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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?

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303 comments

  1. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
    The potential of this study… A new year with all sorts of new possibilities…I have prayed Romans 12:2 and see this study as a provision in the effort.
     
    I am so sorry for the way that Vicki was treated by “friends”; my heart hurts to think that at a time when she needed love and support, for her faith community to come along side her, what she got from them was legalism and judgment.  Thankfully, Vicki responded to the Lord’s wooing and nudges, and participated in the bible study offering for seekers and skeptics.  Such a good, loving, faithful God…where man fails, He comes to rescue.
     
    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.”
    This seemed to jump off the page for me…
    I know that in my own efforts I fail miserably missing the mark…thankfully the Lord does for me what I cannot do for myself, and does so in a loving way that is suited specifically for me…me, one of billions of people worldwide, yet known intimately by my Lord, known better than I know myself…mind blowing…incredible!

  2. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
     
    First, I love the picture of the butterfly that has emerged from the cocoon of the former caterpillar. What a stunning visual of what God does for us. I once heard a sermon by Charles Stanley where he talked about this very same thing. How when we are saved and become the “butterfly”, we are no longer fit for “caterpillar living”. It would make no sense for that butterfly to crawl back into that empty, dead shell of its former self. It is made to fly now. Yet, there are times in my own life where I am doing that; like crawling back into that dead shell, my former way of life, and returning to old, sinful habits. It no longer fits who I am. This brings in the power of the gospel to save us also from the power of sin. The gospel reminds me that I am not my former self; yet how I need that reminder.
     
    The phrase That forgiveness happens the moment we truly believe caught my attention. I am one of those who struggles with believing that I am truly saved. I look at myself – my sinfulness, my failures, my attitudes, my distraction with the things of this world, and I ask myself how can I truly be a Christian? While others I know seem to know with certainty what God is doing in their lives, I struggle to “hear” Him, to see Him at work in my life. I seem to be a chronic “doubting Thomas”. I struggle to live out my faith in a household where no one, save my daughter, seems to care anything about God. I seem to be constantly at odds with my husband and never seem to have any victory in this area. Oh that I could say with confidence, Yes, I have truly believed and know that He is mine and I am His. I think I am looking for that assurance that the Bible says the Holy Spirit gives. Lord, help me believe!
     
    What happened to Vicki in her former church is tragic. Like throwing acid on an open wound. She was hurting so badly and no one came to help. In Song of Songs it says that Jesus’ name is like “perfume poured out” – another translation is “ointment”. Ointment soothes, heals, reduces the pain. Dee, you offered that “ointment” at your seekers study.
     
    I’ve been doing the chronological readings and am excited to do so. I tried a couple years ago to read through the Bible; I think I made it through the first four books. Reading it this way in the order that things happened is different for me; I never knew that Job lived back in the days of Abram? The plan had us read up to Terah being the father of Abram and now we go to Job. I am glad to have a daily plan.

    1. Susan, Me too! I am going to Job this morning too. 
      Your encouragement to Dee encouraged me too this morning-so true!

      1. Rebecca, I noticed that we left off in Genesis where Terah and his sons were from Ur of the Chaldeans, and then it mentions the Chaldeans in Job 1 as a “raiding party” that stole some of his livestock…I thought that was pretty cool!

        1. Great observation, Susan.  I totally missed that!  Thanks for sharing it.

    2. Susan I share some of your struggles as you know my husband is also not yet a believer. I think one of the biggest weapons the enemy uses is just what you spoke of when the Battle is raging. May we always remember we are not fighting against flesh and blood. May we everyday be putting on the full Armor of God. Ephesians 6:11-13  I stand with you in prayer. The Lord sees our hearts and he sees our struggles! We are seeking Him and He will show us what needs to be changed in us as I know there is much in me to be changed, but we also at the same time need to block the lies of the enemy who would just want us feeling defeated. We are on victories side Jesus Christ!

      1. Thank you, Liz…yes, I remembered that your husband is also not a believer (yet)…we need to keep these husbands in prayer!

        1. Amen Susan

    3. Susan–love this “It would make no sense for that butterfly to crawl back into that empty, dead shell of its former self. It is made to fly now.” Makes me want to ponder a bit what He wants my “flying” to look like in my life 🙂

  3. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why? “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.” This lept off the screen to me. We have been exploring churches and this is exactly what I see/feel in some of the congregations that we visit – people reaching as high as they can, sometimes almost frantically, to reach that which they think reachable if they just try hard enough. And then other congregations we see the opposite: peace. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water…” Psalm 1. People letting their roots grow into His love, being at peace and allowing God to come to them, open to see Him.
     
    My heart is also broken by Vicki’s story… tears this morning thinking of her suffering loss and noone to comfort her and even say awful things to deepen the wound. Recently my friend lost her baby, another friend lost her mother, and just yesterday I sat next to a man who had lost his wife a mere 7 months ago … perhaps that is why I am tearing this morning at the thought of Vicki with noone to talk to, noone to pray with… so very sad. I am so very grateful that she “came home!” Praying for her this morning as she continues to heal.

  4. WOW WOW WOW! 🙂 I need this study.  I am hoping He will help me to be more beneficially thoughtful in my responses, but it is really difficult when my insides are jumping up and down as I read-excited about this study.  I hated to hear how Vicki was treated, yet so love her story and how God wooed her again, and when she wrote JESUS HATES RELIGION in big letters.. I also love how Dee pointed out that no matter how hard we try we can’t bridge the gap between us and God, and the caterpillar becoming a butterfly-the caterpillar doesn’t take certain steps to become a butterfly. 

    1. I am really trying though to not just make noise-but I will have to say I rarely experience with an Author like I have with you this joy inside when He leads you to write a book or a study. Before I did your studies, most often the studies were like eating cotton candy-too much sugar-not Gospel centered. I can tell you do ‘hover over the deep’ when you write. 🙂
       

  5. Dee,   there is so much here this morning.   One phrase that stood out was, hearts as cold as stone.   I was driving alone all of yesterday through a ground blizzard across South Dakota.   Listened to a dramatic radio presentation of C.S. Lewis’s, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.   Loved the scene at the end where Aslan breathed life into the lifeless, stone statues that the evil witch had “hardened”.    Reminded that He alone turns our hearts of stone back to life, at any point along the way…..   
     
    Both Ann Voskamp’s article and the clip of Luther, left me in tears for several reasons.  I’ll save this for another time.  I need to get back on the road this morning.
     
    Thank you for bringing this series to us, Dee.
     
     

      1. Yes Dee, the Focus version 🙂    

  6. 1.  What stood out from the above and why?  
    I’m just generally excited to be a part of this study because I want to be able to communicate these truths better to those who have been wounded by religion and I want to be able to frame the truth part (that some churches leave out) better in my own mind as well.  I also liked the butterfly example (or as our friends across the pond call them…flutter-by :))  That example reminds me of Philippians 1:6, “6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  A music minister of a church I was a member of over twenty years ago used to sometimes just play his guitar and sing a song made popular by Steve Green about this verse and it would bring tears to my eyes nearly every time.  6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNjZlHARnEk
     
    I intend to answer #2 later when I have more time.
     

  7. There is such beauty here–this offering of truth and grace, such real food in a world that offers “junk”. So thankful for how the Lord is leading you Dee–you have my continual prayers.
    I had other thoughts at first, but once I got to the part about the hymn sing, I honestly felt my eyes sting—and then my stomach turn—even before the cotton candy image, but that was exactly it! Oh it just made me angry, then sick, and then sad. 
    Yesterday I read “How to Know if You Are a Real Christian” by Jonathan Edwards—and much of what he said seemed to fit with this lesson—hope this isn’t too long—and sorry if it’s  a rabbit trail!
     
    “Therefore we can see that there is no amount of knowledge of God and religion that could prove a person has been saved from their sin. A man may talk about the Bible, God, and the Trinity. He may be able to preach a sermon about Jesus Christ and everything He has done. Imagine, somebody might be able to speak about the way of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners, perhaps even enough to show others how to become Christians. All these things might build up the church and enlighten the world, yet it is not a sure proof of the saving grace of God in a person’s heart…(a) result of God’s grace working in the heart is that the person will hate every evil and respond to God with a holy heart and life. False experiences may cause a certain amount of zeal, and even a great deal of what is commonly called religion. However it is not a zeal for good works. Their religion is not a service of God, but rather a service of self.”
     

      1. The Edwards quote is from “How to Know if You Are a Real Christian” (Originally titled True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils) : http://www.puritansermons.com/sermons/edwards1.htm
        The whole piece is so good! This morning our sermon was on Luke 3—and it all fit in with what I had read of Edwards and this week’s post—true Gospel transformation must come from the inside out, and this is the work of the Spirit alone!
         
        I’ve also always liked this chart from Keller’s Gospel in Life study is helpful—Religion v. the Gospel: http://dbcu.org/files/2014/09/Religion-vs-The-Gospel.pdf
         

        1. Elizabeth thank you so much for sharing the Tim Keller Religion vs gospel piece. Another keeper so clear so simple. 

        2. Elizabeth – I cannot thank you enough for sharing the link to the Jonathon Edwards article.  I really just got lost in it …..scribbling away on my notepad and going back and re-reading sections.  Far too much there to even comment on, but I pray that many others will have a chance to read this, in some ways, deeply disturbing work.  Presenting TRUTH was surely Edward’s forte – and YET, so much GRACE is there, entwined together with truth……I’ve been drawn to his writing a lot over the past few years……he forces me to SLOW DOWN AND THINK!!!  That posture seems to create space for the Spirit to minister the Scriptures to my heart in a piercing way.  Oh, how I need this…..that I might decrease and He would increase!  (John 3:30).  Thanks for the gift of this article today!  

        3. Jackie–so glad you enjoyed it too! Sometimes I fear I’m just taking up too much space here, but you’re being blessed by it encourages! I stumbled across this site that has several free sermons from Edwards,and others, you may like it too: http://www.biblesnet.com/free.html
          I’ve been re-reading Keller’s Centrality of the Gospel as we look at all of this again, and it is amazing how much Edwards sounds like Keller (or vice versa!)

        4. Elizabeth I finally got to read the Edwards piece tonight. It is giving me something to strongly pray about. I feel this strong desire to share it with someone.  It certainly gives new light to the scripture that talks of Satan disguising himself as an angel of light.  I need to pray. Thank you. 

        5. Liz-glad you enjoyed the Edwards piece too–yes, so frighteningly (?) convicting–how easy it is to appear one way when the truth is not really there. I’m praying now for you to have discernment about sharing it with someone, as you mentioned

    1. Yes, with our churches so centered on marketing for a consumer, many fall into the trap of only giving cotton candy and sweet platitudes.  My husband and I fight this constantly.  He is the shepherd and shepherds must do what is best for their sheep, not what will convince others to join the fold.  So hard sometimes to get that message across in our world of success equals numbers in seats.

      1. Sherryl,   My heart goes out to you and your husband – in this day of mega churches and Christian celebrities, obscurity feels extra lonely I would think.   Interestingly, this week at we look a bit at Rosaria Butterfield, she has some VERY intriguing words on the beauty of small and obscure in terms of local bodies of believers.  She beautifully illustrates what “small” has the opportunity to do so well…..and what may easily be lost in the hugeness of our megachurch infatuation.  It’s probably a perspective that you can well identify with!  

      2. Sherryl, once again, I really like what you have said here.  When I was in Children’s Ministry and on staff for 10 years, I fought this kind of thinking constantly.  I knew the Lord was calling me to step down when the church began to really get into the ‘marketing’ approach to bringing in, bringing in, bringing in people.  But the truth was, there was a revolving door. While people kept coming in the front door, others were leaving out the back.   People came in (and left other churches to do it, which I found displeasing) and suddenly, we were supposed to provide for double the amount of children (in a very short amount of time) and do whatever we needed to do to keep people coming in.  All I wanted was to teach and disciple those who came to learn and be taught.  And I’d worked hard to keep our children’s programs very solid and gospel centered.  I think it’s a pervasive problem in so many churches.  If I moved into our town now, I would not give my church a second look, but having been there for decades (seeing the changes but still having the deep relationships from the early days) it’s not easy to step away.  If I moved to another place now, I would look for a church that shepherds as you describe and doesn’t look for big numbers.  (though to be fair, we do have a lot of lay people who minister to others in dynamic, amazing ways.)  

        1. Wanda, we also have an amazing number of laity who keep doing what the gospel asks – disciple, disciple, disciple.  Though there are some struggles, we sense a real understanding of the Holy Spirit and discipleship among these people and it keeps us hopeful.

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

    God’s wooing of Vicki and your sensitivity to her Dee, it made me emotional.  
    The privilege of participation here too. That we get to see you craft your work, your ministry. I don’t post as much as I used too, but my life is impacted everyday by the truths I have absorbed though your work Dee. 
    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:
     
    They both made my heart ache, I am going to put Luther in my Netflix queue, he was so brave.
    This stood out to me: “If we only knew what fire every person is facing — there isn’t one person we wouldn’t help fight their fire with the heat of a greater love
     
    So many of us keep our wounds and hurts tucked safely away, where no one can touch them, and where they can’t be healed. We need wisdom.  

    1. Watching the Luther clip, this line from a hymn that Keller is fond of came strongly to mind:
      “Well may the accuser roar of sins that I have done. I know them all and thousands more, Jehovah knoweth none.”

    2. oh Chris, I so love it when you are here with us–He uses you over and over to speak truth directly to my heart “So many of us keep our wounds and hurts tucked safely away, where no one can touch them, and where they can’t be healed. We need wisdom. “

  9. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
     
    two things…..
     
    “instead of drinking the pure healing water of Christ, they are given the polluted water of religion.”
     
    And….
    “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.”
     
    Off to to church and will explain later!

    1. I wanted to explain why these two things struck me as I was reading…
      A friend once said to me that if you were raised Catholic you were a Catholic for life or you didn’t go to church ever again. I can’t really speak to that, as I was raised Methodist. However, my sister never went back to church after being humiliated in youth group. Some of the teenagers told the pastor of the church my sister was doing drugs (she swears to this day she never did), and couldn’t believe these “pious” people lied about her behavior.
       
       
      I don’t remember knowing that being “religious” was a bad thing. In fact, I have always thought being in church helped to keep me in “line.” I mean we do have the 10 commandments, and the bible gives us “right” ways to live our lives, right? This is where I get confused with this topic. Obviously, I don’t want to go kill someone, and loving your neighbor as yourself are both “rules” we should follow. I try to use the bible as my rule book. I’m not perfect by any means, and fail daily 🙁 but if I want to know how to live I look to Jesus. Keller has helped me with this topic.
       
      I like the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic Church (the smoke and incense) and the liturgy of my old Methodist upbringing. I miss the old hymns of the past (contemporary music has taken over in my church); aren’t all of these things “religious?” I don’t think anything is wrong with them as long as you keep it all in perspective. When my husband and I went to get married we were both divorced. He was Catholic and I was Methodist. We decided to marry at the JOP. Perhaps we aren’t really married according to churches here on earth, but God knows we are committed to each other and to Him. We did renew our vows in the Methodist church years later, but I’m not concerned. We go to church because the bible says we should be in fellowship with like minded people. Is that being “religious?”
       
      The second item is harder to address. I am so sorry those people acted as they did to Vicki. I would not be like that; how would I presume to know what God does (Think end of Job here!). However, I think I must have been raised to believe it was a sin to commit suicide; I’m not sure where I got that idea. I wonder if my parents told me that because they wanted to deter me from thinking about it? One of my sons (adult) told me once that he thought about commiting suicide but he couldn’t because he wouldn’t go to Heaven. I don’t know where he got that idea either. I don’t think I ever told him that. I wonder if people really understand grace? I don’t think I do. I think I need to “behave” to get to heaven. My husband believes you must do good “works” to get there. It is difficult to accept the idea that we just have to love and accept Jesus to get there. My husband and I recently had this “getting to heaven” conversation because his brother in law just passed from cancer. His sister fits the “raised Catholic and never went back to church group.” We wondered if he went to heaven. We literally were struck dumb and couldn’t speak. We don’t know his stance at the end. We don’t know if he knew Jesus. We couldn’t answer the question for each other. He was a good man, but did he know God? 
       
       
      This makes me think about what Dee and I have discussed before with the prison ministry she has….I haven’t understood how someone could kill someone (like Karla Faye Tucker did) and then “find God.” I am trying to understand, and am less judgmental than I used to be (I hope). I know one thing, I can’t get KFT’s words out of my head from that video we watched a few months back; where she said once she accepted Jesus she couldn’t lie anymore because “…now we were talking about eternity.” I quote her often now! Look what she did to me; a murderess!

      1. What I tell people regarding getting to heaven based on works:  If that were true everyone in heaven would be boasting about what they did to get there.  That is self-centered and prideful.  Ephesians 2:8 talks about getting to heaven via grace; it is a gift of God …so that no one can boast.  

        1. hmm… Good point Sherryl!

      2. Sorry to hear about your brother-in-law…how is the other brother-in-law doing?
        I too have fond memories of the Catholic traditions in regards to the holiday decorating, reverence of the mass, incense, music, etc.  I am a very sensory type person…:)

        I agree with Dee…bad treatment not reflecting the good news of the gospel exists in many denominations. I have personally experienced it in the Catholic and Lutheran denominations; a friend’s husband experienced it in the Methodist…

        1. My other BIL is doing well. He has a lot of treatments he is undergoing for the cancer, but one tumor has shrunk and that is good news! we are praying for him to get the “go ahead” for radiation now. Thanks for keeping us in prayer!
           

        2. Laura, good to hear that the treatment is working on the cancer.  I will be praying with you for his readiness for receiving radiation treatment.

  10. What stood out to me was “The gospel does not stop there, it can also deliver us from the daily power sin has over us”  “Be of sin the double cure, save me from its guilt and power”
    How I need and we all need the double cure! The grace walk!
    The picture of the butterfly and a lesson I heard many years ago as the butterfly in its transformation process cannot be rushed or even assisted in its process. If I or anyone else saw it struggling to come out of its cocoon and tried to help come out prematurely it in my own power I would end up killing it.
    Vicki’s story is sad and eye opening and all part of the Lord working in her life. It makes me have such a heart for the many others out there as Barna statistics show. Nothing of that story was out of the sight of the Lord. Perhaps her time in the cocoon.
    The two pieces on suicide were precious and keepers. The church so struggles with how we handle mental illness.
    Bono’s lyrics “I wanted God but they sold me religion.” Little did I know back in my dark ages the Lord was wooing me back with much of the music of U2.
    So many gems here Dee. Studying from the Gospel of John is going to be a blessing!   I will pray!
    A prayer for the Lord also to show me any areas of stone in my heart as I know they are there. Praise God for His Grace and Truth transforming us!

  11. There is SO MUCH here. Hard to know what jumps out the most. I am sure I will find much of benefit in this series, Dee. I am excited that you will be focusing on John because I have been drawn to study John on my own and I appreciate having you and my blog sisters helping me think through it. 
     
    I find myself drawn to your picture, Dee, of “hovering over the face of the deep” over ideas before you write. You amaze me by your depth and output here weekly and as a writer and speaker. With others, I want to thank you and affirm you for your work in the Lord for us.

    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.

    There is a bit of writer in me – though mostly of incomplete projects or feeling of failure. Still, this concept intrigues me because it is what I do, and I am drawn to how God hovered as well as how Mary, Jesus’ mother, “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. 
     
    Secondly, I am pondering anew what it means to be “born of God” (John 1:13). A change of life, rebirth — a seismic shift. I am not my own, I belong to another — fully His child and heir.  It is not of my doing, my efforts, my good deeds, or forced enthusiasm, but a resting in His finished work. I loved the Jill’s picture above.

    some of the congregations that we visit – people reaching as high as they can, sometimes almost frantically, to reach that which they think reachable if they just try hard enough. And then other congregations we see the opposite: peace. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water…” Psalm 1. People letting their roots grow into His love, being at peace and allowing God to come to them, open to see Him.

    1. Oh Diane, I LOVE this, “Secondly, I am pondering anew what it means to be “born of God” (John 1:13). A change of life, rebirth — a seismic shift. I am not my own, I belong to another — fully His child and heir.  It is not of my doing, my efforts, my good deeds, or forced enthusiasm, but a resting in His finished work. ” =)

  12. 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:
    Wow, looked at both and they were great.  I have thought (for many years) that rejecting Jesus was the only unforgivable sin but I’ve heard so many other people say differently, even in churches besides Catholic.  I have heard people say that if you commit suicide you will not go to heaven.  I like how both of these made the point that depression and suicide are no deferent than other things we experience living life in this fallen world.  Like the Luther one said something to the effect of “how is this boy’s death any different than someone who is the victim of a robbery?”  (very loose quote)  And Ann compared depression to cancer.  I don’t know why some Christians take things like mental illness, migraines, and yes, even cancer, and categorize them as being things that are demonic or that people bring on themselves… and yet those same Christians with strep throat go to a doctor and get put on an antibiotic.  But, even this (lack of understanding of God and His ways and devision among Believers) is the result of the fallen world we live in and one day all will be made clear.  

    1. mary–your last 2 sentences–profound. He has given you such wisdom dear friend!

  13. So glad for this study. I was thinking of all the people I invited to Bible study this week at service this a.m.  I look like a nice “church” girl now, but it wasn’t always so. God’s Grace is real and forever. Praise Him!  I pray as I share my testimony in a few short weeks that those who have ears to hear what the Lord has done in me will hear. I pray that those who will spread gossip about me will be convicted and finally come to the end of themselves too. I pray for Vicki’s all the time. Pray that like me as the Savior wooed me back, I looked to Him and those who had read His Book to lead me and listen to. I am going to shock some people when I share but my focus is on Jesus, His message to me and for all . . . I love you, I died for you and if you accept my gift of salvation, I will walk with you through it all and welcome you Home when you are done on earth. Just love Him.

    1. Chris from FL – This is the first post I’ve seen from you and I wanted to say welcome!  I’m so sorry that you are enduring the pain of gossip…..awhile back we were studying in the Psalms here with Dee and we saw that David surely had this sorrow in his life to a great degree as well.  Learning to lament through praying the Psalms is something we were exposed to as well…..invaluable!  I love the victory in that you can say that “my focus is on Jesus….”.  The very thing we are endeavoring to do here this week (and every week!).  

    2. Welcome, Chris (from FL)…glad you will be joining the study.  It stinks to be gossiped about and judged…may the Lord give us strength, guidance, and refuge when our hearts are hurting from the pain of gossip, judgment, etc….may we keep attentive to Jesus.

  14. Happy New Year, ladies! It has been a long while since I participated – although I have tried a few times to follow along silently the past six months. I am recognizing my need for gospel transformation more than ever, so I really want to (need to!) participate…but I decided I need to discipline myself first to follow along silently for at least 4 weeks in a row. If I can meet that goal of doing the study on my own for a bit then maybe I can join in the conversation more! I really really want to prioritize my time differently this year, but I so often try to squeeze in too many things (even “good” things!) and end up nudging my relationship with God further and further down my priorities. Praying for a new beginning, as His mercies are new every morning. Hope to re-visit soon! 🙂

    1. Rachel Praying this works for you and that you are able to join in as well:)

    2. Rachel  – I do remember seeing comments from you in the past – welcome back!  Like you, I’m always amazed to find how the “good things” can take on a life of their own….and wedge in between us and Jesus.  I like how you are making concrete plans to combat that in your life!  

  15. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
     
       ” 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.”
     
    I genuinely loved the simplicity of that explanation and comparison of religion and the gospel.  But then later, 
    the words Vicki etched into her notepad, just went through me like a knife:    “JESUS HATES RELIGION.”   
    To one like myself who considers myself to be fairly “churchified,”   those words carry a tremendous amount of impact.     It makes me truly concerned about my past behavior.  Have I at times been stingy with my forgiveness and mercy, while being generous with my judgment and condemnation?   I feel so badly about Vicki’s experience.  It makes me want to re-examine my responses to others spiritual needs.   Do I run toward them in compassion, or do I turn my judgmental back on them and run away?   I’m struggling to be objective in answering these questions.   
     
     
    This week’s study seems to be absolutely chock-full!    It is certainly challenging!    I agree with others above who have expressed their appreciation for your faithfulness in posting each week,   Dee.   Obviously you are drawing from a very deep well  — otherwise you would have run dry by now!   Hovering over the deep, as you would put it, is certainly benefitting each of us here on the blog.   
     

  16. Icebreaker:  My first impression (at 3pm on Sunday) is that it’s good to see so many ‘back’ on the blog!  I felt like I was doing too much ‘talking’ last week, but so many were not there.  I actually hope to not post so much this week.  It looks like a busy study and I look forward to diving in, though suddenly, the plate feels very full!   Many other things stand out, but I need to go through and read it all again.  So much there!  Dee, you will want to edit a bit as it is the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ (not The Old Rugged Cross) from which you quoted.  I KNOW that you know that as we’ve discussed it before.  Just a slip up.  And I have never loved that hymn as much as I do since I came to this blog.  The verses all together spell out the gospel precisely and completely.  So maybe that is what stands out the most to me!  Oh, but the butterfly photo is stunning and makes true the phrase that a picture paints a thousand words.  

  17. And thank you for the excellent Ann VosKamp piece and the Luther clip.  Just this morning, in our Adult Fellowship, this topic came up in a very personal way from parents who have experienced this in the loss of a daughter. I know that bad, inaccurate teaching about suicide has affected people I know personally too (not this couple, as I think they felt mostly grace and love) and I hope it’s not too late for those hurt by the scorn to return to the church and to God.  

  18. My first impression on this new great study on the Gospel Transformation: What a wonderful study! The Gospel is “the good news!”
    Religion sees the Bible as “good advice.” Yes, there is an ocean between us and our Holy God. Our attempts at reaching God are as
    futile as the Tower of Babel! I am impressed with this study as my desire is to be a better witness and I know that as we work on
    this issue I will gain so much insight as to how to listen to others and relate to those who have been hurt by their experiences with
    religion. My experience with a church that was so-called “liberal” taught me much about what is wrong with the established main-line
    churches. I see so many who are actively involved and yet their lives do not reflect what the gospel of Jesus teaches.
    The Advent memorization in John has given me a desire to go deeper in this gospel, for it is rich in meaning and I have gained so
    much from this exercise in memorization.
    Vicki’s reaction is similar to my neighbor, Susie, who left her church when she was restricted in participating due to a divorce. She was very
    hurt and could not understand how she could be judged for not staying in an alcoholic marriage.
    God has shown himself to be very real to her and her faith has grown as her prayers have been answered so many times. Yet I would like
    to encourage her to get into the Bible. I have felt the need to listen and to show her love through her struggles with loneliness and aging.
    I do appreciate each one’s input and Dee’s excellent questions to guide us.

  19. There is so much that stands out to me in this post. I am very excited about it too! 
    I think first is the contrast between the gospel and religion. Religion is destructive and I think Vicki’s testimony makes that point. And how she clung to the fact that Jesus hates religion. He was not the one who hurt her so mercilessly. This is wonderful fruit Dee!

      1. Me too Anne 🙂

        1. glad to see you to Chris. I missed you.

  20. WOW is all I can say! I am so excited about this study. There are several things that stood out for me: 1. Be of sin the double cure— saved not only from eternal damnation but from “every day damnation”-don’t know if there is such a phrase (everyday can be lived in victory through Christ. I don’t need to live in defeat hallelujah!) 2. the story of Vicki warmed my heart- I am so glad she is in your bible study, Dee 3. Jesus hates religion. It feeds the lie we can bridge the wide gap between man and a holy God. Every time I “give” religion to somebody, I am negating the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. 4. Ann V. and Martin Luther’s movie brought me to tears. Though not vocal of my thoughts about mental illness and suicide (aside from the academic class setting), I have entertained ideas that were not gospel driven but rather of religiosity. God, forgive me and thank you for the enlightenment that you progressively reveal to me about how to love as Jesus would. Transform us, Lord from the inside out!

  21. Pondering on Ann Voskamp’s link.    “You don’t try to kill yourself because death’s appealing — but because life’s agonizing. We don’t want to die. But we can’t stand to be devoured.”
     
    I learned today that a childhood friend took his life over the holidays.  So saddened.

    1. Oh Nila – so sorry. =(
      Praying for you and the family now.

    2. So sorry, Nila…

    3. Very sad to hear of this loss, Nila.   Will lift up his family today.

  22. 2. I remember reading Ann Voskamp’s article when it was first put up on her blog. Very, very powerful. Oh that we would love each other enough that we each would feel comfortable asking for help and know that those around us would “show up” and that we, in turn, would “show up” for others. The Luther clip shocked me. Luther’s response was so very touching… to do the right thing … don’t have words. I am grateful, Dee, for your teaching here because it is here that I first read the flat out truth that suicide is not the impardonable sin. Before that point I had been taught (I think mostly unintentionally) that if you died “sinning” then you lost God’s grace. Terrible. Why do we humans think that these difficult things are “contagious”? We all have sin and struggles but are unwilling (sometimes? most of the time?) to get our hands “dirty” in someone else’s hardship … when we should be laying our hands on each other praying for healing and comfort… Perhaps people fear taking on a bit of someone’s burden, they help only enough to not actually bear any weight… God help me be the help, help me be the hands and feet of Jesus.
     
    End soapbox.

  23. Dee – just wanted to mention that the interview I had actually referenced was one with Rosaria and Russell Moore.  You can easily google that one from October 2014 ……it is actually much zestier!  I really think you might like it even more.  ?  I hadn’t seen the interview you posted – it seems good, but much, much less “engaging”.  If you take a quick peek at the one I with R. Moore, I think you’ll quickly see what I’m trying to say!  
     

      1. Kerryn – THANK YOU! You’re just a get-things-done kind of woman, and I LOVE that !  Makes me smile.  🙂  

      2. Just listened — I liked it better than another video of her giving a speech.  Glad I watched/listened to this one.  THANKS for sharing it.

        1. Renee – 🙂

        2. Renee – I’ve seen a few videos of Rosaria giving “speeches”.  I don’t feel like she communicates NEARLY as dynamically as when she is in “forum” mode or QandA!  Big, big difference!  Just my opinion, mind you!  🙂

  24. what I meant to say is that the Moore interview really drills down on grace and truth!
     

  25. “Be of sin the double cure, save me from its guilt and power.”  Okay, how many years (since childhood) have I sung those words to the “Old Rugged Cross“–never to pay attention to the rich depth of meaning!  1) Being saved from sin, guilt, and condemnation does strip the power from the accusing enemy of our souls: Satan.  Our guilt can enslave us until in order to feel relief, we may be unknowingly be punishing ourselves (Satan’s devises of control and destruction). 2. And being saved from sin’s power over us (by His death on the cross) offers the Holy Spirit’s power in us to overcome sin and frees us from a wrong belief that because we’re human, we just can’t help but sin–a bondage that leads to death!  Truly this is a double cure! Thank you, Jesus!
    8. “Applying grace and truth to my life to overcome the power of sin” was such a thought-provoking and soul searching question!  I had a “counseling session” with myself and I honestly dealt with both truth and then grace.  First I looked at my truth in light of His Truth.  I was surprised that some buried truth as well as wisdom emerged.  Then I pondered Grace: only to see how the grace of God extends mercy and forgiveness towards me so I can overcome.  But also I realized that I need to extend grace to myself by accepting His forgiveness, plus offer grace for the person who is offending me.  Facing my truth (compared to His Truth) in the sea of His abundant Grace drowns unhealthy attitudes, habitual reactions, or my sinful behavior that were fleshly reactions to hurt and  then my disobedience (yet still under the power of sin).  Facing truth does make us free after “seeing it”, receiving God’s grace, and offering grace: thus, peace!  Wow, what an honest session this provoked for me tonight.  This has brought out things I didn’t know were still in my soul, heard new truth revealed, received understanding and healing by His mercy and love.
    Also I’ve always loved that verse from Psalm 85:10 where “mercy and truth met together and righteousness and peace kissed”.  I picture those pair of words: 2 vertically and then 2 horizontally meeting in the middle, forming the cross, on which Jesus hung centered (reaching down and outward), Who actually fulfilled and manifested that prophesy.  I could ponder that verse forever!
    Love Ann Voskamp from Holy Experience and this article on depression and suicide.  I will share with a friend who lost her brother to suicide and trying to deal with whether he lost his salvation. 
    This is a great study in John, Dee!  We do hate stony “religion” and crave a love relationship with Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law and was full of grace and truth.

  26. i am back to 2 studies. These verses this morning really spoke to me in light of our study here. This is our calling as His priests. I don’t see any religion here.
     
    The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations; they will renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭61‬:‭1-4‬)

  27. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?
    “full of grace and truth”
    Jesus looks to the heart…for example, He knew what was in the heart of Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery in danger of being stoned; He was well aware of their sin, He saw the truth of their circumstances, yet He provided them grace that moved them out of that sin.  With the Pharisees, He saw their pretension for what it was…they appeared so very pious, but their hearts were not consistent with their piety.  He provided them truth as a means of grace; Jesus said it like it was.  Jesus provides for moving forward in the will of the Lord, but only those whose heart/love is genuine will humble themselves to follow.   
     

  28. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover? He was flesh, He dwelt among us, He showed us His glory,He the Son of the Father, He is full of grace and truth.
     
    4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. I think our culture is a perfect example of the first – grace enabling sin. The common parenting approach today is to “let kids be kids.” Giving grace upon grace without correction and now we see a self-centered society who has an attitude of entitlement. Religion is a good example of truth without grace crushing. If we look at the charges to us in the Bible without the grace of Christ, we will be crushed, we cannot “do it” and to attempt to “do it” will crush us. Even just the knowledge of our sin without the grace of Christ is a crushing knowledge.

  29. 2. I watched the Luther video. It was beautiful how he told the truth. That satan lied to the boy telling him he must kill himself. I liked how he rebuked satan and then rebuked the religious people telling them that God is merciful, not angry as they see him and that when satan tells you you deserve to be punished for your sins. That you deserve death and hell, you can tell him-yes I do however I know someone who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ son of God and where he is I will be there also. So good.

    1. It struck me as I watched it that Luther feared and honored God more than men. Those who disagreed with and opposed him were powerful. He spoke hope and truth in spite of danger and opposition.

  30. testing… posted successfully but now it has disappeared…

    1. Jill – Deanna recently had that experience – you are not alone!  🙂
       

  31. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?
    Having come in the flesh, the grace and truth embodied in Jesus was showed in how he lived while here on earth. He came as divine and yet fully man. So he understood what it is like to be one yet without sin. Today, I read of the story of the woman at the well again. The grace He extended to others like this woman defied culture and moral failures but yet balanced with the truth that set people free. Full of grace and truth-that is what my Savior is! Thank you for loving me enough not to let me be deceived and instead be enlightened as to what truth and grace lived out really is.

  32. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?
    That the Word who was from the beginning and who created all things, who owns all things, laid aside his position in heaven to be born of a woman, to take on flesh…it is astounding! He became poor that we, that I (insert your name here 🙂   might be made rich. That the disciples were eyewitnesses to the glory and the grace and the truth of Christ as he lived among them. It struck me that Jesus was FULL of grace and truth. He didn’t just have a measure of each, but was full of both. I pray as we study this we can become more like him in this.
     
     
    2 Corinthians 3:18 “ And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

    1. Chris – I loved how you followed up thoughts of Jesus being FULL of grace and truth with 2 Cor 3:18.  The Spirit really used this like an arrow to my heart ……I want to see more of Jesus, filled with grace and truth ……like the disciples did…..like we will be privy to as we study John!  Beholding His Glory does change us……back to the caterpillar/butterfly illustration!!  Oh, how He loves us.

  33. Couldn’t help but equate your introduction  to this study with the comments Pope Francis made to his cardinals in his recent Christmas address.  There is much disease inside so many churches as too many people have focused on the rules to live by rather than focusing on the love of Christ and his acceptance of all sinners.  As my son reminds me, too many in church are judgmental and not loving.
    I also am moved by Vicki’s story.  My own son was accosted by church people for not living up to their standards and therefore he is reluctant to go back to church.  I also have a cousin (a pastor’s wife) who saw too much of the political judgementalism in her husband’s church and she also will not go back.

      1. YES!

  34. Regarding the position of suicide as unpardonable:  There is much discussion in the Bible about the tormentors of Satan.  How can such not be forgiven?  It is clear that the mind was clouded and obscured by the tormentors.  If Christ can forgive the thief on the cross then He will also forgive the one whose mind is confused, clouded, and tormented.
    Christ is full of grace and truth.  When Christ speaks a truth, it is cast in love, which motivates change.  I used a Jim Moore illustration on this topic yesterday as I spoke to a nursing home group.  Zacchaeus was seen as a crook because he was a tax collector, however, Christ saw him differently (through grace and truth) informing him that He intended to stay at his house that night.  As a result, Zacchaeus volunteered to give half his possessions to the poor and to refund anyone 4 fold if he had defrauded them in the past.  With this declaration Jesus said that salvation had come to Zacchaeus and his household that day.  The new way to see himself, as a result of his encounter with Christ, caused him to change his motivation for living and change his measurement for success.  That is the power of the gospel.

    1. Thank you for these comments,  Sherryl.  I so agree with what you’ve said here.  I don’t even know how, but somehow, one of my loved ones, concluded that the teaching of our evangelical church was that suicide was unpardonable.  That is not a doctrine of our church, but I think when he was young, someone said this (maybe a classmate, maybe he felt it was inferred by some with a more legalistic, less loving stance in our congregation) and it stuck with him.  Therefore, when he went through the loss by suicide of a friend, as a young adult, (after he had left home) it was one more step away from the gospel and away from the living, loving God.  When he stated, in his anger and pain, that if this is what the church taught, he wanted none of it, (many years ago now) I did not have a good answer. Although, I remember saying that I would never make a statement about someone’s eternal destination.  That, that is only in God’s sovereignty.  And the person who died was someone I didn’t know and I had no idea what his relationship to God was).  I am feeling remiss and emotional writing this.  This week, I just keep thinking……’oh, I hope it is not too late.  I hope he will, once again, be open to hearing and understanding what the gospel really says.”  I think more people have been wounded, scarred and confused by this lie than we may even realize.  I do think, when I was young, it was sort of ‘unspoken’ but for some, was a dogmatic belief, in the church I grew up in.

      1. Wanda, I think it’s common for people in evangelical churches to believe that suicide is the unpardonable sin.  But I didn’t know anyone who died through suicide until I was 20+ so the topic never came up when I was growing up.  One thing I got in my head for awhile as a teenager was that if I died before confessing a sin, I would go to hell (i.e., the “flip side” interpretation of I John 1:9).  That was cleared up at Bible School — but before that, I probably concluded that suicide was unpardonable because someone wouldn’t be able to confess it.  I know that some people who have asked if suicide is unpardonable (or asked if people who died from suicide really were believers) have no clue about serious mental illness. Those sorts of questions/comments following a suicide always help me seek and know God’s grace more fully.  

        1. Thanks, Renee.  I agree and we also didn’t talk about suicide, though somewhere I had that message ‘in my head’ from someone’s words somewhere along the way.  I had a cousin who died of suicide when I was in my early 20’s.  He was two years younger than I.   I know I didn’t think it was unpardonable then, but I also didn’t know at all what he believed nor that he had any mental health struggles.   (also, likely not talked about).   I also remember discussions about dying with unconfessed sin but I don’t think I  lost any sleep over it,  because I always thought it would be impossible to confess everything, especially if you died in a split second accident. So, surely God wouldn’t hold you accountable.   Sometimes I sit back and wonder how these ‘rumors’ get started.  Would be an interesting search to find out the source.  

    2. Sheryl Thanks for sharig what you shared at the nursing hme yesterday.so good so true.

  35. 2.    I read Ann Voskamp’s piece and also watched the excerpt from the Luther movie.    Both items made me want to call out “Right on!”   There was grace and truth in both of them.   Some of what stood out to me in  Ann Voskamp ‘s writing was “And I remember the wild agony of no way out and how the stars looked, endless and forever, and your mind can feel like it’s burning up at all the edges and there’s never going to be any way to stop the flame. Don’t bother telling us not to jump unless you’ve felt the heat, unless you bear the scars of the singe. Don’t only turn up the praise songs but turn to Lamentations and Job and be a place of lament and tenderly unveil the God who does just that — who wears the scars of the singe. A God who bares His scars and reaches through the fire to grab us, “Come — Escape into Me.”

    The excerpt from the Luther movie was one I didn’t remember from the time when I saw the movie.   Perhaps I saw a different version, as Luther looked different than I remember from the movie I saw.       I thought it was very touching that Luther was right in there with his hands (as Ann Voskamp would say).  He helped to cut the boy down from the hanging rope, he dug the grave himself, and he placed the body in the grave.   He was also very vocal that it was “Satan’s lies”  that caused the tragedy, and that God is a God of mercy.    That message was so very needed at that time.   Luther was representing the church (although perhaps not the way the church would have recommended), and he was doing a much better job than the usual “clucking” that the church would tend to do.    

  36. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?
     
    The first thing I discovered was that I didn’t have too look up that verse and read it — I could just let it come flowing off my tongue, because I have memorized it!    That was no small revelation–It felt wonderfully good!    The second thing I discovered was “We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.    No mistaking, the father’s only son was Jesus, and Jesus was full of grace and truth.    Those of us who want to be followers of Jesus also need to be full of grace and truth!    Personally, I think I am okay in the truth category, but I need to exude more grace than I do.      

  37. Dee, I have loved your studies for years now 🙂 We have tackled friendships and moderation (oh how that is a hard word to say 🙂 together.  However, you came back into my life with a little book that was on sale in my local bookstore, “Idol Lies”.  Actually, I noticed the book on sale because I heard you talking about it on the radio… WHOA, the things you said stuck in my soul and after finishing your book I am forever changed and realize the seriousness of “Idols”.  Actually, I think I have been aware of “idols” in my life for years, but God used your study to move me forward to take action.  THANK YOU SWEET DEE!!
     So, I did watch the video of Rosaria Butterfield…oh my goodness…WOW.  It is so funny, because my Adult Bible Fellowship class just talked about leading with love so we can share truth with those far away from Jesus.  So much of what Rosaria shared confirmed that is the best approach.  This video probably was one of the best I have seen on the subject of homosexuality, but outside of that I was encouraged by Rosaria to get into God’s Word and let His Word change me.  THE POWER OF THE WORD..the Gospel.
    From John 1:1-5  Jesus is the Word, He was with God and He is God.  He was from the very beginning and through Him ALL things were made.  He is LIFE and LIGHT.  He shines in the Darkness and the Darkness cannot overcome Him.    
    Looking forward to following you on the blog through this study.   I too hope in the future to lead a group of women through IDOL LIES.  I am just kind of working it out in my own life first 🙂

    1. Welcome Kim – you really seem to be a lover of the Word!  I think you will really love the way Dee shepherds us and teaches us the Word with integrity.  

  38. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?EVERYTHING!  I read the intro yesterday morning and SO MUCH resonated with what I have been pondering lately that reading was slow.  I don’t always stop to think about the definition of every word when I read, but I did yesterday.  I especially got lost thinking about meanings of “grace” and “gospel.”  Reading me about Bono’s accident jolted me out of my thoughts.  
     
    I was overwhelmed by thinking so deeply and was having second thoughts about posting more.  I really enjoyed reading in the background and not posting 🙂    But I also know that I dig into the passage more deeply when I am posting.  I LOVE that we are studying John, as well as the topic.
     
    The butterfly photo completely enamors me.  It grabbed me right away when reading on my cell phone — but oh my, on my computer, it’s phenomenal.  Ugh — then I started looking up the difference between moths and butterflies about half an hour ago.  I’m still not fully rested; I am particularly encouraged that I don’t have to (& can’t) transform myself.  Also love the ocean photo.  Wow, and Vicki’s experience — sad but common.  I know so many youth who have left church because of bad youth group experiences (but maybe that’s ok if what they were experiencing was “religion.”??  The sad part is when they turn away from God or switch to non-Christian religions.  My brain is busting because everything stands out.I’m sorta confused about my reaction to the study during the past day and a half.  I’ve thought about the intro a lot (took me long enough to read it that it stuck in my brain 🙂   )  and, on the one hand, feel so drawn to this study.  But I may also be as afraid of transformation as I am drawn to it.  

  39. Comments on Ann Voskamp’s post:  I read this when she first posted it and thought it was good.  This time, it was harder to read because so many parts seemed so vivid.  I was so encouraged by this:

    The real Jesus turns to our questions of why,why this sickness, who is to blame —and he says it like a caress to the aching,You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” (John 9:3 MSG)… “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:5 NLT).
    That’s the grace touch of Jesus: The dark is not your fault, the dark is not the heavy night that weighs the worth of your soul,the dark is not about blame.
    The dark is about bravely being a canvas for light — about courageously letting your dark be a canvas for sparks of God glory,a backdrop for ambers of mercy in the midst of your fire.

    I want to post it in psych units and offices — and scream it to those who seek to blame.Comment on Luther video:  I appreciated that he talked about people viewing God as angry.  Bringing the discussion to God’s character and nature points to hope.

  40. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?
     
    Jesus is full, complete in, grace and full, complete in truth—He is lacking in neither and perfectly balanced in both. Keller (Centrality of the Gospel): “Jesus was “full of grace and truth”. Any religion or philosophy of life that de-emphasizes or lose one or the other of these truths, falls into legalism or into license and either way, the joy and power and “release” of the gospel is stolen by one thief or the other.”
     
    4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. 
     
    Parenting. Truth without grace becomes legalistic moralism. It focuses on behavior modification, making a good appearance, strict obedience. It leads me to make an idol out of how my kids behave—I am destroyed by their failures, and become prideful when they are “good”. It is a destructive cycle of performance and approval. Grace without truth can become permissive parenting (not really something I can say much about! ;0
    The Gospel leads me to instruct my kids with the truth of God’s Word, but rest in the truth that He is their Perfect Father, and their hearts can only be shaped by Him.
     

  41. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?love, love, love this question — brings a big smile and huge relief because it’s the verse that has been front and center in my brain for the past month.  YES, embodies is the perfect word.  He became human, God incarnate, full of grace and truth.
     
    I HAVE A QUESTION about #4 (have been thinking about this for a few weeks).  Is it possible to have grace without truth?  It seems like “grace” without knowing truth isn’t really grace at all.  Or is grace the same as general niceness and acceptance?  I’ve started to wonder if truth might be inherent in grace.   For example, when I look at some organizations or groups, I see very nice respectful, accepting people in which members appear to thrive.  But the groups are organized around topics that most Christians would view as sin.  I’m not sure if it really is grace when someone condones and maybe even supports sin.  I’d be miserable with truth with no grace, but at least, I can conceive of it.  But somehow, I can’t conceive of “real” grace (and the need for it) unless there is knowledge of truth.  I used to think I “erred toward grace” in some situations (and toward truth in others), but now I am wondering if the times I err toward grace are either cowardice or rationalization of sin?  I know the topic is different, but this reminds me of Luke 6:33 “”If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”  Anyhow, I’m not completely connecting the dots.  
    I remember when Swindoll published a book on grace — maybe in the early 80s.  It was like a new topic, just then discovered among evangelicals — seems weird now.

    1. Renee – here again, I really feel like you just get right down to brass tacks!  “It seems like ‘grace’ without knowing truth isn’t really grace at all”.  Grace is radically different than what we used to call political correctness or “tolerance”.  The illustrations you use seem to really nail this.  You talk about groups centered around things that are sinful.  Though they may be very “nice”, they CANNOT be showing God’s grace.  I’ve thought for a long time now that grace and truth are literally intertwined – you cannot have one without the other!  Just like Jesus!  Just like others here have observed, Jesus was FILLED with BOTH grace and truth!!  In sanctification, that’s where all true believers are headed too …..though certainly never fully in these mortal bodies!  You’ve said that perhaps truth is inherent in grace…..I really love, AGAIN, how Rosaria’s 2 years of study with Ken and Floy Smith beautifully illustrate this…..they did NOT beat her over the head with Romans 1 or stay parked there.  Instead they offered her incredible friendship and hospitality…..they listened to her…..and they were unashamed of the Scriptures and wove them naturally through the course of their friendship…..with the behind the scenes support of MANY people praying for Rosaria!  In so many ways, it’s just so SIMPLE – and yet, hard.  

      1. Renee, I need to read your comments over again because you are making me think, (but I have to leave the computer soon).  Also, Jackie’s comments to yours,  which I just saw now.  
        Another of my favorite things that Rosaria said was that Ken made two omissions which consequently kept her coming back to his house to keep discussing the Bible with him.  1.)  He did NOT lay out the plan of salvation with her.  and 2) He did NOT invite her to church.  She expected him to do both.  I thought that was very insightful and so sensitive on his part.  She never felt like ‘his project’ which made all the difference.  (Again, this is from the ‘Jackie version’ 🙂  of the Butterfield interviews.)  

    2. Renee, that’s exactly what I was trying to say in my post this morning! I don’t think you can have one without the other if you believe in the Gospel. The way I see it, if just truth, you hurt people (unintentionally most often), if just grace then you are a “fake.” 

    3. Renee, I thought of the reminder to believers that before you judge others you need to take the plank out of your own eye.  Could this be how grace and truth work together?  I remember very vividly how a friend came to me about my sarcastic speech.  You see, I teased people I cared about, but not in an appropriate way.  He gathered his courage to confront me.  I had the choice to respond to the truth of God at that time, via the grace of God speaking through a friend I trusted.  God provided me with the friendly environment to see my own plank.  If I chose to ignore this, I truly believe that God would have continued to confront me, even to the point of allowing me to experience much harsher criticisms regarding my sin.

  42. I watch the interview this morning and was leftwanting to hear her more. If you have not watched it it is totally worth your time. I especially loved how she encourages us to be REAL, to be brave,  to be honest about what it costs to follow Jesus
    Its a weak gospel that claims comfort any ease. Anything off value costs us.
    loving people who are scary to love…that is what Jesus has called us to do. To often we are so busy protecting our selves and our children that we don’t let God be big…GOD IS BIGGER THAN WE LET HIM BE.
    God it’s light and the darkness CAN not overcome it. do we really believe that? Do we Live like me believe that….
    I was challenged and encouraged today 🙂

    1. Cyndi, absolutely! GOD IS BIGGER THAN WE LET HIM BE! Because we might need insurance. We might need a backup plan. It might be painful.
      i can tell you are experiencing the glory of letting Him be God 🙂
       

    2. Cyndi, Amen to every word that Anne shared with you!  

  43. 4. With out TRUTH there would be no need for grace. Grace comes when we fall from truth, given as a redemptive gift from the one who calls Himself the way the truth and the life….and is the personification of grace. 
    Grace defined as undeserved gift.

    1. Cyndi, I like how you’ve worded this — the link between truth and grace.  I’ve also been thinking about Jesus calling Himself the way, the truth, and the life during the past few weeks.  Truth is HIS IDENTITY.  His very being shows us our need for His grace.

    2. Thank you, Cyndi. Without truth, there is no need for grace. Jesus is truth.

  44. 2. These are 2 very good resources on suicide. Both make the point that depression is an illness like any other. Luther seems to think that it is the torment of Satan and to hear Ann’s description it sounds very much like hell itself. Ann mentioned the healing closeness and breath of the Word which made me think of our Prologue. Jesus. 
     
    After reading Ann’s post I understand depression and suicide so much more. It makes me want to reach out to one in this much pain and lift the weight of it if at all possible. When people’s hearts are cold, they just don’t understand the pain of it. 
     
    The question to me is, how do they end up so cold? This past Sunday our sermon touched on legalism. This pastor thought perhaps all the laws that the Jews added to God’s commands were like hedges meant to keep people from breaking the laws given by God. It was like insulation or even insurance to protect. So even if they broke some of the added laws, maybe they wouldn’t make it to the big ones, because their salvation depended on it. I wonder if the taboos about suicide did not fall into this category. Meant to protect while denying the brokenness and pain which would result in cold hearts.

      1. I agree with you Dee. We don’t withhold medical treatment for other life threatening illnesses. Maybe they don’t see how life threatening depression is.

  45. Dee – the link you gave us to Rosaria Butterfield and Russell Moore didn’t work.  🙁   BUT IF EVERYONE JUST USES THE LINK THAT KERRYN PROVIDED, THAT’S THE ONE!  🙂    Such fun.  It truly is a dynamic video.  Hope some of you can get an opportunity to give it a look!  

    1. I just googled their names and got the video, Jackie.  Found it captivating!  A very FAST 45 minutes or so!  I think I’ll try to watch the one Dee first posted also, since I’m hearing reference to it now,  before I comment.  Rosario certainly is a dynamic speaker!  So much of what she said could be a whole day’s discussion!  

    2. Jackie–so glad you posted this. I follow Russell Moore’s blog and often appreciate his perspective. I really enjoyed the interaction here!

      1. Elizabeth – yes, I really feel like Russell Moore brought a lot of vitality to the table for this discussion.  He had me laughing so hard when he was talking about testimony time and how we can turn it into a competition……”drunk every night?  that’s nothing….I was on horse tranquilizers!!”….well, I sure did love how much both he and Rosaria brought so much LAUGHTER into a stimulating and uplifting conversation about the Scriptures and the church community and sharing the faith.  I just felt like the entire interview was bathed in the glory of God and the wonder of the way Christ woos us and comes to us in our blindness and opens our eyes to TRUTH….and GRACE.  Amen.

  46. 3. The words “one and only Son of the Father” stand out to me. Jesus embodies the Gospel because He came to save us, He did make full payment for our sin and He is the ’one and only’ way of salvation. There is no other, certainly not works. 
    There is no salvation without grace because we can’t work for it and there is no salvation without truth. If there was no law there would be no sin to be saved from, only chaos. God presented the problem with truth and the solution with grace through His own Son. That is His glory.

  47. This study is rocking my boat and turning my world upside down! I praise the Lord for the revelation He has been giving me. I do not like what I see of me but just like Paul the Apostle I am becoming more and more aware of the wretchedness of my soul. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift in Jesus. I feel like my spiritual eyes are widening so and each day is like I am seeing more and more of Christ, the lover of men’s souls I have not seen before. Full of grace and truth.
    4. 4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. 
    What is truth? Just like what Pilate asked and Tolkien asked as well of Lewis. I am like Renee here when it comes to Question #4. The more I read, the more my thoughts swirl around my head. Today, two of my students told me that they are pregnant! I was shocked to say the least (both are 18 years old). But more surprised was I in my inner response. Usually it is judgment and harshness though I may not speak it out loud. But today, buoyed by what I am learning here, I had more of a peaceful feeling which I am still trying to process. Premarital sex is sin but do these girls know it as such? How do I share the truth without coming across as condemning but rather loving to them? Do I share the truth with them? Pray with me and for me. I have these 2 students the next 4 months and then they graduate. They both are possibly 1 month pregnant. AS a public school teacher, what is my role? Pray Christ will shine through me. Let me give/live out the gospel, Lord and not religion.

  48. I guess something that’s bothering me about this discussion….if we are accepted by grace alone, then what prevents me from continually sinning? Too much wine, swearing, lying, cheating, etc? Aren’t we called (in the bible) to help each other understand when we do wrong (with love)? When is it considered “authentic” (our Belief in the midst of sin)?

    1. Laura –  GREAT question:  “if we are accepted by grace alone, then what prevents me from continually sinning?”   The first thing that came to my mind was that the indwelling Holy Spirit is doing the work of sanctification in us – which is to say, He is making us more and more like Jesus.  Philippians 1:6 says “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  So God Himself is CHANGING me day by day.  And if God is doing a good work in me of making me into the likeness of Christ, sin will become more and more appalling  to me…..and I’ll more and more be saying along with Paul (Romans 6:15) “What then?  Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace:  By no means!! It’s so good to know that “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  We need to handle that verse with great care (lest we judge others harshly), but  we can certainly take this Scripture to God in prayer for ourselves…..we can be so incredibly THANKFUL when we ponder the magnitude of what He has done in us!  And I think we can ask God to show us where the old has passed away in our lives and the new has come.  

    2. What prevents ME from sinning is that the knowledge of His great love for me it makes me not want to Disappoint HIM.I KNOW HIS TRUTH IS THERE TO PROTECT ME. The Grace is what communicates that to my heart.
      I’m the kind of person who sees a rule and wants to break it,or at least I want you to give me a really good reason for the rule. God’s wrath would never make me want to obey Him but his love and grace makes me desperate to obey Him.

    3. What prevents me (although I still fail but it grieves me) is my LOVE for HIM.