The Gospel Changes Everything…Including Me

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” – Romans 10:9-11. 

You may be thinking that the gospel is pretty abstract. Yes, it applies to me but it doesn’t seem tangible, practical, or applicable. The gospel is all those things. The gospel comes to life in the stories about people who were heroes of the Kingdom. We want to be brave like David, who slew the giant with a stone. We want to be as faithful as Abraham, who did not hold back his only son. We want to be righteous like Noah, as wise as Solomon, and unwavering like Paul. But if we spend too much time reading stories of the heroes of the Bible, we may miss the greater story those heroes are pointing us toward.  

Throughout the Bible, God is telling one story: God’s plan to rescue His people from sin through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the gospel. And the gospel changes everything. 

 Somewhere along the line, we underestimate the role of the gospel. The gospel is words – we need to use words, and the word of God, to explain the gospel. But they are powerful words. God-breathed words. But the gospel is more than merely religious words and ideas that we get out and admire in church on Sunday, then we put them back on the shelf till next week. The gospel is a message of power, a message used powerfully by the Spirit of God, to convict people of their need for Jesus. The gospel message has the power to change lives.

We believe that it is just about us and Jesus and our external home. But the gospel is so much more. The gospel transforms societies, renews families, and heals relationships. It is a message of action. The gospel is not to merely inform but transform. The gospel should change our lives. Otherwise, we are left with mere words, mere facts, and mere formality.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 says, “We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you.”

We know that God not only loves you but has selected you for a special purpose. The gospel in action to the world is simply being real in love towards all men, women, and children: smiling, looking them in the eye, giving way to them, being truly kind, telling them God loves them, and praying for them. This is the gospel in action. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think of the gospel on a daily basis? If not why not?
  2. What can we do this week to make the gospel a part of our daily lives? 

Abigail And Taking Risks

“David replied to Abigail, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today! Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands. For I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept me from hurting you, that if you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal’s men would still be alive tomorrow morning.” Then David accepted her present and told her, “Return home in peace. I have heard what you said. We will not kill your husband.” – 1 Samuel 25:32-35.

When you hear “risk-taking” does your adrenaline start to flow? Do the butterflies in your stomach take flight in anticipation? The thought of facing a tough challenge or taking a risk is simply not as exciting and adventurous as movies would have us think. In reality, we find a certain safety in remaining in our comfort zones, protected and secure.

As followers of Christ, we will be called to step out of our comfort zones. When the Holy Spirit calls us to step out and take a risk, how do we respond? The Bible teaches us a lot about ordinary people at that critical moment when a decision had to be made, they chose to take the risk. One such story is Abigail found in 1 Samuel 25. 

David came to Nabal (Abigail’s husband) requesting food for his army. Nabal rejected the request, by saying “Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” (1 Samuel 25:1-11)  David was angry and felt his only recourse was retaliation. He set out to kill Nabal and all his men. When hearing about what happened Abigail jumped into action even though Nabal would have never consented to her actions. 

She presented gifts to David in the most submissive, respectful way. She bowed down in his presence to ask forgiveness on behalf of Nabal. (1 Samuel 25:23) David was so moved by Abigail’s eloquent speech, he thanked God for sending her. Abigail risked her relationship with her husband to defuse a deadly situation. Her safety, her home, and her heart were saved because she trusted God.

What if we were in Abigail’s shoes? Would we exhibit the same kind of bold faith God wants to see in us? The kind of faith that makes a difference in our lives and our world. Bold faith happens when we learn to take risks for God.

 If we are facing a seemingly insurmountable problem–a situation that we believe we are powerless to influence–we should be still and wait on the Lord. But there will also be times when action is required, where we may be asked to take bold steps, and yes, to take some risks. Faith is simply doing what God tells you to do whether you feel like it or not, and in fact, especially when you don’t feel like it, regardless of the circumstances because God will see you thru.

 

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think God asks us to take risks? What do we learn about ourselves, and how do we grow by taking risks?
  2. What are the obstacles to stepping out of our zones of comfort and taking risks?
  3. Is there an area of your life where you’ve sensed God nudging you to take a step of faith? Have you been holding back, questioning the outcome of taking that step? 

This Is Where I Draw The Line

…Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” – John 8:6-11

Like every sport, baseball has set boundaries for the field of play. And there are rules for what happens when those boundaries are violated. For example, there are chalk lines or a base path leading from home to first base. If a player runs outside the base paths to avoid a tag and runs more than three feet outside of the base path, the runner is out automatically. The batter must stay in the base path.

The Bible has some very specific base paths that we are required to run in. But sometimes we stray outside the base paths. We have the best intentions, but then some temptation enters our lives. We try to prevent the temptation. We set up boundaries to ensure that a relationship doesn’t become too physical too quickly. We set up standards when we know a potential business deal is a little on the unethical side. We draw a line in the sand when it comes to cheating on tests. And we decide that spending too much time away from home has ended for good.

But then something happens. Even with the boundaries in place we compromise, fudge a little by moving out of the base path more than the allotted three feet. When we fail, we are nervous, guilty, ashamed, sad, and angry, all at the same time. We rationalize and come up with the usual excuses like, “well, everybody else cheated because that test was too hard.” Or “well, at least I was not away from home as much as I was last year.” We try to blame somebody else, but at the end of the day, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We have to accept responsibility for crossing a line in the sand we created and ask God to forgive us.

God does not place us in situations where we are forced to give into temptation. On Sunday, I talked about the areas where I had to draw a line in the sand. In my experience, I found that I put myself in situations and then tried to justify falling to temptation. Here’s the good news. Though I basically tempted myself, the situation allowed God to test me. His testing, and my willingness to be more careful to not run out of the base paths and my increasing dependence on Him has truly refined my faith. We will mess up. We are not perfect. But we can seek harder and harder after God and continue to draw our power and strength from him when we find ourselves outside the lines we have drawn. When I failed, I turned toward God and plugged into His strength, peace, and hope to overcome any temptation. Had I tried this on my own, I believe I would have continued to fail.

Pray for God to help you in building Biblical boundaries. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom, direction, and power to remain within His boundaries. When you draw a line and keep it, it will lead to peace, joy, and love and contribute to a Home Run Life.

Discussion Question:

  1. What are legitimate boundaries? Why are setting boundaries important?
  2. In what areas have you drawn a line in the sand in the last few years? What did it take to overcome the temptation?
  3. Is setting boundaries a matter of priorities? Luke 16:13 says: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”