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?