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5. Grace-Given Life to You

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“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Introduction

We stated in a previous lesson that from the time sin entered into mankind’s relationship with their Creator God, man had a spiritual problem that can be compared to death caused by a fatal disease: (1) Sin (“the disease” Romans 3:23) and (2) Death (“result of the disease” Romans 6:23). Man’s twofold problem demanded a twofold solution:

  • For the problem of sin, man needs forgiveness and righteousness. Answer: Christs death (the cross). Mankind can now be cured of the disease.
  • For the problem of death, man needs regeneration (the restoration of life). Answer: Christs resurrection. Mankind can now be given life that is forever.

The Gospel message included the answer to both spiritual problems and is simply illustrated by the quote by Ian Thomas (at right).

The powerlessness of much modern-day Christianity can be traced to its failure to clearly state and maintain two vital truths: (1) Christ’s finished work on the cross to secure our complete acceptance before God, and (2) “Christ in you” as the dynamic of daily Christian living.

As a result, the average Christian in our time has:

  • A fairly solid understanding of God’s grace as it relates to his initial salvation experience.
  • An inconsistent, wavering understanding of God’s grace in his ongoing life as a Christian.
  • Next to no understanding of the significance of his having received the very life of God through the Holy Spirit.

Thus, spiritual immaturity reigns. Christians are often being led down a path of failure, discouragement, and despair by attempts to be perfected “by human effort.” (Galatians 3:1-5)

The previous two lessons covered our complete acceptance before God because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. The next two lessons will address the life given to us by Christ himself as our power for daily Christian living. Through this life, we experience freedom and joy!

Historical Insight: “The great difference between present-day Christianity and that of which we read in these letters [New Testament epistles] is that to us it is primarily a performance; to them it was a real experience. We are apt to reduce the Christian religion to a code or, at best, a rule of heart and life. To these men it is quite plainly the invasion of their lives by a new quality of life altogether. They do not hesitate to describe this as Christ living in them.” (J.B. Phillips, Introduction to Letters to Young Churches)

The Resurrection: God’s Solution to the Life & Death Issue

Day One Study

When God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27), mankind was created with a body, a soul (conscious life made up of mind, emotions and will), and a spirit that enables every man and woman to relate to God. Man’s spirit is the source of his inner drives for love and acceptance, a sense of identity, and for meaning & purpose in life. The human spirit was created to be a container for God’s Spirit and was the means through which both man and woman enjoyed perfect fellowship with God.

Based on that relationship, God had access through Adam’s spirit into his soul (teaching his mind, guiding his emotions, directing his will) and, thereby, influencing his behavior. The same was true of Eve. So, every thought, emotion, word and deed of Adam and Eve as created were a perfect representation of the invisible God. They were then truly fulfilling their purpose in life: walking in a dependent love relationship with their Creator and, through that relationship, bearing the image of God.

Focus on the Meaning: Is man a “trichotomy” (made up of three parts: body, soul and spirit) or a “dichotomy” (made up of two parts: body—the seen—and soul/spirit—the unseen)? The best answer seems to be “it depends”: Structurally, man is a dichotomy; Functionally, he is a trichotomy (the spirit of man being either inhabited by God or empty).

Through free choice (Genesis 2:16-18; 3:1-7), Adam and Eve forfeited the life of God and introduced sin and death into the creation. Adam died physically 930 years later (Genesis 5:5). However, he and Eve died spiritually that day in the garden—they lost the life of God.

Natural man (in Adam)

1. Read Romans 5:12, 18 and Ephesians 2:1-3. Describe the effects of Adam’s sin on every one of his descendants, including you.

Scriptural Insight: “Why did Paul and God hold Adam responsible (Romans 5:12) for the sinfulness of the race when it was really Eve who sinned first? They did so because Adam was the person in authority over and therefore responsible for Eve (Gen. 2:18-23; 1 Cor. 11:3). Furthermore, Eve was deceived (2 Cor. 11:3), but Adam sinned deliberately (1 Tim. 2:14).” (Tom Constable, Dr. Constables Notes on Romans, page 59)

Having been born into this world “in Adam”—i.e., out of his family line—all men and women are born spiritually dead and are sinners by nature. As A.W. Tozer, a 20th century Christian author, put it, “We may not understand how we can inherit evil from our fathers, but there is no argument with the fact that as soon as we are big enough to sin, we go directly into the business of sinning.” Anyone who has been around small children knows for a fact that this is true!

All men and women are also born spiritually wanting. A French philosopher and physicist (Blaise Pascal) described it this way in the 17th century, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” The diagram below illustrates this “vacuum.” Every human being seeks to fill this vacuum with something that gives them meaning and purpose in life.

2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. Contrast the understanding and behavior of the “natural” man/woman with the one who has the Spirit of God. [Note: natural man refers to unsaved man and woman.]

3. Read 2 Corinthians 4:4. Discuss the roadblock the “natural” woman experiences. How does that hinder her life?

Think About It: Natural man (outside of Christ) is already: (1) alienated from God, (2) under the wrath of God, and (3) spiritually dead to God. The problem of man is not just that he is a sinner in need of forgiveness. He is dead and in need of life!

4. Graceful Living: When we become Christians at a young age or forget what it was like to live as a nonbeliever before Christ came into our lives, we can be very harsh on those who are living without Christ in this world. We expect nonbelievers to think like we do. Considering how God describes the nonbeliever in his Word, shouldn’t their blindness and lack of understanding generate compassion in us rather than condemnation? Discuss.

5. Graceful Living: If you became a Christian as an adult, what was life like for you before you experienced Christ’s liberation? What drew you to him? In what ways do you recognize the above elements of the “natural man” in your life at that time?

Day Two Study

Jesus Christ – the Second Adam.

Although he was God from all eternity, the Son of God took on a human nature and flesh, totally identifying with us in our humanity (John 1:1-3, 14; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:14-18). Through his virgin birth, Jesus Christ entered the world spiritually alive and without sin (John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was the first complete man, from God’s point of view, to live on earth since the Fall—thus he is called the “Second Adam.”

6. Read 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. Compare the first Adam and the Second Adam.

7. Read the following verses to see how Jesus in his humanity demonstrated the way God designed mankind to live.

  • John 5:15-19,30—
  • John 12:44-50—
  • John 14:8-11—
  • Acts 2:22—

Jesus completely identified with us in our humanity, sin and death, so that we could be totally identified with him in his resurrected humanity, righteousness and life (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 6:4). God provided a cure for our sin disease through Christ’s finished work on the cross, BUT we were still dead and in need of life!

8. Graceful Living: If Jesus lives as a man dependent on God, how much more so should we recognize our need to do the same? In what areas of your life do you tend to live in self-sufficiency? Generally, it is in your areas of strength—the skills and abilities in which you are proficient.

The danger we face is getting too confident in our own abilities so that we don’t seek to rely on God in that area. What should you do when you recognize that you are acting through your own strengths and abilities without relying on the power of God to work through those same strengths and abilities but yielded to his way of doing it? Pray about this today.

Day Three Study

Regeneration: The restoration of life is God’s solution to man’s state of spiritual death

The English word “regeneration” [Gr. palingenesia, from palin (again) and genesis (birth)] means simply a new birth, a new beginning, a new order. Regeneration is often used to denote the restoration of a thing to its pristine state, its renovation, as a renewal or restoration of a piece of furniture or a car. In the New Testament, regeneration refers to the giving of life after death.

9. According to John 10:10, why did Jesus come?

10. Salvation is described as receiving "life." What do the following verses reveal about this?

  • Ephesians 2:4-5
  • John 3:3, 6—
  • John 5:24—

11. According to these verses, how do we receive this “life?”

  • John 14:16,17—
  • Romans 8:9-10—
  • Romans 8:15-17—

Focus on the Meaning: “The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.” (John Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.1)

12. As the Holy Spirit indwells us, he unites (fuses) us to Christ (Romans 6:5). How is this further described in these verses?

  • Galatians 2:20—
  • Colossians 1:27—

We, who were once dead, are made alive by the indwelling Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ so that “Christ in you” is a fact of our new existence. It happens at the moment of salvation (Romans 8:9) and lasts forever (John 14:16). We are born again as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

13. According to John 15:4-5 and Galatians 2:20, how should a new creature in Christ live? [Note: to remain/abide means to dwell.]

14. We are to live by faith (total dependency upon God) as Jesus himself lived (John 14:10). Read Romans 6:11-14. What now should be our relationship to sin?

15. Graceful Living: Give an illustration as to how living in a humble, teachable manner, saying no to sin, might look in someone’s daily life (perhaps yours). Consider an everyday situation in which the old slave master “sin” tempts you.

Think About It: Does grace give people a “license to sin?” No. A proper emphasis on Christ’s finished work on the cross does not promote sin for a simple reason: in forgiving us, he did not leave us as we were. God transforms our hearts through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. We who believe have God’s law written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). The Christian is not just a “forgiven caterpillar”; he has been transformed into a “butterfly.” His greatest daily need is, first, to grasp the freedom of God’s acceptance through Christ; and, second, to learn how to present his humanity to the indwelling Christ and experience true and abundant life. Salvation is not just receiving something we did not have before (i.e., forgiveness of sins). It is becoming someone we were not before!

16. Graceful Living: You should know with confidence that God’s life is now indwelling you forever. Considering the condition of the “natural man” you learned earlier in the lesson, thank God for his indescribable gift of life to you. What are the benefits of having his life in you?

Day Four Study

As Ian Thomas said, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for you so that he could give his life to you so that he could live his life through you.” All this is possible because of Christ’s finished work on the cross and his resurrection on the third day. We’ll continue our study of how he “lives his life through you” in the next lesson.

The chart below contains all 6 “words of the cross” from previous lessons and the “word of the resurrection” from this lesson.

The Completed Work of the Cross and Resurrection

Word of the Cross

Extent

Need Addressed

Result

Propitiation

The whole world.

1 John 2:1-2

The just wrath of God against man’s sin.

God’s justice has been satisfied. He is able to extend mercy without compromise.

Reconciliation

The whole world.

2 Cor. 5:18-19

Man’s state of alienation from God because of sin.

The barrier of sin has been taken away, and a bridge has been built.

Redemption

The whole world.

2 Pet. 2:1

Believers

Eph. 1:7

Man’s state of slavery to sin and death.

Man has been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom.

Forgiveness

Believers

Acts 13:38-39

Man’s guilt before a holy God

Man’s guilt has been transferred to his Substitute and taken away.

Justification

Believers

2 Cor. 5:21

Man’s need for perfect acceptability before a holy God.

God, as Judge, declares believers totally righteous in Christ.

Sanctification

Believers

1 Cor. 6:11

Man’s need to be separated from the world, and to God.

The believer has been set apart as God’s possession for his exclusive use.

Word of the Resurrection

Extent

Need Addressed

Result

Regeneration

Believers

Ephesians 2:5-6

Man’s state of spiritual death.

The believer has been made alive spiritually through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

17. Graceful Living: As you did before, write how you would explain regeneration (what the concept means for the believer, not necessarily the definition of the word) to someone who hasn’t had this course but needs to know what they have in Christ. Why should “regeneration” make a difference in her life? If it helps, think how you would explain regeneration to someone who feels her life has no purpose. Now start explainin’…

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Curriculum, Resurrection, Spiritual Life, Women

6. Grace-Created Identity

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“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A New Identity that Rocks the World

In our world, identity drives everything about life. You likely carry some kind of identity card (ID) with you—a driver’s license or a work-related card. What’s on it? Your name and picture, some identifying characteristics like address or job title, and the authority that issued the ID to you. Often, your signature is on the card representing your choice to enter into contract with the issuing authority. If someone asked, “Who are you?” you could answer with the information on that card.

Identities tell us who we are, where we live, how and where we can travel. Our identity drives what we can buy with our finances and qualifies us for employment. That’s why we are so devastated when it’s stolen! Knowing our spiritual identity is even more important.

The government offers a “Witness Protection” program to those who testify against organized crime. The witnesses, helpless against the revenge of the criminals, receive a new identity and all the details that go along with it—new name, new background, new address, and new career. They can never go back to being what they were before. That’s what God does for us. We each have a new spiritual identity. And, there are wonderful perks to discover about our new position in life.

The world is not going to validate our new identity. From a worldly point of view, you and I are the same as we’ve always been—all our “baggage” is still hanging around our necks; nothing will ever change. And, the world does things to punish us, like credit scores and memories of all that we’ve done wrong in the past. But, every Christian is a new creation with a new identity in Christ, declaring how God, our authority, now views us! It’s what he has done for us and to us that counts.

So far in this study, we have learned how our faith in Jesus Christ sets us free from our previous sin-stained existence to enjoy a new life. But, our ability to live out this freedom depends upon our understanding of who we now are. How we see ourselves directs how we live our faith walk. We need to grasp the FACT that believers get a new life with a radical new identity—something we never had before. Something no one before Jesus’ resurrection ever had!! And this new identity sets us free to live a radically new kind of life—a joyful life. But, not knowing our identity enslaves us to shoddy thinking and behavior.

Most Christians throughout the past 1700 years or so only knew they could have their sins forgiven and go to heaven when they died. And, even then, they weren’t sure of that. The information about who they were in God’s sight got lost in 2 things: (1) illiteracy of the Bible—lack of education and knowledge of what it actually says, and (2) slavery to poor teaching that one has to live by the church’s rules to maintain God’s acceptance—any church.

About 500 years ago, Martin Luther and other faithful believers who followed him rediscovered this identity treasure by reading and studying the Scriptures. Imagine that! For 300 years after that, believers were taught their identity in Christ before the teaching waned. Once again, a Christian was mainly someone who had her sins forgiven and went to heaven when she died, as long as she lived by certain rules to maintain God’s acceptance. Enslaved once again to illiteracy of the Bible and poor teaching. A great Grace Awakening has taken place since the 1970s. Teaching about our new identity in Christ is everywhere in bookstores and on the radio, TV, and Internet. Yet, most believers still have no idea what their new identity is and all the benefits that come with it. Do you? And, if you and I don’t know who we are, how will we know we’ve been set free to live a different kind of life? This lesson will certainly fill your mind and heart with truth about your grace-created new identity—an identity that will fill your life with freedom and joy!

Day One Study

The basis of identity

1. List some ways that we try to establish our identity apart from Christ.

2. What happens to us when we try to determine who we are by these things?

3. Read 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. From God’s point of view, there are two kinds of people in the world: (1) those who are in Adam, and (2) those who are in Christ. Read Romans 5:12-21 and fill in the chart below contrasting Adam and Christ from this passage. Include in your chart contrasts between the consequences of being in Adam and being in Christ.

In Adam

In Christ

Who you are in determines your identity and your inheritance.

(1) To be in Adam means that you have inherited his nature (sinful), the consequences of his actions (condemnation), and his destiny (death).

(2) To be in Christ means that you have inherited his nature (righteous), the consequences of his actions (justification), and his destiny (eternal life).

4. Graceful Living: How you see yourself will influence how you think and live. How do you see yourself? In Christ? Or, as just another one of the billions of human beings walking around on our planet? Reflect on how the way you see yourself (past and present) influences your life.

Day Two Study

God has changed the believer’s identity through the baptism of the Holy Spirit

The word translated baptized came from the process for dyeing cloth. It didn’t matter if the cloth was sprayed, dipped, or immersed. The significance was taking on the identity of the dye. So, in Spirit Baptism, we are “dyed” with Christ. The practical outcome is a total identification (uniting) with him.

5. Read Romans 6:1-11. List all the ways we are identified (united) with Christ in this passage. [Note: Although water baptism is a picture of what the Spirit does to us, there’s no mention of water in this passage. Spirit baptism is much more significant and has far greater effects.]

6. What else is revealed about our union with Christ in Ephesians 2:4-6?

Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit—of which water baptism is a picture—the Christian has been totally identified with Jesus Christ. We are united with him in his death (Romans 6:3; Galatians 2:20), in his resurrection (Romans 6:4), and in his ascension (Ephesians 2:5-6). The Greek word translated “united” in Romans 6:5 literally means, “to make to grow together, to fuse.” Being united with Christ, therefore, means that we become fused together with him. At that moment of fusing, we are no longer on our own, but Jesus’ transforming life-giving power now lives in us. We are now connected to the King who has supreme power and authority.

John Wesley, the great 18th century Methodist preacher, said this, “Never think of yourself apart from Christ.” We are continually fused together with him and can live to enjoy the benefits of being in him.

7. Graceful Living:

  • Consider items that are fused together (fabrics, welded metal, ingredients baked into a cake). What is the purpose of fusing? Does the fusing usually create something stronger and/or better than the original items?
  • Reread Ephesians 2:4-6, inserting your name in place of “we, us, or you.” Dwell on what it means to you to be fused with Christ.

Day Three Study

Benefits of being identified with Christ

The moment we believe, the old self that was born in Adam died; a new self with the same body but a new interior started life as a new person with a new nature and a new inheritance. This radical new identity means you can never go back to not being in Christ. Never!

8. Our new identity in Christ contains at least 35 characteristics or benefits. We get all of these benefits at once. God is not a vending machine parceling out these benefits one at a time. Everything about our new identity and all the benefits are God’s gift based on his love for us. We receive all of them at the moment of our salvation because we are in Christ. What God does to us is his choice, not ours. These benefits are unconditional. The burden of performance is upon God, not upon us.

Fill out the chart below by reading the word/phrase describing what is true about you. Then, look up the verse reference and reflect on what that means to you now.

Justified, declared righteous (Romans 3:23-24) —

Made at peace with God (Romans 5:1) —

Safe from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9) —

Reconciled to God (Romans 5:10) —

Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) —

Freed from condemnation (judgment) (Romans 8:1 )—

Indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) —

Adopted as sons (Romans 8:14-15) —

Accepted by God (Romans 15:7) —

Baptized into Christ’s body (the Church) (1 Corinthians 12:13) —

Chosen by God (Ephesians 1:4) —

Saved by Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) —

Freed from God’s Anger (1 John 2:2) —

Freed from the Law (Romans 7:4) —

Translated out of darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8) —

Forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14) —

Washed clean (1 Corinthians 6:11) —

Made holy and blameless (Colossians 1:22) —

Sealed in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14) —

Clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) —

Given Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) —

Made into a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) —

Made perfect forever (Hebrews 10:14) —

Translated out of death into life (John 5:24) —

Born again (1 Peter 1:3) —

Sanctified (made holy) (1 Corinthians 6:11) —

Made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) —

Made children of God (John 1:12) —

Made complete (Colossians 2:9-10) —

Made heirs of God (Romans 8:17) —

Made citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21) —

Made into a holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5,9) —

Given confident access to God (Hebrews 10:19-23) —

We have been given every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3) —

Secure in God’s Love (Romans 8:38-39) —

9. Graceful Living: One of the fundamental questions of the human race is that of identity, "Who am I?" The one secure, eternal answer is that through faith in Jesus Christ you can say, "I am in Christ, a child of God, one of God’s saints, totally loved and accepted by God"—an identity that no circumstance can change!

  • Write a short description of your identity in Christ based on what you discovered in the verses you just read. “I _____________ (your name) am in Christ,…”
  • Consider carrying an ID card with you that reminds you of who you truly are. See the sample card below that you can print and fill in with your name plus 7 of the benefits of your identity in Christ that are most significant to you. Put it in your wallet near your Drivers License and credit cards. Next time you get out your Drivers License, you will see it and remind yourself, “I am once-and-for-all Justified and Forgiven.” When you show your Drivers License at the airport, you will see your ID and remind yourself, “I am once-and-for-all accepted and loved.” A list containing the same 35 characteristics of your new identity is also found at the end of this lesson. Keep that handy for a quick reference when you are attacked by the world’s view of who you are!

Download a Believers Identity in Christ chart.

Day Four Study

Knowing our identity sets us free from the world’s viewpoint

As stated before, the world isn’t going to validate our new identity. From a worldly point of view, we are viewed as the same we’ve always been—with the baggage still hanging around our necks. But, we can know our true identity—what God has done to change us from the inside out. And, knowing it sets us free from the world’s constraints and expectations, from our past, and from the garbage that others feed us about our failures.

Think About It: “Some of us are drawn in by circumstance [wearing ourselves out by our own efforts] because we don’t know who we are. The greatest crisis is not outside; it’s the identity crisis within those of the faith! Men and women of God are so focused on the darkness that they’re missing the adventure.” (Michelle Wallace, “Fruit of the Vine: The Greatness of God,” Living Magazine, October 2012)

10. Graceful Living: Read the chart below contrasting the world’s lies about who you are with the FACT of God’s truth about who you are. (Adapted from Dr. Timothy Warner, Resolving Spiritual Conflicts and Cross-Cultural Ministry, Freedom in Christ Ministries, 1993.)

Respond through any means you choose (journaling, prayer, poem, art, song) to illustrate what you have learned from this lesson.

The World’s Lies (are)

God’s Truth (says)

*You are still a sinner because you sometimes sin.

*You are a saint (one declared righteous by God) who sometimes sins.

*You get your identity from what you have done.

*You get your identity from what God has done for you.

*You get your identity from what people say about you.

*You get your identity from what God says about you.

*Your behavior tells you what to believe about yourself.

*Your belief about yourself directs your behavior.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Discipleship, Grace, Spiritual Life

7. Grace-Based Freedom

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“The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? Have you suffered so many things for nothing? – if indeed it was for nothing. Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:2-5)

Introduction to Law and Grace

You have a great foundation now, knowing what Christ has done on the cross for you and how his resurrection provides the means for you to receive a brand new life with a new identity. Praise God for his indescribable gift! But, as seen in the Galatians 3 scripture quoted above, many Christians start out accepting the gift of salvation but then are thrown into a works-related way of living out this brand new life in order to maintain acceptance before a holy God. The issue is broadly called “Law and Grace.” Understanding the difference between these two concepts is the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the basis for experiencing a joyful Christian life.

Understanding the difference between Law and Grace answers important biblical questions:

1. What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments? What Old Testament promises can be claimed by New Testament believers?

  • Old Testament—The dietary laws, practice of circumcision, sacrificial system, and observance of the Sabbath by Jews.
  • New Testament—Freedom from those same laws and practices for both Gentiles and Jews based upon what Christ did on the cross to fulfill the purpose for the Old Testament religious laws.

2. What must we do to be saved or to even stay saved?

3. Where do we fit in God's plan of history? What should we expect from God and from life in this phase?

4. How are we to live to please God?

  • Our motivation for Christian living—Is our motivation to live the Christian life based on love and gratitude for what Christ has done for us, or is it based on fear of what God will do to us every time we fail?
  • Our power for Christian living—Do we think the power to live the Christian life is self-generated or Spirit-empowered? Through self-effort or through dying to self?
  • Our relationships—We often treat others the same way we think God treats us. If we think of God as mean and spiteful, we will often relate to others that way. Are we trying to motivate others to obedience through fear of punishment—given out by God or by us?

Probably the simplest way to understand Law & Grace is to see it as the issue of God’s acceptance: “On what basis is a person made acceptable before a holy God?” Based upon what you’ve learned so far in this study, how would you answer that question?

[Note: This lesson is longer than usual, containing more teaching to clearly communicate the topic.]

Day One Study

What is “The Law?”

Reading through the New Testament, you will often see this phrase mentioned—”the Law.” Generally, the New Testament writers mean “the Mosaic Law” by this phrase. The Law is, “The covenant between God and the nation of Israel instituted at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt.” Let’s gain some perspective on this.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised to Abraham that he would make Abraham into a great nation and that all the peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham. Abraham’s descendants multiplied greatly while living in Egypt, and God delivered them out of Egypt to form the nation he had promised to Abraham. At Mt. Sinai, God proposed a contractual agreement (the Law) to the new nation (Exodus 19:3-6). After God spoke the outline of the Law (the Ten Commandments) and the provisions of the Law to the people (Exodus 20-23), the nation agreed to keep the contract (Exodus 24:3-8).

From the simplest, big-picture point of view, the Law of Moses [Mosaic Law, hereafter designated as the Law] described the conditions under which: 1) Israel would be allowed to dwell in the land; and 2) the people of Israel would enjoy the presence of God dwelling in their midst. The Law was bilateral (two-sided), meaning that God offered earthly blessings for obedience and earthly curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28). The Law was not a means of salvation. The Law was primarily national in scope and earthly in application.

1. Read Deuteronomy 4:5-8. What was the purpose of the Law? See also 1 Timothy 1:8-10.

2. Read Galatians 3:19-26. What was the intended duration for the Law?

The nation of Israel was to be a holy nation as God was a holy God. “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). For a person to be holy required separation from sin. So, much of the Law includes animal sacrifices for the sin of the people so God could remove their sins from them (Leviticus 16:20-22), making them holy again.

God promised to redeem human beings from their sin based on his grace (to Eve and to Abraham) earlier than the Law was given to Israel (diagram below). That promise of grace was not nullified or changed. The Law—a separate arrangement for a temporary purpose—was for managing sinful people until fulfillment in Christ.

The purpose of the Law was to teach central truths about God. There had to be a nation on earth that knew something about God to teach the rest of the world (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). The purpose of the Law was also protective to preserve Israel as a distinct people through whom the promised Messiah would come to bless the whole world. And, the Law would lead people to a trust relationship with the Lord by showing them their sin and leaving faith—trusting in the mercy and grace of God alone to forgive one’s guilt—as the only way to be right with God (Romans 3:19-20), preparing the way for the work of Christ. Salvation for Old Testament believers came through faith in a merciful God (Habakkuk 3:17).

3. Because the Law had limitations, God promised a New Covenant. Read Hebrews 8:6-13. Examine the following chart. Notice the contrast between the old and the new. Comment on the differences in the right column of the chart.

Contrasting the Old & New Covenants (Hebrews 8:8-12)

Provision

Old Covenant (the Law)

New Covenant

Why the New Covenant Is Better

Motivation

External/reward & punishment

See Deuteronomy 28.

Internal / change of heart

“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts.” (v.10b)

 

Relationship

Conditioned on obedience

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:5)

Unconditionally established

“I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (v.10c)

 

Access to God

Open to the High Priest alone

"But only the High Priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year…” (Hebrews 9/7)

"...anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death.” (Numbers 3:10)

Open and equal access to all believers

“No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (v.11)

 

Forgiveness &

Acceptance

Conditional and incomplete

“For the Law...can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.” (Hebrews 10:1)

Unconditional and complete

"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (v.12)

 

Under the Law (Old Covenant), blessings were conditional and the burden of performance was on man. Under the New Covenant, the promised blessings are unconditional and the burden of performance is upon God. Man’s sole responsibility toward the fulfillment of the New Covenant is to enter into that relationship through faith in Jesus Christ. God then commits himself to complete the work he began in us (Philippians 1:6) until we are conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). This doesn’t mean that Christians have no responsibilities at all! We are called to follow Jesus Christ diligently and live worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).

God’s plan is too easy for many to accept. And, old habits of performance-based religion are hard to die. Enter Galatianism…

Day Two Study

The problem of Galatianism

The term “Galatianism” developed because of issues addressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians—believers in several churches in the area of what is now central Turkey. As recorded in Acts 13-14, Paul and Barnabas spread the gospel in this area on their first missionary journey about 15 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Galatian churches were composed of mostly Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. Many of the Jews in the region rejected the preaching of Paul about Christ’s death and resurrection. They did not respond with faith in Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life (Acts 13:46). The Gentiles, however, were “glad and honored the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:47-48). After Paul left the area, some unnamed teachers (usually called “Judaizers”) followed in his wake, contradicting his teachings. Eventually the controversy grew so heated that it was brought to Jerusalem to be decided by the apostles (Acts 15:1-6).

4. Read Acts 15:1-5. What are the Judaizers teaching? [Note: though not capitalized in most translations, “the law” is referring to the Law of Moses.]

The diagram above (left) illustrates the Judaizers’ message, which was basically: “We have the promises, Christ, and salvation. If you want them, you must come over to our side.”

It is important to remember that the Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and the nation Israel only. At no time was it imposed on other nations of the world. While the Old Testament frequently describes prophetically the blessings the whole world will receive through the Messiah (Christ) and his kingdom, there was a great secret (a “mystery”) held in the heart of God: that the Gentiles, who were held separate from the Jews by the Law, would be included in God’s promises through the gospel.

5. Read Ephesians 2:11-22 and answer the following questions.

  • Describe the state of the Gentiles before hearing of Christ.
  • In verse 14, Christ made the two groups (Jews and Gentiles) into one by breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall. What was the dividing wall?
  • Why did the barrier have to come down?
  • What are the results of this barrier coming down? See also Ephesians 3:4-6.

6. According to Colossians 2:13-14, what happened to the Law (written code)?

7. According to Romans 6:14; 7:6 and Galatians 2:19, what is the Christian’s relation to the Law now?

8. After open debate, the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gave an answer to the Judaizers’ position. Read Acts 15:6-11. What did the apostles conclude?

9. Although the book of Galatians as a whole was written to address the panic created by the Judaizers’ teaching, what is Paul’s response specifically in these verses to the Galatian believers (and us) who thought they had to follow the Law to be true Christians?

  • Galatians 1:6-9—
  • Galatians 3:1-5—
  • Galatians 5:1-3—

10. So, is the Christian under the Mosaic Law in any way, shape or form? Why not?

So, if Christians are not under the Law of Moses, why read and study the Old Testament? Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

“Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”

When Paul wrote those words under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, ALL Scripture at that time was the whole Old Testament. God has revealed himself through what is written—his holiness, goodness, sovereignty, omniscience, omnipotence, love and more. For the people of Israel (and for Gentile converts who voluntarily took on the yoke of the Law), the Law served as their rule of life—learning to approach life Gods way. The Law God gave to Israel included 3 sections: civil (how to govern the nation), religious (how to worship a holy God), and moral (how to treat one another). Though Christians are not under the civil or religious laws, God’s moral law has not changed and is reinforced in New Testament writings. So…

11. The Law can be properly used:

  • As a lens through which to see the perfect character and righteousness of God (though Jesus Christ is a far greater revelation of God: John 1:17-18; 14:5-8).
  • As a mirror in which to see oneself truly in comparison to the righteousness of God, especially the moral law (dealing with murder, marriage, relationships, etc.). It can’t clean you up, but it can reveal that you have a problem (Romans 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-10).

12. The Law is improperly used as a ladder on which to climb up to try to earn the acceptance of God.

By the time of Jesus, rabbis taught that the whole law could be summed up with two sentences,

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

That hasn’t changed. And, the rest of the New Testament describes how to live that way.

13. Graceful Living: Based upon what you just learned, what kind of message does a Christian’s insistence on propagating “The Ten Commandments” from Exodus 20 give to other believers or to the unbelieving world? Give some New Testament verses that would be far more effective in communicating God’s grace to an unbelieving world than posting the “Ten Commandments” (the Law).

14. Deeper Discoveries (optional): Which of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17)…

  • Emphasize “Love the Lord your God” and are repeated in New Testament writings as the right way to live for one who is forgiven and redeemed? Give verses.
  • Are related to God’s moral law – how we are to treat one another – and repeated in New Testament writings as the right way to live as one who is forgiven and redeemed? Give verses.
  • Is given specifically to Israel as a nation but not to the rest of the world, yet has been erroneously taught that it applies to the Church (and on the wrong day!)? See Colossians 2:16 regarding this one.

Day Three Study

The tendency toward legalism

You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me?” Be aware that Galatianism is still present in the modern church. We call it “legalism” (legal = relating to the law). Legalism has both a technical and a practical definition:

  • Technically: Legalism is the imposition of the Mosaic Law on Gentile (non-Jewish) believers (especially observance of the Sabbath and circumcision, but also paying a penalty or penance for sin).
  • Practically: Legalism is the addition of any other conditions to faith in order to gain and maintain acceptance from God.
  • The insistence of “faith plus _____.” In order to maintain good standing with God, you must have faith plus other evidences: good works… refraining from certain sins…church membership… ordinances or sacraments (baptism, communion), etc. Whenever Gods acceptance of you has an IF attached to it (other than faith in Jesus Christ), you know you are in the vicinity of legalism.
  • Another example involves repentance. Repentance means a change of mind. True repentance is changing your mind regarding your sin (that it separates you from God) and regarding Christ (that he alone is the answer to your sin problem). Legalism teaches that repentance means you have to give up your sins before coming to Christ.

Legalism has seriously damaged the church through the centuries. It leads to a dramatically different experience of Christian living. Many groups or individuals begin with a clear presentation of the gospel of grace to receive salvation, then proceed to live by works, trying to earn or maintain God’s acceptance by performance.

At this point, we move our attention from the Law as referring to the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, and all the statutes and ordinances (found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) to law as a principle. Living by law can be any man-made system of works by which a person attempts to approach God on her own merits or performance. That’s what legalism does.

[Note: This discussion of legalism is not about what is clearly taught as right and wrong from God’s perspective in Scripture. That which God calls “sin” will be covered more in lesson 9.]

Whether a person is trying to live by the God-given Mosaic Law (particularly the 10 Commandments), by human laws imposed by others (standards of what they consider spiritual and necessary to please God and/or prove you are saved), or even by self-imposed laws, the effects on the individual are the same: fear, guilt, and condemnation.

A person is “living according to law” (legalism) whenever she tries to approach God on the basis of her own merits or performance. Though the outward effects are often subtle, a believer trying to live by legalism will actually be drifting her focus away from the Person of Jesus Christ. She is straying from enjoying a relationship to practicing a religion.

15. Give examples of modern legalism.

16. Read Colossians 2:20-23. Rather than producing righteousness, what can legalism produce? See also Ephesians 2:9.

Out of God’s mercy comes his grace. Remember that grace is unmerited favor. It is a gift that is undeserved. Grace is a gift God chooses to give because of his great mercy, apart from the Law (Romans 3:21). The Law (Mosaic or man-imposed religious standards) is incompatible with “Grace!” Like Jesus’ example of pouring new wine into new wineskins rather than into old ones (Matthew 9:14-17), grace cannot be added to the Law. It is one or the other. You cannot accept both. Which one would you rather guide the course of your life?

17. What examples does Paul give to show why law and grace are incompatible in the verses below?

  • Romans 4:4-5—
  • Romans 11:6—
  • Galatians 3:15-18—

18. Remember how we started this lesson with Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Read Galatians 5:1-6.

  • What does Paul tell the Galatians (and us)?
  • Based on what you have learned so far, discuss why falling away from grace cannot mean losing one’s salvation.

19. Graceful Living: Think back to your Christian life so far and try to recognize the influence of legalism on what you’ve been taught. List any “faith plus ______” teaching that has influenced your life and manmade rules you’ve been taught to obey to remain acceptable to God. If you have been taught any faith plus any other condition in order to maintain acceptance to God, get to heaven, or get any other blessing (which you already have in Christ!), how has this affected your life, your emotions, your thinking, your relationship with God and others?

Day Four Study

Part 1: “Law” motivates us to obedience by fear of punishment

The issue of “Law and Grace” often arises in practice because of two reasons: 1) the tendency to think you can control sin through lots of rules and 2) the persistent tendency to interpret events. Let’s explore the second reason some more.

Everyone must deal with disappointments, problems, and tragedies in life. The human tendency is to try to interpret events as signs of God’s anger or favor, asking questions such as: Why did this happen? What does it mean? What is God trying to tell me? Through this tendency, people (even Christians) lapse into the patterns of paganism, the natural religion of the human race. The underlying assumptions of paganism are: 1) When things go well, the gods are happy with us. 2) When things go wrong, the gods are angry with us. Therefore, the essence of paganism is this: how to stay on the good side of the gods so bad things won’t happen.

Professing Christians may acknowledge grace as true but live as though their own performance of religious standards determines their fate in life. They live in fear of God, not a healthy fear, but an unhealthy one—a fear of what God will do to them every time they fail. That becomes the motivation for their Christian living. Why do some believers succumb to this thinking? The answer is that we probably don’t understand the difference between punishment and discipline.

  • Punishment is a penalty imposed on an offender for a crime or wrongdoing, and generally connotes retribution (a payback) rather than correction of future behavior. It is backward- looking toward the offense, impersonal, automatic, and chiefly concerned with “balancing the books of justice.”
  • Discipline is training that develops character, self-control, orderliness and/or efficiency. It is forward-looking to a change of behavior and/or character, is individually tailored, personally applied, and is chiefly concerned with what will benefit the individual in question. Discipline is not always corrective or applied in response to sin; it is ongoing. Think “training.”

Punishment and discipline sometimes look alike (especially to the one on the receiving end), but the difference can be seen in both the attitude and the goal of the one applying them.

  • The attitude behind punishment is anger and indignation, and the goal is justice.
  • The attitude behind discipline is love, and the goal is the development of the person.

You can probably think of a time or two when you have confused these two concepts in your life.

20. What does the New Testament adamantly declare to you, as a believer, about freedom from punishment in Romans 5:9 and Romans 8:1-2?

Scriptural Insight: The Bible teaches that every believer will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This, however, is not a criminal trial where the fate of the defendant is in question, nor his guilt or innocence. It is an evaluation for the purpose of rewards (1Corinthians 3:11-15). Believers are already declared not guilty of sin…in Christ…forever!

21. What further confidence do we gain from 1 John 4:17-19?

Under the grace of the New Covenant, believers are disciplined (trained), not punished. God’s discipline stems from his love (Revelation 3:19). Confidence in his love for you should cast out any fear of punishment you may have.

22. Read Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-25 and 2 Timothy 3:16. What does God use to discipline his children?

23. For what purpose does God discipline his children?

  • Romans 8:28-30—
  • Philippians 1:6—
  • Hebrews 12:4-11 [Note: the Greek word translated “punish” in verse 6 means “to whip,” in essence “give a spanking.”]—

Because we live under the grace of God in Jesus Christ, believers can rest in the fact that all of God’s purposes for us are good. We have a loving Father who teaches, trains, and corrects. Even when evil occurs (because we still live in a fallen world), we can rest confidently in the promise of Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. Our God is good all the time to us—even in the tough times, in different ways to each of his children, and by what he allows and doesn’t allow into our lives.

24. Graceful Living: What has God used to train (discipline) you to trust him more? To depend upon him more? To say “no” to selfishness and “yes” to selflessness? Are you grateful for those lessons that overflowed from his grace and love towards you even if they hurt?

Part 2: Grace motivates us to obedience out of love and gratitude

So why do some Christians so easily stray away from grace into legalism? Why would someone want to retain the Law or create additional laws for Christians to follow? Often, it is because of the fear of lawlessness. All agree that lawlessness is wrong and is to be opposed. Yet, there is the tendency to think sin can be controlled through lots of rules. We all know how much that does not work! (See Romans 7:7-13.) The answer, however, is not that we should keep believers under law. It is teaching and exhorting believers to “live by the Spirit”—the better way.

Through our adoption as sons and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have received a status as spiritual adults. Adults live on the basis of mature character with freedom and responsibility. Knowing and understanding your new status in Christ, based on all that Christ has done for you and what you have in him, helps to answer the question, “Why should I live a godly life, if I’m not under law?”

25. Read Galatians 5:13-16. In contrast to living by law, how are Christians exhorted to live with our Grace-Based Freedom, and why would this be a better way? [Note: we’ll cover this more in the next lesson.]

26. According to Romans 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, what should motivate us to obey God with our lives if not legalism?

Historical Insight: “A preacher of the Law comes down on men with threats and punishments; a preacher of divine grace coaxes and urges men by reminding them of the goodness and mercy which God has shown them. For He [God] would have no unwilling workers nor cheerless service; He wants men to be glad and cheerful in the service of God.” (Martin Luther, comments on Romans 12)

27. What are the benefits of living by grace rather than by law?

  • Matthew 11:28-30—
  • John 10:10—
  • Titus 2:11-14—

Think About It: “What God wants is for us to trust him and His Word—the Word that tells us that Christ has done it all—and to act on it by approaching ‘the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16)…But if you don’t trust that you have been made totally acceptable in God’s sight, you will never have the boldness to approach him. You will linger outside His throne room, trying to find a way to get ‘worthy’ enough to go in. The end result is that you will avoid going to your only source of help (God) when you need him the most!” (Bob George, Classic Christianity, page 102)

28. Graceful Living: Read Philippians 3:3-10 and 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Paul understood the plight of those who had been relating to God through outward performance under the Law for years. He had been there! Those who have been freed from the Law (both Jews and non-Jews since Christ) can now have a relationship with God on the basis of his grace, as Paul describes about his own life (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Grace motivates us to obedience by love and gratitude for what Christ has done.

  • In what areas of your life have you been relating to God through outward performance (on the basis of law), with the accompanying feeling of obligation, guilt, and fear of punishment for not doing it right? How has that affected your life?

God wants you to relate to him on the basis of his grace, so that your motivation to obey him is based on his love for you, your love for him, and gratitude for what Christ has done for you. Relax! Thank him that you have FREEDOM to relate to your God on the basis of his Grace to you. And, enjoy your Grace-filled relationship with your God today, tomorrow, and forever! Paul responded to God’s grace call on his life with a statement of praise in 1 Timothy 1:17. How will you respond? Feel free to use any creative means including drawing a diagram of your freedom in Christ now.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Curriculum, Grace, Law, Spiritual Life, Women

8. Grace-Centered Living

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“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

How Are Christians Meant to Live?

God does not want believers to live by law, but by the Holy Spirit. Whether someone is living by law (God’s Law or man-made laws) or by grace is determined by two key issues:

1. The issue of motivation: Why you do what you do.

  • Under law, a person works in order to earn the acceptance of God.
  • Under grace, a person trusts in Jesus Christ as her acceptance and works out of love and gratitude.

2. The issue of power: How you do what you do.

  • Under law, a person lives from his own power and resources.
  • Under grace, a person lives by Christ’s life and power imparted by the Holy Spirit.

Life by the Holy Spirit is consistently presented in contrast to living by law.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:18)

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.... Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:6,17)

“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:5-6)

Let’s explore what this looks like.

Day One Study

The Old Testament background of the ministry of the Holy Spirit

1. The Holy Spirit was active throughout history from creation until the New Testament age. Nehemiah recounts the role of the Spirit in the life of Israel as a nation. Read Nehemiah 9:19-20, 30. What was the Spirit’s role?

2. How did the Holy Spirit empower ("anoint") the following individuals for special service?

  • Exodus 35:30-36:1—
  • 1 Samuel 10:1,6-9—
  • 1 Samuel 16:12-13—

3. The anointing of the Holy Spirit on Old Testament believers was not promised to believers of that time nor promised to be permanent when given. (See 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11.) However, the prophets spoke of a future day, the time of the New Covenant or Kingdom. Read Joel 2:28-30 and Ezekiel 36:24-28. What did God promise about his Spirit at that time?

The announcement of the Kingdom and the coming of the Spirit

4. What announcement did John the Baptist make in Mark 1:4, 7-8?

5. What did Jesus promise about the Spirit in the following verses?

  • John 3:1-10—
  • John 7:37-39—
  • Acts 1:3-8—

6. How were the promises fulfilled in Acts 2:1-21, 32-36?

Scriptural Insight: Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God himself, the Third Person of the Trinity. He is described as possessing all the divine attributes and is referred to as God (Acts 5:3-4). It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a “force” or merely an impersonal attribute or influence of God. He is described as having all the elements of personality: intellect (1 Cor. 2:11), emotions (Eph. 4:30), and will (1 Cor. 12:11). Personal pronouns are used of him, such as “he” or “him” (John 16:7-8).

7. Graceful Living: Does the concept of the Holy Spirit’s existence seem like science fiction to you? Like something out of a movie, e.g. “the force is with you” from Star Wars? We often feel this way because his name is more like a title. We have God the Father (we can relate to “father”) and God the Son (whose name is Jesus, we can relate to “son” and “Jesus”). Paul often refers to the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ or God’s Spirit to help us relate to him. Be honest with God here. Let him know how you feel. Ask him to help you trust what he says in his Word about his Spirit’s presence in our world and in our lives.

Day Two Study

The relational ministry of the Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “Don’t you believe that l am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?” (John 14:10). He then said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you (John 14:20). Authentic Christian living is when we live in the same relation to Jesus as he did with his father (faith, dependence). We trust; he supplies the life and power!

Your position in Christ is your:

  • Acceptance before God.
  • Assurance of salvation.
  • Identity.

Christ’s presence in you is:

  • Life (regeneration).
  • Power for living.
  • The basis of a relationship.
  • Promise and hope – the Holy Spirit is called a “deposit” or “down payment” on our salvation, giving assurance of the completion of his work. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

When a person hears the gospel and places her faith in Jesus Christ, several things happen instantaneously as a one-time event regarding the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at these.

8. At the moment of salvation (when one believes), the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer is…

  • Titus 3:4-6—
  • Romans 8:9—
  • Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:4-7—
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13—
  • Ephesians 1:13-14—

9. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ has established with believers a relationship to himself similar to the one he enjoyed with the Father. Read John 14:15-21, 26 and John 16:12-15. Describe the Spirit’s role in our relationship to Jesus.

From the Greek: The Greek word translated “Helper” or “Counselor” in John 14:16 is parakletos. Both of these English words have connotations that are absent from the Greek word. Helper connotes an inferior, which the Holy Spirit is not. Counselor can call to mind a camp counselor or a marriage counselor whereas a legal counselor is more in harmony with the Greek idea. In secular contexts parakletos often referred to a legal assistant, an advocate, or simply a helper (e.g., a witness or a representative in court). The verbal form of this word, parakaleo, literally means to call alongside and, therefore, to encourage or to strengthen.” (Dr. Tom Constable, Constables Notes on John, pages 219-220)

The Empowering Ministry of the Holy Spirit

From the beginning of our faith relationship with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit anoints us with God’s presence and power. We need both to live the kind of life Jesus intends for us to live. After this one-time work of the Spirit to establish God’s presence within us, he has an ongoing empowering ministry in the life of the believer.

10. According to the following verses, how is genuine Christian life to be lived?

  • Galatians 2:20—
  • Philippians 2:12-13—
  • Colossians 1:29—

11. Read the verses below about the Spirit’s empowering ministry to the believer. What does the Holy Spirit empower or enable the believer to do in order to live the genuine Christian life described above?

  • Acts 4:31—             
  • Romans 5:5—             
  • Romans 8:26-27—             
  • 1 Corinthians 2:9-16—             
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11—             
  • Ephesians 3:14-19—             

The Holy Spirit is the means by which Christ is “with us” and “in us” (Matthew 28:18-20; Galatians 2:20). Christ is in a glorified human body in heaven. He is with us by means of the Holy Spirit. To sum up: The ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit has been well expressed by scholar Gordon D. Fee in the phrase, Gods Empowering Presence.” (Gordon Fee, Gods Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul)

12. Graceful Living: Briefly describe a great need that God has met in your life or a remarkable thing that God has done in your life through his Spirit’s empowering presence in you.

Day Three Study

The Holy Spirit’s Unseen Presence

We cannot see the Holy Spirit inside of us. But, we know he is working inside us because we become aware of the evidence. These are some of the things the Spirit does for us:

  • He helps us understand what the Bible teaches. Has someone explained something to you about the Bible, and you understood what she was saying? That’s the Spirit inside of you helping you to understand. John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13
  • He gives us the words to tell others about Jesus and say that Jesus is God. Have you wanted to tell someone about Jesus but didn’t know what to say, then all of a sudden the words just popped into your head for you to tell that person about Jesus? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you prompting you with the right words to say. John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3
  • He gives us assurance that we are Gods children. Have you ever felt really loved by God? That’s the Spirit inside of you letting you know for sure that you are God’s child, and He loves you. Romans 8:16
  • He makes us want to do what pleases God. Do you have a desire to please God with your life? That’s the Holy Spirit inside of you giving you that desire. Romans 12:11; Jer. 33:31,33
  • He helps us to feel joy as we serve Jesus and when we do the right things. Have you ever felt really good when you chose to do the right thing or chose to be helpful? That’s the Holy Spirit inside of you letting you feel God’s pleasure. Romans 14:17-18
  • He makes us not want to do what doesnt please God. Have you ever felt something tugging at you inside when you were tempted to do something wrong? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you nudging you, reminding you what doesn’t please God so you can choose not to do that. We can ask him to let us know in our thinking or feelings when we are tempted to do something bad. He promises to do that. Galatians 5:16
  • He makes us to become more like Jesus, especially in loving other people. Have you ever started loving someone even more after you started praying for him/her? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you doing that. Galatians 5:22-23
  • He makes us want to sing praises to God, in our hearts and out loud, and be thankful for Gods goodness. Do you like to sing praises to God? Do you feel thankful to God for his goodness to you? That’s the Spirit living inside of you filling your heart with praise and thanksgiving to God. Ephesians 5:18-20
  • He prays for us when we need help or dont know how to pray. Have you ever had a huge problem and didn’t know what to ask God to do about it, but God took care of the problem anyway? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you working to take care of your need before you even ask. Romans 8:26-27

13. Graceful Living: Which of the evidences you just read have you recognized in your life? Thank God for specific ways and times his Spirit has worked in your life.

Walking by the Spirit

The New Testament encourages believers to “live by the Spirit” (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:16, 25) and be “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18). The Greek word Paul used here in Galatians 5:16 means to literally “walk”—a common idiom for how one conducts one’s life or how one behaves, in this case one’s faith walk. What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?

Walking by the Spirit means walking in submission to and dependence on the Spirit. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” We exercise faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation. We exercise faith for our daily living out the life of Christ within us. This daily faith walk by the Spirit involves every area of life.

At the beginning of this lesson, we stated that you can recognize if you are living by law or living by the Spirit based on two areas:

1) The issue of motivation: Why you do what you do. Under law, a person works in order to earn the acceptance of God. Under grace, a person trusts in Jesus Christ as his acceptance, and works from love and gratitude. You know you are living by the Spirit when your response to God is to serve him out of your love for him and gratitude for what he has done for you.

2) The issue of power: How you do what you do. Under law, a person lives from his own power and resources. Under grace, a person lives by Christ’s life and power imparted by the Holy Spirit. You know you are living by the Spirit when you are stepping out in obedience to Gods Word, depending on God for the ability and power to do what he asks you to do, and trusting God with the results.

Think About It: The normal goal of human childrearing is to raise our children to become more independent of us over time. God’s goal is to raise his children to become more dependent on him over time.

14. Graceful Living: Think about different areas of your life—relationships, health, school, work, emotions, health, parenting, finances, other.

  • In which ones do you feel you are relying on your own power rather than the Spirit’s power?
  • Consider giving over those areas to your God where you are trusting in your own power and begin trusting in the Spirit’s power. Choose to live according to the Spirit and be led by the Spirit in those areas. Trust your God with the results and watch what happens!

Day Four Study

The filling of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit connects us with Christ so that he is with us and in us forever—God’s presence. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the kind of life our God asks us to live—God’s power. He is God’s empowering presence. We are called to live by the Spirit, that is, to walk in submission to and dependence on the Spirit—by faith—daily.

18. Read Ephesians 5:18. What further instruction does Paul give? Why would the comparison to drunkenness be a good one?

What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)? The contrast between being filled with wine and filled with the Spirit is obvious. Both forces are internal. “Be filled”/ “Be being kept filled by the Spirit” amounts to letting the Holy Spirit who indwells us control us completely. We do this by trusting and obeying him as his Word directs. The wine that fills a person controls every area of her life as long as that person consumes it. Drunkenness results in ungodly behavior. Likewise the believer who allows the Spirit to influence and direct his thinking and behavior will experience his control as long as she yield’s her will to the Spirit. This is our ongoing responsibility (present tense), and it is expected of every Christian, not optional.

Filling of the Spirit involves our yielding to God as God and yielding to his purposes and his truth. God fills what you open. Author Warren Wiersbe says this, “The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to Christ’s body. The filling of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Christ.” (Adapted from Dr. Constables Notes on Ephesians, page 61)

All that you learned in the Day Three Study regarding evidence of living by the Spirit would apply to evidence of being filled by the Spirit. Both result from yielding to and depending upon the Spirit’s empowering presence in your life, choosing God’s purposes and truth for your life. Both produce the characteristics of God’s life in yours.

15. In Ephesians 5:19-21, Paul referred to four of the many results of the Spirit’s filling. What are they?

16. A parallel passage describing the same evidence of the Spirit’s filling is found in Colossians. Read Colossians 3:12-17. What are the evidences of being filled with the Spirit/living by the Spirit in each of the following verses?

  • Verse 12—
  • Verse 13—
  • Verse 14—
  • Verse 15—
  • Verse 16—
  • Verse 17—

Scriptural Insight: When he [Paul] speaks here [in Ephesians 5:18] of being with the Spirit and when he speaks in Colossians of being under the rule of the peace of Christ and indwelt by the “word of Christ,” he means to be under God’s control. The effect of this control is essentially the same in both passages: a happy, mutual encouragement to praise God and a healthy, mutual relationship with people.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Ephesians 5:18, page 1798)

17. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul describes similar evidences of living by the Spirit/being filled by the Spirit which he calls “fruit of the Spirit.”

  • What are they?
  • What similarities in this list do you see with what you discovered in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:12-17?

Think About It: “We aren’t able to produce the Christian life—only Christ can produce it. We are to maintain a dependent, receiving attitude—the same attitude of availability that Jesus presented to his Father for 33 years. And Christ will produce the fruit of his life in us. Our response should be, ‘Lord, I can’t, but you can.’” (Bob George, Classic Christianity, page 177)

18. Graceful Living: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Living by faith is acting according to the Word of God, depending on Jesus Christ for the power, and trusting him with the results. From the evidences of living by the Spirit you discovered in the verses above, choose a few that you desire in your life. Now, ask Jesus Christ to produce these in you by saying for each one, “Lord Jesus, I can’t, but you can. I want you to do this in my life. I trust you to do this in my life.” Watch what he does!

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Curriculum, Discipleship, Spiritual Life, Women

Lesson 11: Principles and Practice of Disciplemaking

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When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Introduction

In 1933 a man named Dawson Trotman founded a worldwide Christian organization called the Navigators. At the heart of Trotman and the ministry he founded was the discipleship of believers—grounding Christians in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study, and service. Navigators started when Trotman was asked to visit a sailor, Les Spencer, and share God’s Word with him. Soon Spencer was asking for another man to be taught by Trotman but Trotman challenged Spencer, “You teach him.”1 The discipleship ministry of the Navigators was birthed. The Navigators’ influence has since grown to worldwide proportions with about 4,600 staff representing 69 nationalities working in 103 countries.2

What is discipleship and why is the church commanded to do it? What are some of the methods of discipleship that Jesus and Paul used? How can disciples grow in numbers? What are the marks of a mature disciple (i.e. what does a mature disciple look like)?

Definition of a Disciple and the Great Commission

What is a disciple? The basic meaning is that a disciple is a learner. A disciple of Jesus is one who learns and lives from the teachings of Jesus himself and those whom Jesus taught, the apostles. Another good definition from the Navigator is this: “A disciple continues in the Word, loves others, bears fruit, and puts Christ first.”3

The primary command in the New Testament to make disciples comes from what is called the Great Commission. Matthew states, “Then Jesus came up and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matt 28:18-20). In the original Greek language the phrase “make disciples” is the main verb which is the command, as opposed to “go.” Someone once said, “The main thing is to make the main the main thing.” Therefore, to make disciples is the main thing. All nations are to be disciples, and this implies you have to go to them (cf. Acts 1:8). The imperatival mood of the command to make disciples carries over to the word “go.” How does one make disciples? The text indicates that it is by baptizing and by teaching. The baptizing into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit implies both evangelism and conversion. The teaching is a teaching with a view toward obedience of all that Jesus said. In summary then, making disciples includes both evangelism and instruction in the Christian faith. What has happened to the church’s obedience to the Great Commission? Sarcastically, due to failures of the church (myself included) it is sometimes referred to as the Great Omission. Billy Hanks Jr. and William Shell write, “Historically it is difficult to discover why the simple plan which worked so effectively in the early church ceased to be used in later generations . . . The challenge of the future is simply to apply the timeless divine strategy of the past. Nothing less than total victory should be expected in world evangelization and church growth.”4

Methods of Discipleship from Jesus and Paul

In examining proper methods of discipleship, it would seem wise to look at the discipleship methods that both Jesus and Paul used. The first thing that one could point to is that both Jesus and Paul selected a few good men for the purpose of training. In regard to Jesus, Coleman well states, “men were his method.”5 Luke writes: “Now it was during this time that Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God. When morning came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles” (Luke 6:12-16). The fact that Jesus spent all night in prayer showed the importance of what he was doing in selecting the disciples. He only chose 12. Beyond that, he focused on three (Peter, James and John). The whole future of the church would rest in the faithfulness of God working though only a few men.

In regard to Paul, his discipleship method is seen in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And what you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well (2 Tim 2:2). This verse describes the type of people who should be discipled, that is faithful people. Some have described them with the acronym FAT = faithful, available and teachable. There are some very prominent discipleship relationships in the Bible that illustrate its importance. Joshua had Moses; Elisha had Elijah; the Twelve had Jesus; Paul had Barnabus; and Timothy had Paul. Now the questions is, who do we have?

A second aspect of discipleship that is modeled in both Jesus and Paul is that they had a life to life association with their disciples. In regard to Jesus, Mark writes, “He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they would be with him” (Mark 3:14). The purpose of the selection of the twelve was so that they might be “with Him.” The disciples were with Jesus for over three years, observing, listening, and doing. Paul did the same with his disciples. A good example is when Paul picked up Timothy to go with Paul on his missionary journey. Acts records, “And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him” (Acts 16:1-3). In another place, Paul tells the Corinthian church, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Someone once remarked, “discipleship is more caught than taught.”

A third aspect of discipleship that Jesus and Paul modeled is that they were always trying to transfer the ministry so that others could do it. Jesus preached but he sent the disciples out to preach; Jesus healed but he sent the 12 out to heal (Matt 10). We should always be trying to work ourselves out of a job. In looking at Second Timothy 2:2 again, “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well” (2 Tim 2:2), one can see four generations of ministry to disciples: First Paul to Timothy, then Timothy to faithful people, then faithful people to “others”. This is the pattern that Paul was looking for. D. L. Moody once stated, “It is better to train ten people than to do the work of ten people. But it is harder.”

The Principle of Multiplication

Consider how small of the group of early disciples were with Jesus and the command to reach all the nations with the gospel. How could this possibly be expected and carried out. It took Jesus over three years to train only 12 people with millions of people in the world at that time. How could the whole world possibly be reached taking only a few at a time? Figuratively speaking, how can a very small mustard seed result in a very large tree as Jesus indicated how the kingdom of God would grow (Matt 13:31-32)? The answer to this dilemma can be found in the principle of multiplication. Let’s look at an illustration of the power of multiplication. What would you rather have someone do: 1) give you one million dollars every week for a year or 2) one penny for the first week then doubling it every week for a year (1 cent, two cents, 4 , 8 cents, etc)? At the end of the year option one would yield you 52 million dollars, which is a pretty nice sum, but option two would yield you over 40 trillion dollars. This is about 750,000 times more money. What would be better in the long run over 30 years 1) discipling 10 people a year or 2) one person every two years but that person in turn would be able to and actually disciple someone else? Option one would yield 300 disciples over a lifetime but option two would yield over 32,000 disciples, more than one hundred times the amount of option one. The point of the principle of multiplication is for one to take enough time to make reproducing disciples.

Seven Marks of a Disciple

Let’s look at the question of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. What does a disciple of Jesus look like? What are the characteristics of a disciple? What are the marks of a disciple? If we do not know what we are shooting for, it will be hard to hit it. In Matthew 10 Jesus sends out the twelve disciples for their first attempt at ministry without Jesus. From this passage, at least seven characteristics or marks of a disciple can be seen.

Mark 1: The first mark is that a disciple must share the message of the kingdom/gospel with others. In Matthew 3 Jesus had preached a message of repentance because the kingdom of heaven was near. In Matthew 10 he asked his disciples to do the same where he states, “Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’” (Matt 10:6-7). The focus is getting the good news out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Sharing the good news focuses on the needs of others. Years ago, the Salvation Army was holding an international convention and their founder, General William Booth, could not attend because of physical weakness. He cabled his convention message to them. It was one word: “Others.” When we get our focus off of ourselves and put it on others, we are in the right mindset of a disciple

Mark 2: The second mark is that a disciple must learn to trust God for his or her needs and circumstances. As Jesus was sending his disciples out he told them, “Freely you received, freely give. Do not take gold, silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for the journey, or an extra tunic, or sandals or staff, for the worker deserves his provisions” (Matt 10:9-10). Jesus gave the disciples a hard task to accept. Even if they had some extra to take for their own needs, they were to trust God to supply for the work of the ministry. C.H. Spurgeon, sometimes referred to as the prince of preachers, once commented on the importance of trusting in God’s sovereignty. He stated, “There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne. . . for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.”6

Mark 3: The third mark is that a disciple must be prepared to be rejected. Jesus stated, “And you will be hated by everyone because of my name” (Matt 10:22). Sharing an invitation to believe the gospel or even just naming the name of Jesus may produce a hostile result. In other words, if the message of the gospel is rejected the messenger of the gospel may be rejected as well. The disciple must learn not to take personal offense at a rejection but rather see that is in fact God himself and his gospel message that is rejected.

Mark 4: The fourth mark is that a disciple must place Christ above family relationships if need be. Jesus told them, “Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death. . . . Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a mans enemies will be the members of his household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:21, 34-37). Here Jesus points out that our commitment to him must exceed all, even that of our family. Christians who have come out of Muslim or Hindu backgrounds are often painfully aware of this truth.

Mark 5: The fifth mark is that a disciple must fear God more than men. Jesus taught, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:28-31). But why not be afraid of people who might harm you? There are at least two reasons. First, God is the ultimate judge; he will judge everyone and everything; man’s judgment is temporal but God’s judgment is eternal. We have to stop and ask the question of what God thinks. Second, God cares for you. He sees; he knows and he cares and we are worth a lot to God. If even a bird falls and it’s in God’s plan, how much more must it be with us. People matter to God; we matter to God; I matter to God; you matter to God.

Mark 6: A sixth mark is that a disciple must lose his old life and find his new life in Jesus. He instructed the disciples, “And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it”
(Matt 10:38-39). To take up the cross is to take up an instrument of death. In other words, a disciple must be willing to die to the old life and live a new life that God has for him. Martin Luther once explained, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

Mark 7: Lastly, a seventh mark is that a disciple must look to the future reward reserved in heaven. The disciples were given this promise before going out with God’s message into difficult situation, “Whoever receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Whoever receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, I tell you the truth, he will never lose his reward”
(Matt 10:41-42). In essence God’s gives us the promise that being a disciple will be worth it in the end.

Final Thoughts on Discipleship

God’ plan is to reach the world with the gospel. He commanded the church to do this by making disciples. Men training men and women training women is his method. The encouragement of this lesson is to train reproducing disciples even though it takes longer and is harder. Martin Luther stated that our future life needs to affect the present. “If we consider the greatness and the glory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If I believe the Word, I shall on the Last Day, after the sentence has been pronounced, gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment.” Finally, a word of exhortation from Dawson Trotman: “God works through men. I see nowhere in the Word where God picks an organization . . . . Do what others cannot and will not do.”7

Discussion Questions

  1. Who has benefited from a discipleship relationship and why?
  2. Is there anything that surprises you from the way that Jesus made disciples?
  3. How did Jesus handle situations where his disciples failed (e.g., Peter)? How should we?
  4. What responsibilities does the discipler have?
  5. What responsibilities does the disciplee have?
  6. Why is disciplemaking so difficult?

1 http://www.navigators.org/us/aboutus/history (Date accessed February 25, 2013).

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Navigators_(organization) (Date accessed October 16, 2012). For a biography on Trotman’s life see Robert D. Foster. The Navigator (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1983).

3 “Church Discipleship”, Vol 11, No 1, the Navigators.

4 Billy Hanks Jr. and William Shell, Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 12, 13.

5 Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 27.

6 C. H. Spurgeon, http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0077.htm (Date accessed January 18, 2013).

7 http://www.mentoring-disciples.org/Quotes.html (Date accessed February 25).

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Discipleship, Ecclesiology (The Church), Spiritual Life

9. Grace-Motivated Obedience

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“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It [grace] trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” (John 15:5)

Life in the Until Time

Any attempt to present a realistic and biblical view of Christian living must take into account where we fit in God’s plan of history. We live in an overlapping age—possessing the life of the new creation to come through the Holy Spirit, while still living in bodies of the old, fallen creation in a fallen, evil world. That puts us in an already but not yet tension. We are already justified in God’s eyes, but we are not yet made sinless because we still commit sins. We are citizens of the kingdom, but the kingdom has not yet come to earth. Therefore, we need to understand Christian living in a way that neither underestimates nor overestimates the quality of life available to us in Jesus Christ.

  • Those who underestimate the quality of life and power available to us through Jesus Christ and the giving of the Spirit will tend to approach Christian living legalistically with self-confidence. They believe they can accumulate Christian character through self-disciplined obedience (living by law). In other words, these believers revert to law in an attempt to perfect themselves.
  • Those who overestimate the quality of life and power available through the Holy Spirit will tend to approach Christian living mystically (rather than rationally) with self-confidence. They believe that their possession of the “fullness of the Spirit” has lifted them beyond the power of sin in the flesh and beyond the power of evil present in the world. These believe that success, prosperity and health belong to people of faith. Suffering, failure, and illness result from a lack of faith.

Both lead to what is called a “triumphalist” approach to spiritual growth, characterized by confidence in self and a dangerously low level of respect for one’s sinful potential. Triumphalism is revealed by:

1) A low-level of perceived need for Christ. His words, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), have little meaning.

2) The common response to our own failures or to the failures of other believers, “I can’t believe I/he/she did that!” Shock that we still sin.

Added to the above wrong assumptions about the Christian life is the belief that the flesh improves and becomes “godly” over time, becoming less temptable in the process and becoming less dependent on Christ. Christians who believe this are prime targets for failure, because they tend to play with fire and let down their guard against temptation.

This is the truth: We never outgrow our need to depend 100% upon Jesus Christ. Spiritual maturity is not reached by needing less of Jesus but by depending more on his truth and his power to live a life that brings glory to God and pleases him.

Day One Study

The conflict between the Spirit and the flesh

While we as redeemed and justified believers have new life in Christ, we retain our old bodies in which sin dwells (the flesh or sinful nature).

What is the flesh? The term “flesh” (NIV: “sinful nature”) refers to the unredeemed portion of our humanity—our bodies and souls through which indwelling sin assaults us. We don’t know what it is, but we know how it works—sending messages to the mind that are in conflict with the Spirit. The flesh does not improve or change its nature over time, as long as we are in our bodies! At the moment of salvation, we are born again of the Spirit. Our bodies are not born again, and our souls (mind, emotions, and will) are not instantly transformed. While the flesh doesn’t improve, our choices can change over time as we learn to live by the Spirit (what you learned in the last lesson).

1. The universal experience of people who are trying to be good (on their own) yet are hampered by the flesh is described in Romans 7:14-24. The context is applicable to believers and unbelievers alike. Describe the experience. [Note: those who refuse to see this as applicable to the believer are likely living in triumphalism.]

2. What do James 4:1 and 1 Peter 2:11 add to our understanding of this struggle with the flesh?

3. Read Galatians 5:16-18. How does Paul describe this continual conflict?

Scriptural Insight: “To live ‘according to the flesh’ is to live in keeping with the values and desires of life in the present age that stand in absolute contradiction to God and his ways…Paul is first thinking not about the several ‘works’ of the flesh he will soon describe, but, as he will go on to explain in v. 17, about the basic perspective of life in the flesh. Such a perspective…radically opposes God and his ways, here designated as opposition to [living by] the Spirit.” (Gordon D. Fee, Gods Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul)

4. Read Galatians 5:19-26. Contrast the evidence of living by the flesh and living by the Spirit.

Living by the flesh

Living by the Spirit

5. Read Ephesians 4:25-5:4 (also 5:8-10). Contrast the evidence of living by the flesh and living by the Spirit.

Living by the flesh

Living by the Spirit

6. Read Colossians 3:5-14. Contrast the evidence of living by the flesh and living by the Spirit.

Living by the flesh

Living by the Spirit

Think About It: Often, we blame people or circumstances for our anger. People and circumstances do not cause our anger, impatience, bitterness, etc.; our reactions to people and circumstances reveal where we are living—by the Spirit or by the flesh.

Although we no longer measure our way of living by the Law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments) which was given to Israel, the New Testament writers certainly gave us plenty of description of what sin looks like in a Christian’s life! Living by the flesh is pretty ugly, isn’t it? Would you say there is a stark contrast between the two lifestyles? The Christian life is not hard; it is impossible apart from Christ himself.

7. Graceful Living: We all have areas of our own lives in which we are still living in the flesh. So, don’t feel alone. Which ones jumped out at you when you listed them? Jesus wants you to trust him to live by the Spirit in those areas.

Day Two Study

Set free from the power of the old slave master sin

Sin is ugly. Very ugly! As shown in the previous day’s study, we are a new creation in Christ, yet we retain our old bodies in which sin dwells (the flesh or sinful nature). We are encouraged to live by the Spirit, yet we are warned that we can choose to live by the flesh which is at war within us, at war against the Spirit. Are we left helpless like a pawn in the midst of the conflict? No, we have God’s empowering presence in us; he is able to help us win the battle over sin. But, we have a responsibility as well. Let’s explore our responsibility.

8. Read Galatians 5:16 and Romans 13:14. In order to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh, what is our responsibility?

Think About It: Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desire of the sinful nature. Notice what this verse does not say. It does not say, “If you clean up the flesh, you will become spiritual” (the logic of legalism). It does not say, “The desires of the flesh will go away” (the logic of triumphalism). As long as we live in these unredeemed bodies, sin remains a source of temptation in us.

In Romans 6, Paul personifies sin as a slave master—a power that enslaves us. Roman Christians understood this concept well as 1 out of every 2 people in the Roman Empire was a literal slave. We may not have a slave society any longer. But what we may not realize is that every human being has a master and is a servant to something—either God and his righteousness or sin and its wickedness—no neutral ground. You might think you are your own master, but you’re not. Self is really following the voice of master sin within.

All of our lives before Christ, the old slave master sin called the shots. When we believe in Jesus, a greater power moves in—the Holy Spirit. He sets us free from the power of that old slave master to become what God intended us to be. But, we are not set free to be our own masters. That’s not what it means to be set free. Our options are still: 1) sin or 2) God. We have a new master, the one who set us free—Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our master, but the old slave master still calls my name and calls your name. That old slave master yells pretty loudly sometimes. And, we listen! Yet, we don’t have to listen or carry out its orders. We are freed from sin’s power over us because a greater power has moved in—God’s Spirit—one who woos us to do right. How we yield to God’s Spirit working in our lives is our choice.

9. Romans 6 is a discussion of life choices to serve God or to serve sin and the consequences of doing either. Let’s see what advice God has for us through Paul. Read Romans 6:11-23.

  • According to verse 11, how are we to think of ourselves?
  • What choices are identified in verses 12-14?
  • What choices are identified in verses 19-23?

10. In Romans 6:14, Paul tells believers we are no longer under law (which only shows us what we do wrong), but we are now under grace, which enables us to do what is right. Read Titus 2:11-14. What does grace do for us?

Whether or not we are presently tempted in a given area, we are capable of committing any sin mentioned in the Bible, given the right set of circumstances, time and temptation. The progression is:

  • A received thought produces familiarity.
  • Continued pondering produces a loss of repugnance and, eventually, curiosity.
  • Desires, sometimes a total surprise, are generated to experiment. The most damaging or dangerous are the ones that blindside you with a desire you didn’t even know you were capable of! So, protect yourself at all times through prayer, “Lord, protect me from myself!”
  • Having tried the activity, the flesh (like a goat) can learn to like, and even grow dependent, on any sensual stimulus.

Conclusion: We never outgrow our need to depend 100% upon Jesus Christ. Recognizing this should lead us to 1) have compassion on one another (Galatians 6:1) and to 2) not take risks with sinful behavior!

Think About It: “When God wants to show you what human nature is like apart from himself, he has to show it to you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and he only does it when His Spirit is at work), you know there is no criminal who is half so bad in actuality as you know yourself to be in possibility.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, “The Staggering Question”)

11. What does God promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 regarding temptation? Through whom does he give us the way of escape—through ourselves or through the Spirit’s empowering presence within us?

Think About It: “Every believer has a choice. If something is causing you to stumble in your following of Jesus, you have the freedom to choose not to continue interacting with that thing. If it’s political arguments, you can choose to stop engaging in political conversations. If it’s pornography, you can turn off your computer. If it’s money woes, you can choose the security of faith over the security of coin. The bottom line is, we have the power to remove obstacles and run a smooth race (Hebrews 12:1). I know several believers who feel ‘trapped’ in their sins and temptations. But God will always provide grace for sin and choice for temptation. There is always a way out of temptation (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). You just have to choose it. If you want to be mentally and emotionally free, that is.” (John Newton, Growing Young blog, “Lessons Learned”)

A habit is easier to maintain than it is to start. Faith can be a habit—a good habit. Make wise decisions to protect yourself:

  • Protect your mind. Desires of the flesh do not go away. They are, however, like a fire: they can burn hot or burn down, depending on whether you are feeding them.
  • Dont play with fire. Make policy decisions to keep your distance from what tempts you.

12. Graceful Living: Martin Luther, the priest who initiated the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, described it this way, “I cannot keep the birds from flying around my head; but by the grace of God I can keep them from building nests in my hair.” What decisions are you making or should you make to protect yourself from what tempts you?

Day Three Study

Dealing with failure: “What should I do when I sin?”

How long do you think you can go without sinning, without doing something that is a work of the flesh? Six days? Six hours? Can most of us go 6 minutes without having impure thoughts or selfish behavior—unintentional and unrecognized? God understands this about us. Because we still retain our old bodies in which sin dwells, we will sin—unintentionally as well as deliberately. All sin is disobeying God, whether unintentional or deliberate. All sin is covered by Christ’s work on the cross—whether unintentional or deliberate. All sin is forgiven before it is ever committed (you have forgiveness)—whether unintentional or deliberate.

13. Review what is promised in these verses:

  • Romans 8:1—
  • 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21—
  • Ephesians 1:7—
  • Colossians 2:13-14—

Remembering who you are in Christ can help you recognize and avoid two errors in thinking regarding your sin that stem from the logic of legalism: 1) when you sin, God cuts off fellowship from you until you repent, and 2) a believer’s sins build up until she confesses them and asks for forgiveness.

The first error in thinking ignores the fact that Christ is both in us and considers us in him. Nothing in our radical identity even opens the possibility of being alienated from God! If you are deliberately living by the flesh rather than by the Spirit in your life, you may choose to cut yourself off from praying to your God, reading the Bible, and community with other Christians. But, that is not God cutting himself off from you.

14. Read Hebrews 4:15-16 and Romans 8:26. What in these verses gives you assurance that God does not cut himself off from you when you are weak?

God’s throne is open to every believer for grace and help in our time of need, which certainly includes while we are weak from sin’s influence. The Holy Spirit is interceding for us in our weakness, which includes sin. The Spirit does not stop speaking to us or working on us just because we do not want to listen. The fruit of thinking that every time you sin you have broken your fellowship with God is tremendous guilt and insecurity. This is living by law rather than by grace. Because of what Christ did on the cross, we are set free from fear of God because of sin, can bask in His amazing love, and gratefully serve him.

The second error in thinking also is evidence of living by law. What is the fruit of teaching that our sins build up until we confess them to receive forgiveness? It is guilt, worry, and time spent trying to stay “confessed up.” We envision God erasing the “not guilty” verdict on us and considering us “guilty” until we confess and are declared not guilty again. What’s the difference between that and the Old Testament system of sacrifices where sins would build up between trips to the altar? Nothing!

Realistically, we can’t even confess a quarter of our sins in a lifetime of being a believer. It’s not biblical to think that we can do so, and teach that we have to do so, in order to maintain forgiveness or fellowship with God. By the way, just saying to God everyday, “I confess all the sins I’ve done lately” is not what He’s after. He’s after a transformed life. That’s why he went through all this trouble to give us a new identity. Knowing you already have forgiveness leads to confidence, peace, joy and freedom. Remember and rest in your acceptance in Christ because of his finished work on the cross.

Think About It: When we received the great exchange, we received Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus received our sin. God decided this was how it would be 2,000 years ago. Sin doesn’t mix with righteousness, does it? God doesn’t erase Christ’s righteousness from our account so he can add sin to it, does He? No! He gave us Jesus’ righteousness permanently. That means there’s only one place for our sin to go. As soon as we sin, God removes it and puts it on Christ’s account. That’s what Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 5. It is confirmed in 1 John 1:7 where John says believers are continually purified from sin.

God wanted to remove the sin barrier between him and us permanently. He’s interested in us spending our time and effort producing fruit for him to reflect his glory as he designed the human race to do. The righteous live by faith—in a God—whose grace defies man’s attempt—to still “measure up” (live by law) in some way. We should be thanking him daily for his forgiveness and his love and acceptance of us in Christ and the opportunity we have to live a radically different kind of life. What an outstanding privilege this new identity is!

Sin can no longer enslave us unwillingly because there’s a competing and greater power—God himself— in us. Transforming power in our hearts has set us free to produce his fruit. Living by the Spirit reveals to us through the Word and through prayer what is sin in our lives and helps our repentant hearts follow through with our desire for change.

15. Read Psalm 139:23-24. What should be our heart attitude toward God regarding sin in our lives?

The biblical way for dealing with recognized sin in our lives

Step One: View yourself rightly.

Your identity is not “_______” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever it is). You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “_____” (covets, is greedy, gossips).

Step Two: Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your sin.

To confess biblically means to agree with God about what you and he both know to be true. Confession is not a formula, a process, or dependent on a mediator. Regarding sin in my life, it is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!” See your sin as awful!

Using coveting for example: while reading Philippians 4:12, the Spirit convicts you that you have been coveting rather than being content. You agree with God that your coveting is actually not being content with his provision. Coveting doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.

Step Three: Confession is incomplete without repentance.

Repentance means to change your mind about that sin, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. Paul calls that godly sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, and he says godly sorrow brings repentance. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it displeases You, God. Please help me to live differently.” He will certainly do that! That’s how our lives get transformed.

Using coveting for example: You want to not covet any longer, and you want to be content and grateful for what God has already provided. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, please have your Spirit nudge me when I want to covet. Replace my coveting with contentment and gratitude. By faith, Lord, I want you to do that in my life.” That is repentance.

Think About It: Repentance isn’t repentance until you change something. You can confess “until the cows come home” (daily, habitually) and never change anything. Jesus called for people to “repent” not “confess.”

15. Paul describes repentance well in Ephesians 4:25-32. (See also 5:4.) What changes in both mind and action can be made to overcome the sinful behaviors listed in this section?

Sinful Behavior

Change of mind/action

Step Four: Repentance leads to dependence.

Depend on the living Christ inside you for that change to take place. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance (outward conformity) as much as he desires our obedience from the heart.

Using coveting for example: Memorize Philippians 4:12-13 and any other scriptures that deal with being thankful for God’s provision. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to covet. Choose to be thankful instead.

16. Graceful Living: Is there any ugliness in your life that you mourn? Follow the steps above to live in freedom from that ugliness. What will you trust the living Christ inside you to do for you in that area?

Day Four Study

A realistic view of spiritual growth.

The Lord Jesus said he came to give us abundant life (John10:10), and the whole New Testament speaks in lavish terms about the quality of life God wants his children to experience. We are exhorted to press on to maturity in Christ. But, how is spiritual growth recognized?

Focus on the Meaning: “Spiritual growth is not growing ‘more and more of me’ so I need ‘less and less of Christ.’ It is growing in knowledge and experience as we walk with him, discovering more and more our need to depend totally on him.

Growth is gradual. There is a common misconception that one’s life is either 100% “carnal’” (living by the flesh) or 100% “spiritual” (living by the Spirit) at any given time. In fact, probably every believer is trusting Christ with some aspects of his life at the same time and right alongside other areas of his life where he is living in self-sufficiency. Growth, therefore, involves Christ progressively teaching us to trust him in new unexplored areas of our lives, and deepening our sense of dependency in areas where we have previously grown a little.

You don’t become more aware of your own “holiness” as you grow. On the contrary, the voices of the saints through history consistently agree that as you grow you become more aware of how far short you fall from true holiness. You become more aware of your sinfulness as you grow, not less.

Understanding these things underscores our need to understand the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and our identity in him. Only because of the Lord’s grace can we grow in self-knowledge and handle the ongoing struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We would sooner or later throw in the towel without our assurance of his continued acceptance, teaching, and kindness. (Tim Stevenson, T.E.A.M. Training, Session 17)

17. Graceful Living: Looking at your life, reflect on your growth over time.

  • In what areas have you learned to trust Christ more?
  • In what areas have you recently become more aware of your sinfulness?

Spiritual growth involves God growing us, stretching us, and reconstructing us because he loves us and lives in us and desires that we be transformed into the likeness of his Son. It’s for our good and his glory! Praise Jesus for working out your salvation in such a personal way. Feel free to use any creative way to reflect on your spiritual growth.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Grace, Spiritual Life

10. Grace Calls for You to Follow

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“If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26)

What Is a Disciple?

Those who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (“believers”) are called to become “disciples.” A disciple is an active follower or learner. A disciple studies the teachings of another person whom they respect and applies those teachings to her life. For example, the movie Julie & Julia portrays the young woman Julie Powell becoming a disciple of master chef Julia Child through Julia’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie studies the recipes and follows the procedures. As a result, she experiences the joy of cooking and eating delicious food as Julia has taught her through a book. Towards the end, one realizes that Julie got to know Julia Child “personally” though they never met.

Jesus Christ calls you to intentionally follow him as his disciple. This means committing to learning from him and becoming like him as you obediently apply what he teaches you through his book, the Bible, and what he allows into your life.

Day One Study

Getting to know Jesus through his “book”

1. Read Mark 5:18 and 10:52. What do those who have been healed want to do? Is this a typical response for those who have been healed of their sin and given new life today? Why or why not? Should it be?

2. Read Matthew 11:28-30. What does Jesus promise to those who follow him as his disciple?

Historical Insight: “Yoke” refers to the harness that connected a pair of animals, usually oxen, to a plow. The yoke linked them together so they could work efficiently. Often a young animal was paired with an older one, allowing the younger one to learn “on the job” from the experienced animal. In New Testament times, the phrase “take the yoke of” was used by the Jewish rabbis to mean, “become the pupil of a certain teacher,” in this case the disciple of Jesus. (Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, page 1066)

As we have seen so far in this study, the rest Jesus offers is from the work of the Law (plus all the additional burdens Israel’s spiritual leaders had loaded onto the people) in order to maintain a right standing with God. This invitation recalls Jeremiah 31:25 where Yahweh offered his people rest in the New Covenant (“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint”). Jesus, the revealer of God, invites those who long to know God and be refreshed in life to come to him. Jesus’ burden is light compared to the loads Israel’s religious leaders imposed on their disciples.

3. Learning from Jesus involves being a student of his Word (our Bible) and choosing to put God’s truth into practice as a lifestyle. What do the following say are the benefits of doing so?

  • Matthew 7:24-27—
  • John 8:31-32—
  • Ephesians 4:11-14—

4. Jesus knew the Old Testament Scriptures (the revealed Word of God) well and used them in his life and ministry. [Note: the New Testament was not yet written.] Read the following verses. How did Jesus use the Old Testament?

  • Matthew 4:1-11—
  • Luke 4:16-21—

5. Read the following verses. What else is revealed about the Word of God?

  • Joshua 23:14—
  • Proverbs 30:5-6—
  • 1 Peter 1:23-25—

Historical Insight: The Bible is an amazing book. It was written over a 1,500-year period by about 40 different authors living in several different countries. It was written in three different languages—Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Yet the Bible is consistent in its central theme and key figure—it focuses upon Jesus Christ. Such a feat would be impossible without one supreme Author—the Holy Spirit of God.

6. Read 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. What did Paul and Peter both conclude about the scriptures? Why is this important?

Focus on the Meaning: Inspired means literally “God-breathed” in the Greek. “The meaning, then, is not that God breathed into the writers, nor that he somehow breathed into the writings to give them their special character, but that what was written by men was breathed out by God. He spoke though them. They were His spokesmen.” (John R. W. Stott, Understanding the Bible)

“God-breathed doesn’t mean that the writers of the Scriptures were sleep-walking. What it means is that God used their personalities, their abilities, their understanding, their talents and the real-life situations they were in to bring forth the Scripture that he wanted. Most of the New Testament letters were written to deal with circumstances. God is perfectly able to work through real-life circumstances in a real-life person like Paul, for example, to bring about the end result that he intends to use for the next however many centuries for us.” (Tim Stevenson, TEAM Training, Session 3)

7. Graceful Living: In 1 Peter 2:2, we are encouraged to "long for the pure milk of the Word." Is this how you view the Scriptures—as essential food for growth as a baby must have milk to grow and develop properly? Do you long for the Word every day? Ask God to give you an insatiable longing for his Word and to draw you to himself through reading it.

Day Two Study

The reliability of God’s Word to form our convictions

God and the devil agree on one thing: Both want to capture your mind, because whoever captures your mind will direct the course of your life. Everyone maintains a number of premises for living, both consciously and unconsciously. Premises are assumptions that form the foundation and shape of your thinking. They are important because of a universal law of logic and behavior: “If your premise is off, your findings will be off.” The actions you take will not likely succeed.

God wants your values, beliefs, and convictions to be formed by his Word. Biblical convictions can be compared to the policies of an organization. Like policies:

  • Convictions provide a measure of protection against danger by establishing safe boundaries.
  • Convictions eliminate needless decision-making by settling many issues in advance, thereby enabling greater consistency, efficiency, and productivity.

Because biblical convictions are based on an objective standard of truth (the Word of God), they provide an objective standard for daily decision-making, as opposed to living by fickle emotions.

8. Read Colossians 2:8.

  • What does Paul seeks to take you captive apart from Christ?
  • What do you think Paul means? Give modern examples of hollow and deceptive philosophies that set up against the knowledge of God.

9. Do you want to be taken captive by such things? Of course not! So, what do you do?

  • What does Paul teach us to do to combat such thoughts in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 10:5?
  • Where does the Christian go to renew her mind? Online news sites? Talk-show hosts? See what Jesus says in John 8:31-32 and John 17:17.

Biblical convictions are based upon what God has revealed about himself. From our study so far, we know that the Bible asserts that man can truly know God and know truth about him. However, because man is finite, his knowledge of God can never be comprehensive. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” We can know what has been revealed.

10. According to John 14:26 and John 16:12-15, what was the Holy Spirit’s role in supervising the apostles’ teaching and writing so that we may have confidence in the reliability of the New Testament?

Historical Insight: “There are 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament. If we were to compare the number of New Testament manuscripts to other ancient writings, we find that…there are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing. The internal consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure. That is an amazing accuracy. In addition, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000…The Christian has substantially superior criteria for affirming the New Testament documents than he does for any other ancient writing. It is good evidence on which to base the trust in the reliability of the New Testament.” (Matt Slick, “Manuscript evidence for superior New Testament reliability,” http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence)

The historical reliability of the Scriptures is an important issue, and they (the Scriptures) can be investigated to show that the biblical records are trustworthy. But ultimately, the truth of the Bible as the Word of God is inseparable from the issue of Jesus Christ. Remember that Christianity is Christ!

11. Graceful Living: We live in a world of controversy and diverse worldviews. Having an objective standard of truth can be both a shield and a weapon (Proverbs 30:5, 2 Corinthians 10:5). Do you have confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures? Have you come across certain parts of scripture in which you question its reliability? Why?

Deeper Discoveries (optional): For more information on the reliability of the Scriptures as we have them in our Bibles, visit www.probe.org and www.bible.org. Search “reliability of the Bible.”

Day Three Study

Walking it out in the issues of daily life

Living in intentional cooperation with the Spirit as he transforms us into the image of Christ involves the practice of “taking every thought captive” to Christ as exhorted by Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4b-5:

“We tear down arguments 10:5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

When we begin to understand this verse we discover a few things.

First, we need to pass everything that we believe, or that we think we should believe, through the grid of God’s Word. Does it line up with the truth found in Scripture? God will help us recognize error in thinking.

Second, we do not have to entertain every thought that runs through our head on a daily basis. Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, we have the ability to discern God-pleasing thoughts from thoughts that grieve his heart. We can take those thoughts captive and replace them with truth from his Word.

Third, we do not have to be enslaved to emotions that are influenced by lies. The more we practice taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ the freer we will be from the tyranny of our emotions. Our emotions will then be based on truth and will be beneficial to us.

Fourth, error in thinking will seriously affect our behavior and our relationships. The more we practice taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, the more we will be transformed by the Spirit into godly women whose lives are filled with love, joy, peace and the rest of the fruit God wants to produce in our lives.

The following are examples of questions commonly asked by people about different issues based on values, beliefs, and convictions. We are exhorted in 1 Peter 3:15 to always be ready to give answers to the hope that is within us, the truths we have learned that produce joy in our lives and more disciples for Jesus as we loyally follow him and tell others about him. Read the question and the common error in thinking. Comment on the effects of that thinking on someone’s life. Look up the verses and determine what the truth is about that issue. Feel free to add other verses to derive your answer. Ask Jesus to help you understand the truth so you can be set free from error and provide answers to each particular question when asked by someone else.

12. Issue #1: Where can I find meaning & purpose in life?

Error in thinking: Find it through people, places and things.

  • Effects of that thinking on a person’s life:
  • Read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; Matthew 4:4; and John 17:3. Where do you find meaning and purpose in life?

Think About It: “…you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.” (Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions)

13. Issue #2: Are there objective standards of right and wrong?

Error in thinking: Right and wrong are relative; there are no absolutes.

  • Effects of that thinking on a person’s life:
  • Read Galatians 5:16-23. Are there objective standards of right and wrong?

14. Issue #3: What is the source of human evil?

Error in thinking: It is the fault of others, or of circumstances.

  • Effects of that thinking on a person’s life:
  • Read Mark 7:17-23 and Jeremiah 17:9. What is the source of human evil?

15. Issue #4: What if I choose to do wrong anyway?

Error in thinking: I can do what I want without consequences.

  • Effects of that thinking on a person’s life:
  • Read Galatians 6:7-8. What if you choose to do wrong anyway?

16. Issue #5: Where can I find success and security?

Error in thinking: Find security in money and position. Seek success at any price.

  • Effects of that thinking on a person’s life:
  • Read Matthew 6:31-33 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Where can you find success and security?

17. Issue #6: How can I become a person of influence?

Error in thinking: Climb the ladder upward over people and circumstances.

  • Effects of that thinking on a person’s life:
  • Read Matthew 20:25-28 and Acts 20:32-35. How can you become a person of influence and power?

18. Graceful Living:

  • Challenge yourself to put 2 Corinthians 10:5 into practice this next week. Start each day by meditating on this verse. Then, ask God to reveal to you areas of your thought life that need to be “taken captive” and held up to the truth of the Word of Christ. Record what you discover.
  • Optional: You can probably think of many other issues affecting you and other women. Write them down and find verses to support the truth. Prepare an answer for each one of them.

Day Four Study

Surrender is a process—seek him, sit with him, surrender to him

In our society, we have so many options to obtain “knowledge” about how to live life—the education system, internet, television, movies, and books galore. Add to that whatever goes “viral”! Facebook posts, Pinterest boards, and other social media outlets grab our attention. Everyone expresses her own opinion about the latest issue of life, and society says all opinions are equally valuable. From the last section, you realized that thinking not based on scriptural truth can lead to some disastrous results.

Think About It: “Jesus asked the rich young ruler to surrender his fortune in order to know true riches (Mark 10:21). He asked the young boy to surrender his meager lunch so that thousands could feast (John 6:5-13). He asked the disciples to surrender their plans, their dreams, their very lives, to follow him (Matthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-22). And He asks us to surrender our rights, our reputation, our possessions, and our security. He wants our dreams and desires, our losses and our loves. Why? Because He knows that what He offers is better by far than anything we are holding onto. He knows that surrendering everything we have and everything we are to him yields joy, purpose and peace that we cannot possess any other way He knows that when we put our pain, loss and regret into his loving hands we will finally begin to experience the healing and the hope we long for.” (Woven, The Truth about Redemption Next Step, “Redeeming Hope: Your journey Toward Surrender”)

To grow spiritually, you must pursue your relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Remember, Christianity is Christ! You make the decision to not only be a believer but also Jesus’ disciple—someone who follows him, learns from him, and leads others to do the same. Choosing to become Jesus’ disciple means you choose to:

  • Listen to his speaking voice through the Word. Hebrews 4:12
  • Speak back to him from the heart in prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Maximize input of God’s Word into your mind. 2 Timothy 3:14-17
  • Put truth into practice through obedience by faith. James 1:22-25
  • Pursue relationships with other believers and disciples in the body of Christ. Acts 2:42-47
  • Exercise your faith through serving others in Christ’s name. Philippians 2
  • Share your faith with nonbelievers and be willing to disciple new believers. 2 Timothy 2:2

19. Graceful Living: Are you willing to respond to the call of God’s grace in your life to be more than just a believer but to become a true disciple of Jesus, learning from him and preparing yourself to lead others as well? Looking at the list above, what can you choose to do this week to become more of Jesus’ disciple?

Think About It: Purposely creating the time and space in our lives to sit with God allows him to nurture who we are, not necessarily instruct us in what to do.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Bibliology (The Written Word), Discipleship, Spiritual Life

11. Become a Grace-Giver

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“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Jesus Christ gave his life for you by grace, so he could give his life to you by grace, so he could live his life through you by grace. Knowing Christ’s love for you and the presence of his life in you should motivate you to “live for him” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20) and to serve him through serving others (John 13:1-15; Galatians 5:13-14; Philippians 2:1-4). Both are responses to God’s grace in your life. So is letting his life in you overflow to others around you, particularly those who need to know Christ.

Think About It: “Often we embrace grace, and then live according to works. If we choose to celebrate His grace and ALL of its implications as part of our daily worship, we become people who experience incredible joy and freedom that we LONG to give away!” (Judy Brower, The Disciplemaking Ministry Guide for Women in Leadership, “Navigate the Disciplemaking Pathway: Establish,” page 30)

Day One Study

Jesus Christ Calls Believers to Join in His Work.

1. Read Matthew 9:36-38. How does Jesus feel about the crowds? What does he declare to his disciples?

The evidences of human distress are everywhere around us. Women are in bondage to guilt, fear, destructive behavior, and fatigue due to the burden of responsibilities. Add to that erroneous views of God that leave them feeling empty, confused, and without meaning and purpose. Failure in relationships leaves women with a sense of rejection, worthlessness and extreme loneliness. Jesus Christ’s plan to meet that need for every woman is…himself. And, he communicated this plan to his disciples in “the Great Commission.”

2. Read Matthew 28:18-20. Discuss what Jesus is actually commissioning his followers to do.

The Great Commission has one single focus: “Make disciples. Jesus Christ chooses to accomplish the Great Commission through people—ordinary men and women like you and I as we are “going” about life sharing Christ by word and action to those around us, baptizing new believers as a symbolic proclamation of their new life inside, and teaching them who Christ is, what he accomplished on the cross for them, and how they can live out their new identity in him.

Historical Insight: MEN WERE HIS METHOD.... It all started with Jesus calling a few men to follow him. This revealed immediately the direction his evangelistic strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow...what is more revealing about these men is that at first they do not impress us as being key men...Yet Jesus saw in these simple men the potential of leadership in the Kingdom. They were indeed ‘unlearned and ignorant’ according to the world’s standard, but they were teachable...What is perhaps most significant about them was their sincere yearning for God and the realities of his life...Such men, pliable in the hands of the Master, could be molded into a new imageJesus can use anyone who wants to be used. (Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism)

Jesus chooses to have his followers tell his story—what he did for them and through them. You have a story to share. Through sharing your story, you become a grace-giver to those who listen.

Writing Your Faith Story

Focus on the Meaning: “People love to hear stories. This is evidenced by all the money that is spent watching movies, attending the theatre, buying books and by all the time that is spent watching the television. Telling your faith story is just that: your personal story about your faith. It’s an unobtrusive way to speak about the love of God in your life and the love he has for all people…Your life and story is the best tract to be written!” (The Disciplemaking Ministry Guide for Women in Leadership, “How to Share Your Faith,” page 21)

You are a “living letter of Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). Your story illustrates the power of Christ in your life. Your story allows you to become a grace-giver as our Lord extended his grace to you.

There are two ways to look at writing your faith story. Some may recall a dramatic event or specific point in time when they began a personal relationship with Jesus. Others may have grown up in the church and always knew who God was and their need for Jesus in their life as Savior. Yet, even they must make the decision to be Jesus’ disciple at some point in their teen years or adult life—a childlike faith that becomes an adult faith. Depending on how your story begins, choose one of these two ways to write your story.

3. Graceful Living: Begin working on your faith story using one of the two options given on the following “My Faith Story Worksheet.” Use the prompts to get you started. Just start writing. After you have collected information for your story, choose the highlights to make a “Five-Minute Faith Story” that you can easily share at a moment’s notice when Jesus gives you opportunity. The goal is to briefly share one “slice of life” you can use to give evidence of the working of Christ in your life.

As you tell your story, look for the one big idea you want everyone to walk away remembering. This is your main idea—kind of like a theme. “Jesus satisfied my loneliness” or “To live is knowing Christ in my life.”

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My Faith Story Worksheet

Grace-Giving Option 1: Specific Turning Point Leading to Salvation

Before I trusted in Christ

Although the tendency is to spend most of the time on your “before Christ” experience, only give enough information so the women know why you needed Christ in your life. Tell them what you needed so that some may identify with you.

1. Identify what your life was like. What were your attitudes, needs, and/or problems? From what did you get your security or happiness? How did those areas begin to disappoint you? To what source did you look for security, peace of mind, or happiness? In what ways were your activities unsatisfying?

2. Find 2-3 words to describe what only Christ could fill or do in your life (e.g. loneliness, feelings of insignificance, anger, rejection).

3. Briefly share a personal example that captures the needs and attitudes from this time of your life as identified above.

How you came to know Christ (point of salvation)

Share when and how you first heard the gospel and/or were exposed to Christianity. What brought you to the place of being willing to listen? Who influenced you? How and when did you decide to follow Jesus? Describe how you felt, what truths you heard, what you thought about them, how you felt after you made the decision. Give the gospel in this section. Use 1 or 2 relevant scripture verses.

My life after knowing Jesus

1. Spend the most time on this. What conditions before Christ has been satisfied by a relationship with him? What does it look like in your life to have a relationship with Christ? How long did it take before you noticed changes? What are your blessings? Where do you struggle? How do you depend on him through those struggles? What difference does having him in your life make during those times? Emphasize what you have learned about God’s grace to you.

2. Briefly share a personal illustration that shows the wonderful difference that Christ has made in your life.

Wrap up by inviting them to trust in Christ as you did!

My Faith Story Worksheet

Grace-Giving Option 2: Believer to Christ-Follower (Disciple)

Those who trusted Christ as children often feel they “have nothing to tell” because they don’t have a dramatic story. Yet, in the case of childhood believers, there occurs a later, mature decision to follow Christ as his disciple where more obvious life changes occurred. If you are in this category, therefore, focus on that later turning point in telling your story. Although the tendency is to spend most of the time on your “before” experience, only give enough information so the women know why you needed Christ in your life. You want them to be able to identify with you.

Before I became Jesus’ disciple

1. Identify what your life was like as a young Christian or living as just a believer not a disciple. Share when and how you first heard the gospel and/or were exposed to Christianity. What were your attitudes, needs, and/or problems? From what did you get your security or happiness?

2. Briefly share a personal example that captures the needs and attitudes from this time of your life as identified above.

3. Although the tendency is to spend most of the time on your “before” experience, only give enough information so the women know why you needed to trust Christ more with your life.

What brought you to decide to become Jesus’ disciple

What brought you to the place of being willing to listen or of wanting to be more than just a believer? Who influenced you? How and when did you decide to be Jesus’ disciple? Describe how you felt, what truths you heard, what you thought about them, how you felt after you made the decision. Give the gospel in this section if you haven’t already done so in the previous section. Use 1 or 2 relevant scripture verses that God used to draw you to himself. Emphasize what you have learned about God’s grace to you.

My life after becoming Jesus’ disciple

1. Spend the most time on this. What conditions before this time has been satisfied by a deeper relationship with him? How long did it take before you noticed changes? What does it look like in your life to have this closer relationship with Christ? What are your blessings? Where do you struggle? How do you depend on him through those struggles? What difference does having him in your life make during those times? What remarkable thing has Jesus done in your life (or in the last three years)?

2. Briefly share a personal illustration that shows the wonderful difference that following Christ has made in your life.

Wrap up by inviting them to trust in Christ as you did!

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4. Graceful Living: Write your five-minute faith story.

As you tell your story, what is the one big idea you want everyone to walk away remembering? This is your main idea—kind of like a theme. “Jesus satisfied my loneliness” or “To live is knowing Christ in my life.”

Whether you like to be spontaneous or need everything written down, it helps to script what you will say. It forces you to think through what you will say to maintain your main idea. It helps you to manage your allowed time.

Write it as you would speak it—shorter sentences, peppy words that are clear and simple. Use everyday terminology. For example, instead of saying “my testimony,” say “the story of my life.” Include specific illustrations that give them snapshots of your life, not only general descriptions of your life events. Practice saying your story several times. May eye contact with the listener to draw her into your story.

Write out your five-minute faith story in the space below. Remember only spend 30% of the time on your “before,” just enough to have them identify with your need at that time. Spend another 30% on the decision time, and spend the rest of the time on what knowing Christ has done for you. Always end with inviting them to join your adventure.

5. Graceful Living: Share your story often. After you have worked on it and are satisfied with it, write a condensed version (~365 words) to create your own “My Faith Story Tract” that you can carry with you. Print it out on one page and include your contact information on the bottom. Pray and watch for God to give you opportunity to share it. Courage and ability come as a result of the grace God gives through Christ. Jesus not only prayed for his disciples, he prayed for the disciples of his disciples (John 17:20). Live intentionally as a GRACE-GIVER to those whom God places in your path.

Related Topics: Discipleship, Evangelism, Grace

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