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

A NEW YEAR

A NEW SERIES,

FILLED WITH THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO TRANSFORM OUR LIVES

transformation

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           I wanted to meet God but they sold me religion!

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

 

Religion Versus the Gospel

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

                                                                                                            Luke 2:10-11

 

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

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

VANISHING GRACE

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

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

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

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

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

 

            JESUS HATES RELIGION!!!

      

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

Sunday Icebreaker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Monday – Friday Bible Study and Media Interview

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

VANISHING TRUTH

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

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

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

Jesus-the-Bread-of-Life 

 

 but instead, people are fed the cotton candy of

pep talks and platitudes.

Many sicken of it and leave.

Cotton-Candy

FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH

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

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

Optional Media

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

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

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

 

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

Read John 1:1-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                            Matthew 16:25-26 (TLB)

 

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

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

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

            I was soaring.

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

APPLYING TRUTH AND GRACE TO YOUR HEART ON A DAILY BASIS

grace-of-truth1

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Read John 1:9-12

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

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

 

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

            Religion                                                                     Gospel

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

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

                        Matthew 15:14                                                                Isaiah 9:2

           

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

religious demands…                                                   and I will give you rest.

                        Matthew 23:4 (TLB)                                                      Matthew 11:28

 

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

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

sentenced to hell?                                                        right to become children of God.                               

                          Matthew 23:33                                                         John 1:12

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Mercy

and

truth

have met together

Righteousness

and

peace

have

kissed

Ps. 85:10

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

 

Friday/Saturday

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

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

Leave a Comment

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303 comments

  1. Hello sisters! I have been in and out in the back ground. What a wonderful transformation has happened in my heart and I am thankful! I have others that I follow and have not been able to do a bible study, with you all since October. I am apart of the True Woman movement ( Nancy Leigh Demoss) and my girlfriends and I flew out for truewoman 14,and I was doing another study with them.  But iam overwhelmed, in a good way about this  study it is mind blowing. I’ve read the article from Ann Voskamp and I have watched the clip from Martin Luther on depression. My favorite quote and the Martin Luther clip is;”when the devil throws my sins in my face and eclairs I deezer day I will say yes I deserved it but I know the one who done on my behalf and where he is I will be also one day.”  I have also watch the entire video from Rosario Butterfield, my favorite quote from her is the question ;”what did you have to give up to be here? To receive Jesus? ”  i’m most interested to see what The lord reveals me about myself. I think I err more on the side of truth without Grace. Thank you Dee for this study. 

    1. Glad you’re back, Roshanda!

  2. So far, I’ve just watched the Rosario clip that Jackie recommended.  (Hope to watch both).  Here’s a quote from her that I found very evocative.  I paused, rewound and listened till I got it.  So much in it, but for now, I’ll just post it.

    “We can’t tell the difference between a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a lost sheep unless we are close enough to have a real conversation and what is very hard about that is that in order to be close enough to put the hand of the hurting into the hand of the Savior, you have to be close enough to get hurt yourself.”

    1. Wanda and Jackie,
      Thankyou for your words here about the Rosario clip.   Especially, “you have to be close enough to get hurt yourself.”    
      Help us, Lord.

  3. Wanda – I’m so glad you shared this particular quote, for it really smote my heart.  All too often, I’m simply tired of being hurt.  Sometimes I’d rather just “live and let live” than actually enter deeply into the lives of others.  Ugh.  That is such an ugly reflection of my selfishness.  What a tender reminder of the people in my life who were bridges that I walked across to Jesus……in some cases I hurt them and I took them for granted and I brought the chaos of my rebellious life into their world……and yet they were  patient, loving and faithful.  I needed to see these words you quoted before retiring to my bed for the night……I need to ponder them.  So very thankful we are in John’s amazing gospel – looking at our Jesus ……..full of grace and truth. 
     

    1. And thank you, Jackie, for putting real life to this thought.  I was so struck by it but had not fleshed it out in my thinking.  Your tender heart and sharing your thoughts help me to see more of what she meant.  I find myself in that selfish place as well.  And I’m feeling it right now, as I know I need to stay the course and be a friend to my neighbor who just lost her husband.  We’ve never had a lot in common nor have our personalities ‘gelled’ nor do I want her to feel like she is my ‘project’.  I just need grace and sincere kindness to be her friend and someone she can count on.  (I am having coffee with her tomorrow.  Hope to find common ground and be able to continue seeing her.)

  4. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
    A lot stood out to me above, but this has been something God has been working out of me for some time. I am thankful when I did surrender my heart to God, it was the real deal, there was no gimmicks, or religion involved. I had a radical transformation and to this day, nothing compares, not even the birth of my first born or my other two children after. That is how much love I felt from God. As time went on, religion showed up and tried to beat me down, but thankfully Jesus always showed up through the right people, sermons or just His quiet voice at times.    This one line jumped out at me; “So many churches have lost their grip on the gospel, evidenced by either vanishing grace or vanishing truth.” Sadly, I have experienced both, as Im sure many of us have. I have also been guilty of not showing grace and getting caught up in the hierarchy religious aspect as well. And Vicki’s story made me cry and smile when she wrote JESUS HATES RELIGION!! 
     

  5. 2. The link by Ann VosKamp was wow… I really enjoyed reading it, it really stirred some past things in myself and I felt the sadness for the boy who longed for his mother. I felt just like that boy at times too, longing for my mother who lead a really wild and not so good life. All the while my family talked so badly of her, to include my father. This was beautifully written and made me realize too that we need to be so compassionate and not shun people. I think as a society and even within the church we shun things we do not understand out of fear of not knowing how to exactly handle the things like depression, suicide, mental illness….When I faced depression I was quickly told by religion that I must not be fasting, praying or reading my bible enough….I wasn’t ‘doing enough’ of the right religious things…it never set well with me. It just pushed me into a deeper slump at times, questioning God at times too. All the while silently screaming on the inside from my past abuse as a child, rejection from my mother and family, feeling helpless even at the age of 4. Wondering if my mother would come pick me up that night at the babysitters or leave me for days on end…I understand how the lost rejected person must feel, especially in ‘religious’ world where you feel you never measure up. Alls I can say is Thank God, Jesus was always there and His love shined through all the hurt, rejection and religious junk. I was so stirred by this, I sent this link to a friend who I know goes through depression a lot. She hasn’t surrendered her heart to Jesus, that I know of, but I know she has some faith and she is open to receiving from God. She is also in a gay lifestyle, but it doesn’t make God love her any less, nor do I. As an old friend once said to me “WE all just need Jesus…”. Aint that the truth…

    1. Thanks, Staci. I know of several people struggling with depression including my daughter. Even as a nurse, I struggle understanding everything about mental illness. I am prompted to not give up seeking truth and grace so I can be more like Christ in my responses.

    2. Oh, thank you Staci for sharing your personal story.  Breaks my heart to hear of what you went through.  The way you said, ‘when I faced depression, I was quickly told by religion……’ hit me so strongly.  That is so true.  It is ‘religion’ talking when Christians come with those pat answers and the fact that you said ‘quickly’ makes it even more telling.  When we need someone to walk alongside us for the long haul, we don’t need them to tell us anything quickly.  I’m so glad you’re back on the blog!  I have thought of you often as you were here when I first joined and I’ve wondered how you’ve been.

    3. Staci,
      Thank you for sharing your story here.   These words strike me:  “…..especially in the religious world where you feel you never measure up.”     
      Help us Lord.

  6. The belief that suicide is unpardonable has a rather curious place in Australian history. Britain sent many convicts to Australia and the harsh conditions in some penal settlements lead some convicts to murder as a form of state-assisted suicide. They knew they would be executed, but at least murder was forgivable, where suicide was not. One such fellow (Cook) wrote to a friend regarding his anticipated execution

    I am so far convinced that there is an eternal happiness for the truly penitent, redeemed sinner, that I can at this moment look forward with a cheerful hope to the hour of my departure … Oh happy thought! Oh, cheering prospect! That such as you and I should not only be forgiven our unequalled sin, but that the celestial angels should smile at the deed, and welcome us to partake of their blissful and never-ending happiness.

    Historian Tim Causer notes “That Cook committed murder meant he might become a ‘redeemed sinner’ whereas no such hope was available had he killed himself.” There is also evidence that convicts made suicide pacts. They’d draw lots to decide who would commit the murder and who would be executed. http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1331355/1/Suicide_Lotteries_Norfolk_Island_2010.pdf
    Well, it is logical – sort of – if murder is forgivable, and suicide is not!

    1. That is fascinating, Kerryn.  And sad.  I appreciate your digging up this piece of history.  Does shed light on how pervasive and destructive that belief was/is.  

  7. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover?
     
    In John 1:14, Jesus became like us; flesh. He came to live with us so we could see how to treat other people. We saw his glory….. Grace and truth.
     
     
    4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. 
     
     
    I struggle with with these types of “esoteric” questions, but here goes….
     
     
    If you give mercy (grace) without telling the person the truth, then you are lying to them (enabling them in their lie). For example, friends who live in an alternative life style, but you don’t ever discuss with them the merits of their choice to do so. Or, ignoring the fact that your friend drinks too much, eats too much, works too much and doesn’t rest as God would like us to. You enable their sin by the grace without truth. 
     
     
    If you you give the truth only (you are in the wrong lifestyle, you’re drinking too much wine, you’re eating too much food, you’re working too hard), you hurt the person. You need to make sure they know you struggle with your own sin and are not judging them for theirs. 
     
    This is is where I get confused (again). By pointing all these things out, aren’t i becoming “moralistic?” But, the Bible does tell us in the New Testament to “call” our brothers on things like this. Is it that we “call” a brother on it, but we don’t show them Grace? We have to have both (the truth and the grace) to make sure it’s properly accomplished?
     
     
    So when I had that gay friend in college, and we never talked about it, in reality had I been a person who represented Jesus, I would have questioned his lifestyle but also shown grace? I think I showed grace, but I wasn’t truthful with him. Back then I would have tended to tell him he was living wrong and was flirting with not going to heaven, to deter him. In reality, I suppose I should have questioned his life style but also presented Jesus as a gift of salvation. Is this what you mean Dee?
     
     
     
     

    1. I think I missed something here. The “truth” bit is really Jesus, not actually the “truth” of their sin? Maybe? Truth meaning acceptance of Jesus as our savior? On e you know Him, you want to live as He did?

  8. I look forward to watching the Rosaria videos, but that will need to wait due to length of the video…I see the one Dee posted is a little over an hour.
     
    6. Write down everything you learn about Jesus in these first five verses. Then comment.
    Jesus was part of the trinity alwaysThrough Jesus everything…everything was made…creation of all (e.g., time, heaven, earth) was through Jesus.  Jesus is the breath of life…He provides for life.  There is a specialness Jesus provides to those who receive Him, who believe in His name, that is unique and noticeable…it “shines” in the darkness of the world; the world and its evil does not have the capacity to extinguish the specialness the Lord provides.  
    I’ll have to wait to add my comment…
     
     

  9. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover? 
    Jesus is God who is 100% full of Grace and 100% full of truth-He is perfect in both. He is the Word who put on flesh and walked among us. I might be stretching a bit but I see both Grace and Truth in how Jesus put on flesh to rescue us and that He is the Word.
     
    4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. 
    Grace without truth: A friend who has confessed she is an alcoholic or a friend who is addicted to food. Loving them without helping them see that this behavior will destroy them and those around them. Dee said to me once when I was with her at her cabin in Ephraim, me: “I don’t ‘stress eat’ as often as I used to, God is really setting me free from running to food for comfort, however I eat too much now because I enjoy food..that can’t be bad.” Dee lovingingly replied: “Oh, but it will turn around and bite you.” That was Grace with Truth for me.
     
    Truth without Grace: Shunning the compulsive eater. I guess Dee’s response could have gone like this if it was truth without grace: “you are sinning when you overeat. That is gluttony and God tells us not to be gluttonous!” ;~))
     

  10. ,5 & 6
    Jesus is Gpd, he was there as the world took shape, more than”there” He was involved in the process of CREATION. Therefore, as the creator He knows what He created us to do, who He created us to BE.

    1. Sorry, this is 6&7

  11. 8
    I have found the last couple years that my attitude towards my husband is a great barometer for my relationship with Jesus. When I begin to get prideful puffed up with myself thinking I I’m such a good catch lol, I know that I need to get back into the word and realize what a sinner I am. My pride so often gets in the way of sitting under the grace that is so freely given by my Jesus. His love pushes me to want to obey and serve Him way more than his rules ever could.

  12.  
        8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?
     
    I want good things: I want to grow as a disciple, to be diligent in studying the Word of Truth
    I want to honor God by taking care for my body, getting stronger, losing some weight.
    I want to be wise and kind, a good friend who counsels people in a way that orients them towards God
    I want to enjoy the good things God has given me in a way that glorifies him, family, food, beauty, fun
    I stumble when I slide these things into a bracket above God in my heart, I make God into a stepping stone to get to these things, rather than these things being a platform to display his glory.
     
    Truth:  I approach my Bible reading plan with good intention, but then it becomes a matter of pride, I want to tell others I am accomplishing it, I want to check off the box. I imagine that I am more acceptable to God because I have crossed this requirement off my list for the day. At that point I am whitewashing my tomb. I come to this study hungry to know God more, to love him more, but I get hung up on the attention my responses do or do not get. I feel misunderstood. my participation becomes about me, I want the glory to be mine.
     
    I begin a plan to take better care of my body, Gods temple. I acknowledge that I am not my own, I am bought with a price. I exercise with gratitude and joy, I eat mindfully with thankfulness. Then it begins to pay off, I begin to look and feel better. I enjoy the compliments of those who notice. I begin to choose exercise over my quiet time. I spend too much money on food that is “better” for me. My desire to honor God with my body becomes an obsession with my tent. 
     
    I set out to be purposeful in honing the gifts God has given me for the good of the body and for his glory. When it goes well I feel proud, when it doesn’t I feel shame. The opinion of other people about what I am doing or I am not doing begins to weigh on me so heavily that I am internally either jumping through hoops to impress or cowering in fear of failure. Helping people becomes about other people being impressed with me.
     
    I want to honor God by rightly enjoying the good gifts he has given me. I set out to be creative with food to please God and those I am serving. If I am successful and the food is delicious, I glory in the praise, I eat too much, I become a glory thief and a glutton. If I fail, the food and the party are a flop, I despair, questioning my worth.
    I want to be a good wife, I want a strong marriage, I want a good relationship with my husband. Good God honoring intentions turn into dissatisfaction, my squeezing him for all he’s worth, trying to get some satisfaction, some self worth from him that he cannot provide.
    I set my hope on my children, or our next vacation, or on pleasing my husband or a friend in ways that begin to eclipse God in my heart. 
     
    Grace:
     
    God is honored by my good intentions.When I see that I have stumbled into darkness and made all of these things about me, when I see that my intentions are almost never pure, I don’t have to hide from him. He is picking up his skirts and running to me with his best robe. The righteousness and identity that I long for are already mine.  He has begun a good work in me, he will be faithful to complete it. I am promised nothing less than transformation as I gaze upon Christ.

    1. Chris – Well, I read your entry and it was one of those rare and wonderful times when I almost felt like I was reading my own journal entry!  I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one responding to what you have written in that way.  Your boldness in sharing has made me desire to get alone with the Lord and echo your paragraph on “Grace”.  I love the way you ended with a personalized Philippians 1:16 and 2 Cor 3:18…..the Scriptures really DO shape our thinking, and that is so strikingly obvious in you. 🙂

    2. Thank you Jackie and Anne
      This was such a good exercise, to write this down in black and white. I could have gone on and on. 
      It helped me see how foolish and ridiculous it all is.
      I keep going back to Hosea, that she didn’t know it was God who gave her the gifts. That even after she behaved so badly, her shame was covered, she was brought back in. My heart wells up with Hallelujahs 

    3. Chris,
       
      Thank you for your honest, vulnerable thoughts here.   You put words to some of my very own thoughts/experiences.
      “I don’t have to hide from Him.”  Amen.  He removes my shame.

    4. Chris, I agree with the others…you have put it down here in “black and white” what many of us struggle with (including me). I see in you how you carefully reflect and let the Scripture be a magnifying glass that allows you to look deeply within, to see what motivates you, to peel back layers over what usually remains hidden. I especially relate to the areas you noted that involve receiving the attention and approval of others. It is such a daily struggle, and involves multiple areas as you noted…wanting a response to our posts here, wanting to be fit and healthy yet enjoying the compliments when we are…and you end your post with His grace. You have so much insight and wisdom, Chris.

    5. Chris, I am just now getting to read some of these earlier comments and I wanted to say that your post blessed me. Thank you for your vulnerability. It ministered to me in some of the same struggles. Thank you.

  13. Chris these are the issues I stuggle with too. As I read I think of how truth shines in causing us to see our hearts of sin. Then at the confession, grace rushes in to deliver.
     

  14. 5. I have a friend who is one of the most interesting believers I know. She founded a school for underprivileged children in my city. Her thinking about how to minister to the poor is so different that often I have the sense that I don’t get it. She sees how we speak truth to believers as very different than how we speak to non believers. I don’t know if I can even explain this properly. Lord please clarify my thoughts. 
    She is against condoning sin in the church for the sake of keeping that person ’in church’. I do think that is an example of misplaced grace. Her example to me was a pregnant teen. In the church example she gave, condoning that sin opened the door and pretty soon there were many instances of fornication in that church. Anyway that is my example of grace without truth.
     
    In truth without grace people hide their sin. They live in shame and never receive the cleansing that grace brings. It opens the door to hard hearts and all sorts of psychological problems. A video of Mark Driscoll talking about men who care for their children at home while their wives work is a good example of truth without grace. It was shaming.
     
    The second one seems worse but the truth is that both prevent redemption through the gospel.

  15. sorry I’m talking so much, it’s my day off and I’ve hurt my back. I can’t do anything.
    I just thought of a movie that illustrates grace on the one side and truth on the other. It’s called “Doubt ” with Meryl Streep.

    1. Actually, I don’t recommend this movie. Don’t know what I was thinking :/

  16. 4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. 
     
    Kind of thinking out loud here, but I just thought of this, after a discussion I had this morning with a good friend.  (We meet once a week and I often end up talking about what we’re discussing on the blog).  I asked her about her experience growing up and what her sense was that the church taught regarding suicide.  We agreed that we both had heard the message that suicide was not pardoned, or at the least was ‘questionable’.  I made the comment that a lot of topics like this, seem to kind of fade into another, less harsh (and more biblical) way of thinking and practice over time.  Even if it isn’t written down as a new church doctrine.  So we talked about the stigma that divorce had when we were growing up.  I thought about a single man in my church who ended up marrying a divorced woman.  Both were believers.  He was one of the best youth leaders we had (very small, rural church) as he was approachable and really cared about the kids; not just doing it as an obligation.  It hurt me to see how he (and she) were shunned by some.  (ridiculous really).  When I thought of other people in the community who were divorced at that time (60’s and 70’s in ultra conservative community), the ones I could think of, probably just left the church (my church or others) once that happened.  What an example of truth without grace this was.  (except that my understanding of divorce now is fairly different than what I heard in those days.  So, I’m not even sure if it was truth.) 

    1. Wanda, it really is so much to think about. 

  17. 6. Write down everything you learn about Jesus in these first five verses. Then comment.
     
    Not “in the middle” not “in the end”, but “in the beginning”—before all else, from all time, He was. He is with God, He is God’s Word, God’s expression, He is God. He is the Creator of all things. He is the Source of life. He is Light. My favorite part, maybe–He is more powerful than the darkness. 
     
    This thought just coming together in my head—We are told Jesus is the light, and later that He is filled with both grace and truth—and it hit me how true this is of light. Light reveals, speaking truth into a situation—with light, there is nothing hidden under the carpet, or in the dark—truth. But light also provides healing, and the ability to grow—plants, animals, even people…need it for health, food, growth—and that growth is grace. Today I fell into an old sin of wanting to sound godly in front of a certain person. Ick. But as He shined His light on my sin, I felt His truth reveal my pride. And I have repented of it (a few times!) since—but by His grace, I feel growth, humility, forgiveness. So this light that reveals the truth of my sin, also provides the grace of healing and growth. 
     

    1. Jesus = light….i love it 🙂 the sunshine is always such a balm to my soul (have not seen it much lately!) I love to think of Jesus shining his love down on me whan i sit in the sun, soaking up its comfort!

  18. ok. You are not going to believe this! I just watched the Rosaria Butterfield interview. It was great but listen to what happened. I decided to go out on the Internet and look for a reformed church in my city. When I looked a couple of years ago there were none but I thought I would check again. So there is one less than 10 min from my house. When I was reading about it I noticed that the pastors name was Kent Butterfield. His wife is Rosaria. This church is at the egde of Duke University’s east campus.

    1. WOW, Anne!  Amazing!  I meant to google and see what city she was in.  That must have floored you!

    2. Anne – I’m almost speechless!!  Is this a moment with God’s fingerprints ALL over it or what????   I too, got online and checked for reformed churches in MY area…..so I get that part too!  No Butterfields , but there ARE some reformed churches in the Baltimore area!  No doubt, the picture Rosaria painted of this denomination was more than winsome, wasn’t it?  

      1. Jackie, YES! God’s fingerprints all over this! If I could share here some of the issues in my family It would be even more amazing. I just know God is at work and we will see how He proceeds.
        Rosaria did paint a wonderful picture of this denomination but I have been interested in it for some time. Their website was very understated. I noticed that they sing acapela psalms for worship. Best of all, they have wednesday night prayer which I have not been able to find anywhere for a long time.

        1. Anne ….ah, the wonderful Wednesday night prayer service!  The little country Bible church that my parents began to attend when I was 10 had that.  Even though I was “forced” to go along with my parents, and the church’s legalism left some scars, oh how I DO remember the warmth of those Wednesdays!  It was there that I really saw a group of very ordinary people pouring out their hearts to God ……expressing their love for Him and their great concerns for those in their lives.  THANK YOU for reminding me of that this morning!  🙂   I LOVE the singing of the Psalms, but, even though Rosaria explains that more in her book, I’m still not on board with limiting worship singing to the Psalms.  Although…..I do think over the long haul it could be one of those things I could learn to live with, as so much that I’ve been learning about this denomination is lovely and so biblical, it seems.  

        2.  I can see how someone with Rosaria’s intellect and background would not be in a trendy megachurch, but the very conservative surprises me too. Interesting!  

    3. LOVE THIS!It seems a silly question to ask, but are you planning to go check it out?

      1. Chris absolutely! I’m just kind of sad I cant go this Sunday. 
        Dee do you sense conservative because of the music or because of the denomination?

    4. Anne,
       
      What an encouraging story!   I love how the Lord encourages us this way, reminding us that he is intimately acquainted with each of our stories.

    5. So wild Anne! I also remember Wednesday night covered dish dinners at the Methodist church (my FAV – oh the food!) and dad having choir practice after. Others went to adult bible study and the kids also had bible study. Does anyone remember the program where I was a “Jet Cadet?” Not sure if it was a local or national program within the Methodist church. So funny! The church I attend now has the same Wednesday night dinner/study program and it draws me to the church; I feel at home.

    6. Incredible how this is unfolding for you, Anne…I am intrigued to see how this plays out…:)  please continue to share, if not here, on the FB page.

    7. Anne – Wow. wow. wow.  So cool! =) Can’t wait to hear about it.

  19. 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?I was on the road today & was thinking about the video (the one with Russell Moore).  Some things that stood out in my memory:  1) She was reading the Bible; the pastor let the Word speak for itself and was open to discussing it.  2) She found a sense of community in the relationship with the pastor & his wife and others that came in and out of their house.  3) He ignored/didn’t buy into the stereotype of the “dangerous feminist lesbian” when the young elder suggested that he get rid of her.  4) She talked about “common grace” that was shown to her by those in her earlier social circles.  “Common grace” isn’t just a Christian thing.  5) She talked about how colleagues discussed sermons throughout the week (sort of normalizing the gospel, or at least not compartmentalizing it to one day/week)
     
    What stood out to me and encouraged me is that the pastor treated her as a person rather than lumping her together with others in a homosexual and/or feminist category.  He didn’t have to pound her with truth or show a fake or condescending grace.  It sounded as if he was respectful — and because of that respect, they were able to develop a friendship.  It also seemed that the friendship was enjoyable for both parties.

    The video also encouraged me because I wonder if I share enough truth in relationships with unbelievers, but this helped me see that the ongoing relationship itself provides an opportunity for God to work.  I enjoy learning from and being friends with people whose lives are different from my own — and am comfortable in those relationships.  Maybe the question isn’t whether I show enough truth (or grace), but whether I have given enough time and commitment to the friendship.  I don’t have to work too hard to spend time with those who are not believers, and I’m fine with conversing with those who don’t like church or Christians.  My biggest challenge is that I hibernate and avoid EVERYONE.  In that sense, I want to be more aware of opportunities God plops in front of me.

    Although I was amused that she went from one stereotypical end of the continuum to the other stereotypical end, a video with such extremes also concerns me.  Certainly, God was and is at work in drawing her to himself and working through her to honor him.  Yet, I fear that people might use the video to conclude that she was representative of all who experience same sex attraction and that her marriage is somehow typical of those who do come to Christ.  In reality, not all those who are in same-sex relationships have political activist agendas.  (The only gay person I have known who is or has had an “activist” agenda has an outspoken Tea Party agenda). Also, many continue to battle same sex attraction to the extent that it would be unwise for them to marry; yet, they are “just as good” believers.

     Also, not all who come to Christ end up in a denomination that seems this unique to me.  When she referred to a low-key, Reformed church body, I had suspicions (which were confirmed).  I’ve met a few wonderful people in that church group — but oh my — it’s ironic enough that I  grin whenever I think about it.  I don’t think I currently know anyone with those particular church practices.  And yet, God has used the grace shown within that denomination to draw her to himself.  This also teaches me not to stereotype church bodies based on rules or practices that I might find unusual.  What an amazing story.  I pray that her story isn’t used as part of a political or stereotypical religious agenda that turns off others who need Him.  The video was sooo encouraging and illustrative.  Though I am concerned that she not be viewed as a “homosexual representative” either in her previous life or as the way God always works, I think there is much to be learned & generalized about how to live in grace and truth in friendships with unbelievers.  

    Ugh — I get long-winded after I drive and think!

    1. Renee – I understand your concerns about Rosaria becoming a “poster girl” for the conversion of a lesbian woman!  To be fair, she goes to great lengths to avoid all of the hoopla and the very, very last few moments of the Russell Moore interview are Rosaria coming down hard on the church for trying to push others into marraige, etc.  Her comment struck me when she spoke about how God’s design is marraige, BUT God has not designed everyone FOR marraige.  
       
      I very much relate to your paragraph that contained this thought:  ” Maybe the question isn’t whether I show enough truth (or grace), but whether I have given enough time and commitment to the friendship.”  and this:  “My biggest challenge is that I hibernate and avoid EVERYONE.”  You have just described me – and my best friends would be saying “oh YES…..that IS jackie!!…..we have to go and pull her away from that farm time and again…..or invade her space there!!!  🙂  )     But those are my believing friends…..there are some people in my life who the Lord is bringing to mind right at this moment…..who clearly have let me know that they would spend more time together if I would!  In these cases I have to wonder what I am showing them of Jesus – that He loves to hibernate with a good book and a cup of tea and lock the door?  Oh, forgive me Jesus for the times I neglect to do the hard things you’ve called me to.  when Rosaria spoke of the common grace and the open homes in her LGBT community….and how the church doesn’t always measure up in that way, I am beginning to be powerfully convicted that I am not representing Christ well in that regard.  Praise God, just last night someone was here with me (and my dogs – being ok with dogs is a necessity right now!) and we had a sweet and precious time……but I will admit, that my FIRST thoughts were “there goes my quiet, restful evening!”.  
       
      Renee, your stilmulating thinking gives us a lot to chew on!  Thanks!

      1. And thanks, Jackie,  for reminding us of those last couple minutes when Rosaria talks about marriage not being for everyone.  I was struck by that too, but had forgotten how she said it.  May need to go back and listen to the end again.  

    2. Wow.  Good thoughts and insight here, Renee.  The things you commented on in the first paragraphs struck me too, either when I watched the video or when I heard your summary and thought back on it.  I was blown away by Pastor Ken’s faithfulness and true friendship.  And you’re right.  It breaks some stereotypes I tend to make about very conservative denominations too.  Thanks for bringing up the stereotype continuum and your thoughts/concerns.  I was trying to put that into words and you did it so well.  I also saw articles online where her message at Wheaton had sparked some student protests along these lines.  I do agree with what you, Jackie and Anne are saying too, that her story is VERY unique, though I’m not sure students who are bothered by the supposed endorsement for all in the  LGBT community would differentiate that.   I can see how her message brings some questions and even controversy to student groups especially.  
      Like Jackie though, I am most struck by your practical application in looking at your own relationships and spending time with others.  Count me in as a ‘guilty hibernator’. Spending time faithfully with others is something I have to intentionally work at  Ken and his wife are so exemplary.  Makes me want to read the book to know more about them.  I think the testimony of the grace they extended is really the story behind the story here.    (I did pull up the CT article about her ‘trainwreck conversion’ so maybe that will tell me more.)

  20. Renee it is a fair wind. I agree with you that generalizations are dangerous. Her story is very unusual, in going from being such an active member of the gay and lesbian community to an evangelical pastors wife. It is an awesome demonstration of God’s power to redeem but not a testimony that we should expect from others God redeems.

  21. Read John 1:1-5
     
    6. Write down everything you learn about Jesus in these first five verses. Then comment.
    Jesus is the “Word.” He was with God. He made all things. He had life in Him and it made light in men. He still shines with light today.
     
    I think it’s cool how the tense changes in this section of verses. He was and then he is. He is still shining light and evil has not yet won (although I don’t quite understand that part, with all the evil in this world). I guess He still exists in the hearts of man, so evil has not overcome all on earth.

  22. 6. … then comment
    (Side note, I rarely use the word awesome, unless the breadth and depth of the word is appropriate, which is rare.)
    To think that Jesus’ life/light is inside of me and regardless of what the evil one conjures, His light remains…darkness will never overcome is awesome!
     
    8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?
    Oh the time and energy I put into thinking about what is the best make-up to help improve my appearance, what is the best style/type of dress to best suit me putting my best appearance possible forth, what might be a better hairstyle…etc. etc. Indeed appearance is important, but over focus on appearance (such as this) is an idol related to approval.  Rather than rejoicing in another’s beauty and/or successes, I sometimes find myself in a state of comparison that leads to discontent.  How often I use others as a gauge of who and what I am…forgive me, Lord.
     
    “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
    “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.…” (Psalm 139:13-14) 
    “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Roman 12:2)

  23. Dee – is the Gospel Transformation study that you referred to done by World Harvest Mission? I am ordering it and wanted to be sure I am getting the right one?? Thanks.

    1. Jill–I did that study almost 20 years ago and it is still one of my very favorites–until Dee’s studies here, I never found anything close to it. My husband did it a few years ago and it’s been revised some, but still excellent. I still review my workbook and continue to have those “aha!” moments (but I’m a forgetful learner)!

  24. The closer I get to Jesus the more my eyes are open to sin, the more I am not even attracted to it. Of course when Satan’s old tricks he pulls out a new bag so when the “big” sins no longer are much of a temptaion he pulls out the much more insidious ones! pride, self reliance…older brother sins that dont really look like sin.
    Keeping close to my Jesus, He is the truth, He is the grace, so emptying my of myself and giving room for Holy Spirit is the best way to live out grace and truth.
    what I will do??? slow down, sit at his feet, ask Him what HE wants of me today, this week, this year. at the moment I am torn between 3 ministries, wanting to be part of all of them and not knowing what GOD wants me. So i need to listen today. I have a really bad headache and its 2 outside  and college has not started so today will be a day of listening 🙂

    1. thanks Dee 🙂 Coffee, tylonal and prayer! I have a cleaning job in an hour so hoping it kicks in soon! hope you get to stay inside today! its COLD in Toledo so im sure its cold in WI! Love you, have a great day!

  25. 8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?
    (This was much harder than I expected.  I can see a lot of truth, but I kept wanting to add “therefore, I should…” to the grace).
     
    Truth:   There are areas in my life in which I either need help or help would make my life more pleasant.  I am too independent in the most negative sense of the term.  Because I am afraid of what others will think about the mess of my life, I don’t invite them into the chaos and mess that is my life.  I even tell people that my life is too chaotic to allow help.My fear of what others might think (sometimes fear that Christians will be judgmental) has led me to do and be exactly what I don’t like about others.  I am judgmental when I anticipate that others might be judgmental or gossip about me; I focus on their sins rather than seeing my own sin.  I build walls to protect myself from those I think have too much power rather than trusting in God to protect me.  Rather than being excited about how God might use me, I seek safety in my house of straw.

    Grace:  Jesus loves me.  He is enough.  He is changing me.  Transformation is not about changing my own behavior to be good enough for him.  I REST IN HIM, my shield and my defender.  Haven’t thought about/heard this hymn for a long time:

    We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
      We go not forth alone against the foe;
    Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.
      We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
     
    Yea, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
      In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
    Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
      Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
     
    We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
      And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
    Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing;
      We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
     
    We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender:
      Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise
    When reigning in the Kingdom of Thy splendor;
     Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

  26. As I think about truth, I’m not at all surprised that people go to great lengths to rationalize, condone, or hide sin.  I do it, too.  AND I KNOW GRACE.  Truth is overwhelming because sin is overwhelming.  I cannot clean myself up.  Although some people seem so confident in their pursuit of truth that they do come out of hiding, others of us are more tentative.  Either way, the HOPE and FREEDOM we gain from knowing truth are only available through Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life — who also is full of grace.  One of the reasons I like a couple aspects of post-modernism is that I don’t fully comprehend grace.  Truth without grace is so scary that I want to water down truth.  Grace enables me to see Truth more clearly.  Otherwise, perceiving truth is like looking at an eclipse with no protection!  I SHOULD be scared.

  27. 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?
    I have already read Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert which has really opened my eyes about how grace and truth work in the hearts of people.
    It isn’t enough to say to yourself this person is unsaved and doesn’t want to change so if I engage him/her with the truth of their sin then I will be labeled judgmental, but if I approach them with grace I will be giving them the impression that their sin is ok and God will accept them no matter what.
    We need to realize that the lack of (or stopping of) sinful behavior does not mean that the person is saved and going to heaven. Only God knows a person’s heart which is the reason that our job is to follow the leading of the spirit and speak the truth in LOVE.
    A person who drinks, swears, sleeps with someone outside of marriage is no more or less a sinner than the person who gossips, holds grudges, or thinks mean thoughts about another person. Salvation comes from the Lord, a true heart change can only come through him.
    That’s why it seems outrageous that a homosexual couple would have bible studies in their home after all they KNOW what it says in the bible about homosexuals. Yet we really don’t think that the sweet lady who goes to church every Sunday and volunteers her time helping others could possibly be unsaved and in danger of going to hell.
    I constantly pray for the people that I encounter who are hostile or indifferent to the gospel that their secret thoughts will be about their salvation and the wooing of the spirit will soften their hearts. That includes thugs, drug dealers, child molesters, etc.

    1. Dawn – I really agree with Wanda here….you’ve given us great food for thought.  Right on target, I do believe.  

    2. Dawn I like your prayer about secret thoughts being about salvation.

    3. I think I need to read her book too. Thank you for your thoughts here Dawn.
      “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

  28. The specific examples you used here are really good, Dawn.  We can’t see ‘from the outside’ what is in one’s heart and yet it’s so easy to draw conclusions.  Wow.  Your words spell out what Rosaria was saying when she talked about not knowing the difference between a lost sheep and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

  29. 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?
     
    He made us so He has our purpose as well.
     
     

  30. 3. Jesus embodies the gospel. Read John’s description of Him in John 1:14. What do you discover? 
    ~Jesus became flesh and made His dwelling among us;he came full of grace and truth. When you look at the definition of the word embodies, it has such a strong meaning. One deifintion that stood out to me  was ’embrace’. Jesus came to earth as flesh/human and embraced us. Beautiful.
     
    4. Grace without truth enables sin. Truth without grace crushes. Give an example of each. 
    ~I think I struggle with this, meaning I know what grace and truth are according to God’s word. I know truth sets a person free and grace to me sees a person through even the hardest truth. I struggle in how to exemplify truth to the lost and not seem ‘religious’ when doing so. I know that is where grace comes in and to me I believe if God leads you to tell someone truth, that will ultimately set them free. He will give you the grace to do so and show HIs grace. I think so many times we as Christians miss the mark on this. I know I have and do. Im so quick to rush in and tell someone God’s truth and forget to show grace, or maybe I should show grace then truth…  I forget I was once lost and in their shoes too, and if someone would have became all preachy with truth and not shown me grace, I would have thought they were all religious and that to me turns a person off when grace( God’s mercy/love) is not shown. It was His love/mercy that won my heart, not so much religion. Truth set me free…once I experienced God’s Grace…it opened and softened my heart to truth and I wanted more of God. For example I know I have shared I have a friend, Ive known since we were 6 years old. She is a lesbian and I will admit years ago when I found out I wanted to to just unfriend her and it seemed like a religious pride welled up  in me. I know if that is the term, but for lack of a better phrase. Over the years God began to show me sin is sin, and we are to love those even when we are not sure as to what to do. I began to ask God to help me and give me His heart towards this situation. I can say she is who she is, but God is bigger. I have shared scripture with her, prayed for her and comforted her and told her God loves her. She battles depression a lot. She always welcomes His word, and she does believe in God. Its not for me to judge her, but to share His love and truth with her. Sometimes God calls us to just love on a person and not always ‘preach’ at them. I believe in sharing scripture , being her friend and showing her God’s love in our friendship….that is exemplifying God, and HIs truth always prevails…His grace/truth and love will penetrate her heart. God knows her better than I do. So I just pray for her and be her friend, as I was all the years when we were growing up.

  31. I have not watched the video yet, for lack of time, I will this weekend when Im not working. I feel bad Im playing catch up right now, I have read your post and its great to be back here. Sorry if I have not replied to you that commented to me. Busy time and time difference too. I have a few more weeks, then I will be done with work.
    Read John 1:1-5
    6. Write down everything you learn about Jesus in these first five verses. Then comment. 
    ~In the beginning was the Word, The Word was with God and WAS God. Through Jesus, all things were made, and nothing was made without Him. Even darkness, hard to comprehend with so much that darkness represents. But nothing was made or goes unknown from God. Even though darkness does not understand, God’s light, life outshines darkness. These versus give me hope with all the darkness going on and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, that God sees all and knows all and nothing will quench God’s light or truth.
     

  32. 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?
    Jesus is the Only One, who can set us truly free, He is the answer to so many that are seeking love, joy, happiness,power, money, material gain,love in all the wrong places or ways,peace..the list is endless. Jesus helps me to see, without Him, everything in my life is pointless. I can gain the world, but really gain nothing…Many are on top of the world, soaring high, and still feel empty. That void deep within is not filled with God and it’s  meant for God, and only God. Our spouse, children, friends, job,degree,money, house, cars,whatever we hold dear to our hearts, can not fill the void, only Jesus can. When we have Jesus in our hearts and lives, He directs our steps and paths, if we let Him. I struggle with this, my control issue, letting go and letting God. Once again idol lies coming forth. I cling to idols God wants me to let go of and put Him first, trust Him, trust His truth. He won’t lead me wrong. I know for myself I feel in not letting go and clinging to idols in my life, Im not fulfilling the purpose God has for me and enjoying all God’s best for me. Why wouldn’t I want God’s best? Im like a kid letting go of a broken, used up toy in fear of receiving something new, maybe it won’t satisfy me or ‘pacify’ me(my flesh). It’s a struggle, but slowly with God’s grace, love, and truth, He will prevail in my life. I trust God that much to believe what I can not see manifested in my life at this moment.

  33. 8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?
    God has a specific plan for you that will maximize your talents and gifts, bring maximum glory to himself and provide for your maximum good. Ask yourself:

    Is God able to carry out that plan where I am now?
    Is God nudging me to make a change in my priorities? “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1Timothy 6:6-7. This really spoke to me yesterday as I received this devotional in my email yesterday. For myself why am I struggling to gain the world and all that it has, because in the end, I can not take all that I gained from the world with me. My priorities have not been on God or God centered. This was a huge Truth for me and God tenderly showing me His grace through it all. I want what God has for me, because I realize the world is not satisfying me. Those idols I have placed above God just make me go in circles and no true peace comes from it all. 

  34. 6. Write down everything you learn about Jesus in these first five verses. Then comment.
    Jesus was in the beginning with God, He is God and He is the Word. Scripture is His breath. Jesus made everything-there is nothing absolutely not one atom, molecule, speck that wasn’t made by God and is purposed to be in the dance with the Trinity. Jesus breathed life into every single man’s nostrils for He created us, and we are made in his image. I think of how God designed us all for him and so every human being has such tremendous worth to God-even the skeptics. This so helps me. The darkness can not overcome Him. I find this to be true in regard to hearts. When God woos and His light shines through His word, through us living out Grace and Truth..the darkness can’t overcome His light-and He woos and enthralls us and draws us to him.
     
     

  35. 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?
    Because He created us and made us in His image. 

    1. I like this Rebecca, Jesus knows what parts of me are eternal, made in his image, what part will do those worksheet prepared in advance for me to do 😉

  36. 9. How did the world and His own respond to Jesus, according to the above? Why, do you think?
    The world did not know who He was and His own did not receive Him. 
    I think that folks had a perception in mind of how the Messiah would come, who He would be, and how He would act.  I think the perception involved fanfare, prestige, majesty, might, retaliation…you get the idea.  Jesus came as a vulnerable baby, born to a peasant girl of no worldly standing in a stable housing animals.  There was no fanfare when He arrived (there was, but not of the sort and in the sense they expected).  His growth and maturity was ordinary…He did menial labor as a carpenter and lived in a small home in Nazareth with His mother.  The “extraordinary” that people expected to see of the Messiah was not the case with Jesus.  I think it all comes down to expectation…Jesus was not what they expected and they were so impacted by their expectation of what the Messiah would/should be they missed the Messiah when He came.

    1. As I was driving to work yesterday pondering this, I recalled the quote (Ann Voskamp) about how the extraordinary is found in the ordinary…I have the quote posted in my work area in my office.  My thoughts went to thinking that the people in Jesus’ day were so cued into looking for the extraordinary in the extraordinary, they missed the extraordinary that was in the ordinary…and then I got to thinking might I do the same? Oh the beauty of gratitude and thanksgiving…it helps us to see the extraordinary that exists in the ordinary.

      1. Taking a quick break from work to share the quote in my work area…:)

        “The realest extraordinary is always found in the ordinary.  The extra everyone’s looking–it’s found in ordinary.”
        ~Ann Voskamp

        1. Thanks, Nanci.  Love that!

  37. The Logos: isn’t it amazing that the whole world revolves around logos.  Businesses create a brand and icon that is recognizable to the world so they will sell products.  Christ is the Logos, the Word, and is supposed to be recognizable to the world.  The problem is us, for we at times are not adept at allowing the Logos to be visible to the world.
    For example, we try to hide our true selves when what Jesus Christ wants is for us to reveal our true self so that those outside Christianity can see Christ at work in us.  That is my wish, that Christ point out when I am not being real with people, not being the purveyor of the Gospel of Christ to those who need to know Him.

  38. A thought on verse 13:  Since I taught government and politics for many years, the rules of citizenship are brought to mind here.  As an American, I gain citizenship by either being born to someone who is an American citizen, or because I am born on the soil of the United States, wherever in the world that may be.  This verse states that citizenship in God’s family does not follow the same pattern.  Verse 13 also states that such citizenship comes from God alone.  He alone has the power to forgive my sins.  If I tried to come to Him in my own power, my sin would block the relationship.  Therefore, entry into the family of God can only come through the sacrifice of Christ’s blood for my sins and God’s willingness to allow that sacrifice to bring His forgiveness to me.  It is truly Grace working in concert with Truth.  I do not deserve what He did on the cross, nor do I deserve to be forgiven of my sinful nature and acts.  But because of Christ’s work on the cross I can be welcomed into the family of God.

  39. Dee, reading your lesson and the many comments reminded me of what frustrated me as a young believer in church.  While my church taught me how to be saved, they neglected the job of teaching me how to walk the walk of Christ effectively.  I did not learn about the role of the Holy Spirit until I got involved with Campus Crusade in college.  I truly believe that many people think the gospel of Christ is only the salvation message.  However, I believe that His real goal is to get believers to walk in obedience to the nudges of the Holy Spirit.  In that way non-believers see the power of Christ actually being demonstrated to them.  I already sense that the emphasis of this study will be on the transformation of the believer who embraces the Gospel in order to become a better witness for Christ and I thank you for that.

  40.       8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?    
     
    Well, I had this all thought through and written out, but I can’t get past security even with tweaking my comment several times.  It was good to work it out anyway and maybe best to just think about (and apply) on my own.  
     

  41. 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?
    Thank you for posting the video, Dee, and providing the other video, Jackie and Kerryn…both are so interesting and thought provoking. 
    What do I learn about grace and truth? 
    I am reminded that we are all sinners; in some way, shape, and/or form we all fall short of the mark.  Rosaria mentions, (my words) we all come into this world with a penchant to sin and are tempted to sinful actions; the temptations may differ, but we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.  It always bums me when one sin (e.g., homosexuality, divorce) is held up as “the worst,” while others (e.g., gossip, materialism) appear “more acceptable.”  I wrote down in my journal the two questions that Rosaria suggested asking oneself daily: how has original sin distorted me? how is indwelling sin manipulating me? 

    1. Nanci thanks for mentioning those 2 questions. I sometimes have a hard time isolating thoughts when there is so much good information in one talk or sermon. This helps me to focus. 

    2. Nanci Yes we sure can weigh out and measure sin can’t we. I believe that is where the planks in my eyes come in. As our former youth Pastor used to call it “plank eye” 

  42. Is it Thursday already?! So very behind….
     
    I have been thoroughly distracted by Rosaria Butterfield. Watched both interviews and I am fascinated by the insight she has brought! Thank you, Jackie, for recommending and thank you, Dee for putting it in our study (I may not have “gotten around to it” otherwise). Rosaria fabulously articulates things that I completely agree with. One is the idea that “we are all born that way” meaning that we all have bent to sin – some suffer more than others, some struggle more than others, and each is unique, but we all have our battle!
     
    Next is this concept that the Bible can (and does) handle any questions or struggles! This seems like a “duh!” moment but to say it straight up is liberating. So many Christians fear a fracturing of their faith if the Bible is challenged or if someone offers an interpretation that isn’t consistent with their comfortable safety. But the Word can handle all and is entirely resilient and uncrackable foundation all on its own. This is one reason I am so excited to read the Bible through in a year – as Rosaria said – to gorge on ‘large’ portions of scripture. To sort of soak my mind and heart in that foundation! To have true knowledge of the scriptures.
     
    Lastly her comment (paraphrase) we are often so willing to offer our resources but not our needs.  In other words we quickly offer to help others but with a disclaimer that we do not need any of their help, thank you very much.  It occurred to me that as Christians we often use our own righteousness as a shield against that which threatens us (the sins we don’t want to ‘catch’ or touch). I have seen this time and again. I open up and admit sin (because, frankly, it happens every day[hour?] in my life) and others’ eyes sort of glaze over and they offer me platitudes or “gee, it’ll get better.” I do not need anyone to fix me (Christ alone is my sanctification) but I do need friends to walk WITH me and battle with me and point me to Christ. I crave the type of community that she spoke of, but it is difficult to find. So then the question becomes: when/where/how much work to do to encourage this type of community right where I am? When to press on, when to move on, when to ‘give up’ as it were…

    1. Jill (and others), take a listen to this RSA short, an excerpt from Brene Brown’s RSA talk…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw
      The entire talk is very interesting, but this particular part on empathy especially so…I think you will enjoy it and find it very in tune to what Rosaria mentioned about connecting. 

      1. Nanci, thank you! That was helpful and very good especially the “At least…” part. I will have to look up the whole talk. =)

      2. Nanci this short film on empathy vs sympathy is very good. Thanks for sharing. 

  43. 8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin? What is jumping out to me is repentance. I seem to so often switch into “manage sin” mode. In other words – I see my sin and I chastise myself for it and I even cry to the Lord to change my heart to help me to cling to Him in order to avoid more sin. I want to obey. But somehow I have substituted the ‘noticing’ my sin for actual repentance (how did that happen?).  And this is where the grace is. I cannot receive grace if I do not repent? (Minute by minute grace is different and beyond the grace that was bestowed on me when I became a Christian?) In fact in not repenting I end up just still trying to “be better”… I have started changing my prayers – instead of immediately crying out to God to change my heart I need to immediately cry out in repentance and then the truth of grace can set me free in those moments instead of feeling the oppression of “do better” … This is what changes my heart – His grace alone and His mercies are new every morning.

    1. Jill this is good. You have described just how easy it is to bypass repentance for self help mode, where the enemy can beat us down. This is a good example of how indwelling sin can manipulate us as Nanci noted from the interview.

    2. I agree with Anne, this is rich Jill. What came to mind as I read your answer was this, one of our pastors spoke how we begin with heaviness, that we sin and we HAVE to repent, but as we grow we realize how incredible it is that we GET to repent…the grace and mercy of God, that he wants relationship with us and has made a way! This really helped change my thinking.

    3. Jill – you have some tremendous insights here on true repentance.  I would have to copy your entire paragraph to touch on all that I related to!!  I loved how Rosaria used the phrase over and over again, “repentance unto life” – that alone had stopped me in my tracks.  Also, when R. said “there is no shame in repentance”, I felt a fresh breeze blow across me.  We need to be often examining the words we get so casual about and the way we appy them (repentance, believe [eliz.’ referenced Jonathon Edwards article deals with the word “believe” SO well!]).  Thanks for doing that here!  🙂

    4. Jill yes you worded this so well. I think I do that too. I know sometimes I have made my grieving over my sin an idol. A point I am stuck at. Starting with the truth of the need for repentance will allow the grace to come. I think I hold the grace back in my grief and with that the i am separated from His grace that is already there. Not sure if what I just said made any sense? I too go to the self help mode of how can I do this better. I need to be that perfect Christian. Oh my just typing this makes Me realize how impossible and frustrated we can get when we are there. Apart from Him we are nothing! 

      1. I believe the definition of trying to better ourselves and fix things is called “Religion” 

    5. I agree with others. This is a profound post. Much to ponder on here.

      But somehow I have substituted the ‘noticing’ my sin for actual repentance … I cannot receive grace if I do not repent …  I need to immediately cry out in repentance and then the truth of grace can set me free in those moments instead of feeling the oppression of “do better” 

    6. Oh Jill, thank you for this……   “I need to immediately cry out in repentence and then the truth of grace can set me free in those moments instead of feeling the oppression of ‘do better’. ”     

  44. 6. It seems to me that truth came to Rosaria through reading the Bible. I remember that they talked a lot about things she was reading. She received much grace from the pastor and his family, but not condemnation. Can we love sinners without telling them that their sin is not sin? Their sin is killing them and if we say it will be ok, that is not loving them. But it would be hard to talk about sexual sin until the Holy Spirit began to work, until they began to ask, and when they did we need the Word to answer. Maybe it would be best to talk about our own struggle so that they can see that sin is the human condition, not just their condition. In the interview that Dee first posted Rosaria was very moved by the confession of believers on what they struggled with and what they had given up as believers. Maybe that is how to approach the subject of sin, as one who also struggles yet has found life.

    1. Anne, I had this conversation with my dad last night-similar thoughts about sin. Good pondering!

      1. Rebecca, is your Dad a believer? I can’t remember.

  45. 8. To apply truth in my life I have to soak in the Word. I have to let it shine into the dark corners of my soul. I have to let it convict, not condemn. Conviction leading to repentance, to dependence on God for forgiveness and cleansing through Christ. That is grace. Condemnation is not mine. Because of Jesus I will never be condemned. To remember that is grace. To remember God’s great love for me, Jesus’ sacrifice for me and all that God has done in my life and others throughout history is grace. The world is overflowing with grace if I look for it.
     

    1. Anne, this is incredible truth “in a nut shell”…thank you for sharing it so well; I will be keeping it for future needed references/reminders.

      1. Nanci thank you for your kind encouragement. The truth is that I my thoughts just would not come together. I started to give up on #6 but the Lord prevented me. Then He came to me. How very sweet He is!

        1. Sweet, indeed…so glad that you persevered.  As I mentioned, I have your comment written in my datebook for future reference; your comment was a gift to me as well…:)

  46. 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    
    “Not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man”    KJV
    “not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will”  NIV
     
    By blood or human descent alludes to something being given as a birthright or an ‘automatic’.  We don’t become God’s children just because we are born to those who belong to God, as an heir in a monarchy would inherit the throne.    
    By the will of the flesh or by human decision denotes that we would be the ones in control of the decision.  We become God’s children through the grace that was given us to believe, not by our own willpower or desire.  God’s Holy Spirit draws us to Himself.  
     ‘the will of man or a husband’s will’.  I’m not sure how it is different than ‘the will of the flesh’ except that I guess it infers that another person, outside of ourselves cannot will us to belong to God either.  Only God can woo us and by His grace, we become His children.

  47. I watched both videos. So good to watch!  I had so much but will mention a couple stand outs to me. “The gospel road into peoples lives will be in mercy”   ” The big sin in her life was unbelief everything else would get washed out”  “Admitting we are broken we can become living epistles for others” We can all be resources for others. “We are living on a starvation diet of community” “wouldn’t it be nice if all the people we knew, knew that church was a life giving vital part of our life”
    The pastor realized he needed to listen. I think this is perhaps my biggest standout. How I need to be a better listener. I think listening and not rushing in with what I want to say is huge. also ask questions.
    She also mentioned how messy it got. I think if we are reaching out we too have to remember that part; it can get messy. we have to be willing to get close enough and yes we may get hurt.
    How many were behind the scenes praying for her. Prayer is POWERFUL! I believe Prayer leads you to both grace and truth.
     

  48.       8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?
     
    hmmmm…truth……I am struggling with food right now. Too much food. The truth is if I keep eating then I grow bigger and be bigger; that will make me depressed…a vicious cycle. God doesn’t want me to be this was. I should be focused on Him and taking care of my body for Him. He has a plan for me and dance and I am messing up that plan up when I don’t follow what’s good for me.
     
     
    Grace: I am a good, injured dancer right now. It is hard to not exercise daily; it’s what I do to keep in shape. Unfortunately, since I am on “rest” for a few more weeks, I feel like I’m just sitting around doing nothing and have to fill my time being “active.” It’s hard for me to sit still. I see my overeating as being something to fill the time instead of dance or exercise. It will end. I will get better; I just need to hang in there until that happens and fill my “extra” time with Him. I can also use the time to choreograph more for the John 1:1-14 piece. We started it last night, so hopefully I will have a video for you in the near future, Dee! He loves me for who I am whether I’m fat or thin, it doesn’t matter. He wants my heart. Maybe he really created me to choreograph? My mom used to say this too shall pass.
     

      1. agreed…eagerly anticipated, Laura…:)

  49. 8. Your turn. How could you apply truth and grace to your life today to help you overcome the power of sin?
    Truth: This is just one of two obvious areas of sin in my life-there is more lurking underneath but if I wrote them all down, it would be a chapter! I am seeing that I can be self centered rather than other centered-I get lost in tasks and forget about people! I often forget birthdays and I hate that. When my employee has something hard going on in her life I forget to ask how she is doing. When my employees whine about other employees-piddly stuff, I tend to think, “Good grief, how old is she? Okay lets just get on with working and getting the job done.”  I have been feeling like God must be frustrated with me. I need so much chiseling at my dark heart. 
     
    Grace: Even though I stumble in this, Jesus will never fail to rescue me from it for He was willing to have God turn his face from him- willing to not be rescued from the penalty and power of sin so that He could rescue me from the penalty and power of sin.  This melts me that He delights and loves me that much-how can I not delight in and love others? I am grateful His mercies are new every morning and that He is chiseling away at my heart finishing the work He started in me.

    1. Rebecca – my heart melts to read what you have written….for I understand and live so much of that so often.  But, as you’ve said, oh to gaze upon Jesus.  I hear so many Scriptures in your last sentence alone – the Living Word in you!!  Lamentations 3: 22&23, Ezekiel 36:26 and Phiippians 1:6 come to mind.  Lovely indeed.