Small Group Leader Prep Page Starting Point Week 4

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A relationship with God is established through trust. Where does the role of rules apply in this relationship? The rules are confirmation of—not a condition of—a relationship with God. God gives rules to those who are in a relationship with Him. From the beginning, the rules were given TO REDEEMED people, NOT to redeem people.

In the journey of faith, this is something we all wrestle with: the role of rules within our relationship with God.

Rules always assume a relationship.

In A Family Model. Parents establish rules for kids. Parents don’t establish rules for other people’s kids . . . though we would like to sometimes. 

In A Club Model. In some cases, an agreement of the rules is how the relationship is established upfront. As an employee, or in a club or fraternity, you may sign a contract or take an oath. The relationship is contingent upon adherence to the rules. 

And, Don’t forget the Neighborhood Association Model. Where they don’t kick you out they just ice you out by not talking to you then leave nasty notes in your mailbox until you remove the above-ground pool and trampoline from your front yard.

In the world of faith and religion, the role of rules gets confusing. Is the role of rules similar to the model our parents establish,  where you don’t get kicked out, just disciplined? Or is the role of rules like the club or employer model, where you are in or out based on compliance? You’ve got to sort all that out in your faith journey. Let’s pick up where we left off last week, with Abraham. 

God fulfilled his promise to Abraham.

Eventually, Abraham had two sons. He had Ishmael with Hagar, Sarah’s servant. Then, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Abraham died before the promise was fulfilled. He did not die a nation— just a dad.

Isaac had a son named Jacob, who God renamed Israel. Jacob had twelve sons. These sons were the descendants of Abraham and were eventually enslaved in Egypt. After waiting 400 years, they finally became a nation—the nation of Israel.

What does Exodus remind you of? Exit? This is the book about the big exit. It’s also the book where we find the Law or Ten Commandments. Three months after they left Egypt, the descendants of Abraham gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai, in the Sinai desert. Moses went up the mountain, and God gave him the Law for the people.

  • Growing up, did you feel like religion was based on the family model, the club model, or the neighborhood association model?

God begins by announcing his relationship with the nation

Not simply his requirements.

Exodus 20:1-2 (NLT) Then God gave the people all these instructions: 2 I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

God assumes a relationship when He calls Himself “your God”. How did that start? When He claimed the obvious credit for the Exodus. He is the God who is our God. He is the God who did something FOR us without requesting anything FROM us.

You might expect God would have said: “I’ll be the Lord your God if you promise to . . . “(I know I would.) Instead, He sends the descendants of Abraham down memory lane to what happened three months earlier. 

Three months earlier, the descendants of Abraham were a nation of slaves. They had no hope, no God, no story, no future, no faith, and no land. Four hundred years of slavery had sapped life and hope out of them. There were a few who held out hope. They had heard the stories of Abraham, but many viewed those as fairy tales. Then, a miraculous thing happened. Out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason, God sent a deliverer. Moses. 

After demonstrating his power, God said to the nation: Trust me. After 10 devastating plagues, Pharaoh finally released the Nation of Israel. They were free. They had done nothing to deserve it; they had simply trusted.

Then God gives them their first official “Thou shalt”. Commandment #1

Exodus 20:3 (NIV) “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Would you be thinking: “Okay, so let me get this straight? We’ve been slaves our entire lives, and out of nowhere, a deliverer shows up, nature goes crazy in our favor, and the next thing you know, we’re headed to our own land and you want to be our God? Hmmm.”

The Ten Commandments were confirmation of—not a condition of— Israel’s relationship with God. God wasn’t giving them laws to “get in.” He was giving them laws because they were already in.

  • Have you ever made rules for someone else? What was the purpose of those rules?
  • What happens to a relationship when someone breaks a rule?
  • In general, how do you react to rules? What rules are the hardest for you to keep?

The story of the Ten Commandments teaches us a new lesson

With God, relationship precedes rules. God opted for the family model over the club model. Israel disobeyed and God, like any good parent, counted to three and then put them back in time-out. God exiled them. Then He brought them back. God refused to give up on His people, even when they gave up on Him.

Furthermore, that relationship was initiated by a single act of trust. Just like we saw last week with Abraham . . . Neither Abraham nor Israel obeyed their way in. Therefore, try as they might, they could not disobey their way out.

A relationship with God is established through trust. So, where does the role of rules apply in our relationship with God? The rules are confirmation of—not a condition of—a relationship with God. God gives rules to those who are in a relationship with Him. 

So… Is God interested in Me?

After all, maybe God just loved Abraham and Israel more than everybody else. Maybe, God plays favorites. To that, one must recall that god’s promise to Abraham and Israel went way beyond them. 

Genesis 18:18 (NLT) “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.

This has always been about the entire world— including you and me. This is why Jesus said, some 1500 years later.

John 1:12 (NLT) But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

  • What is it about a rule that makes it feel controlling instead of caring?
  • Have you entered a relationship with God through the door of faith, or have you been trying to behave your way in? Why or Why Not?

Used Under License from North Point Ministries