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The GOSPEL VERSUS RELIGION Part I. Lesson 1. (A Woman Transformed by the Gospel)

A NEW YEAR

A NEW SERIES,

FILLED WITH THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO TRANSFORM OUR LIVES

transformation

Just as a caterpillar does not decide to take certain steps to become a butterfly, so the practice of religion has no power to transform us into women of beauty. Only God can do that — and He has one way of doing that, and that is through His gospel, the central theme of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation.

The gospel is the “good news” that Christ came to be our Savior. He died to take   our sin on Himself and rescue us from the penalty of sin. That forgiveness happens the moment we truly believe. But the gospel doesn’t stop there. It can also deliver us from the daily power sin has over us.

Many Christians see the gospel as only overcoming the penalty of sin, but this guide will consider also how it can help us overcome sin’s power. The hymn, Rock of Ages, puts it like this:

            Be of sin the double cure, save me from its guilt and power.

 

 How we need the double cure! That is what we are going to be seeking to understand through this series. I think this study could be done with many books in the Bible, but I am going to see if it can be done primarily through portions of the fourth gospel account of Jesus: the book of John. I find value in staying primarily in one book, and I have always cherished John’s gospel. Some of you journeyed with us this during Advent, when we memorized the prologue to John. You will have rich insights, therefore, into this week’s study and I am eager for them. When a writer writes, he imitates his Creator by first hovering over the face of the deep, which is what I do before I write a guide or book — and I admit I often do it here on the blog with your wonderful input. I want to write the best guide that I possibly can on gospel transformation — and gear it particularly to women. You are a vital part of that. At the close of each week, I’d love input on what was clear or what was not — or any other input you have. I also so covet your prayers for quickening for all of us.

I’ve been hovering about this subject for years, so some of my stories will be repeats, but I will try to make them fresh. One of the blessings of an internet study is the input of media and the interaction of sisters from around the world. On this blog I can only give you excerpts of what I am actually writing, hopefully, for publication, because I want to include some wonderful media from others, and still not overwhelm you with homework.

Some of you have taken the challenge to read through the Bible chronologically in a year or two. While we won’t be discussing that here, you are free to make comments or questions concerning that if you like.

Let’s go with A Woman Transformed by the Gospel, beginning with Vicki’s story!

Vickionwater
Vicki (on the left) with her friend Helen in Cabo San Lucas

     Vicki, sophisticated and silent, came to our Bible study, but she came guarded. She sat erect with her arms folded protectively across her, as if we were going to shoot her. But when I heard her story I understood. ­­­­Only God could have wooed her back after being so wounded by religion. Vicki had grown up Catholic, though similar stories could be told by Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians or those of any denomination. Frank Barna’s research shows that most of the un-churched in America were once churched. Why did they leave? Instead of finding God, they found religion.

Bono: Rock singer and activist against AIDS and hunger
Bono: Rock singer and activist against AIDS and hunger

           I wanted to meet God but they sold me religion!

(Bono was recently in a serious motorcycle accident and may not play guitar again — pray for him!)

 

Religion Versus the Gospel

            Though many would think of Christianity as religion, the Bible doesn’t use that word, except somewhat sarcastically when James addresses the hypocrisy of those who claim to be religious but are not controlling their tongues, taking care of widows and orphans, or staying unpolluted from the world. (James 1:26-27) Indeed, what is repeatedly seen in the New Testament is Christ’s anger at religious leaders who thought they had made themselves right before God by following their man-made rules, but had hearts as cold as stone. If we think we can make ourselves right before God through our own efforts we have failed to see not only how sinful we are, but also how holy God is. The gulf between us is as wide as an ocean, and not even the best can swim across it.

wideasoceanThe gulf between man and a holy God is as wide as the ocean.

 

 

            Religion is man reaching up to God in his own effort.

            The Gospel is God reaching down to man doing what man could never do in his own strength.

 

Matthew Henry explains that James refers to the gospel in James 1:18 when he talks about the “Word of truth” that brought us forth. New life comes from God — we cannot do it ourselves, anymore than a caterpillar can become a butterfly. The Gospel, indeed, has power we do not have — to rescue us from both the penalty and the power of sin.

The Gospel is also called “good news.” Religion sees the Bible as “good advice.” Good news is something that has been done. Advice is something we may follow or not, depending on what we think is right in our own minds.

That first Christmas Eve the angel of the Lord told the shepherds:

 

            Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

            For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

                                                                                                            Luke 2:10-11

 

            God the Son came to be our Savior. He was perfect and chose to bear our punishment on the cross, throwing us a lifeline if we trust what He did on our behalf. That is the good news of the Gospel that should both humble us and fill us with joy. We obey, not to earn favor,  because we already have it, but out of grateful love.

            So many churches have lost their grip on the gospel, evidenced by either vanishing grace or vanishing truth.

VANISHING GRACE

            Everyone who comes to church is broken in some way, and longing for grace, but too often, instead of drinking the pure healing water of Christ, they are given the polluted water of religion. Throughout the gospels, Jesus keeps warning of the poison, “the yeast,” of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that day. With hearts as cold as stone, they twisted the truth and burdened their followers with man-made rules.

            As a little child Vicki had experienced glimpses of grace and truth in the church. But just as an earthly flood destroys beauty, a swelling flood of ungrace swept over Vicki and crushed her budding faith. The final blow for her occurred as an adult, when her beloved stepson, tormented by depression, took his own life. Many “friends” from their church shunned the family, saying suicide was unpardonable. They didn’t rush to help bear their grief, nor did they come to the funeral.

            Vicki felt like she’d fallen from a cliff into an icy lake. She cried for help and her church “family” ran the other way. One ran toward her, but he was a bully, and reached out not to rescue, but to push her under the icy water. With harsh words he condemned – and Vicki struggled to break free. When she did, she vowed never to go back. She said, “I was done.”

            But God had not given up on Vicki, and somehow, He wooed her back. She’d ventured to our Bible study for seekers and skeptics, for we promised a safe place to ask questions. We were looking at the opening five chapters of John and early on I commented that they should watch for this repeated theme in every chapter: Jesus hates religion.

            Vicki was sitting next to me and I saw her visibly stir. Then, through my peripheral vision, I saw her write in big letters in her notebook:

 

            JESUS HATES RELIGION!!!

      

            For Vicki it was the beginning of coming home – home to the One with outstretched arms, to the One who is full of grace and truth.

Sunday Icebreaker:

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

Optional: Why Seeing Suicide as Unpardonable is Religion and not The Gospel

2. Religion sees several sins as unpardonable, whereas Jesus says there is only one — rejecting Him, which is called “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” God has thrown out one lifeline through His Son — the Spirit woos — but all who reject that lifeline cannot be pardoned. There is not another lifeline. (See Matthew 12:31.) Two internet pieces on suicide are priceless. Look at one or both and comment:

The first was written by Ann Voskamp after Robin William’s suicide:

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/08/what-the-church-christians-need-to-know-about-suicide-mental-health/

The second is an excerpt from the movie Luther, showing Luther’s reaction to the Catholic church’s belief that suicide is unpardonable:

 Monday – Friday Bible Study and Media Interview

For people like Vicki, religion squelched the grace of the gospel. For others, religion, or some might call it irreligion. squelches the truth of the gospel.

VANISHING TRUTH

            One summer I was invited to a “Hymn Sing” at a nearby church. The church was packed and the hymns in the old hymnal were many of my favorites. They sang of the old rugged cross, of redeeming love, and of the power of the blood. But before we began, I had the breath knocked out of me when the minister of the church opened the evening by saying, “We love these great hymns – but I don’t want anyone to be concerned. We don’t believe the words. These songs are simply a part of our musical heritage.” I thought the floor beneath him might open up and swallow him alive, but it didn’t. For His own reasons, reasons I don’t understand, God gave this false teacher grace.

            Stunned, I realized there was not just a disdain for the gospel, but a fear of it. So, on Sunday mornings, instead of the power of the gospel, the minister, like so many in pulpits today, was substituting platitudes and pep talks. One man told me, “I have better ways to spend my Sunday morning than to be told to “make lemonade when life gives me lemons.” I asked a member of one such church what the minister preached on Easter Sunday. She said that the fable of the resurrection was a metaphor for hope, that spring follows winter. These false teachers have robbed the Bible of its power. In such churches, hungry people, longing for the Bread of Life, are given cotton candy. No wonder they sicken of it and leave.

People come hungry for truth, hungry for the Bread of Life

Jesus-the-Bread-of-Life 

 

 but instead, people are fed the cotton candy of

pep talks and platitudes.

Many sicken of it and leave.

Cotton-Candy

FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH

3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?

4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. 

Optional Media

We had a stimulating discussion here on the blog concerning how we as believers should respond to the raging debate about the practice of homosexuality. Our own Jackie R referenced this interview of Rosaria Butterfield by Marvin Olasky. I think it is a splendid window on how we can approach this subject, and those in this lifestyle, with both grace and truth. I loved how she said that after she wrote her scathing article about Promise Keepers, that she received fan mail and hate mail — but it was the letter that she could not put in either pile, because if twas full of grace and truth, that began her transformation.

If you have time to watch (or listen), do so, and comment. Jackie says the first is better, though I haven’t had a chance to watch, but I do trust Jackie!

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=rosaria+butterfield+and+russell+moore&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=72569FCC62694A4F722772569FCC62694A4F7227

 

5. If you did watch the above, what did you learn about the importance of both grace and truth when it comes to the subject of the practice of homosexuality?

Read John 1:1-5

6. Write down everything you learn about Jesus in these first five verses. Then comment.

7.The rich Greek word translated “Word,” is “logos,” which, in part, is like the instruction manual that comes with a product, explaining the inventor’s purpose and direction for that product. Why would Jesus be the One, if this passage is true, to know the purpose and best use of your life?

From the very beginning Jesus was not understood or welcomed. The religious leaders didn’t want to give up control to Him. When I was confronted with the claims of Christ,I felt exactly the same way.  I had an approach/avoidance conflict. I was drawn, and yet I feared giving up control of my life. I asked Sally: “Steve and I are planning to build our expensive dream home – if we gave our lives to Christ, would we have to give that up?”

My sister pondered and finally told me that, in my case, she thought the house should go, for it was a “god” in my life. Today, I appreciate that she gave me the truth, for though salvation is a free gift from God, when we come to Him, we must surrender to who He is, and and He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Since He made us and loves us, He knows what will make us soar, and what will take us down. Sally said:

           If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

          And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

                                                            Matthew 16:25-26 (TLB)

 

            Again, Sally was giving me the truth. So I realized that if Jesus was who He claimed to be, it was sheer folly to resist Him.

           I needed to either find out if He was a fairy tale or if I needed to fall on my knees and worship Him.

            For the next month I studied the Scriptures and other books such as C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I finally came to the point where I was 95% convinced Christ’s astonishing claims were true. I surrendered on a November morning, expecting to be relieved of fear, and I was, but I was also, as C. S. Lewis put it, “surprised by joy.”

            I was soaring.

Bankoboev.Ru_orel_v_na_fone_groznogo_nebaI am prone in my Christian life to want to take back the reins, and when I do, like a kite without wind, I dive. The Lord has been showing me, often through my studies on idolatry, what folly it is to cling to control when He loves me so, knows what is best, and longs for me to soar.

APPLYING TRUTH AND GRACE TO YOUR HEART ON A DAILY BASIS

grace-of-truth1

One of the ways the gospel can free us from the power of sin, is to apply truth and grace on a daily basis by first, letting the truth of God search your heart and lead you to confession. Ask How have I failed today to live as You would have me live? Then repent, and receive, not His condemnation, but His grace. Let me share an example from my own life.

Truth: It has been so good for me to be in a Bible study with those who have a negative opinion of Christians — seeing them as judgmental, proud, and uncaring. I realize indeed, all those things have an element of truth about me. It is much easier for me to look at the sins of others instead of my own. It is not uncommon for me to judge someone’s lack of kindness without knowing their story. But a little time before the holy light of God, asking Him to search me, shows me that I have been so focused on the speck in the eyes of others than I have ignored logs in my own.

I exaggerate to make myself look better. I concentrate more on the sins of others than my own. I eat food I do not need instead of waiting on God. I am not broken over the sorrow in the world. 

The truth is, my sin is so bad it meant Jesus had to be crucified.

Grace: The Lord is gracious to forgive and cleanse. I am so loved that Jesus did go to the cross. His mercies are new every morning.

      8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?

 

 

Read John 1:9-12

9. How did the world and His own respond to Jesus, according to the above? Why, do you think?

10. What right (or some translations say power) is given to those who do receive Him? Meditate on this and share your questions and comments.

 

Contemplate the following difference between what the religious leaders of Jesus day gave and what Jesus and His gospel gives to those who receive Him:

            Religion                                                                     Gospel

…they are blind guides. And if the blind                     The people who walked in darkness

lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.                          have seen a great light…

                        Matthew 15:14                                                                Isaiah 9:2

           

They crush people with unbearable                           Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden                                                  

religious demands…                                                   and I will give you rest.

                        Matthew 23:4 (TLB)                                                      Matthew 11:28

 

You serpents, you brood of vipers,                             …to all who did receive him, who

How are you to escape being                                     believed in His name, he gave the

sentenced to hell?                                                        right to become children of God.                               

                          Matthew 23:33                                                         John 1:12

 

11. What differences do you see in the above passages between the impact of religion versus the impact of the gospel of Christ? Find everything you can.

12. Read John 1:13. John is careful to differentiate religion from the gospel. Name the three ways that we are not given new life and try to explain what each might mean.

13. How are we given new life, according to this verse, and how is this different?

 

John 1:14 is a beautiful expression of the gospel. First, Christianity is a Person, a relationship with a Person, the only begotten Son of God. Jesus came to be our Savior, to save us not only from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. This week we’ve been concentrating on how that new life begins and rescues us from the penalty of sin. The words “truth and grace” describe the two vital elements that happened at the cross.

First, we must face the truth that our sin is so bad that Christ had to be crucified to pay our debt. Religion minimizes our depravity, for it says we can be good enough on our own, and we simply cannot. But not only are we depraved, we are also loved, so loved that Christ did go to the cross on our behalf. See the psalmist’s words in the shape of this cross:

Mercy

and

truth

have met together

Righteousness

and

peace

have

kissed

Ps. 85:10

14. How did truth and grace kiss at the cross? What bad news does the cross give you about yourself? What good news about God?

 

Friday/Saturday

15. Any input you have on the above study is welcome.

16. What is your personal take-a-way and why?

Leave a Comment

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303 comments

  1. MY TAKE AWAY
    the best way to show people Jesus is to treat them with GRACE and to live a life of TRUTH.
    I have experienced that the more confident i am in the TRUTH the more able I am to give grace. Truth is not MY truth, it is HIS and it stands for itself, I dont have to defend it. I DONT NEED TO DEFEND JESUS! when I am defensive I am not full of love or grace, I am prideful and impatient with others.
    I want everyone to know Jesus, but it is not my job to convict, that is the job of the Holy Spirit. It is my job to be there with open arms showing the love/truth/grace/power of Jesus in my own life so that when Jesus starts to do a work in a persons heart I am there to light the path to HIM. I want to be like the homeschool moms in the story that loved her with her butch hair cut and girlfriend and all. that is very hard to do!  if we don’t trust that its Gods love and grace that will win our children for HIM and not our rules, we will never be able to do it.
    At the American Language school where I teach internationals, many of them muslim, we hear over and over again how when they walk into the building they feel a peace they have never felt before, that they feel love. My goal is to be SO full of grace and love and truth (JESUS) that even though people have never heard of Jesus, they will SEE HIM in me and want to know why I have the peace that I do.

    1. Cyndi, “I don’t need to defend Jesus.” Yes!

  2. Jackie-you truly are an encourager! I so love having you with us!

  3. 4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each.
    Grace without truth: It’s ok that you are sinning, all of us are sinning in ways that we don’t even realize. Jesus died for all sin so it doesn’t really matter what you do.
    Truth without grace: What you are doing is sinful. Stop what you are doing and start doing “good” things or else you’ll go to hell.

  4. 9. The world did not recognize Him and His own people did not receive Him. The Israelites were God’s chosen people and were called to bring the nations to faith. They were to be a holy people for His purposes. He gave them gifts and blessings that they might minister to the nations in His name. But they became inwardly focused. They enjoyed His gifts and kept them for themselves (that’s close to home). The priests enjoyed their power so much that they would not let it be threatened. So the priests stopped their ears and the people followed them. Then the Jews did not receive their Messiah and so they did not bring Him to the nations. Therefore the nations did not recognize Him. But some did receive Him and He gave them new life. So the church was born. It is sad when I think of all the people that could have been saved but then how could Jesus have died on the cross if His people had received Him?

  5. i just thought of something else about grace and truth. Jesus spoke the truth to the priests and Pharisees. He minced no words in their rebuke . They were men of faith supposedly. I can’t think of an instance when He spoke so to one honestly seeking God. He loved the rich young ruler by speaking difficult truth to him. There is just no doing this grace and truth without being led by the Holy Spirit. We just can’t know the heart of another.

    1. I wanted to hit a LIKE button for this, Anne.  Such a good synthesis.

  6. 10. The right to be children of God is given to those who are born of Him. A birthright of those born of God. What does it mean to be a child of God? We are the apple of His eye and He is everything to us. We look to Him with complete trust. We know that He can do anything and nothing is too great to ask of Him. 
    As a child of God we will grow more and more like Him. In His image we will live with Him for eternity. We will be holy as He is holy. We will be full of truth and grace! I love that!

  7. Takeaway:    The lesson from John has been wonderful but right now, I must agree with Jill when she said she was “thoroughly distracted by Rosaria Butterfield.”  And, I’m going to also say it’s been a good distraction, in that I feel like there are many things I’ve seen more clearly after seeing most of both videos.  Just now, watched half of the video with Marvin Olasky.  Many things grabbed my heart.  This:  ‘When you are a bridge, you get walked on’.   When she was a professor with a suicidal student, she had the support and help of her friends in the gay community and her friends in the church.  It was awkward when the two groups met together with her at the same time. She was very nervous to have both groups interact.  Someone told her that she was a bridge.  She made the comment that a bridge gets walked on.  I am trying to set this into focus in my own heart and my mind is going in several directions.  I think, in a very small way, I have felt like this. In the tiny example that I can think of, I can vouch for the awkward feeling.  BUT how essential it is that those bridges exist.  ‘Lord, help me to be willing to interact and to persevere with both Christians and the world and be a faithful representative of both truth and grace’ in both settings.     One other thing that struck me from the first half of this video is that, in telling her story, Rosaria said that when you leave a life of sin and begin a life of obedience, you will hurt many people.  And we can’t tell people glibly that there is a wonderful plan awaiting them.  It’s messy.  It’s painful.  It costs.  Again, I think of how we need both grace and truth when walking with someone who is taking those first steps.  Not the platitudes of ‘everything is sunny and joyful now that you are saved’ but not closing our eyes to the things in that person’s life that need to be left at the cross either. Walking with them as they work through the pain of acknowledging and relinquishing that sin and leaving a messy past. And taking years to do that.  This really overwhelms me when I think of the people I long to see come to saving faith.  Being that bridge.  Seeing that pain and those hurt by the life change.  ‘Lord, bring those I pray for to complete surrender and salvation.  But bring me into the place of being willing to be with them, willing to be a bridge and willing to count the cost’.  

    1. Wanda – Rosaria was a very good distraction (I should have specified that as well). =) Thank you for your additional thoughts on the videos – all such good points. And I agree with you in prayer, for myself, too! Amen.

    2. Wanda, Thanks for comments on this video.  Really helpful. I haven’t watched it yet.

  8. 11. What differences do you see in the above passages between the impact of religion versus the impact of the gospel of Christ? Find everything you can.
    Religion is pretentious, superficial, while the gospel is genuine, authentic.  Religion tries to establish a process to get/earn the Lord’s forgiveness and favor, while the gospel admits/acknowledges shortcomings/sin and receives the grace that the Lord offers with the realization that there is no other way but through Jesus.  Religion is prideful while the gospel is humble…religion is doing (i.e., do this and that and you will make yourself worthy), while the gospel is being (i.e., repenting of sin and allowing the Lord to transform us with His grace).  Religion has a quality of separateness (i.e., “we” are holy, “they” are sinners) while the gospel is unity (i.e., we are all sinners in need of God’s grace).
     
     
    12. Read John 1:13. John is careful to differentiate religion from the gospel. Name the three ways that we are not given new life and try to explain what each might mean.
    Wanda did such a good job in answering this question in her comment.  The only thing that I would add related to “nor the will of man.”  It is my understanding that in that day, if a man did not have an heir, the man could select someone as their son that would inherit their belongings.  I’m thinking that “nor the will of man” means that only the Lord can provide for us; wo/man have no control over this, the gift in allowing us to be children of God is provided solely through Jesus.
     
    13. How are we given new life, according to this verse, and how is this different?
    Through Jesus…for those who receive Jesus, who believe in His name, He gives the right (privilege, honor, blessing) to become children of God.

  9. 14. How did truth and grace kiss at the cross?
    The truth is that we are sinners and justice required someone to pay the price for our sin.  The grace is that Jesus took our penalty, all of it upon Himself; He paid our sin debt…He provided the opportunity for freedom from the pit of death for those who receive it.
       
    What bad news does the cross give you about yourself?
    The bad news is that I am responsible for my Lord having to endure the pain, brutality, and suffering of the cross (physically) and even greater pain and suffering (emotionally and spiritually) in being separated from the Father.  Jesus was with God always…the first verse in John 1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word…the Word was with God and was God.  The cross was the only time when they were ever separate, and that separation, the excruciating pain of both the Son and Father in being separated, was due to me, due to my sin…
     
    What good news about God?
    God loved me SO much that He was willing to endure the agony of the cross/separation to redeem my sinful soul, to provide a path/a way for me to come home to Him.  There is no greater love…

  10. 9. How did the world and His own respond to Jesus, according to the above? Why, do you think?
    Because their eyes weren’t opened yet-they were blind. Only God opens eyes.
     
    10. What right (or some translations say power) is given to those who do receive Him? Meditate on this and share your questions and comments.
    God gives the Holy Spirit to those who receive Him and opens their eyes. This is what happened to me. I will never forget though hard to explain. I didn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit before I surrendered to Him, but after I surrendered, like Dee, I was surprised by Joy and I soared. I hope this doesn’t sound mystical or anything but when I surrendered I saw darkness and light. I sensed immediately something different happened inside..I knew He came and opened my eyes even though I wasn’t ‘taught’ that. I saw everything differently than I did before. I saw life through His lens. I looked around me on the airplane and saw people in darkness who needed him. When I got home I opened the Bible my sister in law gave me. I was unable to understand it before and thought it was some secret code or something, but wow after He opened my eyes it sprung forth like a wild fountain!! :))) I couldn’t get enough and unfortunately for the unbelievers around me they too couldn’t get enough-they were going to hear from the overflow of my heart whether they were ready or not..I don’t even think I thought about that back then-but I do know He planted seeds despite me, and I began sensing His presence and His power as He began changing me inside with His Word.
     
     
     

  11. 9. How did the world and His own respond to Jesus, according to the above? Why, do you think? The world did not know him, his own did not receive him. He was not what they expected. He was not what they THOUGHT a savior should be. He did not fit their stereotype. He did not do what they thought he ought. So He was dismissed … How often do I miss the hand of God because it does not look as I think it ought… ?!
     
    10. What right (or some translations say power) is given to those who do receive Him? Meditate on this and share your questions and comments. We are given the right to become children of God. I am blown away this morning, after yesterday’s realization about repentance, by His forgiveness, He lifts our burden away. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I don’t think I ever truly, truly understood that till feeling a shift in my own burden yesterday as I repented through the day and was lighter and lighter as the day went on. He bestowed His grace upon me, His burden is grace, His burden is light.

    1. Jill this is a wonderful testimony! I am so happy about the way the Lord came to you, bringing His transformation! I think this must be how we behold His glory is the days since His ascension into heaven. That is in observing His transformation in ourselves and others.

  12. 11. What differences do you see in the above passages between the impact of religion versus the impact of the gospel of Christ? Find everything you can. Religion is fear and manipulation but without escape from reality (hell). Gospel is freedom and light embracing reality (we are sinners with a price that was paid by Christ). Religion is deceit and gospel is truth.
     
    12. Read John 1:13. John is careful to differentiate religion from the gospel. Name the three ways that we are not given new life and try to explain what each might mean.
    born not of blood: our lineage, family blood lines.
    nor of the will of the flesh: this makes me think of lust or desire. The will of our flesh will always end up in idolatry.
    nor of the will of man: Our own decisions, our willful ability to make ourselves worthy of God (not possible).
     
    13. How are we given new life, according to this verse, and how is this different? We are born of God. Being born of God is being made alive spiritually just as being born on your birthday makes you “alive” physically (though life starts much earlier than the immersion of the infant!). He makes us new, He gives us life.

  13. 11. What differences do you see in the above passages between the impact of religion versus the impact of the gospel of Christ? Find everything you can.
    A. The impact is that those who follow Religion and their leaders will remain blind-they will not have a relationship with God. The ones who follow Jesus-He will open their eyes-they will become one with Him. 
     
    B. Religion will crush you because you can’t possibly keep all the laws and regulations-you will fail-it is too much to bear. Yet Jesus fulfilled the law-it is finished we aren’t bound by it anymore. We don’t have to do anything to gain His favor or to be forgiven-they didn’t have to sacrifice goats or lambs anymore. Like now a days, we don’t have to do good works to be saved-be a ‘good person’. He did it all. His blood covers us making us righteous. Those who come to Him and receive Him can rest in His work on the cross.  
     
    12. Read John 1:13. John is careful to differentiate religion from the gospel. Name the three ways that we are not given new life and try to explain what each might mean.
    This is a GREAT question. You MUST have this in your study. 🙂 I haven’t ever meditated on what each one meant before. I just knew via this passage overall that Jesus is the Life..A dead man can’t become alive and give himself life unless God unites him with Christ-that is what atonement means, “at one meant” :). There is no other way. 
     
    SO here goes my effort: 
    1. Not of blood– I think this means born of your earthly family, but I will take a walk on the wild side and offer another thought..maybe this could mean the blood sacrifice of animals thinking this means the blood sacrifice of animals, or it could mean being born ‘into the faith’ via your family-just by being born into your earthly family who are of the faith you assume you have new life.
    2. The will of the flesh-striving to be born again via your own efforts of saying no to sin.
    3. The will of man-striving to be God’s own via religion
     
    13. How are we given new life, according to this verse, and how is this different?
    In Jesus is Life. In Him is life. We surrender or receive Him resting in His work on the cross. Like when my eyes were closed as a blind dead man, instantly when I surrendered to Him He opened my eyes and gave me new life-His light entered in. The difference is that religion believes that “in works is life”..by our good works, by our family heritage, by our own strength to abstain from sin we are saved and will gain God’s favor. 
     

  14. I am absolutely blown away this week. I am beholding His glory! Over Christmas this year I had quietness and rest even though there were some very busy, messy times. I spent a lot of time with the young adults in my life. I had some glimpses into their life struggles and also some opportunities to speak into them. I realize that happens out of our quietness and rest in Jesus. As we are transformed by grace and truth, we bring it into the world, into the lives of those around us.
    One thing I want to take away specifically is from our questions on the prologue about Jesus being the Word, the logos, the instruction manual for our lives. My 18 year old son is at a crossroad in his life. He is awesome and fortunately not chained up by sins that tie up the soul (thanks to all who have prayed so faithfully for him…talking to you Elizabeth :). He tries to choose the good as he sees it. He is trying to decide on a path for his life. I don’t get much opportunity to speak into his life and I try to mostly just pray. He is a believer but not in church or really seeking direction from God right now. So I would really like an opportunity to present this truth of Jesus being the logos for his life and that as he seeks Him he will find strength and direction for his life. That would be my take-a-way. I want it not only for him but for others in my life. There is so much need and God is so able.

    1. oh Anne–I have goosebumps hearing you speak of Joey. I can’t even explain the “whys”, but you know the Lord just put him in my heart years ago when we first “met” here. Lord, we pray that You would be strong and mighty in his life. Give him strong convictions Lord to walk in the Light. Help him Lord to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and run with endurance the race that is set before him”. I pray that You would give him clear direction and strength to be all that You created him to be. Amen

      1. Elizabeth I so appreciate you. Thank you!

    2. I am praying with you for your son, Anne. I pray you get the opportunity to speak into his life with Jesus’ truth. I also pray he will find Christian fellowship. It is hard for young adults these days. 

      1. you are so right about that Diane. Thank you for praying. I pray that your daughter will find true Christian fellowship also.

  15. 15. Input on the study. Dee, I found interpreting John 1:13 difficult. Wanda helped but perhaps some clarity would be helpful for future studiers? 
     
    16. What is your personal take-a-way and why? Rereading through the study the thing that jumps out to me again and again is self-righteousness. Especially in light of discussing how certain hardships (homosexuality, suicide) incite condemnation from religious people. As Dee said “Religion minimizes our depravity, for it says we can be good enough on our own, and we simply cannot.” I was flabbergasted this week to realize how easily this self-righteousness sneaks into my own heart. How easily I relied on my self to become righteous and how I was unaware of it! Even thinking, “I am doing it all right, crying out to God, reading God’s word, etc…what is wrong?!”  To daily take up His cross is to daily take up His forgiveness. To let go of religion is to daily/hourly/minute-by-minute let go of ME – this is repentance. This is fully admitting I cannot do it. But when I let go of my sin, my efforts, my attitudes my hands are free to cling to Jesus. Even condemning self-righteousness can be self-righteous! I must be Christ-centered! I must be humble before the cross and repent and receive. So my take-a-way is that even though I (am starting to) understand the gospel I need to guard my heart against self-righteousness by repenting and clinging to the cross always.

  16. Okay I am going to give something I struggle with in understanding how this should all work out. I wish I would have posed this question earlier. In administering truth and grace what does that look like with the instructions in Gods Word for church discipline within the body? How can we be administering grace when it seems we are not to be associating with them? Or is that an example of how we view grace to be? Something comfortable that will make everyone feel fuzzy and warm??? HELP. I also think of for example someone living outside of marriage together. Is my going over to their home showing I am in support of that as I am trying to administer grace? I SO STRUGGLE WITH THIS. I thought I got beyond that and did start going to visit although they both knew I was struggling to come visit and I admitted it as so. I also attended and was celebrating a wedding of a loved one who was marrying under a faith that rejects the deity of Christ (probably the hardest thing I ever have done) I spoke the truth to the point of almost what I thought was going to be a separation. I did not want that to happen and felt the Holy Spirit tell me to back off. That is where to me prayer and handing this over is such a relief. I do want to be obedient in what my part is and that is a part I do struggle with. I think this is where is gets messy!!!!

    1. This is difficult Liz. My oldest lives with his girlfriend; before that happened he told me it was going to happen. I asked him why he didn’t just ask her to marry him and he said they would when he finished college, had money for a ring, etc. I actually had a similar experience when I was 21; we spent so much time together we thought it would be more economical to live together. The difference was I told the guy I had to marry him to live with him (because of my mom). We got married and then divorced three years later. Which is better? Neither I suppose. 
       
      Another situation….I have a colleague who is of the Bahai religion. I love her and she totally understands Christianity and other religions as well. I don’t understand her religion because I haven’t studied it at all. She seems to have similar beliefs as me at times. Sometimes it is awkward, but I give her grace and continue to love. Not sure if she will ever convert, and she retires this year. Not sure I have made an impact. 

      1. Thanks Laura. I will continue to pray and seek the Lord on it. All I know is I do want to love people and to extend the grace like the grace that was extended to me. I just want to make sure what I look at as love is what the Lord looks at as love and the grace I extend is not enabling. I know in some relationships it has been. I am coming to see that truth. 

  17. Okay more thoughts. If we are administering church discipline  ar we saying we are without sin? He who is withOut sin casts the first stone? I am probably coming off sounding legalistic. I know I am dealing with pride when it comes to my loved ones and also a sense of failure (TRUTH) but more so of concern and LOVE and that is what I want to be giving them. I guess I sometimes get confused as how that is supposed to be given in how I understand Gods Word. I just realize how little I really do know and how far I have to go. That’s truth! Grace is the Lord already knows that and is not going to let me stay where I am at I come to Him and He gives me rest and understanding His yoke is easy and He leads the way.

    1. Liz, Always grace, which is intertwined with truth.  One issue in church discipline is whether the person is a believer or not (and maybe if they are attending the church giving the discipline?).  Sorry, I can’t afford to think about it more this week!

      1. Thanks Renee.

    2. Hi Liz…my understanding is that church discipline is for restoration and reconciliation (not punishment)  Discipline should come from a spirit of love and humility, in a thoughtful, respectful manner, acting towards others as our Lord acts towards us.  If one cannot embrace these tenets, they should not be involved in administering church discipline (my opinion).  Discipline should be reserved for serious (serious) offenses.  Removal from membership is the final step should restoration and reconciliation not come to be…perhaps ultimately this might be the loving and needed thing for transformation of the brother/sister.  Just my two cents… 

      1. Nanci  Thank you for your two cents:) 

  18. Pretty far behind this week….
     
    9. How did the world and His own respond to Jesus, according to the above? Why, do you think?
     
    They did not receive Him, He was different, they didn’t understand. It’s the same way today though…we Christians are different too. People don’t know how to “handle” us either.
     
     
    10. What right (or some translations say power) is given to those who do receive Him? Meditate on this and share your questions and comments.
     
    We are given the right to become children of God. Children are to be taken care of by their parents. They are to be loved, and sometimes it is necessary to discipline when they are out of order. God loves us, takes care of us, and disciplines us as well. A parent usually has a child’s best interest at heart, even when the child doesn’t see it the same way. God has our best interest at heart and we often don’t understand. Children fall back on their parents when they are needy. We do the same (or should) instead of running away. It is easy to think He doesn’t love us. Sometimes he doesn’t seem tangible and that makes us doubt. That’s why His book is so important for us to know and understand. It is our guide and reminder that He does care, that many before us have suffered as we do, and if we stay the course we will be taken care of, loved, disciplined, and be led to what is right for us. Thank You Lord for being our Father!

    1. Coming back to comment on my take-away even if late.
      This week has been an excellent study with the questions relating to John 1: 1-14 being so very important.
      This scripture is so rich and meditating on the meaning is very helpful for me.
      Laura’s comments resonate with me: We are given the right to become children of God. Children are to be taken care of by their parents,
      This means love and discipline by our Father. He does have our best interest at heart. There is Nothing we do that earns us a right, but
      God gives us the right, when our hearts are true and trusting Him. He does not answer our prayers when we are disobedient to him- a
      principle that my pastor made in the sermon today. Yet he does not let go of us. However we must submit  and surrender to his perfect will for our lives.
      During the week the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery came to me: John 8:1-11. The truth was in the Law of Moses that the religious leaders pointed out. Jesus then said, Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone. Each accuser slipped away.
      Jesus then told her, Go and sin no more. That was grace!
      The questions this week are excellent and the issues we looked at were ones to ponder. I am looking deeper into the way the church has lacked compassion on those whose loved ones have taken their own lives. Love and compassion on my part is so needed as with other
      issues that the church has been so lacking with the response that is so needed to show grace. I also find it is hard to balance truth and grace sometimes.
      I am also thankful that my sins have been forgiven and I am trusting my Father to reveal the truth as I study the scripture. The more we
      attempt to discover the meaning the richer these words become to me.

  19. I can’t remember who mentioned the verse, but to me it is the “funniest” verse in the bible…Matthew 7:3…speck, log….too funny!
     
    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭1-5‬ ESV)

    1. I agree that it’s funny 😀  I drew a cartoon about it MANY years ago (not an artist, so I didn’t keep it). The verse is SO vivid.  A log in one’s eye is quite dangerous; moving around would cause damage kinda like “a bull in a china shop.”  I guess when I have a log in only one eye I still can see out of the other eye 😉 but I’d have to be at such an angle that my perspective would be greatly distorted.  And certainly, my log is much more evident to the rest of the world than the other person’s speck!

      1. 🙂

  20. 15.  Comments on study:  Dee, The questions you asked to get us into the Scripture did just that for me.  I feel as if I still need to go deeper with some of the verses &/or questions.  For example, the connection between logos and the implications of question #9 and living in grace and truth seem huge.  Plus, v 14 ALWAYS gives me such hope and peace when the Spirit brings it to my mind.  I could use another year on some of these verses 😉   Sometimes it takes awhile for the richness of Scripture to sink past my barriers.Also, I was distracted this week, and part of this week’s topic tied into my recent distractions.

     I probably shouldn’t have watched one of the Rosaria videos early in the week before getting deeply into the passage because that added to my distraction.  I had to pull myself back to Scripture; more accurately, the Holy Spirit drew me back.  I was amazed at the demonstration of grace and truth demonstrated in the video — how clear it was.   I’m not sure that I would raise the issue of homosexuality at all in the first study with seekers because it could reinforce the stereotype that the only issues believers care about are homosexuality (including gay marriage) and abortion. Her story is one of God’s grace and the grace of believers toward her.  And seekers, themselves, might bring up the topic if it is an area in which they have been disillusioned by the church.  But her story could also raise more questions than answers among unbelievers.  One crucial point she made was that her primary sin was UNBELIEF, not homosexuality.  (Dawn’s post above was so good)

    As much as I liked the video, I went on some rabbit trails related to the video.  For example, Rosaria used the phrase “covenanted children.”  That led to a brief distraction on the doctrine of baptism (which was interesting) to a blog post from someone in her denomination, http://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/tullian-tchividjian-depraved-christianity-antinomianism/ The blogger used Scripture to disagree with Michael Horton and Tullian T. on the Gospel.   After reading that, I quit reading on the Internet and went right back to Scripture (because I was so confused that I didn’t/ don’t understand the definition of the Gospel any more).  I’m also confused about “covenanting” (I think that was what led me to the site I just posted) — may dig deeper sometime.  Even though the her story is a WONDERFUL example of God’s grace and believers demonstrating His grace, the implications/context of the video might be quite different for seekers and believers, and even for different believers depending on their own experiences.

    16.  My take-away:  Jesus, His Glory.  He is grace and truth.  (and I want to stay in the connection between logos and vs 9-12 for awhile)

    Also,  Diane posted a “Daily Keller” quote in the FB this week: “Truth without grace is not really truth, and grace without truth is not really grace.”   This gives me some intellectual peace because I was doing mental gymnastics (can’t do the other kind 😉  ) trying to separate the concepts to answer one of the questions.  Seems like Keller also uses the terms differently in different places because he does talk about (over)emphasizing grace without truth.

       I long to understand and live grace and truth, and I have a hunch I am only scratching the surface in my understanding, let alone living.  This goes right back the importance of seeing Jesus.

    I’m taking my sweet time in answering this question — found the source of the Keller quote on Google books,  Gospel Theology: Center Church, Part One, and also found this (which I hope will de-confuse me ), The Centrality of the Gospel, 12 page document by Keller, heavy on Scripture and application. http://download.redeemer.com/pdf/learn/resources/Centrality_of_the_Gospel-Keller.pdf
     

    1. So, I went to save the Centrality of the Gospel document and already had saved it on my hard drive.:)

    2. Renee, I am always so impressed at how hard you dig into stuff.  And I so appreciate the questions you raise.  I was also thinking about the different reactions/responses to Rosaria’s testimony and teaching that seekers or ‘used to be’ Christians/church goers would have compared to how I saw it.   So often, I see/read something that I think would be absolutely perfect for someone else to hear/read and in reality, they don’t at all have the response that I think they will.  So, then, I become overly cautious about what to share with others.  It’s then that I see that without the Spirit’s prompting, none of it will make sense or change lives.  I cling to Isaiah 55:11, but I have absolutely no idea how that will play out in real time with my loved ones who have walked away from the Lord.  

  21. 14. How did truth and grace kiss at the cross? What bad news does the cross give you about yourself? What good news about God?
    The truth that sin is so grievous that a blood sacrifice is required and that God can’t look at it (turns His back) and grace because of the truth that God loves us so much that He can’t bare to just sit in indignation of our sin and not intervene on our behalf and provide a way to have a relationship with Him.  The truth that Jesus is God in the flesh, paying the price Himself, the truth that His unimaginable pain and suffering was what I deserved, the grace that I will never have to endure it.

    1. mary e.–love how you worded all of this–I read and thought how you emphasized the PASSION behind the POWER of the LORD. Beautiful

  22. How could I hate the homosexual? It was a young homosexual woman who shared the truth and grace of Christ with me. She was gay. But it didn’t matter. She was a precious soul who shared the gospel with me. She presented Jesus as the lover of my soul and 45 years later, He is still loving me. And by the way, He set her free from homosexuality and she became a valiant soldier in the battle to win souls for Christ. many of them were gay.

    My husband, my children, their spouses, and all my grandchildren, and many members of both our families and friends are saved. What if she had not shared the gospel with me? What could have been the consequences? I am eternally grateful to her. I have a special place in my heart for homosexuals. I know most don’t want to hear it, but God loves homosexuals as much as he loves you and me.

    My husband suffers from rapid cycling bi-polar mental illness, presenting manic and depression symptoms simultaneously. We have lived a life with more than a few troubles. Stress, confusion, chaos, loss, failure, panic, and humiliation has been our challenges. We trust in the worthiness of God. His clarity and direction is our Guiding Light. His comfort, grace and provision is our Cleft in the Rock.

    Thank you for your website. It is filled with good sense, points to ponder, love and grace.

    I am thinking of starting a website myself, based on “being transformed by the renewing of your mind”. For we certainly both have almost lost our minds! We are in our 70’s now and have many stories to tell, personal revelations and teachings to share of His saving grace.

    God Bless You.