We are at a pivotal point in Mark.
Keller calls it “The Turn.”
The disciples have been following Jesus, believing He
had come to rescue them out of all their troubles.
He turns and tells them he must suffer and be killed.
Peter rebukes him.
How can this be?
Our symbol this week is a man falling off a cliff,
for Jesus tells us to follow Him into “death.”
We must die to ourselves to find real life,
and it can feel like this:
I certainly felt that way when I realized as a young mother that Jesus was who He claimed to be, and that if I clung to my life and to my dreams for what I thought would make me happy, I would lose my life.
It felt frightening to surrender, but I am so thankful God gave me the faith to do so, for the Lord kept His promise.
I found, and am continuing to find, life to the full.
As missionary Jim Elliot said:
Yet Elliot also said that you can’t really give your whole life to the Lord in a single moment, it is a daily dying. And so together, through this study, we urge one another to live with abandonment to Him, knowing the way up is down!
Also, in the season of Lent, of repentance, we will not turn from our idols unless we trust God to be there for us, for He is love.
This brings me to our highlight from our discussion last week.
Highlight from Last Week’s Discussion:
Several of you commented that you hadn’t seen how the miracle of the “second touch” is also a metaphor for how He keeps touching us to heal our blindness. In part, so we don’t just see people as “trees walking.” Julie P. wrote:
OH WOW…Seeing people as trees walking. This hit hard. I want to have my eyes looking up and forward and not down that I pass up an opportunity to be kind and loving to someone.
We also need continual healing for the “cataracts” we develop, that make us blind to His constant love. Jennifer G. is one who was so overwhelmed when she saw God’s love for the first time, but she realizes she must keep seeing it. She made a couple of wonderful statements:
I am reminded there is nothing I can do to win God’s love. He has already freely given it. I must remember that and walk in that truth instead if the lies I tell myself or allow myself to believe.
And she also noticed how people who often go out and tell after Jesus told them not to, but:
…even in our disobedience He loves us completely
We have to keep remembering. My friend Sylvia also called me, referring to the question of last week if God is ever disappointed in us, and said she felt the theme of Scripture is that He is grieved rather than disappointed, looking particularly at Hosea. That whole book is a picture of God’s great love for a bride who keeps grieving Him by running after her lovers.
And Hosea 14 is a picture of true repentance. Take a look at it. Sylvia said: “He is grieved by our sin, by our running to idols instead of to Him, for it so wounds us when we don’t trust His love.” Grief seems a more accurate word than disappointed. I thought that too was insightful.
Thoughts? Great to keep talking.
Oh Lord, give us your second touch, so that today and all this week we might see people, not as trees walking, but those who need love, and help us to be good repenters, “dying” to our false lovers, running away from them and into your arms, so that we might be “like a green pine tree.”
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- Where have you surrendered to Him recently? What was the result?
Monday: Who Do You Say That I AM?
3. Read Mark 8:27-30
A. How did the disciples respond to Jesus’ question: “Who do people say that I am?”
B. Who do people say that He is today?
C. When He directed the question to His disciples, who was the first to answer and what
did He say?
4. Read Mark 8:31-33.
A. What shocking thing does He now tell them?
B. How does Peter respond, and why, do you think?
C. What does Jesus say to Peter, and why, do you think?
5. What insight does Daniel 7:13-14 give you into Jesus title “Son of Man?” Can you turn this
Scripture into a praise of adoration?
6. Read the opening of chapter 8 in Keller’s book, up to “A Personal Necessity” and share any
comments or questions.
Tuesday: Falling Into His The Everlasting Arms
Elisabeth Elliot always began her radio program, Gateway to Joy, with:
“‘You are loved with an everlasting love,’ that’s what the Bible says,
‘and underneath are the everlasting arms.’”
That trust in His love, in His goodness, helped her to live her life with reckless abandonment.
7. Read “A Personal Necessity” in Chapter 8.
A. What does Vanstone say is the difference between false love and true love?
B. When you look at your relationships, asking God to help you see, would you agree
that “there’s a certain mercenery quality to your relationships?”
C. Keller says “What we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all.” If we
believe that, it fills us up and helps us to love better. How has the Word (perhaps think of
The Song of Songs) or the reality of Christ’s presence in your life helped you to love
8. Read the note from the young woman in Keller’s church at the end of this section. Can you identify? Why or why not? Pray for yourself to move toward this kind of trust and true love.
Wednesday: Winning Through Losing
9. Read a Legal Necessity in Keller’s book and explain why Jesus had to die.
10. Read A Cosmis Necessity in Keller’s book and explain how Jesus won through losing.
11. Is there anything else in these two sections that stood out to you? If so, what and why?
Thursday: A Way of The Cross
12. Read Mark 8:34-9:1
A. To whom is Jesus speaking?
B. What does He tell them is required in a disciple?
C. Some say you can be saved yet not a disciple. What evidence is there in the text
to cast doubt on that?
D. Find all the reasons you can that Jesus gives for “losing your life.”
13. N. T. Wright asks this good question: “How have you seen in your life and in others’ lives
that “if you want to save your life, you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life because of me and
the Message, you’ll save it?”
14. If Christ leads us into danger, why should we not dread the loss of our lives?
15. Using this passage, pray for yourself and those close to you.
Friday: A New Kind of King
15. Ask the Lord to help you focus as you carefully read Keller’s closing section in this chapter.
Share your notes and comments.
16. What do you think you will remember about this week’s lesson and why?
17. Is God impacting your life through His Word? If so, give a praise.
15. Notes from the closing section of the chapter
Since I am a king on a cross, if you want to follow me you must go to a cross. Every culture bases recognition on one’s performance and achievement. But Jesus says that will never work. Instead Jesus shares a whole new way. “Lose the old self and the old identity ; Base your identity on me and the gospel.”
But Jesus is not an abstract principle. He says, “you have to look at my life: I went to the cross and I lost my identity so you can have one…”
At the root is love. C.S. Lewis ends his book Mere Christianity by commenting, “The more we get what we now call ourselves out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” Yet we do not go to Jesus to get a new personality. Your real self… will only emerge when you’re looking for Him.
Peter’s agenda led from strength to strength and didn’t include suffering. That was why he rebuked Jesus(Mark 8:32) but if Jesus is your King, you cannot make him a means to an end. Because he was a king who went to the cross for you, you can submit to him out of love and trust.
The kingdom of God begins in weakness- surrendering our rights, admitting we need a Savior. When Jesus returns, love will totally triumph over hate and life will totally triumph over death.
Submit to Jesus, Love and obey, Surrender your rights. Mark 8:35,36
Great notes, Shirley.
7. A. What does Vanstone say is the difference between false love and true love? True love gives to give. False love gives to get.
B. When you look at your relationships, asking God to help you see, would you agree that “there’s a certain mercenary quality to your relationships ?” Absolutely….unfortunately… The tell tale sign is a threshold of patience before frustration or a feeling of “fondness” …. the person in my life that I love most truly is my mom. I truly want to help and serve her and see her flourish … then my kids … but even in these relationships if I honestly evaluate my actions and lack of actions I see self-love trumping my love for them….
C. How has the Word or the reality of Christ’s presence in your life helped you to love others better. Knowing Christ’s love has drained the desperation I had for others to love me, not criticize me, and coddle my self esteem. This desperation led to a fool’s love – trying to control others’ actions so that I felt approved of. There were so many emotional/mental games I engaged in without even knowing it… trying to eek love out of people to fill my painfully (perceived) unworthy soul. Christ’s love frees me to ask the question “why”… why am I saying that? Why do I want that? Why do I feel terrible? Why do I want to do that? And then rest in His love whether or not others approve of me.
Your introspection into your heart is such a good model for all of us, Jill.
9. Read a Legal Necessity in Keller’s book and explain why Jesus had to die. Jesus had to die because legally my transgressions made a debt. This debt HAD to be paid. God could either make me pay that debt or (through forgiveness) paid it Himself. I can not pay that debt but it still needs to be paid so Jesus, in His love, paid it through His death.
10. Read A Cosmic Necessity in Keller’s book and explain how Jesus won through losing. He turned the world’s standard of winning. Instead of being the “better” power, or the “better” ruler, or the “better” intimidator, or the “better” fighter (as every other ruler had taken over kingdoms in history) He was the ultimate power… strong enough to overcome the most feared power: death. He did so by submitting to death as the penalty for our sins and in doing so broke death’s power over us all. Death now becomes the victory – the doorway to eternity with God and His Son.
12. Read Mark 8:34-9:1
A. To whom is Jesus speaking? The crowd and his disciples.
B. What does He tell them is required in a disciple? Deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus.
C. Some say you can be saved yet not a disciple. What evidence is there in the text to cast doubt on that? Right after the famous “take up your cross” passage Jesus seems to imply that if you do that you will lose your life for His sake. And those that cling to their own life (instead of carrying their cross) will actually lose it. I have always read this in a martyr context but it seems to me this morning that this has much more to do with clinging to one’s way of life more than life itself (tho physical life is a part of that, too). What does carrying a cross lead to? Death. But through that death is true life. Being saved for your own sake (fake love, ‘loving’ to get) is selfish and self-serving (which I think is why a lot of fear salvation sermons make me uncomfortable… it is appealing to human selfishness not showing the beauty of Christ).
D. Find all the reasons you can that Jesus gives for “losing your life.” You will save your life, you will keep your soul, Jesus will not be ashamed of you.
13. N.T. Wright asks this good question: “How have you seen in your life and in others’ lives that ‘if you want to save your life, you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life because of me and the Message, you’ll save it?’” Those that consider service to Him as the ultimate goal over time on this earth posses the peace of Christ and His ultimate promise: eternity in paradise with Him. Those that embrace ahis a Truth also live in the knowledge that there WILL be suffering (the cross) but His promise is greater and the suffering (even unto death (physical, mental, or emotional) cannot take away that promise, His presence, or the ultimate good ending. Kisses from Katie comes to mind. Other missionaries’ stories also come to mind. Those that suffered in WWII. Most the people I can think of are in the ministry serving humbly, confidently in His Gospel message. These people are all at peace.
14. If Christ leads us into danger, why should we not dread the loss of our lives? Because our true life is secure through Christ in eternity.
15. Using this passage, pray for yourself and those close to you. Father, for me and my family, may we cling to the cross, may we know your love so deeply that we are satisfied in the life you give and not seeking the life we perceive…let us follow you in true love, not selfish love. May the joy of our hearts be You and your Truth. Purge us of our unfruitful worldly fascinations… let be discontent with things that are not truly beautiful. Have Mercy, O God, according to your unfailing love, renew in us a right spirit.
7. Read “A Personal Necessity” in Chapter 8.
A. What does Vanstone say is the difference between false love and true love? False love is conditional. So basically we use the other person to meet our needs and the relationship is pointing toward us not them and when they stop meeting our needs we leave them. True Love is expending ourselves on behalf of someone else-to make them happy even if they don’t return true love to us.
B. When you look at your relationships, asking God to help you see, would you agree that “there’s a certain mercenary quality to your relationships?”
With my friends I am free in Christ because of His love for me to love them as they are without expecting anything in return, for if they don’t give back I don’t hold it against them or dwell on it. God has made me an extremely loyal friend which is great, but without boundaries can become idolatry-so He has helped me with that over the years.
SO this is the hardest-for I am in the middle of struggling most with someone in my family. The security of being vulnerable and yet loved by another human was ripped apart but it wasn’t until I let Jesus meet those needs, that He fully knows me and yet fully loves me, that I began to break free. I started not needing this person’s attention or affection to be happy or whole. Jesus helped me to forgive and love yet set boundaries. It is easy to forget in the moment when this person seems distant and I become desperate again for the comfort/security of this person’s love that I turn again to Jesus and am filled-and growing each step, each day. I say ‘growing’ because while I am confident of His love fully-I am flesh too and can forget when I feel the sting of rejection from this person but He is maturing me through this. I am also protecting myself which I haven’t done before. I am hoping and praying for a miracle in this person’s heart to turn to Jesus because He is the only way our relationship can truly grow and reflect Him.
C. Keller says “What we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all.” If we believe that, it fills us up and helps us to love better. How has the Word (perhaps think of The Song of Songs) or the reality of Christ’s presence in your life helped you to love others better?
(See above) So I will share how The Song has so spoke and He is changing me! The reality of Christ’s presence in my life through The Song has helped me to love others as they are for He loves me with an everlasting love though I have a sinful heart-for he knocks on my door and even though my heart may pound for Him, I don’t love Him as much as I should for there are times I don’t get up-I choose my idol and stay in bed – yet He leaves Myrrh on the handle- and She grabs the handle with Myrrh all over her hands and as she dies to herself she passionately searches for Him. I LOVE THAT in the Song.
Secondly, when I am unfaithful He is faithful. His eyes are staring at me looking through the lattice..He doesn’t need me, He WANTS me even though He deeply grieves when I am, in my vulnerability and sin, unfaithful-He is grieved yet still faithful. His love fills all the love needs I have-one being when I fail and am sorry and turn He forgives and restores. Another is when I can’t even see the sin yet-He still loves me-everlasting, eternally, never failing, no matter what I do or don’t do right for I am His forever and am covered in His blood! So when my friends fail me as I know I do them, we may hurt deeply but how in the world can I hold it against them when Jesus doesn’t hold my failures toward Him against me-and he has never failed me.
All this is so beautiful, Rebecca. You are in the crucible of testing and coming out like gold.
15. Ask the Lord to help you focus as you carefully read Keller’s closing section in this chapter. Share your notes and comments.
Jesus doesn’t want followers that base their identity on their performance…being a good person or building their identity on somebody who loves them. He wants us to lose the old self, the old identity and base ourself and our identity on Him and the gospel. Jesus went to the cross and on that cross He lost His identity so we can have one. Taking up our cross means to die to self- determination, die to control of our own life, die to using Him for our agenda.
When reading this passage I never noticed in verse 35, “lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s…” Keller says we can’t just build our life on God as it just becomes an act of the will. No one has ever been deeply changed by an act of the will. The only thing that can reforge and change a life at its root is love. Jesus is not just a king; He’s king on a cross!!! What greater love!
15. Ask the Lord to help you focus as you carefully read Keller’s closing section in this chapter.
I love how C.S. Lewis writes….my favorite line is the one about looking for yourself versus looking for Christ:
“Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
This is what I will remember a year from now.
Other gems in the reading…
What good is it to gain the world but lose your soul?
If you build yourself up with a worldly aspiration, it will eventually fail and then what do you have?
“When someone gave himself utterly for you, how can you not give yourself utterly to him?”
16. I will remember the big point is to lose my life, to die to self. Christ died for me and I am so selfish, but I want to grow less and less of that self and look forward to face him when the time comes.
17. Yes, God is impacting me with his Word! Father, thank you for the deeper understanding you are bringing to me through your precious word. All praise, honor and glory to your Name as Christ’s sacrifice impacts me more and more. May I become less as you become more.