Everybody loves a good story. When someone tells a story in just the right way, there’s something that happens that makes you lean in and pay attention. In this study series, we take a look at some of the stories Jesus told through parables.
Jesus said: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins.” With these words He invites all who follow Him to live lives that embrace God’s present activity in and through us. We are called to face life with a flexible, nimble mindset that is not bound by our past and that leans into the Spirit’s work.
Read Luke 5:33-39. To help get a good understanding of the passage, try to describe what is happening or being said in your own words. Take a moment to reflect and note down what stands out as important, significant or meaningful to you. What does this passage tell us about God? What does this passage tell us about people? How does this passage change how we live?
1. It is human nature to prefer the known. How well do you deal with change in your life?
2. If we are a new creation, how can we become more like Jesus if we get stuck in our old ways?
3. What area of my faith expression is inflexible? Where is Jesus challenging me to be more flexible? What can I do about this?
4. Read Luke 5:30. What was the underlying concern of the Pharisees that prompted this question from them? Do you try to manage your own reputation?
5. Who or what has the greatest influence on your decision making?
6. Read Luke 5:36-38. How can these verses apply to you at the present time?
While we recognise that Jesus is unchanging in who He is, we also know that we need to be flexible in the way that we communicate about Him to each new generation. This may mean a totally different approach to the way that we grew up with, or a style that we held dearly. Think of a mindset or ministry area that you currently hold onto, that God may be asking you to be more flexible with. If being flexible with this is a way to better communicate who Jesus is to the next generation, are you willing to change? Take a moment to hand this over to Jesus in prayer.
In the parable of the sower Jesus describes the idea that God wants you to grow and to flourish in life. God wants you to be able to love somebody tomorrow that you couldn’t love yesterday. He wants you to find that sin has less and less hold on you. He wants you to be able to share your faith with greater boldness and effectiveness simply because it’s so central to your life. God’s desire for you is that you pray more deeply, speak more truly, rejoice more fiercely and forgive more freely every day and every year of your life.
Read Mark 4:1-20. To help get a good understanding of the passage, try to describe what is happening or being said in your own words. Take a moment to reflect and note down what stands out as important, significant or meaningful to you. What does this passage tell us about God? What does this passage tell us about people? How does this passage change how we live?
1. The Bible gives many and varied ways that God speaks to his people; what are some ways that God has spoken to you?
1 Samuel 3:8-10. The young Samuel initially didn’t recognise God’s voice. How do you recognise God’s voice from other thoughts and ideas that you may have?
3. Read Mark 4:15-20. What are some of the competing priorities in our lives that can steal away our focus on God?
4. What can we do to enable us to hear clearly from God? What hinders us from hearing from God?
5. How can we cultivate a healthy heart towards God? What does this require us to do?
6. It is one thing for us to hear from God, but a totally different reality for us to obey Him. Why is this such a struggle for us? What could we do to have a “Yes Lord” response to what God asks of us?
7. How does our relationship with God correlate to our obedience to him? In light of this, what prevents our obedience to Him?
Spend a few minutes together now to pray with and for each other. Ask: what are you facing in your life right now where your next step is to surrender your will to the Lord’s? As you pray, acknowledge that you depend on your Heavenly Father every day for everything you need.
Jesus taught the crowds with parables, short “stories that stick”, which captured powerful truths about God’s kingdom. They helped people understand for themselves the character of God and His will for their lives. When He taught them about the Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast, He pointed them to the thought that we all shape our lives around ideas that we embrace. However small they start out, they can have powerful effects on our lives. It was like Jesus was asking people: “Which ideas are shaping your life?”
Read Matthew 13:31-33. To help get a good understanding of the passage, try to describe what is happening or being said in your own words. Take a moment to reflect and note down what stands out as important, significant or meaningful to you. What does this passage tell us about God? What does this passage tell us about people? How does this passage change how we live?
1. Jesus used symbolism interchangeably in the parables. Therefore we cannot take one meaning and use it all the way through. How would you explain the parable of the mustard seed? (Matthew 13:31-33)
2. What encouragement do you draw from the potential of small things in God’s hands?
3. What idea has had the greatest impact on your life?
4. Has God placed a conviction in your heart that you need to respond to? If so, what are you doing about it?
5. When was the first time you became aware of God being a reality? How has this changed your life and your values?
6. How do we undo a pathway forward in life that we either know or sense is not God’s choice?
7. What convictions have we allowed to become embedded in our lives? Discuss.
8. What does the imagery of 2 Chronicles 16:9a inspire in your heart?
Take some time together to talk about who you are allowing to speak into your life right now. Who is inspiring you to live with conviction, and whose life are you speaking into? Who is challenging you to make the most of opportunities to overcome obstacles? Whose encouragement are you embracing? Who is asking the question: “What is God saying to you and what are you doing about it?” Our friends and colleagues have great potential to help us walk in the full purposes of God for our lives. Now pray for these key people in our lives, that God would use them more and more.
In the Parable of the Workers, the men who complained completely missed the grace of the land-owner and they went home emptier for it. You see, the workers who were employed first were highly favoured. They had worked for a full day, which meant they would get enough wages to support their family that day. They had received grace from the land-owner in the form of employment that would sustain their needs. This was just as gracious as giving wages for less work. Both ways, the workers received what they needed, rather than what they earned. If the workers chose to set aside comparison, they would have been able to rejoice in the grace they’d received that day. They may have even been able to celebrate with the others who received more than they’d earned. But comparison ripped from them the ability to see the grace they’d already received.
Read Matthew 20:1-16. To help get a good understanding of the passage, try to describe what is happening or being said in your own words. Take a moment to reflect and note down what stands out as important, significant or meaningful to you. What does this passage tell us about God? What does this passage tell us about people? How does this passage change how we live?
1. Why did the workers in the vineyard feel unjustly treated when they received the fee, which they had agreed to? (Matthew 20:2)
2. What was the only thing that changed for these men in this scenario?
3. In what way does comparison impact God’s grace to us?
4. Can comparing ourselves with others impact our view of God? Discuss.
5. What changes in our attitude when we just focus on the things that God has given to us?
6. Is God fair? Discuss.
7. Ephesians 4:1-3 God calls us to lead a life worthy of His calling. This will look different for everyone. What does that look like for you?
8. How does living out of a place of gratitude change how we live?
Again, using Matthew 20:1-16, consciously sit together before God. Become quiet and offer yourselves to Him. Have someone read the passage slowly out loud. Linger on the word or phrase that catches your attention and lights up for you. Savour it as a word from God for you. Read the passage again and listen to where the word connects with your life right now. Envision the scene. Carefully watch the people. Listen to how they interact. What do you hear and experience as you watch and listen? Read the passage one more time, listening attentively. Has God addressed you and invited you to respond? Allow the Scripture to lead you in a prayer response. Give yourselves some time to wait and be still. Take God’s Word with you throughout the rest of the week. Return to it and remember it each day.