Here are some small group discussion question suggestions from Greg Koukl, our speaker at this year’s men’s retreat:
Do you have a spiritual mentor? Does he seem so far advanced in his faith that you wonder whether you could do anything productive for the Kingdom? What does Greg say about such “heroes of the faith” and our capabilities?
What are Greg’s four hard realities of spiritual growth? 1) Spiritual growth is perplexing (from our perspective); 2) Spiritual growth takes time (lots of it); 3) Spiritual growth hurts; 4) Spiritual growth doesn’t ultimately satisfy. What lessons ought we learn from them? 1) Though most of the time, we don’t have the foggiest idea of what God is up to, I can be perplexed but not despairing (2 Timothy 1:12); 2) Spiritual fruit is like any other fruit – it becomes… over time, an important factor in real change; 3) Change happens in people’s lives, but generally it doesn’t happen unless it’s more painful to stay the same than to change; and hardship reminds us of a precious truth: “… we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7); 4) We can experience a measure of fulfillment, but there’s always something missing… until our Christian hope is ultimately realized in heaven (Philippians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:2; Romans 8:23; 1 Peter 1:13). Cite at least one passage of Scripture that Greg used to make each point.
From Truth to Experience, part 1
1) Two and a half years ago, Chuck Colson wrote an op-ed for Christianity Today wherein he wrote: “… even when Christians know correct doctrine, they are afraid of speaking the truth for fear of offending others. What right have I to impose my beliefs on others? is a thought that shapes too many of us believers. This is why J.I. Packer, on his 80th birthday, said that the greatest challenge of evanglicalism is to recatechize our churches. More than ever, Christians need to be able to speak intelligently and courageously about the hope that lies within… Orwell was right: In a crisis, we often have a duty to restate the obvious… The greatest challenge for serious Christians today is not reinventing Christianity, but rediscovering its core teachings.”
Where does Greg’s citation of the Barna Research Group’s statistics fit in here? That many Christians are woefully ill-educated about cardinal doctrines of their own faith. Are you prepared to “make a defense” of the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” – whether to an atheist neighbor, the agnostic at work, or the Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon on your doorstep? Could you make a strong, biblical case 1) for the existence of moral absolutes and their being reflective of God’s character; 2) for the universal violation of those absolutes by Man; 3) that salvation is by grace and not by works; 4) for the deity of Christ and His exclusive and necessary role in effecting our salvation? How?
2) How does the adoption of post-modern relativism threaten our ability to make that defense? At a very basic level, the Christian faith, among all the world’s religions, is uniquely founded upon the objective truth of a number of historical events. Once you give up the very idea of Truth, it’s impossible to sustain their defense.
3) What does Greg cite as a particularly ubiquitous form of relativism in the church today? He characterizes it as “Ouija Bible.” What are the consequences of believing that “the Holy Spirit gave me this verse?” “Truths” are obtained by one person that are not applicable in the same way to anyone else. What does Greg mean by his axiom, “Never read a Bible verse”? It is inappropriate to obtain some “truth” from a single verse without any context. Have you had occasions where someone has drawn a mistaken conclusion from a single Bible verse without context?
4) Greg’s use of 1 Corinthians 14:7-9 illustrates his treatment of what relativistic trend? Looking at the Bible as something that needs to be decoded… the analogy of the bugle: is it sounding “Charge” or “Retreat” or “Taps”?
From Truth to Experience, part II
1) Summarize Greg’s illustration of coaching methods and quarterbacks and apply it to the Christian life. How are you doing on your own prep?
2) In his section on “The Still, Small Voice” Greg argues against the very common notion that prayer is a two-way personal conversation with God. He subsequently characterizes this as the “Hearing the Voice of God” doctrine. What are the three claims (whether explicit or implicit) made by advocates of hearing the voice of God? 1) Every Christian is entitled to special inerrant, personal revelation from God. 2) We can each develop the ability to get our own special revelation from God. 3) This revelation in on par with Scripture in authority, though it has a different application (i.e. for the individual, not the whole church, and is, therefore, not canon Scripture). What is the common result of the introduction of additional sources of revelation? The secondary becomes a primary: Examples would be the plethora of Watchtower publications, Mormon revelations (Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrines and Covenants, pronouncements of the Prophets from Joseph Smith through Brigham Young and down to contemporary Presidents), the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and ex cathedra papal pronouncements… and Christians hearing the voice of God.
3) What distinction does Greg draw between “Ouija Bible” and “Hearing God’s Voice”? The latter is not explicitly relativistic while the former is. However, operating under the tenets of “Hearing God’s Voice” has a relativizing influence on the church because it focuses on experience rather than on God’s Word. According to Greg, why don’t we need to “hear the voice of God?” First, because the Bible doesn’t teach it (when you examine John 10 – My sheep hear my voice” in context, the claim fails); second, because it is impossible to learn to hear the voice of God.
4) When Greg takes a stand against “Hearing the Voice of God” and people claim that he is thereby limiting God, what is his response? The issue is not alleged limitations on God; rather, the real issue is: What does the Bible teach? Does the Bible teach that or imply that every Christian is entitled to special revelations from God? Or, does the Bible teach or imply that we have to develop a special spiritual skill in order for us to “hear” His revelation? The answer to both questions is “No”.
5) In the section, Re-arming the Army, what is Greg’s prescription for remedying the problem? 1) We have to quit trying to hear the voice of God, which the Bible doesn’t tell us to do. 2) We have to start learning to understand and obey the Word of God, which the Bible tells us to do all the time. Until that happens, we are listening for a voice He hasn’t promised while (largely) ignoring the Word He has already given; we are not giving first attention to first things.