Discussion Guide April 25, 2021
ONE Message Series
Lesson: The Religion That God Our Father Accepts (#2)
“Keep [yourselves] from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27a).
In two weeks of focus on “religion that God our Father accepts,” Jason and Rubel have used the words compassion and holiness to summarize the phrases in James 1:27. Do you understand why those words were chosen? Are there synonyms or words you would have chosen that are different from those two?
What do you know of the low moral standards of the Roman Empire in the days of Jesus, Paul, and the earliest Christians? Paul paints a broad-brush picture of pagan Roman life in texts such as Romans 1:18-32. (Of course, not every Roman was as corrupt as his description depicts life in the empire. It is a “broad-brush picture.”) Note four important moves:
(1) moral decline is rooted in the rejection of the True God – idolatry in some form (vs.21-23)
(2) divine “wrath” is revealed in that people who reject him are “given over” to face the consequences of their choices (vs.18,24-25)
(3) sexual deviance is the most obvious public evidence of moral decline (vs.26-27)
(4) once the floodgates are open, vices multiply (vs.29-31).
We are living in a “post-Christian culture” in the West. Do you see any parallels between Paul’s description of pre-Christian culture of the Roman Empire and our post-Christian culture in the United States and Europe? Be specific in relation to the four moves of Romans 1.
Tim Keller has argued that cultures long believed Truth was “out there” and Feelings “in here” – with the obligation of a moral person being to adjust his/her feelings (and actions) to God and the truth. In post-Christian culture, he argues, that has been reversed: Truth is “inside us” (relativism) and the world must be adapted to our feelings and desires. Is he correct? Explain.
Identify the two or three specific cultural threats that you regard as most hostile to Christian faith and the present-day church. How do you “keep from being polluted” by them? What should we be doing for our church to motivate us to greater holiness?
Stanley Grenz challenges Christians to be “Welcoming But Not Affirming” to people in our culture whose lives are enmeshed in the sins cataloged in Romans 1. How do you understand that language? How can we do a better job of implementing such a strategy at Harpeth Hills?
N.T. Wright writes, “The line between good and evil runs, not between ‘us’ and ‘them’ but down the middle of each of us.” What do you think he means by that? What is the significance of a statement like that and how does it relate to the idea of a church community that is “Welcoming But Not Affirming?”
In a time of intense societal pressures to embrace the world’s values, pray for strength to avoid the world’s pollutions and to model the positive virtues of faith to the people around you.