (David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water”)

3.      When you look at the order and organization of your life, what does it reveal about what you really worship?

4.      It was said in the sermon that the modern quests to find ourselves (identity) and to find our cause in life (purpose) are both determined by what we worship. In other words 1) both our identity and purpose are formed by what we worship 2) to rediscover our identity and purpose in Jesus, our worship of Jesus comes first. Where are you struggling with identity and/or purpose? What would it look like to begin your rediscovery with worship?

The Four Practices for Worship Renewal

5.      Giving – Have you found it to be true that your joy follows your giving and your giving follows your joy? How does your own practice of giving (money, time, talents) reflect (or need to better reflect) your desire to worship God above all else?

6.      Gatekeeping – “Every object of worship has gatekeepers. What we worship determines what we keep out and what we let into our lives.” Where are you most struggling with what Jesus calls you to bring in or keep out of your life?

7.      Singing – What place does music and singing have in your regular weekly or daily routine? Read Eph. 5:18-20. What does it look like to regularly “make melody in our hearts to the Lord?”

8.      Confession -The practice of confession as worship is what makes Christianity different from all other approaches to life. No matter what we worship, we will all come up against the question - what happens when I fail my god? When we fail or fall short, every other object of worship crushes us, punishes us and makes us pay. In Christianity, it’s confession that drives us to the gospel, again and again – that Jesus was crushed and punished for our sins in order that we might receive the blessing of God’s approval, delight and acceptance forever.

·        Have you experienced the crushing and punishing of failing something you worshipped?

·        How can confession become a regular part of your personal order of life?

·        How can we make sure that confession doesn’t drive us into guilt and shame but into the freedom and joy of the gospel?

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who Whe Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #5 - Renewal of Purpose

READ – 1 Chronicles 22:5-19

A part of our common human experience is that all of us from time to time ask, “What’s the purpose of it all?  What’s the purpose of school? What’s the purpose of my friendships, my marriage? Of having kids? Of work? Of church? Of my life? In the grind of everyday life when we feel like our lives are on repeat; in the losses and disappointments of life, we often find ourselves searching for answers to questions of purpose. Chronicles 22 is one of a few key passages in the Bible given to us as places to go when we need a renewal of purpose. Chapter 22 (and its parallel passage in Chapter 28) is a part of a specific biblical genre called a “Charge.” Scholars note that David’s charge to Solomon and the leaders of Israel is filled with connections to the other major biblical charges: Moses to Joshua (Deut. 31:1-8 and Joshua 1:1-9), Jesus to his disciples (John 14:25-31, Matthew 28:18-20) and Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy).  

SUMMARY: We need to be reminded of the things that keep us from and lead us toward discovering our purpose in life.

WHAT KEEPS US FROM DISCOVERING OUR PURPOSE

1. SELF-CENTERDNESS - David begins his charge (v5) by telling Solomon about his own journey from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. In Chapter 17, when David decided that building the temple would be his great purpose in life, God told David, “Right vision, wrong purpose.” David would not build the temple; instead, he would prepare for his son to build it. This was deeply humbling for David since all successful kings at this time considered temple-building their crowning achievement. Chronicles 22-29 are all about David embracing his God-given part in God’s greater purpose. Verse 5 shows us how he was able to do this - he learned that his purpose was about God’s glory and fame, not his; the house he would prepare was for God’s name, not his (v7-8, 10, 19). 

What we learn from this is God chooses our purpose, not us. We are meant to first discover God’s purpose for the world and then find our place in it. Our purpose is not something we create; it is something given to us by God. Here is where the temple comes in. It was a symbol and a reminder of the God-centered purpose of Israel. As the center of the nation’s life, it was a reminder that all life revolves around and centers on God. Rather than living a life centered on ourselves, the temple shows us our purpose is to: 1) Make God’s presence and glory central to all of our lives. 2) Take God’s presence and glory into all of my life and to all the earth.

2. FEAR - The second thing that keeps us from discovering God’s purpose for us is fear. In verse 13, David tells Solomon, “Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed.” This language is repeated in almost every one of the charges in Scripture. Moses said these exact words to Joshua (twice), Paul to Timothy (ch 2), Jesus to his disciples. What does this tell us? If God’s charges to us repeatedly tell us to be courageous and fear not, it means: 1) God’s purpose for us is to lead us into situations where we will feel weak and afraid 2) Feeling weak and afraid is NOT a sign we are heading the wrong way, in fact it’s the reverse and 3) If we run from or try to avoid fear and weakness, we are likely running away from God’s purpose for us.  If God wants to teach us to be cured of self-centeredness, self-reliance and independence so that our lives are centered on love for Him and love for others, one of his main teaching tools is to call us to a purpose we can’t possibly do on our own.

WHAT LEADS US TO REDISCOVERING OUR PURPOSE

1. DISCERNMENT - In verse 12, David tells Solomon “Only [or Above all] may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding… that you may keep the law and be careful to observe his commands.” To discover our purpose and to rediscover it when we’ve lost it, we need discretion and understanding above all. These two words taken together from a pair that could be translated “discernment.” This is an encouragement - if we struggle with the question of purpose, be encouraged - it doesn’t come easily, it’s the reward of careful discernment, reflection and care. This is also a warning, if we always have a quick reply, the perfect tweet, the post and the right answer to everything, we are likely not helping God’s purpose but hurting it.

2. COMMUNITY - The charge David gives is not just to Solomon alone but is given to all the leaders of Israel. This is a national purpose. This is a communal purpose. It cannot be accomplished by 1 person – even someone as powerful, wise, discerning, wealthy and resourced as Solomon. He needs help.  From this we learn that purpose requires community. Meaningful purpose + meaningful relationships = a meaningful and satisfying life. This is how God designed us. It’s how God designed the church - to be a community on mission together. Community leads us to, reminds us of and encourages us to stay on course in the purpose God has given us.

3. SACRIFICE - In verse 14, David tells Solomon “with great pains I have provided for the house of the Lord.” The amount of gold and silver listed are astronomical for this time. He tells Solomon, “To these you must add.” David’s sacrifice of his time and wealth was for his son and all of Israel a model for what will lead them into God’s purpose. Purpose is found not holding onto things, not by looking for what we can gain out of life but by giving, losing + sacrifice. It is in giving ourselves away that we find our purpose. Nothing reminds us of this purpose more than heroic sacrifice. Here David was the hero, but his sacrifice was but a faint shadow of the sacrifice of the greater David to come – Jesus. In laying down his life for us, Jesus shows us his great purpose for us – to sacrifice his life to cover our self-centeredness and bring us into the presence of God. No matter how far we have strayed from God’s purpose for us, because of Jesus’ sacrificial love, we can always rediscover God’s forgiving grace and his call to be carriers of this grace into the world.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      Do you struggle with giving God your purposes and dreams and asking him to bless them rather than first finding God’s purpose and asking him to show your part in it? How might this be keeping you from discovering purpose in your life or parts of your life?

3.      Where do you feel most afraid, inadequate and weak to make God’s presence and glory central to your life or to take God’s glory and presence to others? Think about your relationships - marriage, parenting, work or an area in need of change in your life. How might God be leading to admit your fear and weakness and pursue his purpose in this area of your life?

4.      Do you agree that Christians are not often regarded as bringing a voice of discernment to difficult cultural matters? How can we better demonstrate what discretion and careful thought look like? Where in your life do you most need discernment now? 

5.      How does heroic sacrifice remind us of our purpose in life? How does Jesus’ sacrificial love for us remind us of why we are here? How does this help us live sacrificially wherever God calls us? (For a story of heroic sacrifice, Read Jack Beaton’s story - http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-jack-beaton-20170803-story.html)

RENEW - Chronicles: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We're Here - Sermon Study Guide #4- Success, Failure, and Renewal

READ – 1 Chronicles 21

Chapter 21 is a unique chapter in Chronicles because it tells the story of a major failure in the life of Israel’s model king – David. David is the most prominent character in Chronicles by a long shot. (21 of the 65 chapters are about him and all subsequent kings are measured against him.)  In a book that focuses almost exclusively on David’s positive example, we find that one of his greatest failures is highlighted as one of the most important lessons he left behind about how God brings renewal to our lives.

SUMMARY: Renewal comes when we are humbled in our successes and restored in our failures. 

1. HOW WE HANDLE SUCCESS 

1 Chronicles 18-20 recount success after success for David. Enemies that had plagued Israel for years were being defeated and driven away – the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Syrians even giant warriors (20). They all “fell by the hand of David and his servants.” (20:8) As we come to Ch 21, David seemed invincible. He was at the top of his game.

It was at this point that we read Satan (or an actual military opponent – the word “Satan” can be translated “adversary”) incited David to take a census of his army. What’s wrong with a census? It wasn’t David’s action that displeased God, but his motivation. Why would David take a census? Like many rulers of his time, David wanted to assess the power & strength of his military. The census was David’s way of measuring & proving his success, his security and his strength. His motive was pride. At his most successful, David was most vulnerable to pride, self-reliance, independence and self-absorption. The lesson - The most dangerous and potentially destructive moments in our lives are when we look at our success and accomplishments and there's that little voice inside of us that says, “Look what I've done.” One of the most important factors for our ongoing spiritual renewal is whether our success leads to becoming puffed up with pride or deeper into humility.

2. HOW WE HANDLE FAILURE

After David carried through with his census, God sent the prophet Gad to rebuke him and offer the choice of 3 different consequences for his failure - famine, defeat by enemies or pestilence in the land. David didn’t really choose; instead he asked to fall into the hand of the Lord “who has great mercy.” Verse 14 says God sent a plague that resulted in the loss of many lives.  This led David (together with his leaders) to put on sackcloth and publicly confess his sin and failure. “It is I who have sinned and done great evil… Please let you hand, O Lord my God be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people!”

How did David move from selfish pride to humble repentance and willingness to suffer so others might live? I think the answer is two-fold:

1) He didn’t minimize his failure. It is when he saw and felt the impact his actions had on others that was humbled and broken. This story teaches us that failure can either harden us or humble us. David could have tried hide his failure, blame others or blame God – instead he owned it. But he had to feel the impact his pride had on other people. There is always a cost to others when we act out of pride.

2) He didn’t miss what his failure was teaching him. God’s great gift in failure is the smashing of our pride. When our pride is smashed, grace can flood into our lives. For this reason, our failures will be our greatest opportunities to see if we really believe the gospel. David began to understand that our failure and sin are costly and can only be forgiven and covered at great cost. He offered his own life but God accepted a substitutionary sacrifice in his place. In David’s failure, he was taught the heart of the gospel - God pays the price to redeem our failure.

3. HOW GOD REDEEMS FAILURE

The conclusion to this story is extremely significant. 22:1 tells us David said, “This (piece of land he bought for the sacrifice) is the house of the Lord God.” In other words. “I have found the place where the temple will be built.” What’s going on here? The very center of worship for Israel and the most important place in the whole nation is the Temple. It was the center of spiritual renewal for the people. This is the backstory to the temple. It was built on a place where great failure was covered, where great sin was forgiven and redeemed. It was built on a place where the tables were turned on evil and Satan.

The temple served as a foreshadowing of the gospel – God will redeem our failures through substitutionary atonement. He doesn’t ignore the consequences and cost of our prideful sin; he fully bears the cost Himself on our behalf in Jesus. The temple was meant to serve as a constant reminder until Jesus came – He is a God who redeems our failure. In John 2:21, Jesus tells us how his story ultimately fulfills the backstory of the temple. He said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” At the cross, we see that what seemed like the world’s greatest failure and tragedy (the cross) is the world’s greatest redemption.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.       What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      Have you seen how success can be an occasion for pride in your life? How has this looked for you? What has the impact been on the other people in your life? How might we handle success well?

3.      How would you say you usually handle failure? In what ways are you tempted to minimize your failure? How can we find ways to see and feel the impact our pride, sin and failures have on others?

4.      It was said in the sermon that “our failure whether we are living with a religious approach to life or a gospel approach to life.”  What is your reaction to the explanation of this below? What does your reaction to your own failures reveal about you?

·        Sin and failure are the great threats of religion to be avoided with all our energy. Religious people can’t learn from failure so they hide it, blame others or divert all their attention on other people’s failures and sin. Failure crushes the religious person. But sin and failure are not threats to the gospel. In fact, they are – no matter how great – our gateways into gospel renewal. Failure humbles but doesn’t crush the person whose life is built on the gospel.

5.      Do you agree that the greatest places of renewal and worship in our stories and lives will be the places where we have greatly sinned & failed and found a redeeming and forgiving God? Why or why not? How is this true in your life?

6.      How are you most struggling to believe that Renewal comes when we are humbled in our successes and restored in our failures? Share this with your group and close in prayer.