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Loving God, Hearing God

7 Churches

Part One      Part Two      Part Three      Part Four      Part Five      Part Six      Part Seven


Part 1 – Ephesus

John wrote these letters to the 7 churches spread around the province. He often started with an encouragement to them for what they were known for and were good at, but he then often raised something that they needed to improve or repent of. If John was writing a letter to you, what do you have a reputation for doing or not doing? What are you known for?

Engage with God’s Word

Consider Revelation 2:1-7.
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Discuss

  1. Share with the group your initial passion on discovering Jesus and realising His love and plans for your life.
  2. We all have a reputation. How would people describe you at work, at home, or in your neighbourhood?
  3. The Nicolaitans were no different / indistinguishable from the people around them. Are there practices, values and attitudes which distinguish you from those around you? (Revelation 2:6)
  4. What are some of the things that Jesus might commend you for?
  5. In a society where saving face is important it can feel challenging to realise that Jesus knows everything about us, even our motives. Is there a disconnect between the person that we project and the real person that Jesus knows and loves? Discuss. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  6. God wants our heart and our undivided loyalty. In a busy world, how do we allow Him to have first place in our lives? (Matthew 6:32-34;Proverbs 4:23) Respond.

Respond

We already have the capacity to give God exactly what He wants. He wants to have first place in our heart. Spend time this week in God’s presence allowing Him to search your heart and motives and to point out anything that needs to be corrected. To know and experience that place of intimacy with God is a joy beyond comparison.


Part 2 – Smyrna

John opens each of these letters to the churches with a description of Jesus that is pertinent and relevant to the church being (in this case, Smyrna). Here he speaks of the victory that comes after hardship – the One who died and came to life again. Jesus is not a distant God unfamiliar with suffering, but one who has experienced suffering and persecution and who walks through our challenges by our side.

Engage with God’s Word

Consider Revelation 2:8-11.
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Discuss

  1. What is the difference between “suffering” and “persecution” for our faith? (2 Timothy 3:12)
  2. Jesus asks us to live lives that are above reproach. How do you practically bring (be) Jesus into your work/family environment?
  3. Jesus’ response to criticism of our faith is to right-source the problem. He does not condone criticism of people, but rather identifies Satan’s strategy of sweeping people into his destructive schemes. How do you deal with criticism of your faith?
  4. Jesus encourages us to see our life in the light of eternity and the incredible joy that awaits us. Does eternity impact how you live your day to day life, and if not, should it? (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
  5. What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? (Galatians 2:20)
  6. Jesus’ constant encouragement to us is not to be afraid. How do you deal with situations which can cause you to fear and how does your faith impact those situations? (Luke 12:4)

Respond

How do you envisage heaven and being constantly in the presence of Jesus? Spend some moments focusing on our assurance of eternity with God, of no more sin, and of bodies that will not decay. Reflect on the potential of worshipping with a host too big to count. Give thanks to God for the future He has planed for us.


Part 3 – Pergamum

The picture that God is sending to the church at Pergamum is that He is truth, that He is the two-edged sword. Jesus is inviting us into an intimate relationship with Himself. It is in that intimate, vibrant relationship we will become like Him and influence and impact our world.

Engage with God’s Word

Consider Revelation 2:12-17.
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Discuss

  1. Rather than standing up and criticising how people lived their lives, the church simply lived out an alternative set of values and impacted and showed love to the world that way. What do you think of this as a strategy for you today? How can you implement it?
  2. As Christians do we actually expect persecution for being followers of Jesus? (Philippians 1:29)
  3. With such a broad spectrum of beliefs even within Christianity, how do we find where we stand on a topic? (Ephesians 4:13-15)
  4. Compared to outright confrontation, gradual assimilation with people of opposing beliefs is a much more subtle and successful strategy of Satan. How do we safe guard against this?
  5. Which or whose voices do you allow to speak into your life? What filter do you use to recognise these voices?
  6. Intimacy with Jesus is a safeguard against going astray. We affirm this as head knowledge, but what spiritual accountability do we have in place to maintain intimacy with Jesus?

Respond

Being part of a healthy faith community is a great way to be kept accountable and supported. Are you in a trusted faith community with people who can speak into your life and make sure that you are growing spiritually? Take the steps you need to be in a healthy community. God has made us to be in community; it is His method.


Part 4 – Thyatira

In much of the West there are few higher virtues than tolerance. The idea that we would accommodate any and all ideas and lifestyles is trumpeted in newspapers and across social media every day. As followers of Jesus we must know that there are moments and situations where we must embrace the counter-cultural virtue of intolerance. Otherwise we end up standing for nothing in life.

Engage with God’s Word

Consider Romans 6:1-14.
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Discuss

  1. In a society where tolerance is viewed as a virtue, how do we navigate living out the values and standards of Jesus as part of who we are?
  2. Intolerance can also be a virtue. When and where is this appropriate?
  3. We often exercise more tolerance towards ourselves than we do towards others. Discuss.
  4. Are grace and conviction opposites? Discuss.
  5. When we have relational capital and influence we can express our convictions and bring change. Is there a right and wrong way to do this?

Respond

The church at Thyatira was reprimanded for its tolerance of sinful ways. Are there places in your life where this could be true of you? This week take time to let the Holy Spirit bring His conviction and pray quiet prayers of repentance.


Part 5 – Sardis

The only hope for the city of Sardis was the church who now receive this letter. As Jesus speaks He paints this picture of a group of people who had mastered a kind of beige cultural Christianity that didn’t look anything like the worldwide movement that Jesus had started. It was not their morality or them being lukewarm that He calls them on. His single focus is that they weren’t being extended family on mission in a city that had lost its way. They weren’t communities of good news to anyone. They were missing what God was doing & wanting to do in Sardis.

Engage with God’s Word

Consider Revelations 3:1-6.
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Discuss

  1. Read Matthew 10:32-33. Is it possible to live your life as a follower of Jesus and not be “good news” to your world? Discuss.
  2. What does it look like for you to live a “conspicuously spiritual” life?
  3. So much of what Jesus did was cross cultural or counter cultural but was always highly relational and gracious. Jesus method superseded culture, which makes it relevant to all cultures. Discuss.
  4. How do you identify places or people in whom God is at work? Discuss.
  5. What does a “beige” Christian look like?

Respond

Think about your neighbourhood, your family, your workplace/college or the community group you are part of. Are there “people of peace” already in your life that you can identify? They like you, listen to you and want to help you. What is the next step that you can take with them? Commit to that next step and pray for each other.


Part 6 – Philadelphia

Even in the face of adversity, opposition and persecution the believers in ancient Philadelphia persevered resiliently. They lived lives of purpose. They lived lives beyond themselves. The key to their “patient endurance” was their firm focus on Jesus Christ and their unwavering commitment to bring the good news of Jesus to the people around them.

Engage with God’s Word

Consider Revelations 3:7-10.
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Discuss

  1. As a Christian how do you bring “Jesus” to situations when the pressure is on?
  2. In the midst of adversity what happens to your faith and witness?
  3. Hebrews 12:1-3. How do we practically align our lives with Jesus when we are facing challenges?
  4. We persevere when we get our perspective right. Discuss.
  5. “Here is our unstoppable and unfailing Saviour and King” (James Hamilton). Where in life do you need to remember this right now?
  6. How do we look beyond ourselves in perseverance? Discuss.
  7. Biblical perseverance isn’t focused on surviving. It is focused on growth, service and mission. Discuss.
  8. Read Hebrews 6:18-19. How does hope in Christ help you persevere through adversity?

Respond

Take time to talk about key passions you have, opportunities you have or people you are relationally connected to. Decide on one key next step you can make this week to “be and bring good news” to them. It could be a simple act of service or an encouraging word. It could be sharing something you have learned about God recently. It could be asking them to read the Bible with you.


Part 7 – Laodicea

The church at Laodicea has a reputation for self-sufficiency, independence, affluence and pride. These qualities had a toxic effect on their passion for Christ and His mission. They served their own ends, met their own needs and gave little regard for the community and city around them. Jesus confronted them in His letter and denounced the so-called faith as “lukewarm”.

Engage with God’s Word

Consider Revelation 3:14-22.
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Discuss

  1. What is the danger of wealth and self-sufficiency? (Matthew 6:21) Discuss.
  2. Why does the source of our wealth matter or our attitude to our wealth? Discuss.
  3. What does it actually look like to take up your cross daily?
  4. If we cannot tell when our vision is deteriorating and our passion for Jesus is cooling, how do we stay focussed and “white hot”? Discuss.
  5. Does your faith major on your relationship with Jesus or on your moral code? Discuss.

Respond

Take a time of quiet reflection and confession. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas of vulnerability, neglect or disobedience. Confess quietly and humbly in prayer. Read 1 John 1:9. Spend some more time in thanksgiving for Christ’s mercy, power and forgiveness


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