TiO 45 – Alpha – How Does God Lead?

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The Main Idea

God leads us in many ways. Hearing the voice of God is important, but equally (or more) important is what areas of leading are most important to him, and to you.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: Who do you go to for advice? If “it depends” then talk about some situations and who your go-to person is.

Q2: When you are decisions do you tend to plan or go on impulse and intuition? How successful does your decision-making method tend to be?

Q3: When making a decision, do you like a lot of options to choose from or only a few?

Dig a Little Deeper

God leads us. Most followers of Jesus would have an experience of his leading in some decision we have made. And, the Bible tells us that we can count on him to provide us with wisdom:

Read James 1:5-8 together.

Q1: What condition does God put on his dispensing of wisdom to us?

The weekend message began with a review of the 5 points from the Alpha video about the leading of God. If you have not already watched this video, perhaps this is a good time to follow the link at the end of this study and hear about the leading of God. Here are the 5 ways from the video:

  • Through Scripture: in the Bible we are told about the sin of people, the promises of God, and how Jesus came to allow us to have a restored relationship with him. In addition, the Bible give us guidelines for living like Jesus.
  • Through the Holy Spirit: in the book of Acts we read about how the Holy Spirit (God himself) was sent to the followers of Jesus to live in them and to guide them. This guidance was sometimes profound and visible but was often subtle.
  • Through the council of others: wisdom is found in other people.
  • Through common sense: there are actions and decisions that just make sense to us.
  • Through circumstance: sometimes our circumstance guides us in a specific direction.

Dennis pointed out that while all of these are important and valid Scripture most often speaks of guidance coming in community: in the context of other people. We are not to approach our lives in Jesus individualistically but, instead, as a community seeking the leading of God.

Q2: Review the five points above and discuss the importance of community in hearing these voices in your decision-making.

Having established that hearing God’s voice is important, Dennis moved on to talk about what areas in our lives God was interested in guiding us. He pointed out that ideas about God’s will, and guidance spanned a spectrum. On the one end the idea that God plans our lives and “orders our steps” and that every choice is essential to staying in the will of God. On the other end is the idea that God cares for us but does not plan our lives. On both ends, and everywhere in the middle, God cares most about us being like Jesus.

 Note about theology: When we make a statement which defines a characteristic of God we are talking about theology, what we know about God. Theology is generally not based on a specific verse in the Bible, instead it is a conclusion based on what we understand to be the evidence we find in Scripture. There are two risks in theology: 1) That we may miss (or ignore) specific evidence in the Bible because of our assumptions and experience; 2) That we might come to the wrong conclusion. That is why we often find that two followers of Jesus can have radically different understandings of specific characteristics of God. The question of his will and how much of our lives he controls or orders is one of those areas.

Q3: Discuss the various ideas in your group about what God “cares” about and which areas in life he might have a specific plan for you. Why doesn’t everyone have the same opinion about these things?

Read Philippians 2:1-8 together

Q4: How does God want followers of Jesus to live? What implication does this have for our lives and our choices?

Next Steps

Whether you believe that God has a specific plan for each area of your life or whether you believe that God only is concerned about whether our choices are sin, our primary obligation is to live our lives with a focus on being like Jesus.

Dennis pointed out three keys to a life lived to follow Jesus

  • Make every decision in the context of “how will this make me more like Jesus?”.
  • Learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
  • Cultivate contentment in your life.

All of these are to be done in the company of others: in the context of community.

Q1: How can asking “how will this make me more like Jesus?” Change the way that you make decisions and the quality of the answers that you get to those questions?

Q2: What does the Holy Spirit sound like? Can you think of a time when you heard his voice or sensed his leading?

Q3: What does it mean to be content? Are there certain areas of your life where contentment is more more difficult to find than others? Talk about one of those areas.

Pray together that you could move towards living your whole life focussed on being like Jesus.

The Scriptures

In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.

These are the scriptures referenced in the sermon.

James 1:5-8 (NRSV)

            If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; , for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Genesis 12:1-3 (NRSV)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Note: This is the “Abrahamic Covenant”. It is this covenant, and echoes of it that flow through the Old Testament and into the new. We (the followers of Jesus) are heirs to this covenant and have the rights and responsibility that come with it.

Philippians 2:1-8

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross. 

Note: I stopped at verse 8 because the rest, the authority that was placed on Jesus, is specific to him and not something that we can claim as a reward for our humility.

Philippians 4:10-14 (NRSV)

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. 

 

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