Years ago, I was ice skating with a new friend in Fargo. I had decided before we came it was time to find out where she really was with Jesus, for though I knew she was a church-goer, I had never heard her speak of the Lord in a personal way. As we skated around the rink, I braved what I hoped was a gentle question.
“Would you say that you are a Christian or that you are still on the way?”
Oh – how that backfired on me! She exploded in anger:
“Miss Dee, why would you think I am not a Christian? What is so bad about me?”
She was so angry she couldn’t hear me as I stuttered to explain that I was very bad — and I certainly wasn’t saying anything about her being good or bad, but was wondering if she’d been able to trust what Jesus did for her. She skated off the ice in a huff, grabbed her tennis shoes from the bench, and hobbled off to the locker room, wanting to get far from me!
I’ve never tried that evangelistic tactic again.
That is a lot like the reaction Jesus got when he told the Pharisees that if they knew the truth, they would be set free.
They too exploded: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free?”
What made my friend and the Pharisees so very angry?
Do you remember the song “Something Good” from Sound of Music?
Maria and Baron Von Trapp have fallen in love, and so they ponder why this wonderful thing has happened to them. Listen to their song:
Tim Keller says that religious thinking is so prevalent that when you talk to someone about what it means to be a Christian, you must first defuse the thinking that you are talking about morality.
Likewise, since religion is our default mode, we as believers must continually set our souls back on the truth that our identity is in Christ, not in how well we are performing. I believe we need to do this every day, asking ourselves if we are living for the praise of man or the glory of God. I have been reading Eric Metaxas biography on Luther:
How tortured Luther was trying to be good enough to get into heaven, how desperate was the church in need of the gospel truth he would eventually bring, and indeed, how desperate are we for it still. Metaxas promises that he will show how Luther moved from misery to absolute light-heartedness as he discovered the gospel.
This week I want to concentrate on how a gospel identity can give us freedom and joy, and why we need to set our identity back on the gospel track continually. This is such a WONDERFUL group, I know we will help one another get on track.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday: Gospel or Performance Identity in Performance of Christ?
2. Read John 8:31-33
A. In verse 32, what is Jesus’ promise?
B. How has the gospel helped to set you free from performance? Give an example.
C. How did the Pharisees respond to Jesus invitation?
D. Why do you think they were so angry?
3. Reflect on the chart below and share where you think you fall and why.
On the above chart on the right should say “not confident”
4. Action assignment: Be alert to staying on the above gospel track in your interactions with people today and come back and report what happened. (Dee will too!)
5. Rankin Wilbourne said John 12:42-43 was life-changing for him. What does it say?
6. Reflect on the following two charts.
A. List two of the good things in your life that are important to you — then reflect on how you should see them if you are living to glorify God versus living for the praise of man. Take some time with this.
B. Where do you tend to get bitter or sad? How might you talk to your soul when
this happens? (Psalm 42 may help.)
7. After my fiasco at the skating rink, I am trying to think of starter questions to find out where people are spiritually — or just to hear their hearts on what they think about God. But I am stumped on how to start, so I’m coming to you for ideas. What have been some ways you have gotten to know the hearts of non-Christians and built a bridge? It has helped me to have people over and ask them to tell me their story — and maybe that is what I need to keep doing. But I have wondered if there are some non-threatening questions that could be asked when I’m on the side-lines at pickleball or riding on an airplane…Do you have some questions that have worked well?
Thursday-Friday: How The Gospel Changes Us
8. Listen to this free sermon from Tim Keller and share your notes and comments:
9. What is your take-a-way and why?
I heard most of Tim Keller’s sermon but had to cut off the end. He is so good at putting hard concepts into words…pretty heady stuff at times! Gal 2:14 talks about Peter “not living in line with the Truth of the Gospel” We tend to veer to one side or the other…grace without truth or truth without grace. Jesus Christ was full of GRACE & TRUTH! We need both. We need to allow the Gospel to transform our minds & our character. The Gospel humbles me & strengthens me. If I trust that Jesus approves of me & accepts me, then I won’t (for example) trust in the approval of man to give me self worth. That’s like having a Pseudo-Savior. So the prevailing wellspring & motivation of my life & obedience, need to be rooted in knowing that I am loved & accepted by Christ.
I’ll be gone the next few days so will be back here next week. I’m going to Jamaica with my sister in law! 🙂
Have fun in Jamaica, Jenny! May the Lord keep you safe!
Have fun in Jamaica, Jenny! My son went there a few years ago for a friend’s wedding and said beaches were nice….watch out for sea urchins – Adam stepped on one!
6. Reflect on the following 2 charts.
A. List two of the good things in your life that are important to you – then reflect on how you should see them if you are living to glorify God versus living for the praise of man. Take some time with this.
I would say that the good/best thing in my life has been my children. From babyhood to toddlers to all grown-up, they have been my greatest source of joy. I have erred in making idols out of them, but have had my eyes opened about idols because of Dee. To see them properly is to see my children as wonderful gifts from the Lord, and I have thanked Him (I found something I’d written awhile back) that through them, I experienced unconditional love (at least when they were young!). When they were growing up, I made mistakes, lost my temper at times, and didn’t always look (or smell) very good, yet they loved me anyway. They wanted to be with me. I cherish memories like my Adam, who, even in 8th grade, when I would do playground duty, in front of all his friends would run up to me and hug me. I also must be very careful not to make an idol out of their educational or career successes, but thank the Lord that they are using their gifts/talents/minds to their fullest potential, and one day, I pray, that they will also acknowledge Him in their lives. I must continually thank the Giver of the gift of my children.
A second good thing in my life right now is my job in that I really do enjoy what I do, and I find fulfillment in it (most days!). I want to be careful though that now, as I’m getting nearer to being an “empty nester”, to not look to my job as my identity/purpose and source of fulfillment. It is self-glorification to pat myself on the back and getting prideful in seeing myself as “good at my job”, or efficient, etc…. One of my gifts is being very thorough in my work, and I need to thank Him for provision of this job (Deb was praying about finding another coordinator and I was in need of a new job as mine was going away) and remember that I am really dependent upon Him. Oh but I tend to default towards I am self-reliant!
Thoughtful and good, Susan.
This morning I listened to Nancy DM Wolgemuth’s program & was stunned that the content of the message was so completely in line with this week’s study. Carrie Gaul was speaking on “the God of Jacob”. Here’s a snippet: “The old, old story–the God of Jacob–of Jesus & His love for us, is shattering the mirage of performance & perfectionism & legalism & moralism & whatever-all “isms” reside inside my heart & mind. My hope isn’t found in having a life & a family that appears faultless & perfectly put together. My hope is found in the God of Jacob! I don’t have to wonder how God is going to respond to the messiness of my life. He’s the God of Jacob!” She was talking about the messiness of Jacob’s life, his father & his father’s father…all very messy lives. Yet God ! identifies Himself not just once, but 15x !, as the “God of Jacob”! You can listen to today’s message on reviveourhearts.com; if you click on listen the text also appears. It was so good I printed the entire thing. Happy, safe, fun travels Jenny!
B. Where do you tend to get bitter or sad? How might you talk to your soul when this happens?
So I was thinking about this yesterday while cleaning. I find that I am on “idol alert” now, and when I start to feel sad about something, I think there must be an idol operating. But then I thought, is it all about keeping a stiff upper lip, being a stoic, saying a pat well my hope is in Jesus and in the end everything will be okay? There ARE really sad things in life. And I am human and I feel sadness, at a lot of things. Watching my mom struggle with Alzheimer’s, remembering the mom she used to be, makes me sad. Watching both of my parents’ health decline makes me sad. Having my sons so far away that I can’t see them makes me feel sad. Knowing the reality of my marriage, that though we can get along okay but there is no deep level of intimacy, and perhaps there never will be, makes me sad. Wondering if my children will ever truly walk with God and what it means if they don’t, makes me sad. When I saw the faces of those killed in Las Vegas, that made me sad. I’m not sinking into the depths of despair and hopelessness, but doesn’t it say that Jesus was a “man of sorrows”? He felt things, He was sad, He cried. Even though He knew/knows that one day He’ll make it all right. I think I’ve come to accept that with the “sweet” in life, comes the “bitter” as well….bittersweet. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? I had a bit of a private meltdown last night and I was crying about a lot of things, and lamenting to God. I can’t say that I felt His presence, or got any answers. Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him. Soul, God feels your pain, He carries your sorrows, He understands. But don’t get lost in self-absorption; remember that there’s a much bigger picture and agenda than your own life.
GOLD ALERT from Susan: “God feels your pain, He carries your sorrows, He understands. But don’t get lost in self-absorption; remember that there’s a much bigger picture and agenda than your own life.”
Susan, I’m responding to your last post (re identity) late, just back from another weekend away. I thought of this off/on & wanted to say, I’m so very sorry. I can relate to a lot of it. And I want to send you hugs & love.
thanks, Susan, for your excellent responses that I resonate with.