It's Hard to Talk About Race | Ephesians 2-11-22

Sermon Description

The subject of race is prevalent in our culture, and people are looking everywhere for solutions to one of the oldest problems of the human condition: racism. In this sermon, Rabbi Matt shows us how racial reconciliation is at the very heart of what Jesus came to do through his life, death, and resurrection.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is our culture talking about race so much right now? Why do you think that so many people think that the Bible has nothing to say on the subject, when it is full of teaching on the subject?

  2. When we are “in Christ,” we don’t lose our ethnicity (or gender, per Ephesians 2), but we are woven into the fabric of the community of faith? Why is this such good news?

  3. How does the gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection empower us to be able to have conversations about race?

  4. Where does God want you to repent of sin and grow in his grace? Is there racial animosity or indifference in your heart? Have you been afraid to talk, learn, or grow because you have forgotten the power of the gospel?


Prayer Points

  1. Pray that Jesus would rid our hearts of any shred of racial prejudice or animosity, and that he would fill us with a Christ-like love for all people.

  2. Pray that Jesus would use us to bring his light and healing to a world that is deeply divided by racial animosity.


It’s Hard to Think Biblically About Sexuality | 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

The Bible never shies away from the subject of sexuality. It celebrates sex as a good gift from a loving God, but also warns of the harm that comes when we misunderstand or misuse this precious gift. As Christians, we have come to know that we are not our own, we were bought with a price, so we are now free to follow Jesus and his will for our sexuality.


Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important for a Christian to have a gospel-formed vision of sexuality? Why would it be important for anyone to have a coherent idea of sexuality?

  2. Paul starts this section by laying out the gospel in such a way that it creates categories for righteousness, unrighteousness and redemption. Why is it important to have these categories? Hint: it helps us make sense of all the competing moral frameworks around us. What is good? What is broken? What will be redeemed?

  3. The first objection Paul deals with is an argument from desire. This argument essentially says, “if someone really wants to do something, why would we stop them? But we all have a category for a desire that we resist because we know it’s not good for us or because it doesn’t accomplish our greater goals. What are some examples of these kinds of desires in us, our kids and the people around us?

  4. The second argument is one about freedom and gets to the idea of identity. This argument says, “If I am fundamentally my own person, then I should be the one to decide my behavior.” The gospel tells us that “we are not our own but were bought with a price.” How does this change the way we see ourselves? What are the implications for sexual morality? What are some of the dangers of taking on anything (including sexuality) as your identity?


Prayer Points

  1. Pray that we would be people who are deeply faithful to God’s will for sexuality, and who are deeply committed to practicing grace and love in all things.

  2. Pray for the grace to share the gospel with people who think the Bible’s teaching on sexuality is outdated or confusing.

It's Hard To Be Single (Or, Love Single People Well) | 1 Corinthians 7:32-38

Sermon Description

The experience of “singleness” is something that every person interacts with. While the Bible commends marriage as a good, God-ordained thing, it has some surprisingly positive things to say about singleness. Our Savior, the one who is “the bridegroom,” lived his earthly years as a single, celibate, young man, and yet he was the most fully human and complete person to ever live.

Discussion Questions

  1. How has your life been touched by the idea of “singleness?” Why do you think this topic is often neglected? 

  2. How does our cultural obsession with romantic relationships put an unbearable burden on marriage? How does the gospel help keep human marriage in its proper context?

  3. Read through 1 Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19:1-12. What do these passages say about the value of singleness, even sometimes over-and-above marriage? How do these passages run contrary to our cultural assumptions about romance and marriage?

  4. Whatever gift we currently have—singleness or marriage—how can we use it to help unbelievers see the shape and sufficiency of the gospel?

Prayer Points

  1. No matter your circumstances, pray for deep contentment and satisfaction in Jesus.

  2. Pray that God would use your marriage or your singleness to show people the power and goodness of the gospel.

Jesus, Peter, and John | John 21:15-25

In the concluding section of John’s gospel, the author focuses on Peter and what it looks like for him to follow Jesus that that he has seen the resurrected Christ. The comforts and challenges that Peter receives from Jesus are the same for us today.


Discussion Questions 

  1. What does this passage teach us about the nature of forgiveness and restoration? How can this interaction bring us comfort?

  2. Why do you think that authors/speakers such as Brené Brown are gaining so much popularity? What is it about the message of shame that people need to hear? How is Jesus our ultimate hope for dealing with shame?

  3. What does it mean for you to remain focused on your unique calling? Why is competitive comparison so dangerous? 

  4. How can we more deeply understand and appreciate the gospel so that we can love Jesus more? Why is “just try harder to love Jesus more” such bad advice?



Prayer Points

  1. Pray that your life would be marked by freedom from shame, love for Jesus, and devotion to following his ways.

  2. Pray that we would follow Jesus and fulfill the unique part of the mission that he has given to each of us individually.

Surprised by Jesus | John 21:1-14

Sermon Description

Doubting Thomas has long served as a negative example, but if we are honest—wouldn’t most of us be like him? In this passage, we learn how Jesus meets us in our doubts, and moves us beyond mere pragmatism into an experience of his supernatural grace.


Discussion Questions 

  1. Look at Acts 10:36 and Colossians 1:20. How is peace with God directly linked to the work of Christ on the cross?

  2. What types of doubts do you experience? Where do your doubts turn into unbelief? How does Jesus want to meet you even in your doubts?

  3. Where do you wrestle with bad pragmatism? How will the gospel always stretch us in our desire for absolute certainty?

  4. What is the role of evidence or proof in the Christian faith? What are the limits to this approach, particularly when it comes to evangelism?


Prayer Points

  1. Pray that Jesus would meet you in your doubts and pragmatism. Pray for a soft, believing heart that would trust Jesus even when you can’t understand everything.

  2. Pray for those in your life who have yet to “ believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Pray that they would believe and receive “life in his name.”

Doubting Thomas | John 20:24-31

Sermon Description

Doubting Thomas has long served as a negative example, but if we are honest—wouldn’t most of us be like him? In this passage, we learn how Jesus meets us in our doubts, and moves us beyond mere pragmatism into an experience of his supernatural grace.


Discussion Questions 

  1. Look at Acts 10:36 and Colossians 1:20. How is peace with God directly linked to the work of Christ on the cross?

  2. What types of doubts do you experience? Where do your doubts turn into unbelief? How does Jesus want to meet you even in your doubts?

  3. Where do you wrestle with bad pragmatism? How will the gospel always stretch us in our desire for absolute certainty?

  4. What is the role of evidence or proof in the Christian faith? What are the limits to this approach, particularly when it comes to evangelism?


Prayer Points

  1. Pray that Jesus would meet you in your doubts and pragmatism. Pray for a soft, believing heart that would trust Jesus even when you can’t understand everything.

  2. Pray for those in your life who have yet to “ believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Pray that they would believe and receive “life in his name.”

Who Is It You're Seeking? | John 20:1-18

Every human heart is searching for something—for someone. When we see the empty tomb, we learn that Jesus is what we are all seeking for.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did the disciples not yet understand that Jesus would rise from the dead? How did they miss this important idea?

  2. Why do you think John links the resurrection and the ascension in this section? Why is it important to avoid conflating the two?

  3. What, in your life, are you searching for? What drives you? How are those desires ultimately met in Jesus?

  4. How can we be more like Mary Magdalene and tell others that Jesus is no longer dead, but he has risen.

Prayer Points

  1. Pray that your longings would find their satisfaction in Jesus.

  2. Pray to be like Mary Magdalene, saying to all who will listen “I have seen the Lord.”

Death That Brings Life | John 19:31-42

Jesus’ death, the most tragic and heartbreaking thing to ever happen, is what brings about the incredible reality of eternal life.


Discussion Questions

  1. Share a time in your life where something good only came through something difficult. How does that situation point us toward what happened through Jesus’ death?

  2. What is the significance of blood and water flowing? Of the various explanations put forth, which one resonates most with you? Why?

  3. Where do you need to experience the cleansing effects of Jesus’ death?

  4. How does Jesus want to grow you to be more courageous? 


Prayer Points

  1. Ask Jesus to help you to truly find your life in him, not seeking life in other sources that leave you empty.

  2. Pray for courage like Nicodemus and Joseph, that you would be willing to be identified with Jesus no matter the cost.

Fear of Man | John 19:6-16

Both Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders serve as examples of what happens when people don’t fear God, but instead give place to the fear of man. When we consider the gospel of Jesus, we see how the fear of man kills, but the fear of God brings life.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Who is somebody in your life who, from your perspective, does a good job of fearing the Lord rather than man? What does this look like in their life?

  2. Why is fear of man such poison? Why do we fall into it so easily? Where do you personally struggle with fear of man?

  3. What does it mean that not all sins are the same? What does this not mean? Why is this understanding important? 

  4. What do you think that Joseph and Nicodemus were like after going “all in” with Jesus? How can we learn and grow from their example?

Prayer Points

  1. Pray that God would help you to see where you place too much priority on the opinions of man and not enough on him.

  2. Pray for boldness, like that of Joseph and Nicodemus. Pray that you would seek to share the gospel of Jesus no matter what the cost.

My Kingdom is Not of This World | John 18:28-19:5

In his interaction with Pontius Pilate, Jesus utters the famous phrase, “my kingdom is not of this world.” In this scene, Jesus shows us how he interacts with the powers of the world, and invites us to follow him as we live and interact with earthly powers and institutions.


Discussion Questions 

  1. Read Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15, and Luke 23:1-25. What do these other passages show us about Pontius Pilate and his motivations? What do we see about Jesus and his relation to earthly power?

  2. Why is it so hard for us to live as citizens of the Kingdom, not of the world but for the world. What would be different in our earthly institutions if we more fully embodied his kingdom?

  3. In what way is the gospel “political” and in what ways is it not? How can we help one another avoid falling into the trap of using Jesus to further our earthly political agendas?

  4. How can we reach people in our area with the gospel of Jesus when so many people think of Christians as “political” in the wrong ways? How can we correct wrong perceptions without throwing fellow Christians under the proverbial bus?

Prayer Points

  1. Pray that we, as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, would know where our true allegiance lies, and that we would wisely interact with earthly powers and institutions.

  2. Pray for God to use us as a church to bring the goodness of his Kingdom to our neighborhoods, communities, cities, and region.

Jesus is Arrested | John 18:1-27

We all want to be courageous, but far too often we give in to fear. Other times, our courage is misguided because we act rashly or without all the information. The good news is that Jesus, the truly courageous one, has saved us so that we can live godly and courageous lives.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What people in your life make you feel brave? What is it about them that gives you courage? How can you borrow that from them?

  2. Think through the gospel from the perspective of Jesus’ courage. Why is it important to remember the courage that Jesus displayed from start to finish?

  3. What does true integrity look like? Who do you know that lives with tremendous integrity? How can we be truthful in all circumstances? 

  4. What fears do you have, or where do you lack courage? What beliefs might be underneath those fears? How does Jesus want to help you grow in courage for the sake of mission?

Prayer Points

  1. Pray that Jesus would make Sound City a courageous church, full of wisdom, truth, and love.

  2. Pray for opportunities to be courageous in sharing the gospel with people.

Unity in the Church | John 17:20-26

Sermon Description

Unity is one of the more sought-after experiences in our culture. With Jesus, true unity is very difficult to achieve; without Jesus, it’s basically impossible. As Christians, our unity directly reflects our understanding and experience of the gospel.


Discussion Questions

  1. Who do you know that is very different from you, but that you love and appreciate? How have you learned from them? How have they shaped and challenged you?

  2. Which “unity ditch” are you more prone towards: forcible uniformity, or conflict avoidance? How does God want you to learn a healthier definition of unity?

  3. What are some of the main differences between true and false unity? How can we contend for truth without becoming combative? How can we practice humility without giving up on standards?

  4. How can we, as believers, work toward unity in a way that makes the world take notice?


Prayer Points

  1. Pray that you, as an individual, would cultivate a heart of true biblical unity towards the body of Christ.

  2. Pray that we, as a church family, would display true unity. And pray that this unity would be a witness to a watching world.


Further Study

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/political-polarization.html 

  • https://news.usc.edu/110124/political-polarization-at-its-worst-since-the-civil-war-2



Ask and Receive | John 16: 21-25

In the upper room discourse, Jesus invites his disciples to “ask anything in my name.” If Jesus is as truthful and powerful as he claims to be, then why do so many of us neglect to take Jesus up on this offer? Jesus wants us to pray, and gives us profound truth that helps us do so with confidence.

Discussion Questions

  1. Where do you experience a wrong mindset when it comes to prayer? How can others in your life help you remember the relational foundation of prayer?

  2. Have you experienced disappointments in prayer, or what has felt like unanswered prayer? How can others help you bring those disappointments to God?

  3. How can we lean into the tension between asking Jesus for “anything/whatever,” while understanding that Jesus wants our prayers to be shaped by his glory and character?

  4. How are our prayers connected to mission, evangelism, and service? How does Jesus want to use your prayers to see his kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven?


Prayer Points

  1. As you pray this week, focus on the relational foundation of prayer. Rather than starting with a list of requests, begin with praises, with language of abiding, and thankfulness for the gospel.

  2. Pray missional prayers, and thank God that he is working and doing things even while we sit and pray.

My Father's House | John 14:1-4

Jesus spoke about being from heaven, about bringing heaven to earth, and about heaven and earth becoming one. But few subjects in the Christian faith are as often misunderstood as heaven. A right understanding of heaven enables us to experience Jesus, frees us from fear, and fuels us for mission.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think there are so many wrong ideas about heaven? How can we help one another to think biblically about this important subject.

  2. Why is it important that we understand the gospel in bigger terms of just “going to heaven when you die?” What did Jesus say about the relationship between heaven and earth?

  3. Where do you currently experience fear, worry, or anxiety? How does right thinking about heaven provide perspective and relief?

  4. How can mission and service go wrong in the life of a believer? How does thinking about heaven provide the fuel that we truly need?

Prayer Points

  1. Thank God that your citizenship is in heaven, and pray for those who have yet to receive Jesus, the one who came from heaven.

  2. Pray that God would remind us of our eternal hope, and that this hope would minister to our fears and anxieties.

Additional Resources

  • Heaven and Earth video from the Bible Project

  • Heaven and Hell book by Edward Donnelly

  • Surprised by Hope book by N.T. Wright

  • Heaven short tract by J.C. Ryle

The World | John 15:18-25

The word “world” (Greek: kosmos) is the second-most used word in the gospel of John. Needless to say, how followers of Jesus live and interact with the world is an extremely important topic, one that requires careful thought, intentional action, resilience, and Christ-like love.

Discussion Questions

  1. Of the negative ways for a Christian to interact with the world, which are you most prone toward and why: non-engagement, going along with culture, or hostility toward culture?

  2. How does God’s love for the entire world differ from his love for those who have trusted in Jesus? Why is this distinction important? Where do we need to be careful with this distinction?

  3. Have you experienced hatred, resistance, or pushback from “the world” in your Christian walk? Share your experience with your group. How does Jesus want to grow you in perseverance and deep love?

  4. What avenues has God “sent” you into the world? How do you need to grow as a faithful and loving witness to the gospel of Jesus?

Prayer Points

  1. Pray that we, as a church, would know how to wisely engage with the world, even when there is opposition or pushback.

  2. Pray for opportunities to love your enemies like Jesus has loved us.

Love and Obedience | John 14:15-24

Time and time again throughout the upper room discourse, Jesus makes it clear that there is a close connection between love and obedience. If this is true, why so often do we find it so difficult to obey him?


Discussion Questions

  1. In general, why do you struggle with obedience: ignorance, pride, or injury? Expound and explain with your group.

  2. Specifically, where is God prompting you to respond to his love with obedience? Is there any partial obedience happening currently? What joy are you missing out on because of this disobedience?

  3. How is Jesus’ perfect obedience our only hope? How does his love actually fuel our obedience?

  4. How can we help one another be the type of disciples who obey joyfully, while at the same time keeping the gospel at the forefront of our message?


Prayer Points

  1. Take time to repent of pride or ignorance that would lead you to disobey Jesus.

  2. Pray for yourself or others who have been wounded by bad authority. Pray that we would be able to obey Jesus because his authority is perfectly loving.

  3. Pray for those who are not yet Christians and think that following Jesus is just about keeping all the rules. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with them.

Vine and Branches | John 15:1-11

Jesus uses many metaphors and images to describe his ministry, but perhaps no metaphor is so deeply woven into the biblical narrative as that of a garden. God is the gardener, and Jesus is the true vine, the one whom we must be connected to in order to have life.

Discussion Questions

1. Think through the storyline of the Bible through the lens of “garden.” Why is it significant that the story begins in a garden and ends in a garden city? How does God want us to think about our work in the world?

2. Where, apart from Jesus, are you prone to seek love and joy? How is he asking you to turn from those sources of life and remain connected to him?

3. How do those around you help you stay connected to the vine? How can you help and encourage others to remain connected to Jesus?

4. How might the use of imagery, story, and metaphor better help you to share the gospel with non-Christians in your life?

Prayer Points

1. Take time to pray individually this week, reminding yourself that this is one of the key ways that you abide in Jesus.

2. Pray for opportunities to invite others into relationship with Jesus. Remind yourself that what we see as dead branches can be brought to life by being connected to Jesus!

For Further Study:

https://derekzrishmawy.com/2012/12/07/9-reasons-the-garden-of-eden-was-a-temple