Hebrews 12:18-29 Discussion Guide

Hebrews 12:18-28 DISCUSSION GUIDE

Note—as you work through the discussion guide, remember that you do not have to answer every question; pick and choose which questions work best for your group discussion.

 

Introduction

The negativity bias is the cognitive or thinking error that causes negative events, emotions, and thoughts to register much more profoundly than positive ones. We pay more attention to the bad things that happen, making them seem more important than they really are. The impact on our decision-making, mental health, and relationships of this bias can be profound.

Questions

  • What are some ways you have seen the negativity bias in your own life?

(For instance: you can remember some embarrassing moments vividly from childhood, but positive moments might be less vivid?

  • Why do you think that research and experience have demonstrated that the most potent counter to the negativity bias is the practice of gratitude?
  • This is also called “hunting the good stuff” why do you think the idea of “hunting” the good is so important?

 

Read: 18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

Explain: This mountain is not named but it refers to Mt. Sinai, the place where Moses encountered God, the burning bush, and received the law from God.  You can read or summarize Exodus 19:12-20 and 20:18-21.

Questions

  • Why do you think the author uses such “sensory/emotional” words to describe this mountain?
  • Why was God so “inaccessible”?

 

Read: 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

Explain: Mount Zion is the also “New Jerusalem” in the book of Revelation.  The actual Jerusalem was a city on a hill where at the temple God’s presence dwelt with his people.  However in that temple only the high priest could go into God’s presence on the behalf of the people.  The New Jerusalem, this Mount Zion is the place where all the people of God have ready access to God.

Questions

  • What is the “feel” of Zion vs. Sinai? Use some of the author’s own descriptive words.
  • What are some ways you have felt judged? Is judgment always bad? (For instance, a judge who declares you the winner of a competition.)
  • What is the judgment given here? What does it mean that we have been judged to be “perfect”?
    (Use Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”)

 

Read: 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

Explain: In chapter 11 Abel was said to still “speak” though he is dead.  His blood (death) speaks a word of challenge and encouragement to us.  That word is “follow this example of faith expressed in faithfulness.”  Jesus’ blood speaks a better word.  His death is not mere example it is a “sin cure.”

Questions

  • What does “WWJD” mean? What is “right” about it? What is “wrong” with it?
    (Clue: Jesus is not merely a dead example to emulate he is a living savior to follow)

(*Perhaps “WIJD” is better (What is Jesus doing?)

  • The better word of Jesus’ blood is the gospel. In your own words (or using scripture) what is the gospel?

 

Read: 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Explain: This passage is comparing the present cosmos (that will be shaken, destroyed…and remade) with the unshakable kingdom of God.  He rules over and beyond the physical cosmos, his kingdom is eternal. A kingdom is a place where a king rules.  It is where his will is done.

Questions

  • When we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, what are we praying?
  • Humans try to reign over their own little kingdoms, what does this look like in practice?
  • How does gratitude for God’s unshakable kingdom potentially impact the negativity bias?
  • The God of Mt Zion is the same one on Mt Sinai. How do we balance his accessibility and his holiness?  What are the dangers in becoming imbalanced either way?
  • We have a better mountain, better word, better kingdom. The theme of Hebrews is “Jesus is better.”
  • What personal applications/challenges stand out to you in our study of the book of Hebrews?

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