1) At the beginning of ch. 2, James calls his audience ‘my brothers and sisters’, echoing the conviction of the New Testament as a whole that Christians have been made ‘children of God by faith in Christ Jesus’ (2 Cor 6:18). Do you think of the members of Ascension as the members of your family? How does this fact change your perception of what it means to belong at Ascension?
2) According to v. 2, ‘believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism’. Favoritism, James says, betrays the gospel of the glorious Lord Jesus Christ because everyone who has received it has received a gift that he or she does not deserve. Because of the new status given us as children of God and co-heirs with Christ, we are to take no account of our former status before we became believers in our relationships with one another. James gives us the example of favoring a rich man who comes into the assembly over a poor man, and Paul gives us other examples (Gal 3:27; Col 3:11) of ways early Christians would be tempted to privilege some over others, and both say that Christ has overcome all such divisions (Eph 2:14-18). What are ways we are tempted to show partiality at Ascension? How might we work to overcome this tendency? How can we help each other as a community to put into practice the unity and equality that James insists upon?
3) Do you struggle with James’s conclusion that ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead?’ (v. 17). In your own words, how would reconcile this statement with the fact that the gospel is a free gift of forgiveness and communion with God, given to you not because of anything good in you, but simply because he loves you?
1. In James 1:18, the Apostle James speaks of us becoming ‘a kind of first fruits of
[God’s] creatures.” What do you think this means in this context and can you give an
example of a situation where you have been a kind of first fruit?
2. “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) Why is
this important and how’s it working for you?!
3. James uses the analogy of a person looking in a mirror and, on going away,
immediately forgetting what they were like. (1:23) What does he mean by this and
when have you had that experience in your own life as a Christian?
4. In chapter 1:25, James writes about “the law of liberty.” Have you experienced God’s
law as the way to freedom in your life and, if so, how?
5. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans
and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (1:27) What
does caring for ‘orphans and widows’ look like in practice for you and how can we
keep ourselves unstained by the world?
1) Mtr. Tish began her sermon with a quote from Pastor John Piper: “Life is war. That’s not all that is, but it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth.” Do you think about your life as a spiritual battle? How would it change your prayer life if you did?
2) In v. 11, Paul tells us to “put on the full armor of God” and in vv. 14-17, he describes the armor we have at our disposal in the gospel. Describe each of these pieces of armor in your own words. Which one(s) intrigue you the most? Which do you most yearn to grow in?
3) Mtr. Tish exhorted us to “trust our equipment” in her sermon. How will you respond to this challenge this week? Name one way in which you will strive to put on the full armor of God this week.
1. Canon Jonathan preached about St. Paul “turning headship on its head.” What did he mean by that?
2. What examples can you give of a marriage (your own or another’s) that look like what St. Paul describes in this passage?
3. Read Eph. 6:1-9, where St. Paul continues his teaching about rightly ordered living. What illustrations can you give of where you have seen this work out in the wider family and/or workplace.
4. In Sunday’s Old Testament reading from Joshua 24, we heard the clear call to “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Josh. 24:15). What are some of the hard choices you face when choosing to serve the Lord?
1) In Eph. 5:15, Paul urges us to ‘redeem the time because the days are evil’. Fr. Jonathan mentioned in his sermon that this passage and others like it spurred the creation of ‘rules of life’ from the early church to the present day. Because we easily develop bad habits that draw us away from Christ over the course of our lives, a rule of life is a devotional discipline that helps us be intentional about our use of time, carving out specific times for worship, prayer, celebration, and fasting. Annie Dillard once wrote, ‘how we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives’, so a rule of life is designed to structure our days and therefore our lives so that they are devoted to Christ first and foremost. Have you ever thought about creating and living by a rule of life? What is compelling or difficult about this idea to you?
2) In Eph. 5:18, Paul says that to be the community that magnifies Christ, we must not be ‘drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery’, but rather ‘filled with the Spirit, speaking to another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit’. For Paul, corporate worship is at the heart of the reorientation of a life away from sin and toward Christ. What part does gathered corporate worship play in your walk with Christ? Why do you think Paul places such a priority on gathered worship, and specifically upon music and offering thanks to God in worship?
3) Fr. Jonathan pointed out in his sermon that in Ephesians Paul casts a cosmic vision for the church, but says that we can only see this cosmic vision through what the local congregation is doing. What is one thing you can do this week to help Ascension truly be the community that reflects Christ?
1) Mtr Tish gave you some homework in her sermon – to be ‘imitators of God, as beloved children’ (5:1), reflecting His kindness to us in our kindness to others this week. Did you do the homework? How is it going?
2) What do you think God feels about our progress and our failures in the Christian life?
3) What is the significance of the fact that Christ is a ‘fragrant sacrifice to God’ (5:2) on your behalf today?
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