Introduction.

At Riv, we know it is easy to get lost in the crowd. That’s why we are intentional about getting smaller as we get bigger. The primary way we do this is through Life Groups.

Each week, we provide our Life Groups with study material to use in their meetings. During this series we will be planning and praying how to not only live and give questionably as individuals but how we are going to do it together in community.

To read more about what this whole “Living Questionably” thing is about, check out:

livequestionably.com

A Questionable Mission Like Jesus.

John 4:1-42


Insights

Crossing Boundaries

Jesus went down into the region of Samaria, an area Jews typically avoided because of their racial prejudice against the Samaritans. Jesus not only crossed social boundaries by going into Samaria, but he went even further across racial and cultural boundaries by striking up a conversation with a Samaritan – and not just any Samaritan, but a woman (who at the time were considered lesser than men) that wasn’t even accepted by her own people because of her scandalous lifestyle.

Sowing and Reaping

Jesus shared with the Samaritan woman the Good News of a God who had come to provide eternal life to anyone and everyone who believed. He “sowed” this truth. She, in turn, went out and testified to many people, “reaping a harvest.” Jesus encouraged his disciples to do the same and share the truth they knew with others.

God Using the Lowly

The Samaritan woman, by human logic, was one of the last people we would think God would have chosen to spread his message. But God’s logic is not human logic. Even when the woman went out to tell her testimony, she still didn’t have everything totally figured out (In John 4:29 she was still asking, “Could he possibly be the Messiah?). Despite her status as an outcast and her lack of schooling, she went out and boldly told everyone she could about Jesus. Her testimony made a huge impact on the town and many Samaritans came to Christ. Even though we may appear to be “unqualified,” if we simply point people to Jesus, God can be glorified.

What’s culturally seen as “questionable” in this passage?

Jesus going through Samaria was questionable. Jews usually wouldn’t step foot in Samaria due to racial tension.

Jesus interacting with this person was highly questionable because of the following:

  • She was a Samaritan: Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans.
  • She was a woman: Men at this time didn’t speak with women in public.
  • She was a sinner: Her scandalous reputation ostracized her even from her own people. She went to the well at noon probably in order to avoid the crowds – the normal times for gathering water were the coolest parts of the day, at morning and night.
  • She was unclean: According to Jewish Law, it would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean if he used her cup or jar. He not only spoke to her but actually asked for a drink. This shocked her.
  • Jesus crossed racial, social, cultural, and religious boundaries in order to share the gospel.

Jesus continued to pursue the woman in their conversation even when the woman didn’t understand things at first. He didn’t give up or get frustrated because of her ignorance; instead he continued talking with her, directly yet gently revealing truth.

Other Scripture

Matthew 9:37
Luke 10:2
John 3:17
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Galatians 3: 26-29
God as “Living Water” – Psalm 36:8-9; Psalm 42:1 ; Isaiah 55:1; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:3; Zechariah 13:1; John 7:37

Conversation

    • What are some racial, social, or cultural boundaries that exist in our culture? Is Jesus really calling us to leave our own comfort zones and reach beyond these boundaries?.
    • Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes. If you knew the woman’s background, what would you have thought when you saw Jesus talking with her? Are there any “outcasts” that you personally avoid talking to or interacting with?
    • Notice the way Jesus presents the Gospel to the woman at the well. What are some things we can take from His example in how we share the Gospel with non-Christians?
    • At first, the Samaritan woman was only interested in what Jesus had to say because she thought it’d make her life easier and satisfy her worldly needs (John 4:15). How do we sometimes misunderstand the message of Jesus, thinking that accepting Jesus will simply make life “easier,” “happier,” or “worry-free?” What does Jesus actually promise?
    • The Samaritan woman had tried to satisfy her “thirst” with earthly things, specifically men. What are some things that people – or that you – might try to satisfy your “thirst” with?
    • When the woman at the well realized that Jesus offered “living water” (a spiritual life far more important than her worldly life) she left her water jar (worldly concerns) at the well and ran out to tell people about Jesus. What are some ways that we can leave our “water jars” at the feet of Jesus in order to focus on telling people about Christ?
    • The Samaritan woman, by human logic, was one of the last people we would think God would have chosen to spread his message. But God’s logic is not human logic. (see Insights: God Using the Lowly above) Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 and discuss how God used the Samaritan woman, and how he might use you, to tell others about Christ.
    • What are some ways that you or your life group can intentionally cross boundaries in order to “proclaim the liberating power of the Gospel” to others? In other words, how can you “live questionably” together?
Living Questionably.

1 Peter 3:8-18, Colossians 4:2-6


Insights

Suffering for Christ

Doing good and serving God doesn’t mean you won’t suffer. In fact, sometimes being a Christian leads to suffering. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have hope. As Christians, our hope isn’t in this world, it’s in Christ and eternal life. 1 Peter was written during a time when Christians were being severely persecuted for their faith. Peter instructed them (and instructs us) to respond to suffering in a unique way because when we do, it causes people to ask why. When they ask why, the answer is Jesus.

Christ suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually for our sake. Whenever we suffer for the name of Christ, we are united in Him because we are doing the same as He did. How we respond to our own suffering can be a picture of how Christ suffered for us, a powerful picture that points our friends who are watching us to Christ.

Unique Living

1 Peter 3:8 lists five qualities that we as Christians are to live out:

  1. Unity of Mind/Harmony

    When we are all pursuing Christ above everything else, we must be united with the same focus of mind.

  2. Sympathy

    We are to understand the needs of others around us and respond to them.

  3. Brotherly Love

    The love here it is the Greek word “philadelphos,” which refers to the love between fellow family members.2 As Christians, we are all part of the same family as children of God and are to love and treat each other as sisters and brothers.

  4. Tender Hearts/Compassion

    We should be aware of the people that are suffering around us and want to relieve them of their pain.

  5. Humility

    We put God and others above ourselves.

These attitudes are radically different than what people are used to experiencing in our culture. When we simply live out these qualities, people can’t help noticing a difference.

Self-Effort Vs. God-Reliance

We do not develop the qualities Peter urges us to have in 1 Peter 3 by trying to muster them up or working to “do better.” So how do they happen? In 1 Peter 3:15 we see that these things flow out of us when we set up Christ as Lord of our life. We can treat others in this rare way because, as it tells us in the verse 18, Jesus did exactly this for us.

Christ-focused vs. Self-focused

Paul is writing to his friends from prison, and what is his one prayer request? It’s not, as we might expect, for his release. All he asks for them to pray about is an opportunity for him to share Christ. Instead of asking God for his own door of freedom, he wants God to use him to provide spiritual freedom for others. This request is a fine example of humility and compassion in Paul’s life and attitude.

Seasoned with Grace

Our discussions with others about Christ ALWAYS need to begin with grace and to be seasoned with grace throughout. The Gospel is about God’s grace, and it’s important to share Jesus’ accordingly. Paul talks about our message being “seasoned with salt.” Season your conversations with grace so people will enjoy the taste and will be thirsty for more.

What’s culturally seen as “questionable” in these passages?

Living out the teachings of 1 Peter 3 and Colossians 4 is contrary to our world and our flesh. When we are hurt, our instinct is to hurt back. We tend to think about ourselves first and we are more likely to avoid suffering. We typically aim to take the easy way out and put forth the least amount of effort required; however, through Jesus God shows us another, better way. When we live in a way contrary to the majority, when we have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, tender hearts and humble minds, we live questionable lives that ultimately bring glory to God.

Other Scripture

Psalm 34:12-22
Matthew 5:39
Romans 12:17
Ephesians 4:32
1 Peter 2:19-25
James 3:17-18

Conversation

  • Read through the qualities in 1 Peter 3:8. Which one is most challenging for you?
  • Have you ever suffered because you were a Christian? How so?
  • 1 Peter 3:11 (where Peter is quoting from Psalm 34) talks about “seeking peace and pursuing it.” Keeping peace is not a passive act – sometimes we have to work hard to maintain it. What does it mean to “keep peace”? Is there anything you could change in your life right now in order to pursue more peace?
  • Sometimes living out Jesus’ calling for our lives can lead to suffering, which can seem scary, but we are told in 1 Peter 3:14 not to fear. Do you ever fear the suffering that could come from living fully for Jesus?
  • What do the two passages (1 Peter 3:8-18; Colossians 4:2-6) tell us about how we are to witness to others? In our culture, faith is often viewed as something that should be private. Do you agree with this? When we do share our faith, what approach do these passages say we are to have?
  • In Colossians 4:2 we are instructed to “devote ourselves to prayer.” What does this look like?
  • The way we act should make people ask, “Why? Why do you act like that? What’s different about you?” Has anyone ever asked you this?
  • Are you ready to give an answer to people when they ask “Why?” Have they? Would they?

What opportunities do you or your life group have with outsiders right now? How could you make the most of this opportunity to “live questionably?”

Giving Questionably.

1 Chronicles 21


Insights

Two Good Desires

In 1 Chronicles 21 we see two men (David and Ornan) who both have godly desires. David hopes to buy the land from Ornan so he can build an altar to the Lord, while Ornan wants to give it to him free of charge. Eventually, David wins out and pays Ornan for the land, saying, “I will not take to the Lord what is yours, nor burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (1 Chronicles 21:24). In this passage, both of these men have generous hearts as they engage with one another. They each put godly desires above their own interests. In our lives, we can align our desires with God’s through time spent studying the Word, through prayer, and through participation in a generous community.

Giving to Please, not Appease

Our understanding of God’s character affects our attitude towards giving. One reason people think they should give is because they think God needs it. We see in Scripture that this isn’t the case. In Acts 17:24-25 it says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Everything on this earth belongs to God. Why would he need anything from us?

Another reason people sometimes think they should give is to “appease” God or satisfy a demand that God has given to us. When people give with this understanding, they see God as a debt collector who is never fully satisfied with what we have given. We see in Scripture that God’s wrath, or just punishment for our sin, was fully satisfied by Jesus death on the Cross. Jesus, the perfect God-man, was the only one who could fully satisfy the wrath of God because he was the only one who never sinned. When God sees those of us who have put their faith in Jesus, he does not see those whom he will punish for their sin. Instead, He sees his sons and daughters who have been made righteous by the blood of His son. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 it says, “For our sake, He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So why should we give? Why have generous hearts and attitudes? We should give out of the love and grace that we have received from God himself. When we understand how far we were from God because of our sin and how close we are now because of Christ’s salvific work on the Cross, a natural outflow of that is to be generous with everything we have. Our lives should echo John the Baptist’s words about Jesus: “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30)

What’s culturally seen as “questionable” in this passage?

The attitudes of David and Ornan are uniquely generous as they interact with one another. Their thoughts and desires toward God lead them to make a decision that allowed God to be glorified.

Other Scripture

Acts 2:42-45
Romans 3:24-25
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
James 1:5-8

Conversation

  • What stuck out to you from this week’s sermon?
  • What are some ways you can cultivate an attitude of generosity in your daily life? It might be helpful to think about different aspects of your life (time, finances, serving, etc.) and consider specific ways to increase your generosity.
  • Why is it so important to have correct motivation for generosity? Explain.
  • Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. What are some ways that Paul encouraged the Corinthians to think about their giving?
  • How can you, together as a Life Group, give questionably?
A Questionable Plan.

1 Chronicles 28:1-29:13


Insights

A Father’s Commission

In his commission to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9, David charges Solomon to focus on three things. First, he tells him to “know the God of your father.” David understands that a healthy understanding of God’s character is an absolute necessity for the work that Solomon is about to undertake. Knowledge of God and his ways comes from immersing ourselves in the Bible, his perfect Word to us. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The second charge he gives Solomon is to “serve him with a whole heart and willing mind.” In order to succeed in what Solomon is about to undertake, he must do so with his full attention. Too often in our lives we let things other than God capture our hearts and minds. David’s reminder to his son is a sobering reminder for us to keep God and our relationship with him central as our motivation to serve.

The third and final way David encourages Solomon is with a warning: “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” The continual pursuit of God is essential in the life of any believer. Pushing forward in our spiritual lives empowers us to know what God desires for us and aligns our hearts with his. After his charge to Solomon, David encourages him with a reminder, “The Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.” (1 Chronicles 28:10)
A Necessary Plan

Have you ever tried to build something without instructions? Although that sofa or table looks easy enough, building it correctly requires a plan. David shows Solomon the details of the plan that he will follow. He outlines how many supplies he will need, the specific pieces he needs to build, and who should help him. Whether you’re building something, getting healthier, or growing in your spiritual life, having a plan is essential. A plan enables you to see growth and change what you need to in order to best move forward. Like Solomon, we often need accountability and help at sticking with plans we have in our lives to grow spiritually and give generously.

Rejoicing over their Offerings

In 1 Chronicles 29:9, we get a glimpse into what happened after everyone had given to the building of the temple. David offers what he is going to give to the project, and that leads to others sharing what they are going to give. Verse 9 says, “Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord.” As believers, we experience joy when we give out of willingness and without compulsion. Think about a time when you gave out of the desire to help someone and not for yourself. When this happens, we share in what Christ has done for us as He, out of love, gave Himself for us. In Galatians 1:3-4 it says, “the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.”

What’s culturally seen as “questionable” in this passage?

Joy in our spiritual lives comes from giving freely and willingly. In our culture, typically the focus is on receiving rather than giving. When we choose to be generous, we not only receive joy in knowing that we are being faithful to what has been entrusted to us, but we challenge the watching world to “question” this choice of lifestyle.

Preparation and planning are key to growing in any area of life. Plans give us a direction to go and a goal to achieve. When we develop a strategy to serve others, it allows us to be at our best as we serve, which in turn will raise the “question” of why we’re doing it in the first place.

Other Scripture

Proverbs 16:3,9
Isaiah 53:10
Romans 8:32
1 Timothy 6:18

Conversation

  • What stuck out to you from this week’s sermon?
  • Where in your life do you have a plan? Spiritual growth? Physical fitness? Financial giving? How does having a plan effect this areas?
  • How does accountability help when growing in your faith or in spiritual disciplines? Why do you think is so?
  • What does it look like for you to “rejoice in the Lord” like they did in 1 Chronicles 29:9?
  • How can the group pray for you?
Committed to Being Questionable.

Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:26; 2 Corinthians 5:15


Insights

Baptism

Throughout the book of Acts, people were be baptized as a response to their faith in Jesus. Baptism is an outward demonstration of the inward love we have for God. The act of baptism is similar to a wedding band. A wedding band is a physical piece of jewelry that reminds us of the commitment we have made before God to our spouse. Baptism is a visible and tangible act that symbolizes the relationship that we have with God through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Baptism does not accomplish salvation but is done to symbolize the death of our old sinful selves and the raising up of our new life in Jesus.

Before Jesus ascends into heaven, he gives his disciples the great commission. He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” If you are a committed follower of Jesus, Jesus’ command for you is to be baptized.

The Lord’s Supper

At the last Passover meal with the disciples, Jesus breaks bread and shares wine with his disciples. Luke 22:19-20 says this, “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

As believers, we take communion to remember what Jesus did for us on the Cross. By eating the bread and drinking the wine, we are saying that we have committed our lives to him and believe that his body was broken and his blood was shed for us. While baptism is something we do once to symbolize our faith, the Lord’s supper is taken continuously throughout the life of a believer as a reminder for us. In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Giving

There is a surprising amount of teaching in the Bible about money. One of the reasons God addresses money so frequently is because the temptation to acquire wealth is so alluring. In Matthew 6:23, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Note that Jesus does not say it is wrong to have money or to spend money, but it is idolatry when money becomes your master. When something has mastery over you, it dictates how you act, how you speak and how you live. If money has mastered you, you tend to see your worth and value in light of how much money you have. Our value needs to be seen in light of the Cross, where Jesus bought us with His own life. When we commit to being generous in the giving of our finances, we show that our trust is in the one who “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

What’s culturally seen as “questionable” in these passages?

Committing to something requires sacrifice. By committing to be baptized, take communion, or give, we are focusing on Jesus and the Gospel more than our wants and desires. In our culture, these decisions will likely raise the “question” of why we are choosing sacrificial living in the first place.

Other Scripture

Matthew 28:19-20
Luke 22:14-23
Acts 2:42-47
Acts 4:32-35
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Ephesians 2:8-9
Colossians 2:8-15

Conversation

  • What stuck out to you from this week’s sermon?
  • Name something that you are committed to in your life. How does that commitment affect how you think, how you live, and how you make decisions?
  • Have you been baptized? If so, share your baptism story. If not, share your reservations about being baptized.
  • Take communion together as a life group while going through 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 together.
  • Have you committed to giving regularly at Riv? If so, describe your experience. If not, what’s holding you back?
Reading Plan.

It’s All About the Text.

Here’s a reading plan to get you in the Bible a little each weekday as we go through this series. There’s a little in the Old Testament and a little in the New Testament that goes along with what passage we looked at the previous weekend. As you read, think about what’s questionable in the text and how you could learn from it.

Week 1

Day 1 – John 4
Day 2 – John 4:1-26, Matthew 9:37, Luke 10:2
Day 3 – John 4:27-42, John 3:17, Gal 3:26-29
Day 4 – John 4, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Day 5 – Psalm 36:8-9, Psalm 42:1, Isaiah 55:1, Jeremiah 2:13

Week 2

Day 1 – 1 Peter 3:8-18
Day 2 – Colossians 4:2-6
Day 3 – Psalm 34:12-22, Matthew 5:39
Day 4 – Romans 12:17, Ephesians 4:32
Day 5 – I Peter 2:19-25, James 3:17-18

Week 3

Day 1 – I Chronicles 21
Day 2 – Acts 2:42-45, Romans 3:24-25
Day 3 – 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, James 1:5-8
Day 4 – 1 Chronicles 21:1-17
Day 5 – 1 Chronicles 21:18-30

Week 4

Day 1 – 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:15
Day 2 – 1 Chronicles 28:1-10, Proverbs 16:3-9, 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Day 3 – 1 Chronicles 28:11-21, Isaiah 53:10, Galatians 1:3-4
Day 4 – 1 Chronicles 29:1-15, Romans 8:32, 1 timothy 6:18
Day 5 – 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:15

Week 5

Day 1 – Acts 8:26-40, Matthew 28:19-20
Day 2 – John 1:19-34, Colossians 2:8-15
Day 3 – Luke 22:14-23, Acts 4:32-35
Day 4 – Matthew 26:17-29, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Day 5 – Acts 2:36-47, Ephesians 2:1-10