WE’RE GOING TO TIE UP OUR STUDY THIS WEEK, THEN DO SOMETHING I THINK WILL BE BOTH FUN AND EDIFYING DURING VALENTINE’S WEEK, AND THEN RETURN TO THIS THEME IN TWO WEEKS, BUT WITH A FRESH STUDY, SO NEW PEOPLE FEEL FREER TO JUMP IN.
Mary of Bethany saw who Jesus was and understood He was going to die for her. The cross was not “beautiful,” it was rugged and cruel, like this picture. But Jesus, despite the turmoil we see in Him, at the close of John 12, was going to that cross for love. Mary, alone among the disciples, realized it, so SHE GAVE HER ALL. SHE SURRENDERED. SHE LET GO OF SECURITY, APPROVAL, AND CONTROL for THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE. She understood what Isaac Watts wrote in “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross:”
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
HERE IS ONE VIDEO ON WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS TO HELP YOU WORSHIP:
Tim Keller ties this whole story together in a sermon called Following Jesus. I’ll give you the link, but also share some nuggets from it, as it costs 2.50. It’s a tremendous sermon, so here’s the link:
Keller opens with a true story that was sadly witnessed by helpless onlookers. They watched a man go over a dam in a canoe, saw the canoe flip, and the man thrown and caught in the whirlpool that formed after the dam. He struggled to stay afloat but finally died of hypothermia, and his body sank. The moment his body sank, just a minute later, it popped up further down the river where it was calm. If he hadn’t fought the rapids, he would have been saved. The whirling water he thought would kill him actually would have carried him to safety. Keller’s point is that the Christian life is counter-intuitive. We struggle to save our lives, to hold on to the stone idols that we think will rescue us, when they actually pull us down. If we would let go, and sink into the arms of Jesus, we would indeed experience victory. The victorious life is counter-intuitive.
The Christian life is a journey, and we will not be fully changed until we see Jesus face to face. But glory be — before Christ we were in a battle we could not win, now we are in a battle we cannot lose. One day He will complete us, and, as Hosea prophesied, take our bent for sinning away.
But for now, our stones can be chiseled down, even removed. We must, as Mary did, see Him as so beautiful, that we are willing to give all for this wondrous Savior.
1. Summarize what you have learned in this HEART OF FLESH journey. Write down some a few of your main take-a-ways as you look over the past five weeks.
2. What stone or stones were you asking God to remove? Have you seen progress? Give us a report.
3. When a Christian is defined as “someone who follows Jesus,” that is accurate — but often what is meant is following some of His teachings, such as being loving and caring. But read John 12:20-26.
A. What did Jesus tell those seeking Him in John 12:23-24. What did He mean?
B. According to the above, what does it mean to “follow Jesus?”
C. Memorize John 12:25 in the version that speaks best to your heart. As you are memorizing this week, keep sharing your meditations with us.
D. Think about your stone and why you want to hold onto it. It feels counter-intuitive to let it go. But why is it the wise thing to do? (This is an important question so you can speak to your soul in moments of temptation.)
4. Isaac Watts led the movement that gave freedom to sing not just Scripture, but lyrics the Scripture inspired. His point was that we don’t ask preachers to just read Scripture, to to say the words the Scripture inspires. Share anything you learn about “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” any videos about it you like, any reflections you have on the lyrics.
5. What is your take-a-way this week?
On a personal note, I’ need you and your prayers for a big event in Jacksonville Tuesday. I need traveling mercies, quickening, and women with teachable hearts. I will, Lord willing, be speaking at noon Eastern time at an arena. Then I stay on with two of my dearest friends to have five days of Christian fellowship. We always seek each other’s wisdom and refreshment, so we need quickening for this too.
Love to each of you — eager to hear your ponderings.