Contemporary Worship Online (8/9)
August 9, 2020
Background Notes Dumb Idea #10: Dead People Go to a Better Place --- Thrive Group Notes Message August 9, 2020
Remind your group members to bring a Bible with them to your Thrive Group. There is value in opening the Bible together with others...and making use of them as we seek to live lives of following Jesus.
Basics: We do not like to think about hell. Pastors, with rare exceptions, don’t like to preach or teach about it. The stereotypical hell, fire, and brimstone preacher barely exists. Few Christians could possibly recall the last time they actually heard a sermon on hell.
Why don’t we talk about it? Because it’s unpopular and it makes us uncomfortable. But why should we talk about it? The Old Testament doesn’t give us profoundly clear teaching on either heaven or hell. We should talk about it because Jesus and other writers in the New Testament talk about it.
If you were to read just Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, 7) you would find references, direct or indirect, to hell in each chapter.
Donald Frisk, late professor at North Park Seminary, in his book Covenant Affirmations: This We Believe, writes: “We cannot disregard the warnings of the New Testament. It is Jesus who speaks most often of ‘eternal fire,’ ‘the outer darkness,’ ‘the weeping and gnashing of teeth’ and ‘the worm that will not die.’ The words are metaphors and symbols which speak of a reality that transcends description. They speak of final separation from God and from the fellowship of a community of love and concern. Hell is the inevitable consequence of a life lived in obstinate and self-centered resistance to God’s love. There is a firm connection between our present life and the future. What we sow, we reap. Strictly speaking, God sends no one to hell; we opt for it or for heaven by the decisions we make in the course of our lives… ‘How can we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2. 3).
Tim Keller, a Presbyterian pastor in New York City, quotes J. I. Packer in trying to find appropriate ways to think about hell. Read this and think about ways to express the meaning of hell and what leads to it.
What is hell, then? It is God actively giving us up to what we have freely chosen-to go our own way, be our own "the master of our fate, the captain of our soul," to get away from him and his control. It is God banishing us to regions we have desperately tried to get into all our lives. J.I.Packer writes: "Scripture sees hell as self-chosen . . . [H]ell appears as God's gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves." (J.I.Packer, Concise Theology p.262-263.) If the thing you most want is to worship God in the beauty of his holiness, then that is what you will get (Ps 96:9-13.) If the thing you most want is to be your own master, then the holiness of God will become an agony, and the presence of God a terror you will flee forever (Rev 6:16; cf. Is 6:1-6.)
What we believe about life after this life -- as Christians -- must find its roots and foundation in the pages of the Bible in general and in the words and life and ministry of Jesus, and the meaning of his death and resurrection. Scripture and with it the voice of Jesus is the “only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct.”
Thrive Group Conversation Dumb Idea #10: Dead People Go to a Better Place --- Thrive Group Notes Message August 9, 2020
There is more material here than you will be able to cover. Read the questions, and consider which you will use. Add a question or topic of your own.
1. Use conversation starter/ice-breakers (10-15 min) to get your group talking. We want to build connections and relationships with each other.
2. Last week we talked about this: that “A Valley means a wrong turn.” That was a false statement, a spiritual urban legend. To say “some valleys mean a wrong turn,” but to say all valleys do would be very wrong.
So listen to our “dumb idea” for this week: ‘Dead people go to a better place.’ You’ve heard that before. Or something like it. What do you think of it? What did you think of it before you heard this week’s message? What sounds good and right when you listen to it? Why do you or did you think that way?
3. What are some reasons that a statement like “Dead people go to a better place” is such a popular idea and such a common expression? There are a number of different reasons. What are some of them?
4. Can you think of a time in personal conversation or a funeral where assurances were offered that someone was, so to speak, in a better place, even though in their life they clearly showed they had no desire in knowing God or following Jesus?
5. Pastor Craig quoted Rebecca McLaughlin: “But are there real consequences to disagreements about religious truth, or does religious truth simply boil down to cultural preference? If I say, ‘Christianity is true, and Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism are not,’ is that like saying, “Stop smoking; it could kill you,’ or is it more like saying, ‘My grandmother’s cooking is better than yours’?”
Does it really matter what we believe about Jesus Christ? Does it really matter how we live? Or ultimately are none of those things really very important at all?
6. The idea that Jesus is the only way to know God and the only way to heaven is profoundly politically incorrect. It’s not polite speech. But the teaching of the Bible is bracing, challenging, and not always comfortable. The teaching of the Bible is often like “Stop smoking; it will kill you”! It’s even become politically incorrect for some Christians.
Take a look at some of these Scripture sentences:
Matthew 7. 13-14
Matthew 10. 28
Mark 8. 36
John 14. 6
As a group, try to put the meaning of these verses into straight-shooting, everyday English.
7. Jesus specifically, and the New Testament in general, calls followers of Christ witnesses. Evangelism -- sharing good news of Jesus Christ with the goal of seeing someone become a follower of Christ and a child of God -- is a calling of the Christian. But it is strongly affected by the conviction of many that everyone is going to heaven anyway. Which impact is most common among Christians -- and why?
A loss of urgency (They’ll go to heaven anyway)
A fear of coming off as arrogant (who are we to say Jesus is the only way?)
A secondary priority (physical and justice needs come first)
7. Read the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. 16-30.
How do you think most Christians would respond if someone came up with the same question today?
What would you tell the person -- and why?