Partake in Internal Reflection

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Buried With Christ
Baptism is for everyone who believes in Jesus; everyone who has put their trust in him for the forgiveness of their sins. The gift of eternal life is available for all those who are ready to follow him. In the book of Acts, every single person who became a follower of Christ was baptized without exception. Their actions show us that baptism is not merely a suggestion or an idea - it's a command. So, in Acts chapter two, when the people believe in Jesus and are convicted of their sins, Peter says to them in verse 38 that they are to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. And they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter continues in verse 39: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” There is no right or perfect time to be baptized. The time is when you trust him as your Lord and savior, and you want to follow him. You don't have to pass a test. You don't have to fix your life or get yourself cleaned up first. One of the things you see in Acts is there's an immediacy to the decision of baptism. It was often inconvenient. It was sometimes uncomfortable. But it was always worth it. You don't have to continue to live with the stain of your sin, and you don't have to keep fearing death. Jesus has risen from the dead and he wants to set you free from those things. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: What are some misconceptions that you know people often have about baptism? How do these verses in Acts dispel some of these wrong ideas?
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Beautiful Celebration
On Good Friday, it appeared that guilt and shame would triumph. Then Saturday came and the followers of Jesus waited in fear. They thought what happened to Jesus is going to happen to them now. Sometimes this Saturday is called "Silent Saturday", because the disciples were just waiting and wondering if this was the end for them too. For some of you, that's been the way you have been viewing life in recent months or years. You feel like you're waiting in fear for something else to happen or things to go terribly wrong. Your worst fear, whatever it may be, seems a little bit closer, knocking louder at the door and you're not sure what to do about it. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no fear of death. We're free from the stain of sin and free from the fear of death. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says that everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life and all who belong to Jesus will be raised when he comes back. Then verse 54 states that because of the resurrection, death has been swallowed up in victory. "Where, O death, is your victory?" So, while Friday was a day of shame and guilt, and Saturday was a day of fear and hopelessness, everything changed on Sunday. We celebrate the implications of Sunday; there's new life without the stain of sin and without the fear of death. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: When do you feel most fearful and hopeless? What truths do you need to hold tight to when you feel this way?
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Shame Comes Out Sideways
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus hasn't risen from the dead and conquered sin and death, then we will always struggle with shame, guilt, and debt punishment for the sins we commit. For some people, life has consistently felt like this, where they are burdened and held back by their sins and the weight of those sins. They’ve tried to remove the shame and guilt themselves or just tried to pretend like never happened, but it just seems to get worse. But the fact that Jesus did rise from the dead and conquer sin means that we can have freedom and forgiveness for all our sins. There is no mistake or wrongdoing that's big enough to change how much God loves you or the fact that his forgiveness is limitless. When you realize how deeply God loves you and how Jesus was willing to die on the cross to take away your sins, it changes the way you think about those sins. You see them with a new perspective, and are able to share your sins and struggles with others in right space. You can share your story now because those mistakes that used to represent guilt and shame have come to represent grace and how much you are loved by your Heavenly Father. The very sin that you were once ashamed of has actually revealed how deeply you are unconditionally loved. DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: When do you struggle most to realize you are unconditionally loved by God? What are some Scripture verses you can memorize to combat those feelings of being unloved by God?
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Disconnected from God
The thing that defines you doesn't need to be what you did or didn't do in the past. It can be what's been done for you through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Jesus’s victory over death means that we no longer have to fear our sins, and our sins cannot define us or our future. Our sins no longer have to be something we hide in the shadows. Even in Genesis 3, the first time sin comes on the scene, what do Adam and Eve do? They hide from God when he calls for them because they're ashamed and guilty of the sin that they had committed. Our first response is to hide and oftentimes we also try to avoid any situations that might expose the reality of our sin. We don't want to think about the stains. We don't want to stop, internally reflect, and ask ourselves difficult questions, so we tend to run away from our mistakes. The Friday before Easter is a day we call “Good Friday”. But that first Friday, when Jesus died, it wasn't good at all for his followers. It was a day of shame. It was the day of guilt. It was a day where the ugliness of sin was shown and couldn't be denied. It was a day of reckoning. Think about the disciples on that day, especially Peter who had repeatedly had promised Jesus that he would always be there for him. But he denied Jesus three times, and he abandoned Jesus when Jesus needed him the most. There must have been an immense amount of shame and the guilt on Peter’s heart on that Friday. Luckily, in three days, Jesus would conquer sin and death and redeem the guilt and shame that Peter was struggling to reconcile.  DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTION: When have you tried to hide or cover up a sin in your life? How did guilt and shame influence your decision to hide or run away?