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Session 5:

Powerful Influence

Next Level | Message Series

“Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37

Introduction

Though we may despise it when we suspect people in positions of influence are lying, the fact is that we’re all reasonably skilled at bending the truth to suit our needs. We can deflect when our children ask us to explain things that we feel aren’t quite age-appropriate, we embellish a story to make it more interesting, and we even shape our own memories through a nostalgic, rosy lens. We’re against outright lying, sure, but shaping the way truth is communicated seems to be fair game.

But investigating the life of Jesus leaves us with a stunning picture of honesty. Jesus didn’t mince words, didn’t avoid uncomfortable challenges, and didn’t hesitate to share truth, even when he knew his listeners wouldn’t receive it well. Thank goodness, then, that Jesus was full of both truth and compassion—his incredible honesty was matched by a heart of grace and love for the people he encountered. He was committed to be truthful, but not out to damage or hurt people unnecessarily. In this session, we’re going to explore our own use of truth, and see how following Jesus’ lead could help us have an enormous positive impact on those in our circle of influence.

FACILITATOR'S NOTES
SERVE PLAYBOOK

Share Your Story

Start the conversation by using these suggested questions:

Have you ever been caught telling a “tall tale”? Have you ever discovered that a story a friend or family member told was exaggerated? What did that feel like?

How does your family handle childhood stories, such as the Tooth Fairy or holiday characters? Do these well-meaning fantasies have a place in the discussion about truth? How do we know the difference between fun imagination and deception?

Have you been the victim of someone with influence over you misusing truth? How did that come to light, and what effect did it have on you?

Watch the Video

Hear God’s Story

Matthew chapters 5–8 comprise Jesus’ most famous message, which we’ve come to call the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is full of smaller sections of insight into living a God-connected life. A few of these sections that would have been surprising for the original audience see Jesus taking well-understood religious teachings of the day and taking their application to the next level. We’re going to look at Jesus’ particular instructions around the topic of being truthful.

Read Matthew 5:33–37.

  • Jesus begins by reminding his listeners of some of the traditional religious teachings about being honest, especially in the context of making vows or promises. What are some of the common rules around honesty that we often learn as children nowadays?

  • Jesus encourages his followers to not make any vows. His original audience probably assumed that was to protect them from breaking the vows. But Jesus makes it clear that they shouldn’t need to make vows, because their word would be so precise and trustable. What are some areas where our culture has put high value into promises or contracts? Why do we think these contracts are necessary?

  • Jesus gives a few examples of ways his listeners thought they were making their promises stronger (e.g., by vowing “by heaven!” or “by my head!”). But Jesus is saying that these declarations actually make promises less believable. Why?

  • Why does Jesus connect lack of forthright honesty with being from “the evil one”?

Create a New Story

In this section, let’s talk about how we’ll apply what we’ve learned from God through the Bible passage. We’ll decide on a few practical steps we can take this week to live out God’s truth.

  • What are some ways that we try to bolster our believability? What phrases do we add to promises to make us sound trustworthy?

  • What are some areas of life in which we haven’t been fully honest or realistic? How should we address some of the areas of dishonesty from our past?

  • What could you do to tighten up your honesty and integrity? What would it take to have the people around you truly believe your simple “yes” or “no”?

  • What impact would it have on our community if we become more Jesus-like in the way we communicated truth? Are there ways that a truthful lifestyle could actually cause risk for us? How could we overcome that risk?

Make sure to close your meeting in prayer, thanking God for his honesty toward us—that he sees who we truly are and loves us anyway. Ask him to show us ways that we could be more truthful this week, and ask him for the strength to become people of integrity.

— For Parents —

It’s easy to compartmentalize our own faith from that of our children. Oftentimes the only crossover is when we ask, “What did you learn today?” when picking them up from school.

Instead of keeping your faith separate from your children, one of the best opportunities you have to model faith is to intentionally share about what God is teaching you. In this section, you will find a simple activity to create space to talk about the Sunday messages with your children. Your kids can understand more about what a relationship with God looks like and more about who God is to you.

WEEK 5: ACTIVITY & DISCUSSION

Daily Devotions

Day 1
So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. (Ephesians 4:25)
Are there areas of my life where I have had a habit of lying? How can I make a change?
Day 2
But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. (Zechariah 8:16)
How would telling the truth help me experience more peace in my community?
Day 3
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
Have I been honest with God and others about areas of life where I struggle with sin?
Day 4
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. (1 John 3:18)
How can I show someone how much I love them this week, rather than just saying it?
Day 5
Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. (Psalm 25:5)
Are there areas of my life that don’t line up with God’s truth? How can I make a change to follow God more closely?
Day 6
Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. (Colossians 3:9–10)
Which areas of my life still resemble the “old sinful nature”? What does it feel like to put on my “new nature” in Jesus?

Ready for the Next Session?

SUNDAY MESSAGES
DISCUSSION GUIDES