Small Group Leader Prep Page Starting Point Week 7

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It’s possible that Faith is the most confused, misused, and abused concept in religion. Faith really isn’t mystical. To understand the role of faith or belief in a religious sense, we need to step back and examine faith or belief in general. Christians don’t simply believe something is true, we believe something happened. 

Belief Is Powerful

The ability to believe is the most powerful force at humankind’s disposal. Everything that has been done, for good or bad, was done because somebody believed it could or should be done. Every problem that has been solved was solved because somebody believed it could or should be solved. When we believe something is possible, we look for a way until we find a way. 

The ability to believe is one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind.  It’s impossible to imagine life without the ability to believe. You will be happier if you have something to believe in. People of faith are generally happier and faith (or belief) is a power available to everyone. Aim it in a direction and things will happen. 

  • What is something you were once afraid to do that you don’t think twice about now? What changed?
  • “The ability to believe is the most powerful force at mankind’s disposal.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

Belief and Religion.

Religious belief is simply belief applied to things of a religious nature. Some will argue that there’s more to it and that I’m dumbing it down. I’m not. I don’t like mystical representations of Faith. Any faith can be powerful for the person exhibiting faith. BUT, when the OBJECT of faith is significant, then faith becomes something far more.

Religious belief hinges on the statement, “I believe that . . .”  For example, I believe that. . . God hears prayers, rewards the faithful, and punishes evil.  Ancient Jews believed that Abraham left his family and went to a new place because he believed God. The prophet Muhammad believed that the angel Gabriel spoke to him.  Before long, a lot of other people believed that he was a prophet. Sikhs, Buddhists, and Hindus all have beliefs. Even Atheists and Agnostics believe something. 

And, Christians believe that Jesus is God’s Son. 

So, pick a religion, any religion. You’ll be happier with one than without one. But, whatever you do. “Don’t stop believin, Hold on to that fee-e-e-e-lin,” (Journey, 1981). 

So that’s it, right? Let’s close in prayer and carry on.

  • Is trusting in someone or something without knowing all the facts easy or hard for you? Why?

So, if I believe all that, why am I here? 

Why is that not enough? Why am I a Jesus follower? And, How did Christianity survive the first century? 

Consider this: When Jesus died, those closest to Him believed that He was dead.  You see, EVERYTHING Jesus taught was anchored in WHO HE CLAIMED TO BE. It was entirely dependent upon HIM and who He was. Then on Friday, HE WAS NO MORE. He WAS DEAD. Everything He taught was dependent upon Him, without Him his teachings had no foundation.

So, on Friday, ALL of His followers KNEW that He was dead and believed that He would stay that way: Peter, John, Matthew, James, even Mary.  They believed He was a powerful speaker and it got him crucified.  They believed could not be the Messiah they thought He was.  He was dead. They believed He was not the Son of God that He claimed to be.  He was dead, and they believed their lives were in jeopardy.  Because. . . He was dead.

After all that teaching, all those supposed miracles, and all those parables, Jesus’  closest followers lost faith in the end.  They ran away. Peter denied even knowing him. That’s what they tell us about themselves. Jesus’ closest followers lost faith in the end. 

Mohammed’s followers didn’t lose faith when he died. Buddhists don’t lose faith when their Dalai Lama dies. Their teachings are just carried on. 

With JESUS, that wasn’t possible. Everything He taught depended upon Him being alive. And. . . He was dead.

  • Why do you think the Disciples lost their Faith? Why is it that participants of other religions don’t lose their faith when their leaders die?

But, Something Happened

When Peter, John, and company went into the streets of Jerusalem a few weeks after the crucifixion, do you know what the crux of their message was?  It wasn’t, “Believe that Jesus is who we say He is! Believe His teaching is true! Love your neighbor! Blessed are the peacemakers. That’s what you are supposed to do.” They DID NOT take the teacher’s teaching and teach it.

Here was their message. They taught, “You killed Him.  God RAISED Him.  We’ve SEEN Him.  Now, say you’re sorry.” 

Remember the first week when Paul preached in Athens? He didn’t ask the Athenians to believe that Jesus’ teachings were superior to their own philosophers.  He asked them to believe that something happened

Acts 17:31 (NLT) For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

The hinge point for the Christian faith is not, “We believe that something is true. We believe that Jesus was right and everybody else is wrong.” The crux of the Christian Faith is, “We believe that something happened.  We believe that Jesus was crucified for our sin and God raised Him from the dead.”  But we don’t believe it because the Bible says so. 

It’s simpler than that. We don’t have to convert people to the Bible, to Church, or anything else. It is an encounter WITH the realization of a risen Savior who validates the Bible and the Church. 

People believed for hundreds of years before the New Testament was assembled. We believe it because Matthew saw, John saw, Peter saw, James saw, Luke investigated, and Paul (who hated Christians) believed.  They ALL lost their Faith and THEN, those despondent unbelievers became courageous risk-taking evangelists whose primary message was, “We saw Him die. We’ve seen Him since. And none of  us were expecting it.” 

START With Jesus! We believe that when you place your faith in Christ’s death, that single act of faith leads to forgiveness of sin. And that is why we said from the very beginning that the starting point for the  Christian faith is the answer to the question: Who Is Jesus? 

  • What does having faith in Jesus mean?
  • How would you answer the question, “Who Is Jesus?” And, Why?

Used Under License from North Point Ministries