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EXTREME IDENTITY MAKEOVER

Begin to Live As God Sees You


Shannon Leibold

Table of Contents Introduction Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 From Nobody to Somebody From Enemy to Child From Old Creature to New Creation From Born Wrong to Made Right From Sinner to Set Apart From Independence to Surrender From Isolated to Belonging From Vulnerable to Secure From Cursed to Blessed From Dissatisfied to Complete From Imprisoned to Free Page 5 Page 7 Page 25 Page 45 Page 61 Page 83 Page 109 Page 131 Page 153 Page 175 Page 295 Page 215

Introduction I am thrilled you have agreed to join me on this journey. This has been an exciting process for me, and although difficult at times, one I have thoroughly enjoyed. I love the challenge of writing Gods truth in a format that I trust will challenge you as well. I am passionate about allowing the Holy Spirit to take the truth we already know, and letting it permeate all aspects of who we are, until it transforms our daily lives. The focus of our study is the Christians identity in Christ. I hope you will agree that we are entirely different in Christ than we were before we surrendered our lives to Him. There is an instant transformation that takes place that is similar to a makeover. Our before Christ and after Christ images are completely different. Although our behavior doesnt immediately change; how God sees us does. Throughout this study we will seek to discover what our identity in Christ means for us and how it affects us daily. Although we may be able to verbally articulate our identity in Him, we dont always live it. It is a giant leap between what we know and how we live, so this study will address both. Our goal is to live in the fullness of how God sees us. Like any study of Gods Word, what is gained is directly proportional to the effort invested. Allow the daily homework to enhance your journey. Take the time to read the Scripture passages and let Gods Word sink into your very being. Reflect on the personal questions; allow the Holy Spirit to confirm His truth in you. The purpose of this study is not to accumulate more knowledge, but instead to focus on life transformation. The material is divided into eleven weeks. The first week is introductory and the following ten weeks deal specifically with ten different aspects of our identity in Christ. A weekly Scripture focus is provided for us to meditate on and perhaps even commit to memory. The more we internalize Gods Word, the more equipped we are to face the stuff of life. Each week incorporates five days of homework and each day has a section called Reflections which allows you to reflect on the material covered that day. Also included is a section called Spiritual Journal which you may use as you wish. You may want to capture fresh insights, to express your gratitude to God for your identity in Him, to ask Him questions, or to document His activity in your life. I will leave that between you and God. The last lesson in each week is entitled Appropriate Response. On this fifth day, we are going to answer the question posed in Romans 8:31. What then shall we say in response to this (NIV)? As we keep uncovering who we are in Christ, each discovery should move us to action. We will ask ourselves what our appropriate response should be to the insights we have gained. Are you ready to begin our journey together? My prayer is that you are open to what God wants to do in and through you as we seek to become all that we can be in Him. I am praying that you dedicate yourself fully to our time together and that you allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you through the next eleven weeks. Lets begin! In Christ, Shannon Leibold
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WEEK 1 FROM NOBODY TO SOMEBODY


Day 1

A LOOK WITHIN

We live in a world that defines beauty as tall, thin and blonde, success as six figures, and pleasure as momentary gratification. Our individuality is lost to the image society defines as perfect. Amidst lifes frantic pace of appointments, meetings and the endless activities demanding our attention, we gradually lose sight of who Scripture Focus: we were created to be. The world begins to influence our thoughts and For we are Gods actions, and tragically we begin to blend in with the masses. If we dont masterpiece. He has regularly take the time to stop and reflect about who we are in Christ and created us anew in how that knowledge should affect our daily lives, we may lose ourselves Christ Jesus, so we entirely. can do the good things he planned This Is Me for us long ago. We begin our journey together with some inward glances. Self-reflection is Ephesians 2:10 an exercise designed to help us better understand ourselves and how we relate to the world around us. Take some time to consider the following reflective questions about yourself. Read each pair of descriptive words and phrases and check which one of the pair most describes you. There are no right or wrong answers, simply answer with what comes to mind. a) _____ optimist _____ pessimist b) _____ fair c) _____ athletic d) _____ single e) _____ disorganized f) _____ people-focused g) _____ impatient h) _____ passive i) _____ patient j) _____ coward k) _____ trusting l) _____ content m) _____ introvert n) _____ professional _____ dark _____ intellectual _____ married _____ organized _____ task-focused _____ patient _____ aggressive _____ quick-tempered _____ courageous _____ suspicious _____ dissatisfied _____ extravert _____ blue collar
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o) _____ competitive p) _____ spontaneous q) _____ detailed r) _____ shy s) _____ independent t) _____ spender u) _____ laid back v) _____ optimist w) _____ creative

_____ passive _____ planner _____ big picture _____ out-going _____ dependent _____ saver _____ impulsive _____ realist _____ logical

Describe yourself in terms of: your appearance ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ your responsibilities ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ your various roles (i.e. parent, child, sibling, employee etc.) ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ your character ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

As we have just seen, we can describe ourselves in many different ways. Among others, we can use our appearance, our relationships, our profession and our character to express our individuality. When you first meet people, they almost always explain themselves in these terms. Although its true that all of these attributes describe us, they do not define us. For that, we must get past our various titles and responsibilities and delve into our innermost being. Who are you really, on the inside? Who are you when nobody else is around? When you strip away all of your relationships, responsibilities and social tendencies, what are you left with? These are invasive questions, I realize, but they are designed to be thought-provoking. They are questions we will think seriously about today and throughout our entire time together. Lets continue in self-reflection.

What are you passionate about? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What frustrates or discourages you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What do you excel at? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What are your greatest dreams for your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ If you could impact the world in any way, what would you do? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I trust these questions have initiated a curiosity to discover more about who God created you to be. Quest for Significance At the core of every human being is a desire to be loved, valued and cherished. We want our lives to make a difference, to impact the world around us in some way, leaving a lasting imprint long after we are gone. This longing is a godly one. In fact, it was God who placed it within us. He created us for significance and we will learn that in Christ is where we find our true significance. As we reflect on who we are, it is reassuring to realize that the God who created us, knows us intimately. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Read Psalm 139:1-6. According to this passage, how well does God know you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

In the same way as no two snowflakes are alike, no two human beings have been created identically. We are all unique and highly valued by our Maker. Scripture says that as each one of us was being formed in our mothers womb, God was watching (Psalm 139:15). He recorded every day of our lives in His book before we were even born (Psalm 139:16). We have incredible worth to our Heavenly Father. Even the very hairs on our heads are numbered (Matthew 10:30). We have only begun to scratch the surface today as we journey towards discovering our significance. Reflections What is the difference between something that describes you and something that defines you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you have a clear understanding of who God created you to be? Describe your God-given uniqueness. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What is your response to a God who knows you so intimately (Psalm 139:16)? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 2

BEFORE AND AFTER We began our study yesterday in self-examination. This type of reflection usually invokes one of two responses. When we look within, either we are pleased with what we find, or we are dissatisfied. When people feel dissatisfied, what do they do? They look for change buy a new outfit, a new car, remodel their home, change their hairstyle, sign up for a new class, go on a vacation; any number of things to add some variety to life. Dissatisfaction with their current lives drives people to seek change. In the age of face-lifts, tummy-tucks, home makeovers, fashion makeovers, financial makeovers and even total life makeovers, it is reassuring to know God is also in the makeover business. Extreme makeovers, actually. He has the power to change an entire life in a single moment. When we come to Christ we receive an instant makeover. Who we are dramatically changes. The problem is, we dont often recognize the change because it is not initially apparent on the outside. The change occurs in how God sees us. What makes any makeover exciting is the dramatic difference between the before image and the after version. The before image is necessary in recognizing the transformation, but the emphasis is always on after. Stuck in Before Our perception of ourselves greatly impacts how we live our lives. Thoughts filled with shame, regret, guilt, doubt, fear and passivity ultimately color our experiences. Often how we view ourselves is not a reflection of the way God sees us. We get stuck in the before image. Perhaps this is understandable because our instant makeover does not equal instant perfection, enabling us to say and do all the right things and to make all the right decisions. That type of change takes time, a lifetime. So because we dont see instant behavioral change, we mistakenly assume there is none. We are consumed with the before image in a variety of ways. Behaving in some of the same sinful ways as we did before we were saved leads to guilt and condemnation. Shame over our pasts causes us to doubt we will ever experience radical transformation into the people of God we long to be. In short, we are unable to see the results of the makeover. But when we are stuck in before, our perception is faulty. We are looking through our own human lenses, instead of viewing ourselves as God sees us. God Sees After God only sees the after image. His perception of who we are changes significantly when we are saved, so much so that He no longer recalls the before version. You may wonder how this is possible. It is because He sees us through the perfect image of His Son. Jesus Christ is the lens through which God chooses to view us.
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What does Gods after picture of us look like? Lets preview the image we will examine more closely in weeks to come. God sees us as His children, precious and forgiven, secure in His embrace, blessed and entirely complete in Him. He sees us as new creations who are holy and gloriously free, with unlimited potential and amazing purposes for each of our lives. He sees us for who He has created us to be, who we will be when we meet Him face to face. Instant Makeover Home renovations take time; changing your body image is a slow process. Even changing your wardrobe takes considerable effort. But Gods makeovers are instantaneous. Let me remind you again that we are not referring to behavioral change, we are talking about the way in which God sees us. We go from sinner to saved in a matter of moments when we confess our desire to make Jesus Lord of our lives. It is in those moments God chooses to forget who we were and instead only sees the after version. In Christ Lets modify our question from yesterday a little. Who are you in Christ? The addition of those two words changes the matter immensely. When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, we are given a new identity. From Gods perspective we are one with His Son. Our Scripture Focus this week says, He has created us anew in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). This doesnt mean our entire personalities have been replaced, or we have been given new physical bodies, it means we are new people through our relationship with Christ. Our connection to God is the essence of our identity, and our self-worth comes solely from who we are in Christ. The secret in who we are lies in Whose we are. When we understand who we are in Christ, who we are not, no longer matters. Those two little words are the essence of the makeover. Read 1 Peter 2:910. How does this passage describe us as believers? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What is our purpose as Gods holy priesthood? ________________________________________________________________________ Talk about a dramatic identity makeover! This passage says before Christ we actually had no identity, we had no distinguishing characteristics to set us apart. But after, we become Gods chosen people. The question of who we are in Christ is the driving force of this study. Once we understand this and begin living as such, we are more likely to lead victorious lives. We are more likely to impact Gods kingdom, to have relationships that are loving and peaceful, to have homes that centre on God and to positively influence those whose lives we touch. Most importantly, a dynamic, intimate relationship with our Creator will evolve. All of this comes from within
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because we are made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:19). Only when we see ourselves for who we really are in Christ and believe it to be absolute truth, regardless of our circumstances, will we begin to live it. This is what I want for you. This is what I long for within myself. My prayer, as we embark on this journey together, is that you allow the truth of Gods Word to penetrate your very soul. It is God alone, through His Word, Who has the power to transform. We have very specific goals for our time together. This study will answer these questions: Who am I in Christ? How does God view me? How can I practically experience my new identity? What kind of response should the knowledge of my identity in Christ create in me? Over the next eleven weeks we will discuss various aspects of our identity in Christ. Well examine each one closely and talk about how it affects our daily lives, which is again what we are most interested in. Gods truth about who we are is real and applicable to every day life in the most ordinary of circumstances. Following Gods example, we will focus on after. Reflections Describe how your view of yourself is either in before or after. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What do you think living in the fullness of Christ means (Ephesians 3:19)? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 3

FALSE IDENTITY The after image that God sees is who you really are. The initial description of yourself you wrote on day one is the earthly you, and although it is all very true, most of it will pass away when you move from this world into the next. Your current physical beauty will fade, your position and successes will disappear, and your wealth and possessions will all be left behind. Why then, do we strive to achieve things that are only temporal? Its because our limited perspective causes us to chase a false sense of identity. Who we are in Christ is the eternal part of us and is the version God sees when He looks at us. Everything else about us will eventually fade away. Identity Crisis Those who choose not to live in the reality of who they are in Christ, often look elsewhere for distinctiveness. Some try to accumulate material possessions hoping that will define them. Maybe an expensive car will give me a new image. Maybe if I live in a bigger house Ill move up in social status. Others believe their identity comes from what they do. Maybe if I volunteer at church I will be seen as a good person. If I have a child then I will be complete. The list goes on. Today we are going to discuss the various avenues people pursue in hopes of defining themselves, and we will come to an understanding of why each method ultimately fails. Accomplishments and Success For those of us who are task-focused people, we are driven to do and do and do. The more we get done, the better we feel about ourselves. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. The less we accomplish the more discouraged and frustrated we become and the worse we feel about ourselves. Equating our worth and value to our accomplishments is volatile because as our accomplishments come and go, so does our sense of self. The worlds definition of success is very different than Gods. The world associates wealth, power, favor and high position as success. But God does not look at outward appearances; He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Gods definition of success lies in our relationship with His Son. Read Psalm 46:10 and fill in the blank. Be _________ and know that I am God. This verse does not say, Run around like crazy doing as many good things as you possibly can, even to the point of exhaustion, in hopes of pleasing your Creator. God does not base His love for us on our service to Him. Gods first priority is not for us to do things for Him, but instead for us to be in relationship with Him. Power and Position
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Climbing the ladder in hopes of discovering our identity at the top is an illusion. Many people who crave respect, attention and authority, are driven to attain power through position. Whether it is a position within a small organization, a larger corporation, or even within a church, the desire for power is a deadly one. Some mistakenly believe having others under their control gives them a higher value than the rest. They are falsely looking to their positions to define them. Read Luke 14:711. In this parable, what did Jesus say about position and social status? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Possessions We live in a very materialistic society. The hunger for more is rarely satisfied. People work very hard to be able to purchase certain things and when they do, they quickly move on to the next. People who allow their possessions and wealth to define them are often disappointed. Things will always be things. They are temporary and cannot give a sense of true identity. Read Haggai 1:39. Why did the Israelites material possessions not satisfy them? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Reputation and Acceptance We cannot please all people all the time. As hard as that is for some of us to hear, pleasing people is an impossible goal. If our self worth is based on what others think of us, we will be sadly disappointed, because humans are fickle. One day people may like you and hold you in high esteem, and the next day, they may not. We are accepted unconditionally by God, but not by people. Role in Life We all fill various roles throughout our lifetimes. We are wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, cousins and friends. Ill speak from what I know. I am a mother, which is an allconsuming role I fill twenty-four hours a day, and yet that is not all of who I am. But if I am not careful, I can begin to lose myself in that role. The same is true of any role you may fill. Over time the role can consume you. Consider parents who invest all their time and energy in their children, doing nothing for themselves. When their children reach the age of independence and leave home, they are lost and no longer know who they are. Role in life is not generally a conscious pursuit like the other areas we have talked about, however gradually our roles can unintentionally take over our identity. Roles are vitally important, and yet if the pursuit of who we are ends there, we fall short.

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All of these and more can give a sense of false identity. Each is temporal and does not accurately describe the spirit. As we close today, ask God to reveal what you may knowingly or unknowingly be pursing as a means of defining who you are. Reflections Are you chasing a false sense of identity? Which one(s) can you most relate to? _____ accomplishments and success _____ power and position _____ possessions _____ reputation and acceptance with people _____ role in life What can do to begin to shift your focus away from these temporal things to the essence of who you are in Christ? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 4

LIMITING FACTORS Several obstacles can clutter our path of vision and prevent us from being able to see the after version of ourselves. I realize we havent yet begun to discuss what the after image looks like, but its important to start thinking about what may be standing in our way. If we remove these obstacles first, we will be more likely to accept and believe what God says about us. Today we will examine six hindrances that may prevent us from living as God sees us.

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1) Satans Strategies Satan does his best to keep our focus on the before image. We are saved and there is nothing he can do about that now, but he can and will try to make sure we dont live a victorious life in Christ. He wants to prevent us from positively influencing others and making a difference in the Kingdom of God. He wants to keep us enslaved in our former ways and hopelessly convinced that before is all we will ever be. Satan uses many devious and downright detestable methods to attempt to destroy humans, such as doubt, discouragement, defeat, hopelessness, distractions and isolation. We are not going to go into detail here about his many strategies, although one is worth mentioning in our context. Satan tries to convince us we have not changed. He wants us to believe the before version of ourselves is a permanent one. He does a good job of persuading us that the things we have done in our pasts are too horrible for God to forgive, causing us to continue to be enslaved by our former lifestyle. That is a lie straight from the pit of hell! No human being has ever done anything that the blood of Jesus can not cover. If we believe our sins are much greater than Gods power to forgive, we are telling Jesus His sacrifice is not good enough. You are not defined by anything that has happened to you, or by what you have done; rather you are defined by who you are in Christ. Do not let the enemy steal your true identity. Have you ever believed Satans lie? Is there a part of you that believes you can not be free from your past? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ When I finished writing this study and was seeking God about what He wanted me to do with it, Satan was trying his best to intimidate me. The phrase Who do you think you are? kept racing through my mind. And it continued, You have no formal education in which to write this, no qualificationsand you are too young. People will laugh at you. You dont even live what you write. Who do you think you are? This continued for a couple of days and sadly I was beginning to believe it. Until one morning, when confronted again with these lies, I suddenly recognized the irony and literally laughed out loud. Who do I think I am? I am in Christ! I am everything I had just written about. The very thing I was trying so hard to capture on paper was what I was being challenged with in my own life. It was time to put my words into action. Satan plays hardball, attacking us in our weakest areas where we are most vulnerable. If he can convince us we will never be free from the past, we will never move on to the life God so desperately wants us to enjoy. We will never live in the fullness of all that Christ offers. It is vitally important, not only to understand intellectually, but also to know to the core of our beings who we are in Christ. Then when Satan attacks, we can stand firm in the knowledge of what God says about us and therefore defeat him. Scripture tells us to put on the armor of God so we will be able to stand firm against the strategies of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). One of the pieces of
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Gods armor is the belt of truth. Buckling up the belt of truth about who we are in Christ will enable us to withstand Satans attacks. 2) Paralyzing Fear The presence of fear in our lives can leave us paralyzed, unable to take steps forward and too terrified to look back. Fear of many things can hinder our pursuit of a full life in Christ. Some of us are afraid of failure and have convinced ourselves it is better not to even try. Others are held captive by the fear of what people may think. Like a giant black cloud looming overhead, fear casts a dark shadow on our after image, distorting its reality. Has fear ever held you captive, preventing you from moving forward? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 3) Damaging Words The third hindrance to living as God sees us is the influence of others. Many of us are bound by damaging words spoken to us in the past. Words like: Youll never amount to anything. Youre just like your mother. Youre hopeless. Why cant you do this? Im so disappointed in you. Its too late. You missed your chance. Why cant you be more like your sister? Believing the picture these destructive words paint prevents us from seeing ourselves as God sees us. These words hurt and over time we resign ourselves to the fact that they must be true. We begin to live out their false prophecy. Its time to stop believing these lies and start believing we are who God says we are. God says we are His beloved children, we stand blameless before Him, we are new creations and we are complete in Him. Have you had damaging words spoken to you in the past that continue to haunt you? How do they affect your life today? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 4) Defeating Thoughts The battles that go on in our minds are ferocious ones. Unfortunately the fourth factor that can distort the after image is our own doing. We can convince ourselves we dont deserve or will never be able to live the life God intends for us. The lies we tell ourselves can be very
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destructive. They have a huge impact on how we live our lives because thoughts eventually become reality. Defeat can occur in our thinking before we even begin. What lies are you telling yourself about who you are? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Another way we can be our own worst enemy is we simply dont believe we are new people, instead we choose to believe the before image. There are many reasons for our unbelief. Perhaps we dont believe God has forgiven our past sins because weve done some really terrible things. Perhaps we dont believe God can work miraculously in our lives like He has in people around us, or maybe we are trying to live the Christian life on our own strength, instead of relying on God. Whatever the case, unbelief is hindering our fullness in Christ. Are there areas of unbelief in your life? If so, what are they? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 5) All-Consuming Ministry This seems like an odd prevention to a victorious life. You may be thinking, But God has called me to serve in this area, Im sure of it! I dont disagree with you. As important as it is to know your part in Kingdom work, it is equally as important to recognize how it can become a hindrance. What began as something I was sure God had called me to do, quickly turned into the very reason I no longer had time for Him. My willingness to serve, combined with my driven nature, resulted in very little time for anything else. And my relationship with God began to suffer. My ministry was robbing me of fullness in Christ. We can become consumed with what we do for God, instead of our relationship with Him. When this happens, we lose focus and everything becomes distorted. Taking our focus off of His face negatively affects our entire lives; our relationships, our family, our own character development and the very ministry we are so passionately serving in. What would happen if we stopped all our doing for God to focus on who we are in Him? I suggest our lives would dramatically change. We would be much more effective because our strength would come solely from Him. God calls us to a relationship with Himself first and then to the assignment. We must be what God wants us to be before we can do what He wants us to do.

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Which holds more of your focus, your ministry or your relationship with God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 6) Subtle Distractions This world can pull us in a million different directions. Everywhere we turn, people and things compete for our time and energy. Many of these things are good, but God never intended for one person to be able to do it all. Many people are too distracted by their busy lives to focus on discovering who they are in Christ. Distractions take on a variety of forms; an exciting new relationship, chauffeuring your kids to various activities, a hobby, even helping a family member can be a source of distraction. Maybe running your kids to their various activities is taking all of your free time. Whatever it is that takes your focus off of your relationship with God, even if it is a good thing, is a distraction. And when we are distracted we cant be all that God wants us to be. What in your life is currently a distraction? What fills the place of the number one priority in your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ As we close today, Im sure you could name additional hindrances to living as God sees us. Our list certainly wasnt exhaustive, but gives us an idea of the obstacles to be aware of. Can you identify with some of them? I have definitely not arrived in these areas, but I am determined to press on and through the power of the Holy Spirit, live the life that God has planned for me. Do you have the same determination? Reflections Which of the six hindrances weve discussed are negatively impacting you the most? _____ Satans lies _____ fear _____ damaging words others have spoken over me _____ inability to believe God and/or negative thoughts about myself _____ pursuit of ministry instead of my relationship with God _____ distractions _____ other _____________________________________________________________ In what ways are these areas preventing you from living as God sees you? Be specific. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Spend some time in prayer asking God to help you overcome these hindrances. Trust in His ability to free you. Believe that you can live, by experience, as God sees you. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE

On the last day of each week of our study, we are going to answer the question posed in Romans 8:31. What then shall we say in response to this (NIV)? As we continue to unveil the after image of how God sees us, each discovery should produce a reaction in us. On the fifth day, we will ask ourselves what our appropriate response should be to that particular aspect of our identity in Christ. To Live What We Know Jesus did not die to leave us in before. He died so we could live abundantly in after. John 10:10 says, I [Jesus] came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (AMP). Sadly, many Christians are not living each day with a heart-level understanding of who they are in Christ. And yes, as a believer, you may be able to give correct responses to the question Who are you in Christ? But more importantly, do you live it? Do you access all of the resources available to you as a believer? Do you actively claim your new identity? Living out what we know is our appropriate response to the fact that God has given us significance in Him. More importantly than what you know, is how you live. A person can know they are a millionaire, but if they dont go to the bank to access those funds, they wont live as a millionaire. Similarly we can know volumes of biblical truth, but if we dont apply what we know, it will not be a reality in our daily experiences. Application, not information, leads to transformation.

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What is the difference between knowing who you are in Christ and living in that reality?
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Believing A giant leap is needed to go from knowing something to living it. We can know eating large amounts of junk food damages our health, but that doesnt always stop us. By-passing the candy aisle becomes possible when we understand and believe exactly what these treats are doing to our bodies (along with a dash of willpower!). The bridge that leads from knowing to living is believing. We have to believe the truth weve learned before we can live it. In the following weeks we will study how God views us as His children, and in order for that truth to change our daily lives, we need to believe it. We need to believe Him when He says we are forgiven. We need to believe Him when He says we need nothing else to live a complete and satisfying life. We need to take Him at His word and learn to see ourselves after the makeover. We are somebody in Christ! Read the account of the Israelites of Moses day in Hebrews 4:13. Why did the Israelites fail to enter the rest of God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ This passage illustrates our current topic. The Israelites failed to experience Gods rest (entering the Promised Land) because their faith was small, and in the same way we can miss an abundant life if we fail to believe we are who God says we are. We need to combine our knowledge with faith before it can become reality. The characteristics of who we are in Christ do not become more or less true based on our level of belief in them. If we are in Christ, they are one hundred percent true of us, but believing in the after image will enable us to live more meaningful and productive lives. Absolutely Imperative Why is it important to know and believe in the after image? Because what we know and believe about ourselves will ultimately come through in our actions. If we have a poor self-image resulting from a lack of knowledge about who we are in Christ, we will not behave in a way that glorifies and honors God. We will lack the confidence to be all that God intends us to be. Conversely, when we begin to see ourselves as God does, our self worth is based on the fact that we are Gods precious children. No longer do we have to strive to prove ourselves, but instead can rest in what He has done for us. Read Acts 17:28 and fill in the following blanks: For in him we ___________ and _____________ and ____________________.

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Christians have the answer to the worlds endless searching. The Bible says, It is in Christ we find out who we are and what we are living for (Ephesians 1 MSG). A life in Christ is the only way to true purpose and meaning, all other methods will not work. So you can stop searching. You will find yourself in Christ and in Him alone. Then you can live by experience each day in that glorious knowledge. Reflections Consider the phrase in Christ. What does it mean to you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Take a moment to reflect on the biblical truth that you know. Approximately how much do you translate into daily living? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What questions or concerns do you have as you begin this journey? Share them with God in the space below. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What are you expecting God to do through this study? Expect big, Hes a big God. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spend some time in prayer asking God to give you fresh insight as you begin this study of His Word. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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God, we have mixed feelings as we begin this study together. Some of us are excited to get into Your Word and discover who we are in Christ. Others of us, quite frankly, are intimidated by the work required to complete the study, and others are doubtful we can ever experience a full life in You. It seems almost beyond our reach. Whatever our state of mind and heart, we give it all to You now, for You know us intimately. You know us better than we know ourselves. Lord. We dedicate ourselves to You. Help us to make time with you a priority. And God speak to us through this material. Our hearts cry is that You would make the truth of Your Word a reality in our daily lives. We want to experience You in greater measure, to be all that You have created us to be, and to live as You see us. Give us spiritual eyes to see the after image of ourselves.

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WEEK 2 FROM ENEMY TO CHILD


Day 1

CHOSEN CHILDREN Friends of mine longed for a baby girl to call their own. They patiently endured the long legal adoption process, waiting years to see their dream fulfilled. They bought clothes and toys, prepared the nursery, and waited anxiously, until finally the day arrived. In one surreal moment they were handed their precious daughter and were able to bring her home. In Old Testament times adoption wasnt practiced among the Israelites and so there is no Hebrew word for adoption. However, in the New Testament era, Jewish families were influenced by Roman customs and one result was the practice of adoption. The Greek word for adoption translated in the New Testament, literally means placing as a son. Roman law required the adopter be male and childless and the one to be adopted had to be able to agree to the adoption. In the eyes of the law, the adopted one became a new creature, born again into a new family. Lets take this human practice of adoption and apply it to our spiritual lives. How does God see us? We are His adopted children. We are placed into Gods family as sons or daughters, through a birth that comes from God (John 1:13). Adopted Child of God Ephesians 1:5 says, God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure. Meditating on this passage of Scripture gives us rich insight into our adoption. To start, this verse says God decided. Just as adopted children do not choose their parents, we do not choose God, He chooses us. There are many unplanned children in the world (from a human perspective), but there are no unplanned or unwanted adoptions. Similarly, God initiates the relationship. He draws us to Himself in love. Secondly, God decided in advance. Long before he laid down the earths foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love (Ephesians 1:4 MSG). Before God created the world, He chose humans to be the focus of His love. God could have saved us without making us His children, but He decided to do both. His desire was to make us His family.

Scripture Focus: But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. John 1:1213

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Read Deuteronomy 7:78. Why did God choose the nation of Israel to be His people? ________________________________________________________________________ God was speaking to Israel in this passage, but we can extend it to you and I today. He chose you not because of your abilities or your talents, not because of your personality or social status, instead He chose you because He loves you. Finally, it gave Him great pleasure! He wanted to do it. He enjoyed doing it. Imagine God before time began, hovering above the great nothingness, thinking about His plan for you, smiling as He thought about how He would knit you together in your mothers womb and experiencing joy when He thought of the moment you would be born. Then His great delight as He imagined you coming to Him, believing in Him, and surrendering yourself completely to Him. I would guess God experiences similar emotions to that of my friends when they were handed their new daughter. Finally, My child has come home! Read Ephesians 1:5 again and respond to God based on the truth found in this passage. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Fatherly Love No truth about our identity in Christ speaks more of Gods unfailing love than this one, which is why we have begun here. He has chosen us to be His children. See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are (1 John 3:1)! The same verse in the NIV says, How great is the love the Father has lavished on us (emphasis mine). His love is generously, abundantly, lavished on us beyond measure. If you are a parent, you can probably attest to the same habit I am about to describe. I could (and often do) sit back and watch my young children play. I simply watch them and find myself smiling at their antics and the way in which they discover the world around them. Could it be that God experiences the same kind of joy while sitting on His throne in heaven watching us as we go about our day? Id like to think so. We give Him great pleasure and we are the focus of His love. We are His precious children! The depth of His love for us is so great that He would do anything for us, as demonstrated in sending His only Son to die in our place. He loves us that much. We are going to spend the remainder of today studying the truth found in Gods Word about His love for us. To not only understand intellectually that we are Gods children, but also to experience a heart revelation and abide in His love, we first need to fully comprehend the magnitude of it. As we believe, then experience, then finally abide in His love, we move deeper in our relationship with Him.

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1) Believing in His Love We will never make it through the trials of life if we dont know deep within ourselves that God loves us. We have to be convinced He loves us even in our darkest moments. Do you really believe God loves you? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Sadly, in our fallen world, mothers and fathers dont always love their children unconditionally. You may be someone who has had a difficult childhood as a result of a parents neglect or lack of love and because of that, it may be harder for you to believe in a loving God. This is not the way God intended it to be. The love our Father God has for us is a picture of the way the parentchild relationship was supposed to be, instead of the early examples weve experienced modeling Gods fatherly role in our lives. Believing in the love of God requires faith. Faith is belief in things unseen. Gods love for you, although invisible, is as real as the air you breathe. It is sometimes hard to understand Gods love because we often equate it with human love. This is an inaccurate comparison. Human love is conditional, whereas Gods love is unconditional. Human love rises and falls with our emotions; Gods love never changes. Our love often demands something in return but Gods love is totally sacrificial. Human love is based on the actions of other people. According to God, nothing we do or dont do can ever affect His love for us. When we assume Gods love is equivalent to human love, we fear loosing it because we know He knows our failings. Gods love frees us from that fear because although He knows everything about us, He loves us anyway. 2) Experiencing His Love In Pauls letter to the church of Ephesus (Ephesians 3:1819) he prays, And may you have the power to understand, as all Gods people should, how ______________, how ________________, how _______________ and how ___________________ his love is. May you ______________ the love of Christ, though its too great to __________________ fully. As we reflect on this passage we realize we can experience Gods love even though we will never fully understand it. God doesnt want us to understand His love only at an intellectual level; He wants us to experience it. Gods love is so complete that it covers the width of our experiences and reaches out to the whole world. It is so long that it lasts our entire lifetime. It is so high that it rises to the heights of our greatest joys and celebrations. It is so deep that it goes with us to the depths of our sorrow and despair.1 3) Abiding In His Love Read John 15:9. What command does Jesus give to His disciples? ________________________

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This verse speaks volumes to us because it says God loves us in the same way and as much as He loves His Son. And our response is to remain in His love. God gives us the ability to feel His love toward us, and we are able bask in its warmth. It can be a constant awareness, even in the most ordinary or darkest of circumstances. What are some ways you can remain in Gods love? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Nothing Can Separate When storms rage in life and difficulties arise, Gods constant love may not feel so constant. Does it mean that God no longer loves us if we experience financial trouble, loss of a job, or death of a loved one? What about illness, homelessness or divorce? Scripture says no. Read Romans 8:3539. List all of the things Paul says can not come between us and Gods love. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Paul was convinced that nothing could ever separate him from Gods love. He knew nothing could ever happen to him that would change Gods unconditional love for him. Do we have the same conviction? Are there things you fear happening in your life which might cause you to doubt Gods love for you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Reflections Was there a time in your life when you began to understand at a heart level that God loved you unconditionally? Can you think of a specific experience that led you to that revelation? For me it was when I looked at my newborn son for the first time. My heart was immediately filled with such an intense love and I knew my Father in heaven must feel the same way about me. After all, He made me and I am His child. You may have had a similar experience, or your understanding of Gods love for you may have come from the love shown you by a parent, a sibling or a friend. Describe what experience or relationship in your life has given you deeper insights into the Fathers love. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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God sees you as His precious child! You have been adopted into His family. He chose you before the world began and He loves you. He delights in all of the details of your life and you give Him great pleasure. Read the following as a love letter from God written especially for you: Dear Precious Child, I knew you before you were born. With love and great care I formed you in your mothers womb. I knew how every day of your life would unfold before the world began and already I longed for you to become My child. I have only good in mind for you and though you may travel through rivers of difficulty of this life, Im there with you. I will carry you in My arms, Little Lamb. I will wipe all of the tears from your eyes and collect them in a bottle. I keep track of all of your sorrows. I will be your God throughout your lifetime. You bring Me such joy and I love you. You are so precious to Me that I sent My only Son to give you abundant life. I want to be with you forever. See, I have written your name on the palm of My hand. My love for you will never change. Come to Me. My arms are open and waiting Love, Your Heavenly Father Note: The phrases above were taken from the following Scripture passages: Isaiah 43:4, Psalm 139:1316, Isaiah 43:2, Isaiah 40:11, Psalm 56:8, Isaiah 46:4, John 10:10, Isaiah 49:6. Respond to God based on the above letter. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 2

PRIVILIGED STATUS God only sees the after version of you. This week the aspect of after we are talking about is that He sees us as His precious children. We are related to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Blood relatives. We began yesterday by reflecting on Gods unfailing love for us. His love is measureless and He longs for us to experience it daily. If after our makeover we became children of God, what were we before? The answer is found in Romans. Read Romans 5:10. Who were you before you became a child of God? ____________________ Gods fairly clear about this. If we are not for Him, we are against Him (Luke 11:25). Before we were His children, we were His enemies. The Bible describes in horrific detail the punishment awaiting Gods enemies. The knowledge of how God saw me before my own makeover prompts me to fall to my knees in gratitude for what He has done. What a dramatic change in position! Whether children realize it or not, they are privileged to belong to a family. Through a family, their physical needs are cared for, they are given a place of refuge in an unsafe world, they are provided with instruction and discipline, they have access to the familys material resources, and they have the right to receive an inheritance. But the greatest advantage of all is they have the special privilege of being able to live together in intimate relationships. As children of God, we have all the same privileges. The next two days will be spent basking in the truth of what it means to be a child of God. We have incredible advantages in this life because of our position in Christ. Gods Provision A parents basic job is to provide the necessities of life for their children, including food, water, shelter, clothing and education. In the same way, God provides what we need for life on earth. Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him (Matthew 6:8). Its comforting to rest in the assurance that God already knows what we need before we voice it to Him. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you (Matthew 6:30). Paul said in Philippians 2:19, And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. We can trust that God will always meet our needs. Whatever we need on earth, He will always supply. We must remember, however, the difference between our wants and our needs. I may want a bigger home, but I need air to breath. Also our definition of a need may be very different than what God classifies as a need. Most people want to completely avoid discomfort or pain, but God knows
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how each trial will strengthen our faith. He is much more interested in developing our character than in making us happy and comfortable. We must trust in His infinite wisdom and goodness. God cares for us more than we care for ourselves. We often pursue habits that would ultimately destroy us. Instead, God desires what is best for us and allows circumstances in our lives which will shape us in that direction. And Hes able to do this because He knows us better than we know ourselves. Gods Protection Just as a fathers primary duty is to protect his children, so our Heavenly Father protects us as His children. God is our refuge and our strength, always ready to help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). He alone is my refuge, my place of safety (Psalm 91:2). He is a shield for all who look to him for protection (2 Samuel 22:31). Websters dictionary defines the act of protecting as covering or shielding from exposure, injury, damage or destruction. Refuge is another word often used in Scripture to describe Gods protection and is defined as something to which one has recourse in difficulty. There is a slight difference between the two words. Protection is saving us from harm, whereas a refuge is providing shelter in the midst of harm. Note also that Gods protection is something He does for us; however His refuge is something offered to us. In the latter we need to reach out and grab hold of Him. There are many symbols of protection in the world around us. Fences offer safety by keeping children off busy streets, railings keep the elderly from falling down stairs, and lighthouses signal safety to ships. What comes to mind when you think of God as your refuge? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ When I think of God as my refuge I picture myself placing my little hand into Gods big one and trusting Him to lead me through the storms of my life. As the storm gets really bad, He picks me up and carries me, sheltering me in His warm embrace. For the believer, God is a refuge. He is the place we can run to in difficult times. God does not promise to protect us from all harm but He does provide a refuge for us in the midst of the harm. In His sovereignty, He has the right to decide when to save us, and when to walk through it with us. If He chooses the later, He offers Himself as a safe haven. Gods Instruction and Discipline Parents give many instructions to their children. Some are simply for tasks they are to carry out, others are warnings to avoid danger and others are pearls of wisdom which teach them about life. Gods instruction manual to us, His Word, contains the same kinds of instructions. And so, my children, listen to me, God implores us, for all who follow my ways are joyful. Listen to my instructions and be wise (Proverbs 8:3233). We should consider it an incredible
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privilege to have the very words of God on printed page. We are to treasure Gods Word, guard His instructions just as we guard our own eyes and write them deep within our hearts (Proverbs 7:23). These instructions are not empty words - they are your life (Deuteronomy 32:47). In Joshua 1:8 what does God promise to those who value His instructions? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Gods instructions are closely linked to His discipline. In fact, discipline is a form of instruction. You may wonder why discipline is listed as a privilege. No one likes it, not the one giving the discipline nor the one receiving it. I remember the first time I had to discipline my son. I had naively hoped that my sweet innocent baby boy would remain that way forever, but one day it became apparent that he needed correction. It wasnt an easy thing to do, but it was quite necessary. Proverbs 13:24 says, Those who love their children care enough to discipline them. I still remember the look of shock on my sons face after I had corrected him. It confirmed what has already been stated; discipline is not pleasant for the one receiving it. However, my love was demonstrated to my son that day (and many time since then!) by helping him to begin to learn right from wrong. Read Hebrews 12:511. Why does God discipline us (verse 6)? ______________________________________________________________________ What is the result of discipline for the person receiving it (verse 11)? ________________________________________________________________________

The choice of how to respond to Gods discipline is ours. We can respond to it with resignation or self-pity, we can become angry and resentful toward God, or we can accept it humbly and gratefully, acknowledging it for what it is; a sign of His deep love for us. My child, dont reject the Lords discipline and dont be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights (Proverbs 3:1112). Gods provision, protection, instruction and discipline are all gifts to us as His children. They are privileges we enjoy because we belong to Him, and its good for us to stop and reflect on how these benefits are a reality in our lives. Reflections Describe a time when God cared for a particular need that you had. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Describe a time when you have been aware of the protection of God. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe a time where God was a refuge to you in the midst of a difficult time. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Have you ever sensed the Lords discipline? How did you respond to it? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3

FROM RAGS TO RICHES

Yesterdays lesson focused on some of the advantages we enjoy as a result of our status as Gods children and I trust you have been reminded that we are indeed privileged. Today we will continue with the same topic. Gods Resources and Inheritance My children have free access to all that my husband and I own. The material things we acquire are shared without hesitation (this may change when they are old enough to drive!). God, in His mercy, allows us access to many wonderful resources as well. They become available to us at the time our salvation.

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What resources has God has given us? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We enjoy many benefits including His Word, grace, mercy, freedom, the church, His righteousness, power in prayer, peace the world does not understand and the knowledge of God Himself. You may have listed other resources that were not mentioned. All of these are ours because we have gone from before to after; enemy to child; rags to riches. 2 Peter 1:3 is a scripture filled with amazing promise and encouragement for us. What has God already given us? ________________________________________________________________________ When did He give this to us? ________________________________________________________________________ How does this impact your life? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

God has already given us everything we need to live a godly life. He doesnt wait to give it to us until we are spiritually mature, or until we have accomplished the tasks He has set out for us to do. Instead He gives freely the moment we come to Him. Gods resources are instantaneously available to us. Not only do we get to enjoy Gods resources while on this earth but also when we pass from this life into the next. Scripture talks about an inheritance we will receive. Romans 8:17 says, And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of Gods glory. An heir is someone who eventually inherits his fathers estate. We will share in the inheritance of Christ. We have a reward waiting for us in heaven because we are Gods children. Imagine the amazing privilege of sharing in the inheritance with Gods Only Begotten Son! Its humbling to think we could share in any of the inheritance, but to be a joint heir with Christ is almost unimaginable. 1 Peter 1:34 says, We live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. Gods Invitation to Intimate Relationship If all of this werent enough, God grants us one privilege as His children which is by far the greatest of all. He allows us to share an intimate, personal relationship with Him. The God of the universe, who spoke the world into being, wants us to call Him Daddy.
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Galatians 4:56 says, God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out Abba, Father. Similarly, Romans 8:15-16 says, You received Gods Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, Abba, Father. For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are Gods children. The Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, prompt us to call out Abba, Father. The word Abba signifies a close relationship. Its the privilege of a father child relationship. He gives us the confidence and boldness we need to approach Him in an intimate way. Regardless of the condition of your relationship with your earthly father, your relationship with your Heavenly Father is one that can be wonderful. We have access to God anytime. He is always available for us to come to Him, Hes never too busy. We can share everything with Him, and He will never condemn us. The most incredible part of this relationship is that God initiates it. He draws us to Himself with unconditional love. Read Jeremiah 3:19. God is speaking to wayward Israel in this passage, but Hes talking to you and I as well. Describe what you hear Him saying to you. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I love the phrase in this passage of Scripture that says, I look forward to your calling me Father. Just as new parents eagerly wait for their precious child to say mama or dada for the first time, God too longs for us to call him Father. Reflections What does it mean to you to be a joint heir with Christ? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How you would describe your relationship with God? Check all that apply. _____ Hes my Abba Father. _____ He seems cold and distant most of the time. _____ I sense Hes too busy and preoccupied to care about what is going on in my life. _____ Hes interested in the big decisions of my life, but not in the little day-to-day things. _____ He seems harsh and has unrealistic expectations. _____ I know He loves me and cares for me. _____ Hes a friend with whom I can share my deepest secrets. _____ I couldnt make it through life without relying on His strength. _____ I go to Him when I need something, but most of the time I am fairly selfsufficient.

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If your relationship with God is not where you would like it to be; if you cannot call Him your Abba Father, I encourage you to tell Him. Be honest and ask Him to give you an increased desire to spend time in His presence. Draw near to Him and He promises to draw near to you. Your relationship will grow more and more intimate as you get to know Him better. Respond in praise to God for the fact that Hes already given you everything you need to live a godly life. We are so privileged to be called children of the Most High God. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 4

DOING OUR PART Along with privileges come responsibilities. Parents expect certain behavior from their children. They have chores to do as their way of contributing to the family, and they are expected to learn to share and to be polite, respectful and kind to those around them. In the same way, we have responsibilities as members of Gods family. Our Responsibility to Live Holy Lives Paul begs us as Christians in Ephesians 4:1 to live a life worthy of our calling. What is our calling? As children of the King, we are His representatives here on earth. Our lives need to reflect our royal calling. To put it quite bluntly, we are royalty lets start acting like it! Read 1 John 3:110. What does it mean to keep yourself pure? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Who does not belong to God (verse 10)? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

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Purity does not mean sinlessness, but it is keeping ourselves right before God by not making a practice of sinning. If we sin, we are to confess it and repent by changing our behavior and turning back to God. We are to be children of the Light, reflecting His glory to a lost world. Have you ever reacted poorly in a situation and later wish you hadnt? Far too frequently my old flesh rears her ugly head and I respond according to old ways. One of my greatest struggles with my flesh is my tendency to react in frustration when my world becomes chaos. Ill set the scene for you. My two-year-old is trying to get my attention by using his (well-rehearsed) whiny voice, my baby girl is fighting sleep by crying in her crib, my house is in disarray, dinner is about to boil over on the stove and my husband is trying to discuss an important matter with me. Absolute chaos! I have realized Satan uses these situations to tempt me to react poorly, and sadly it often works. Ive been disciplining myself recently to take a time out when the chaos threatens to overtake me. The constant war within me to respond to all situations in patience and love instead of frustration and anger is a daily battle. I must live in submission to God and receive the Holy Spirits conviction humbly. Scripture says, Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit so you can identify people by their actions (Matthew 7:20). People around are constantly watching to see how we will behave, especially in difficult situations. Our reactions can be a powerful testimony of Gods work within us. We have a responsibility, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to consistently demonstrate Christs character in our lives. Read Ephesians 5:1. ________________ God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear __________________. Can people identify you as a Christian by your fruit (behavior)? If not, what needs to change? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you feel you are living a life worthy of your calling? Explain. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Our Responsibility To Do Kingdom Work Many scriptures describe our responsibility to carry out the work of God here on earth, but none explain it as clearly as the Great Commission at the end of Matthew. Read Matthew 28:1920. According to these verses, what is our main responsibility? ______________________________________________________________________________

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God desires that no one is lost, but that all would come to a saving knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:9). He uses His children as channels to share His love and mercy with a lost world. We all do this in different ways. Some are called to be teachers, some evangelists, while others prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28). He equips us with a variety of gifts to use in His kingdom and blesses us with the incredible feeling of fulfillment when we are passionately pursuing the work He has prepared in advance for us. One of the best ministries we can have is helping people. That is what Jesus did when He walked this earth. He went around doing good (Acts 10:38). We are called to reach out to those in need. This takes on a variety of forms, but it is truly one of the greatest things we can do. Never assume in order to make an impact on the Kingdom, you must be a world-famous evangelist, teacher or author. God calls each of us to a different task and one is not greater than another. The daily steps you take in simple obedience by lending a helping hand are important Kingdom work. Some day God will call you to account. He will ask you what you did with all he entrusted you with; the skills and abilities He blessed you with; the resources He entrusted to you; the time He gave you. How will you respond? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Our Responsibility to Develop Our Relationship One of the privileges listed was that we can call Him Abba Father. As we already discussed, this term describes intimacy. It describes a close relationship, one in which your hearts desires can be expressed. We can talk to God in the same way we would talk to our best friend, telling Him what is going on in our lives. He already knows, but intimacy grows as we share it with Him. In times of celebration we can come to God shouting with joy. In moments of frustration we can share our complaints, and when our world suddenly turns dark, we can fall to our knees and weep before Him. He wants every part of us. Developing a relationship with our Father means spending time with Him. There are no shortcuts. To get to know someone you must spend time with them, talking to them and listening to their heart. One of the ways I enjoy spending time with my husband is going for walks together. On our walks we are free from distractions and have an opportunity to talk. The same is true with God. The more we walk with Him, the better we get to know Him. Spending time in the Word and in prayer are the two most important ways we can develop the intimate relationship with Him He longs for us to have. I used to wonder why God wanted me to tell Him what was going on in my life. He already knew what was the point? Then I heard it explained so simply and now I understand. Imagine your child has had something wonderful happen to them at school one day, and you found out about it from another source before they arrive home. You expect that child to burst through the door and immediately share what happened, but the child is silent. You ask how their day went
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and they respond, Fine. How would you feel? Would you be disappointed? Would you wonder why they felt they couldnt confide in you? God wants us to share our good times and our bad. He wants us to tell Him everything! How much we share is an indicator of the closeness of our relationship with Him. Often we dont talk to God about the little things in our lives because we think He doesnt care about them, but Scripture says otherwise. Psalm 37:23 says, The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. I am a very detailed person so that thought absolutely thrills me! He wants us to talk to Him about everything. I was reminded of this recently when a friend was telling me about what she had been praying for. I was struggling with the very same thing and hadnt even thought about bringing it before the Lord. I had unconsciously decided the matter was too small for Him to care about. But God delights in every detail of our lives. Lets practice sharing our details with God. Take a moment to reflect on the following, and then take them to God in prayer. Something thats happened in the last week that you are grateful for: ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Your greatest fear: ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Your biggest regret: ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Your greatest desire for your life: ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Our Responsibility to Share His Love Jesus knew His time on earth was coming to an end. As He was sharing His last meal with the men who had followed Him throughout His ministry, He broke the disturbing news; He would be with them only a little longer. Then He said something profound, Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other (John 13:34). He called this a new commandment. The idea of love wasnt new, but it was the kind of sacrificial love He was calling them to, that was revolutionary.
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Why was He calling them to such sacrificial love? The answer lies in the next verse (John 13:35). ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ This is how a lost world sees God. This kind of love makes people stop and take notice. We have a responsibility as His children to show the love of God to others; sacrificial, unconditional, unending, abundant love. Because we are children of the Most High God, He has high expectations of us. We are to live as royalty, which in Gods economy, means humbly serving others. Do you love others with the love of Christ, or is your love based on the human variety? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Our Responsibility for Childlike Faith Read Mark 10:1316. Although Jesus ministry on earth was brief, He had time to spend with little children. Jesus took children by the hand, picked them up in His arms and blessed them. He said the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. What does it mean to receive the Kingdom of God like a little child? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ A child has an incredible capacity to learn new things during the formative years. My son is busy learning his shapes, colors and numbers, and he believes everything I tell him with an absolute innocence. When I tell him that this animals name is lion and that this color is red, he believes me. Why? Because he trusts me. We are to approach God with the same childlike faith. When He tells us to take a step forward in obedience into unchartered territory, we are to trust Him completely because He is good and because we believe wholeheartedly that He has only our best interests in mind. Weve learned that being a child of God is indeed an amazing privilege, but also an incredible responsibility. We must not forget to do our part as His children. Reflections How are you fulfilling your responsibilities as Gods child? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________

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Choose one area that has the greatest room for improvement and list specific ways you intend to grow in that area. _____ live a holy life _____ do Kingdom work _____ develop my relationship with God _____ share His love _____ develop childlike faith ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE What is our response to the fact that we are children of God? There are many commands in Scripture for husbands, wives, servants and people in general, but there is only one command for children. It is found in Ephesians 6:1. Children obey Our appropriate response as children is willing obedience to our Heavenly Father. The Link Between Love and Obedience Scripture teaches that love and obedience are connected. Obedience grows out of our love for God. That is why God never forces us to obey Him. God has to look only as far as our actions to see whether or not we truly love Him (John 14:21). Our obedience is evidence of our love for Him. Love without obedience Read 1 John 2:35. What does this passage say about love without obedience? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
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If we claim to love God, yet disobey Him, we are liars. True love results in obedience. This passage says, Those who obey Gods Word truly show how completely they love him (1 John 2:5). Obedience without love This version is merely legalism. The religious leaders in Jesus day are a perfect example of strict obedience without love. They were meticulous in their efforts to obey each law, and yet their hearts were empty. The obedience God desires goes much further than mere outward observance of His commands. Instead He longs for depth of love in which our obedience is simply a by-product.

On day one we talked about remaining in Gods love (John 15:9). John 15:10 tells us how to do that. When you _______________ my commandments, you remain in my love. Our obedience keeps us secure in the Fathers love. Obedience Must Be Timely My children have become students of my ways. They are familiar with my methods of gaining obedience from them. When Ive asked them to do something and they hesitate, I begin counting. Onetwo When I reach two and a half, they have learned they should comply if they dont want to suffer the consequences. Unlike many parents, God doesnt count. When God tells us to do something, He usually means immediately. God speaks in His perfect timing; therefore He speaks at the moment we are to act. Hesitation is a form of disobedience. When we delay in obedience we may miss the full blessing He intends for us. Heartfelt Wholehearted obedience is what God desires, and because He looks past our actions to the motives behind them, He knows when our obedience is half-hearted. Reluctant compliance is not true obedience. God is not pleased when we grumble and complain while we are carrying out His instructions. There will be no reward for that. When our actions are motivated by love, they will be devoid of negativity. Good intentions are not the same as acts of obedience. As James said, Faith without good deeds is useless (James 2:20). Talk without an action is cheap. Obedience begins when we take the first step in following His instructions. Consistent Our obedience cant merely be a show for the applause of others. God rewards what is done in secret, and we are expected to obey Him even when no one is watching. In addition, His commands are not offered to us buffet-style; we cant pick and choose the ones we want to obey. All of His commands are for our benefit so we must be consistent in our obedience.
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Choosing Obedience over Ritual The Word of God says over and over that obedience is better than empty religious ritual (1 Samuel 15:2223, Jeremiah 7:2223). We can go through the motions of going to church, reading the Bible and even praying while our hearts are far from God. He is not pleased with tradition devoid of love and devotion. If He was satisfied with that, He wouldnt have given us freedom of choice. God values our complete, heartfelt, immediate obedience over anything we could ever do in service to Him. A Command with a Promise The command for children to obey their parents found in Ephesians 6:1 has a promise attached to it; things will go well for them and they will have a long life on the earth. Gods command of obedience for His children is for our own good as well. God isnt a cruel taskmaster sitting on His throne in heaven, barking out orders and watching us squirm. Quite the opposite. He asks us to obey Him because He loves us and knows obedience is for our ultimate good. His commands are for our benefit. The words He spoke to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:1 parallel the command for children in Ephesians. What is Gods promise for obedience? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Gods promise is that we will enjoy abundant life, our efforts will multiply, and we will live in the promised land; a state of being so complete in Christ, that our external circumstances have no effect on our level of joy. Extraordinary Obedience God required many people in Scripture to follow Him in extraordinary obedience. God asked Hosea to marry a prostitute who would inevitably be unfaithful to him. God asked Abraham to leave all that was familiar to him and to travel to a land He had yet to show him. Jesus told a rich young ruler to give all his money away to the poor in response to his question about inheriting eternal life. God may also ask us to follow Him in extraordinary obedience; obedience that may cost us dearly, but has great rewards. In what area of your life is God calling you to extraordinary obedience? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The truth that God sees us as His children is more precious than all of the other aspects of our identity in Christ because it serves as the foundation of everything else we will discuss. God takes you, as His child, into His arms, places His hands on you and blesses you. He sees you as priceless and incredibly valuable to Him. Our appropriate response: obedience.
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Reflections What is your primary motivation for obedience to God? Does it flow out of your love for Him, or is it motivated by something else? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What area do you struggle with the most? _____ Obeying some commands but not others _____ Talking about obedience, but not following through with actions _____ Being slow to obey _____ Outright disobedience Express your desire to God to obey Him wholeheartedly. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God, we are so incredibly blessed to be Your children. Its hard to comprehend Your immeasurable love for us. The fact that You formed us, You created this earth for us to live in, You offer us wholeness in You and Youve provided the Way for us to experience eternity, is more than we can grasp. But we humbly accept it. We gladly accept our position in Your family. We run into Your open arms, flinging ourselves completely into Your embrace, trusting You without reservation. Father, we thank You that You desire an intimate relationship with each one of us. Help us to live a life worthy of our calling; worthy of our position in Your family. We love You, Abba Father. Endnotes 1. New Living Translation, adapted from notes on Ephesians 3:17-19

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WEEK 3 FROM OLD CREATURE TO NEW CREATION


Day 1

GODS WORK OF ART I have to admit I do not have a very good eye for art. Its not something Im naturally interested in. Although Im not an art expert, I know what I would classify as beauty, whether the educated critics would agree with me or not! The artwork proudly displayed around our home features our family; photographs of memories shared together (and a few creative pieces drawn by my children!). Its true that everyone has different tastes and an opinion about what they would consider to be art.

Gods Creation Most would agree that creation is the ultimate demonstration of artistic talent. Consider the world around you, the incredible vastness, beauty and diversity of creation. Allow your mind to take you to the most beautiful landscape you have ever seen. Is it a breath-taking view of the mountains? The amazing aqua shade of the ocean? The peacefulness of a quiet stream? Now think about the unbelievable variety in landscapes that appear around the world, the wildlife that inhabits those areas and the types of vegetation that grows there. What an incredible imagination our Creator has! Read Psalm 19:14. Whom does the created world speak to? ___________________________

Scripture Focus: This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Nature proclaims Gods existence and power. Creation speaks, without a word, to His undeniable existence. That is why people, to whom the gospel has not yet reached, know there is a God. The heavens themselves proclaim the glory of God. Gods Masterpiece God saved His best artistic work for you and me. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are Gods masterpiece. His masterpiece! There are times Ive looked in the mirror and have been tempted to disagree, but God sees each person as beautiful, His work of art. Lets go back to the beginning of time, the very beginning. Genesis chapter one unfolds the story of creation. God spent five eventful days creating light, dark, the sky, water, land, sun, moon, stars, fish and birds. Then on the sixth day He created animals and humans. Read the account of our origin in Genesis 1:2631. Whose image are we created in? ______________________
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We, more than any other created beings, are reflections of Gods glory. We resemble God more closely than any other creature on earth. He has given us a portion of His creativity, His ability to think, reason, and make choices and His capacity to love. The fact we have incredible value. What did God say at the end of His labors on the sixth day (verse 31)? Compare it with what He said at the end of each of the other days. ________________________________________________________________________

Believers can be just as insecure about their appearance as unbelievers can, and women struggle with this more than men. There is a God-given desire deep within us to be beautiful. Unfortunately the world has a very narrow definition of beauty. We are spectacular beings, yet often we dont feel spectacular. We choose instead to believe the lies Satan whispers to us. We begin to compare ourselves to other people resulting in insecurity. This compulsion for comparison can only be destructive. Either we become proud if we estimate ourselves to be better than others, or we become discouraged if our conclusion is that we are less. Its a waste of time to say, I wish I were more like that person. God made each one special. He intentionally made you the way you are, and Hes proud of His workmanship. God does not make mistakes. When you were born He didnt exclaim, Oops! Instead, He smiled at His work of art. Your physical appearance reflects His image, along with your heart, mind, soul and spirit. When God formed you in your mothers womb, He sat back and said, It is very good. We, as human beings, are the crown of His creation. James 1:18 says, And we, out of all creation became his prized possession. Consider the immense creativity of God to make each person so unique. Psalm 139 says we are fearfully and wonderfully made (NIV). The fact that we are wonderfully made means that we are all distinct. There is no human being alive today that is exactly like you. You are the only you that will ever exist, yet amidst this incredible array of people we are all formed in the image of God. God is the ultimate artist and you are His masterpiece! Reflections Do you feel like Gods masterpiece? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ When we criticize ourselves we are insulting what God has created. If youve gotten into the habit of doing this, express your repentance to God, then ask Him to allow you to see yourself as He sees you, His beautiful and cherished work of art. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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This week, if you are able, take a walk in Gods majestic creation. View it with fresh eyes, taking in all the beauty He has made. Reflect on the fact that you are part of this wonderful creation; in fact you are the crown of creation. Praise Him for His creativity. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 2

SECOND CHANCES Have you ever wished you could start over? Perhaps a conversation has suddenly turned sour, maybe you have wished you could crawl back into bed and start a day over again, or maybe its even a whole week you wish could be different. Sometimes it is more than a moment, a day or a week. Maybe your present life is not how you thought it would be, or hoped it could be. Perhaps youve moved so far from your dreams that they appear only as a dim light far in the distance. You strain to see them, but realize it seems almost impossible to get there. You desperately wish you could go back and make different choices; choices that would move you closer to the fulfillment of your dreams. Unfortunately, we cannot turn back the hands of time. There are many things Ive done in my life that I have repeatedly wished I could undo, especially during the years before I met Christ. But my solace comes in knowing that God can and does redeem lost years (Joel 2:25). Part of who I am now comes from what I have been through, and for that Im grateful. It also attests to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Its safe to assume we have all had similar moments at one time or another, and although we cant change what has happened in our pasts, we can change how we view them and learn from them for the future. Do-Over God is a God of second chances which is very good news for us. Our new life in Christ allows us to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, and start over.
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Read 2 Corinthians 5:1417. What have we died to? _____________________________________________________ Write verse 17 on the following lines. You may recognize it as our scripture focus for this week. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What have we become if we belong to Christ? __________________________________

These verses describe a believers position in Christ. Christians are brand new people on the inside. The Holy Spirit gives us new life and we are no longer the same. We have been born again! Although we cannot go back in time, we are given a chance to start over with a new life in Christ. The Message Bible says, Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know by now that becoming a new person in Christ does not mean you automatically become perfect and your old fleshly ways instantly disappear. We have been given a new nature, but we still battle with our selfish thoughts and attitudes. This flesh nature is still alive in the believer but can be crucified through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are being transformed into the image of the Son, which we will talk about in depth in a later week. Youll recall from week one that the part of our transformation that is instantaneous is in how God sees us. God only sees a new creation as He looks at us, not the old creature. New Life Read the following passages and describe what they teach us about new life in Christ: 1 Corinthians 5:22. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Ezekiel 36:2527. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
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1 Peter 1:23. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

God has given us new life. He has given us new birth and sees us as new creations. We have a second chance at a wonderful life. A spiritual do-over! Reflections What are some things you wish you could change about your past? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe what new life in Christ means to you. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Take some time to thank God that He is a God of second chances (and third, and fourth, and fifth). Praise Him for the fact that He views you as a new person in Christ. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW As we learned yesterday, we have been given the marvelous opportunity for a second chance at a new life here on earth. God takes our old life and gives us a new one through Christ. This new life does not mean we can change the past, but it does mean we can change the direction of our
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lives. God sees us as new creations therefore our lives must be transformed as well. The rest of this week will be spent looking at all the various aspects of our new lives in Christ. Lifestyle Everyone operates in a certain lifestyle. My husband and I have friends that live a much different lifestyle than our own. While we are consumed with our children, they live a life of culture. While we change diapers, they attend the theatre. We eat fast food while they sample fine cuisine. We go camping and they travel the world. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches to life, they are just different. If we compare our lifestyle before we met Christ to the lifestyle we enjoy now, we should see a marked difference. The old life has gone; a new life has begun! In many ways, the way we lived before Christ cannot continue. Many people, upon coming to Christ, realize their present lifestyle does not match up to the standards of Gods Word. These lifestyle issues can include gossiping, chasing after money, erupting in anger, participating in addictive activities and many other negative patterns. As we get to know God, He gently reveals areas of our lives that need to come into alignment with His Word. How has your faith changed the direction of your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God told the Israelites He would go before them and completely destroy the people who occupied the Promised Land (Exodus 23:2324). This seems a little harsh and yet, in His wisdom, He knew that if the Israelites were allowed to intermingle with them, over time their holy lifestyle would become corrupt. In the same way, our lifestyles need to be directed by the Word of God to avoid being corrupted by the world. The new lifestyle we adopt is not merely one of appearances. It is possible to act religious, yet not be transformed on the inside. We can go to church and use Christian words and phrases, but eventually our actions will expose our hypocritical lifestyle. Scripture says we can claim to know God, but deny Him by the way we live (Titus 1:16), which is why we need to completely trade in our old lifestyles for new ones. Perspective Your outlook on life has a major impact on how it will turn out. To the unbeliever, this life is all there is, so they live as if there are no eternal consequences. If we believed this life was all there was, we would probably do the same. But Colossians 3:2 instructs us to think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. Our new life in Christ grants us an eternal perspective. Our world expands and we see the events of our lives from a heavenly viewpoint. When Jesus told his disciples about the suffering that lay
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ahead for Him, Peter actually reprimanded Him (Matthew 16:2223). But Jesus rebuked Peter saying he was seeing things merely from a human perspective and not from Gods. Our new found perspective enables us to take our eyes off our problems and focus on God. Instead of only seeing the mountain, we centre our attention on the One who can move the mountain. Even if our mountains do not move, we believe God can use them for our ultimate good. We know the things of this world are temporal, so we are able to work towards those things that will last forever. Attitude This is a weakness in my character that causes me to gravitate towards negativity. In the past my motto has been to expect the worst, thinking I would avoid disappointment. I have learned this is not the attitude God wants me to have. God is not negative, therefore I should not be either. Negative people have a draining affect on those around them. Negative attitudes also keep us from the good things that God has for us. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years because of their negative attitude, complaining and grumbling about almost everything (Numbers 11). God would not allow them to enter the Promised Land until they received an attitude adjustment. In our old lives we may have had a negative attitude, taking the form of selfishness, jealousy, bitterness, criticalness or discontentment. But in our new lives, God expects our attitude to match that of His Son (Philippians 2:5). We are to have a positive, loving, giving attitude. Our attitude is something we need to keep a close eye on, especially when we dont like our circumstances. In unpleasant situations a bad attitude can easily creep in, and when we have a bad attitude, our life is definitely not a witness. Our attitude either draws other people to us, or repels them. The good news is attitude is a choice. We can consciously choose to have a positive attitude and succeed with the help of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:23 says to let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Positive living expects good things. David said, I am confident I will see the Lords goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). I have spoken this verse aloud daily when tempted to fall into negativity. Let our attitudes be the same as Christ Jesus. Priorities Our priorities before we met Christ were probably much like those of the people of Israel described in Haggai 1:311. Describe the situation in this passage. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The people of Israel were working hard and yet it seemed as if the harder they worked, the less they had. Their crops failed, their livestock died and their clothes were wearing thin. In general,
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they were working themselves to the point of exhaustion, yet not achieving much. God withheld His blessing because their priorities were wrong. Specifically, the people were busy building their own homes while Gods temple lay in ruins. When we view our old lives from this side of our salvation experience, we recognize our tireless efforts to advance ourselves without a thought about the things of God. During Jesus ministry, He taught people to seek the Kingdom of God above all else (Matthew 6:33). God is to be our first priority and then everything else will fall into place. We can say God has priority in our lives and yet if our allocation of time, resources and energy reveals otherwise, we may only be fooling ourselves. The way we spend our time is a good indicator of our priorities. Examine your priorities. What activities do you dedicate most of your time to? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Reflections What do people see when they observe your life? Is it a reflection of Christ in you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How has your perspective changed since becoming a believer? How do you now view the world around you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What kinds of negative attitudes have you struggled with? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Where is God on your list of priorities compared to your job, family, hobbies and home? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 4

TRADING IN THE OLD FOR THE NEW

We have been examining various aspects of our lives in the context of 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, The old life has gone; a new life has begun! God has transformed us into new people, and we are looking at how this new life practically plays out. Yesterday we talked about four areas of our lives in which we are trading in the old to receive the new. Today we will add four more. Goals Everyone has goals for their lives, whether they are articulated or not. Some people are very driven in nature and commit to annual goals by writing them down, while others goals are vaguer. I tend to be of the driven variety. In January, I prayerfully set specific goals for the upcoming year. It is my firm belief that if you are not working towards something, you will ultimately achieve nothing. In our old lives, our goals may have been to make more money in order to buy bigger and better things; a bigger house, a newer car, fancier vacations. However, our new goals should involve the advancement of the Kingdom, instead of the advancement of me. The things we want to accomplish in this life should align with Gods goals and purposes for us. We are created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16), so we should not be consumed with selfish pursuits. Paul talks about his goal in Philippians 13:1214. What one thing was Paul striving for? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ In the same way, our most basic goal should be to know Christ and live for Him. If we can look back at the end of a year and say that we know Him better and love Him more than we did twelve months ago, we have made progress. When we set goals we must be careful to involve God in them. I laughed when I looked back at my own goals for last year. I had actually listed have a baby. A great goal, but it was totally out
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of my control. God graciously allowed us the fulfillment of that dream, and as I write my precious baby girl is playing on the floor beside me. Read James 4:1316. Why is it important to involve God in goal-setting? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Scripture says, We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). When God is at the centre of our planning, our goals will reflect His desire for our lives. Motives Our motives are what cause us to act. They are the driving force behind the decisions we make. God looks beyond our outward actions to the motives behind them. In our old lives our motives were often selfish. We did things for our own advancement; however, in our new lives, our primary motivation should be bringing glory to God. Proverbs 21:2 says, People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. Unfortunately we can act in obedience with the wrong motives. For example, we can busily serve in the church with the impure motivation of trying to impress others, or we can give a gift to someone secretly hoping for something in return. God does not reward good things done with wrong motives. In fact, He calls it sin. Periodically asking ourselves why we are doing what we are doing helps us eliminate wrong motives. Are you motivated by jealousy, fear, greed or pleasing other people? Or are you motivated by love, concern and compassion? Our motives are what matters most. Opportunities Our present and future circumstances are often a result of our past. If we feel stuck in our current situations it could very well be a result of the choices we have made. Not all opportunities are from God, and when we dont use the wisdom the Holy Spirit gives to discern which opportunities are Gods will for our lives, we can choose paths that are not Gods best for us. In our new life, we have new opportunities. God opens doors in areas that otherwise would not be available to us if we were not in Christ. As we surrender more and more He gives us greater responsibility. There are opportunities to receive His blessing, opportunities for advancement, opportunities to use our gifts to serve Him with passion, and a chance to live the most exciting life possible. We must be ready to take full advantage of every opportunity God gives us. Passions Passion is an intense feeling, desire or devotion to something or someone. God has placed a spark of His passion in every human being, but it is possible to be passionate about the wrong things. People can have an all-consuming love of money, material possessions, a hobby or a person that is unhealthy. Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts above all else because it
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determines the direction of our lives. Our hearts are the source of our passions and desires, but because passion can be misplaced, it is important to protect our hearts. In our old lives, wrong desires were self-centered, sinful and destructive in nature. As we embrace this new life, our passions shift. We become impassioned for the things of God. We have a strong desire to see a lost world reached for Christ. His heart becomes our heart. God also gives us a spiritual passion for more of Himself. The more we get to know Him the more we want to spend time with Him. God created us to be passionate people and He wants us to use our passions to His glory. God is the only one who can give us new life. He is the only one who gives us a second chance to become a new person in Him. The old has gone, the new has come! Reflections How do you involve God in your goal-setting? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What is your motivation for following God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What new opportunities do you have because of your relationship with God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

How have your passions changed? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What do you feel most passionate about? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE God sees us as new creations in Christ, and He has given us new life. He has taken everything old and given us everything new. How should we respond to this marvelous truth? The answer lies in the following scripture passages. Read Ephesians 4:2124. What does this passage instruct us to do with our former way of life? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ How are we to put on our new nature? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Read Colossians 3:515. What sinful, earthly things are we to put to death? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ How are we to put on our new nature (verse 10)? ________________________________________________________________________ What kind of clothes are believers supposed to wear (verses 1215)? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
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Off and On These passages talk about putting off and putting on, similar to the way we take off and put on our clothes. It is not sufficient to put off old behavior, but we must also put on new behavior. If we dont do the latter we will find ourselves wearing our old comfortable clothes again. In Luke 11:2426 Jesus talks about an evil spirit returning to the person it was cast from, illustrating our human tendency to return to our old habits. If old behavior is not replaced by new behavior, we will quickly find ourselves going back to the familiar. Our appropriate response to this new life in Christ is leaving the past behind and embracing the future. Practically, this means we must no longer let our pasts imprison us through feelings of regret or shame. Instead, we must grasp the new life that Christ has for us. We must look to the future with expectant hope, as we celebrate our new life in Him. Lets think specifically about what this means in relation to the eight areas we have discussed over the last two days. To do so, space has been provided for you to reflect on what you are putting off and what you are putting on. In each area I have given an example from my own life. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you about the old life you are leaving behind and the new life you are embracing. Throw off the old Spending all of my money on myself. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ All I have is a result of my own hard work and accomplishments. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Attitudes Negative, complaining attitude. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Put on the new Giving money to those in need. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ All I have is a gift from God. Even my abilities have been given to me by Him. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Looking for what God is teaching me in every situation. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________

Lifestyle

Perspective

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Priorities

Working towards personal advancement in my career. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________

Pursuing Gods purpose for my life even at the expense of my own comfort and position. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Knowing and loving God better tomorrow than I do today.. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Seeking Gods approval above all else. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Accepting an opportunity to work in ministry which allows me time to care for my family. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Studying Scripture, which has. become my passion. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________

Goals

Working hard to save money to buy a bigger house. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Doing things to impress other people. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Accepting an opportunity for advancement in my job, even though I knew it would have a negative affect on my family. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ Spending too much time on my hobbies. ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________

Motives

Opportunities

Passions

Different Parents sometimes warn their children not to embarrass them when they go out in public. I wonder how often God is embarrassed by the way His children behave? If God sees us as new people at conversion, there must be some evidence of our re-birth. Can you see a difference in

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your life now compared to the way you lived before Christ? Perhaps a more important question is, Can others see a difference in you? One of the most distressing times in my life occurred when someone very close to me spoke the truth in love about my behavior. This person commented on the large amount of time I spend studying the Word and yet they couldnt see the difference it was making in my life. As I thought about this (after getting over my initial, defensive reaction), I realized it was true. I had not been allowing Gods Word or the Holy Spirit to change me. I became very aware of how my behavior reflects Scripture. I try not only to read the Word, but to do what it says. I have to admit I dont always (or even almost always) succeed. We must remember that application of Gods truth is what causes transformation. God highlighted a passage from Psalm 119 that I pray constantly for my life. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands (Psalm 119:56). I desire, from the bottom of my soul, that what I know would be apparent in how I behave. I want to live it! Too often a gap exists between what we know and how we live. We are accountable to live what we know. We should not be so anxious to study the next truth before putting into practice the one we have just learned. May our walks on this earth follow that of our Lord Jesus (1 John 2:6). Then we will not be ashamed when we compare our lives with His Word. Reflections What is the difference between the way you lived your life before Christ and the way you live your life now? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What are you going to do with your new life in Christ? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ After Paul tells the people in the Corinthian church that they are new people in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), he goes on to say, We beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of Gods kindness and then ignore it (2 Corinthians 6:1). Are you guilty of this? Have you accepted Gods grace and then gone on ignoring it, living life as youve always done? Be willing to trade in your old way of life to receive the new one God so freely offers. How does God see you? As a new creation! The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Lets celebrate!

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Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Lord God, a chance at a new life is more than we deserve, but we humbly accept it. God, help us to let go of our old lifestyles and habits. Sometimes they are so engrained in us that they are difficult to remove, yet You are able. Help us to embrace the new life You have prepared for us. Thank You that You no longer see the old person; instead You see a new person in Christ. Enable us to be all that You have called us to be. Thank You for this fresh start.

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WEEK 4 FROM BORN WRONG TO MADE RIGHT


Day 1

UNDESERVED KINDNESS Have you ever received undeserved kindness? I have. There have been many times my husband has shown kindness to me, even though I have been less than kind to him. For example, when I complain about having to stay home day after day running after the kids and cleaning the house, he responds by taking over the evenings responsibilities and allowing me time to myself. The reality is, he works hard all day too and deserves a break just as much as I do. My selfish, complaining attitude is not godly Scripture Focus: behavior, certainly undeserving of kindness. Being on the receiving end of Yet God, with undeserved kindness is a humbling experience. undeserved kindness, declares When has another person has been kind to you even though you didnt that we are deserve it? What was your reaction? righteous. He did ___________________________________________________________ this through Christ ___________________________________________________________ Jesus when he freed ___________________________________________________________ us from the penalty ___________________________________________________________ for our sins. Romans 3:24 Whether or not you can recall an instance of receiving undeserved kindness, let me assure you that you have. You see, we all have. The act of justification is a demonstration of undeserved kindness. Made Right This week we are focusing on another aspect of how God sees us. He sees us as justified. Justification is Gods act of declaring us not guilty for our sins and making us right with Him. The act of justification is instantaneous, occurring at the time of our conversion. Because of Christ, we are in right standing before God. Today we will get an overall understanding of justification and then we will break it down into pieces over the next few days. Romans 3:2426 describes justification and will be our Scripture focus this week. Fill in the blanks: Yet God, with ____________________ _______________________, declares that we are __________________. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our _________. For God presented Jesus as the ____________________ for sin. People are made _______________ with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his bloodand he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they ___________________ in Jesus.

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According to the passage above, justification involves: Undeserved kindness Jesus sacrifice on the cross Forgiveness of sins God declaring us righteous Undeserved kindness will be our focus for today. None of us are worthy to receive what God has done for us. No one has earned or could ever earn salvation. It is by His grace and mercy alone that He has declared us not guilty. All Have Sinned Scripture says in Romans 3:23 that Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of Gods glorious standard. There is not one person alive today, or who has lived previously, who has not broken one of Gods commandments one time, in thought, word or deed. Job 25:4 says something similar. How can a mortal be innocent before God? Can anyone born of a woman be pure? Some of you may be thinking, I live a pretty good life. I go to church. I help people when they are in need. I dont steal. Ive certainly never murdered anyone. But our standards of morality are not the same as Gods. Gods standards are moral perfection. Scripture says that if we sin in our hearts, we are guilty of breaking the whole law. Jesus taught that, Anyone who even looks at another woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27). Similarly, if you hate someone you are guilty of murder (1 John 3:15). Can you make it through a day without having a wrong thought? How about an hour? I know that I cant. Sin separates us from God. Do you know this to be true in your own life? We could prove scripturally that sin separates us from God, but you have probably already discovered this through your own personal experience. I would like to share one of mine. I did something many people have probably done in their lives. It was a little sin. My rationalization was that everybody does it and no one would notice. It was during a period in my life when I was spending large amounts of time with God in personal study. A few days after I had committed the crime, I began to notice my quiet time with God wasnt as intimate. It seemed as if God had moved just beyond my reach. It was then that the Holy Spirit brought to my memory what I had done. I quickly dismissed it, telling myself, Its not a big deal, everyone does it. I chose to ignore the Holy Spirits prompting. For two additional weeks this continued, my quiet time growing more and more dismal all the while. Finally, I cried out to God. Why are you so distant? Why are you ignoring me? And the answer came so clearly. My Child, you have broken My commandment and I cannot tolerate that. I have asked you to repent and you have not. Your sin is blocking your access to Me. I have not moved away from you, rather you have moved away from Me. That very minute, I got out of my chair, literally drove across town and righted my wrong. It was such a silly little sin by human standards, and yet was utterly detestable by God. The peace that followed my repentance was amazing. My quiet times returned to being special, intimate times with the Lord.

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Isaiah 59:2 says, Its your sins that have cut you off from God. Sin separates us from God, not only before we were saved, but after as well. Before we were saved, sin was separating us eternally from God, and after salvation sin causes separation in the form of broken fellowship. Adam and Eve were the first to experience this when they ate the forbidden fruit. Their disobedience caused them to hide from God and they experienced the pain of broken fellowship. Imagine the incredible heartbreak they must have felt! Before eating the fruit they had literally walked and talked with the God of the universe, but when they sinned that intimacy ended. Thats how it happens with us as well. Sin creates a barrier between the believer and God that can only be removed through repentance. The cost of sin is always high and we will always suffer the consequences. Galatians 6:7 says, You will always harvest what you plant. We miss out on the blessing He has for us, but more importantly, we miss out on the fullness of relationship with Him. Because God promises to forgive our sin when we repent, we can mistakenly dismiss the step of repentance as unimportant. Hell just forgive us anyway, right? But God knows our motives. He knows if we are coming to Him for forgiveness with the full intention of committing the sin again. Its time for us to get real about our sin. It is no laughing matter to God. Every sin, whether big or small, is serious business. According to Hosea 8:1114, how does God respond to sin? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Sin is so opposite to Gods holy nature that He cannot and will not tolerate it. Habakkuk 1:13 says that God is pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. It is impossible for Him not to judge sin. We cannot mock the justice of God (Galatians 6:7). We may unconsciously categorize sin by how bad we think it is, but all sin is equal in Gods view. It is all evil and punishable. The more we sin, the more we become accustomed to it and the less wrong it seems. It becomes much easier to keep sinning and it reproduces in other areas of our lives. Every time we sin our hearts harden a little more and we become more and more indifferent to the things of God. It then becomes more difficult to discern between right and wrong. The line of absolute truth becomes blurred, and the voice of the Spirit becomes harder to hear. Be careful what you sow, you may reap a hardened heart. A condition exists in my household that has become so common we have coined a phrase for it. TOB stands for transfer of blame. My husband and I are both guilty of this on occasion. You may recognize this condition. It is the tendency to avoid accepting full responsibility for our actions and instead, blame others. When one of us is caught in this act, all the other one has to say is TOB and reluctantly we admit our guilt. Why are humans like this? Why do we try to blame someone else or make our wrong-doing appear less wrong? Why the compulsion to justify our sin? This tendency to transfer blame is not a new one, in fact, it is as old as time, beginning way back in the Garden of Eden. You know the story. Adam and Eve ate the
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forbidden fruit and when God confronted Adam, he blamed Eve. So God turned to Eve and she blamed the snake. They all point a finger at someone else. But God passes judgment on all three of them (Genesis 3). Sin is sin in Gods eyes, and God sees through our actions to the heart attitude behind them. We must own up to our actions, admitting our mistakes. Daily we need to examine ourselves and deal with our wrong thoughts and attitudes accordingly. All Are Unworthy Because all have sinned, all are unworthy. We do not deserve to be given right standing with God. Comparing our fallen human natures against the incredible holiness of God makes us realize just how sinful we are. Isaiah came to this conclusion when he saw God high and lifted up (Isaiah 6). Jacob prayed to God saying, I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me (Genesis 32:10). The Roman officer, when asking for healing for his young servant, recognized that he was not worthy of having Jesus come into his home (Matthew 8:8). Similarly, if we have come to a place of recognizing the depth of our sin and utter helplessness to do anything about it, we will come to the same conclusion: we are all unworthy. It is by His grace alone. Read Romans 5:111. We have been made right in Gods sight by ___________________. He has brought us into this place of ____________________ __________________. We have entered a place of undeserved privilege. Not only has God declared us not guilty, He has drawn us close to Himself. As we learned last week, instead of being enemies, we are now His children. When did Christ die for us (verse 8)? _________________________________________ God didnt wait to send His son until we were good enough. He did it while we were still sinners. This proves Gods unfailing love for us as undeserving people.

Reflections Have you ever experienced times of broken fellowship with God due to your sin? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How serious are you about your sin? Does your sin grieve you like it grieves the heart of God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Express your gratitude to God for the fact that He made you right with Himself at the moment you were saved, even though you are undeserving.

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Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 2

THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE God sees us as made right through His Son. Today we will continue studying our justified status through Christ. I expect you have been humbled, as I was, by yesterdays discussion of how completely unworthy we are to receive what Christ has done for us. Thats where we are going to begin today. What has Christ done for us? What does His death on the cross really mean to the believer? We all know the typical Sunday School answer to that question, but we will not be satisfied to stop there. How does Jesus sacrifice affect our lives every day? I want to understand the magnitude of His sacrifice in my innermost being. I trust you want the same. In the Old Testament, people sacrificed animals in obedience to God to cover their sins. It was the primary act of worship at that time and needed to be done repeatedly. But the Lamb of God paid the price once and for all. Scripture says, But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time (Hebrews 10:12). Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse peoples bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences for sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 9:1314). What Was Jesus Sacrifice? Imagine a person who is wealthy beyond belief, lives in a huge mansion and has every luxury this world has to offer. Imagine that person offering to trade lives with you, to come and live in your humble abode, assume your entire life and in turn, freely give you access to all that they have. No strings attached. Almost impossible to believe, isnt it? And yet, Jesus did exactly that when He came to earth.

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Read Philippians 2:68. According to these verses, list all of the sacrifices Jesus made in coming to earth and dying on a cross. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Lets expand our thinking about Jesus sacrifice. Often we tend to think only of His death on the cross when we think of His sacrifice, but it was so much more than that. In addition to the ones you found in the Scripture passage above, list other ways of how and what Jesus sacrificed when He came to earth. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ He gave up His divine privileges and emptied Himself. He was God and He gave up His position in heaven seated next to the Father to become a lowly human. He gave up the constant worship He received in heaven to be despised and rejected on earth. He left safety and comfort behind and traded it all in for earthly trials. He became imprisoned in time and a body; the helpless form of an infant born in the worst place possible, a barn. He was born out of wedlock in a culture that didnt easily forget that sort of thing. He limited Himself to being in one place at one time instead of maintaining His omnipresence. Consider how many times Jesus could have called on a host of angels to come to His rescue in the midst of many situations, but instead He chose to endure for our sake. He held His tongue when unbelieving people said things that were totally against His character and completely untrue. He was tempted in every way. He experienced human emotions while grieving over the death of his dear friend Lazarus. He endured shame and humiliation, facing torture and ridicule. He died a criminals death by crucifixion, which was reserved for the worst criminals. The most perfect man that ever lived died the most shameful death possible. Perhaps the most difficult of all was that He experienced separation from His Father during His time on the cross. Clearly it was the ultimate sacrifice. Why did it have to be this way? Why didnt Jesus come to earth as a king, living in luxury with servants attending Him? He could have. The reason lies in His unconditional love for each person. He had to come as the lowest of the low so that all people, great or small, could identify with Him. He was born in a manger so that even the lowly shepherds could come and worship Him. And because He lived in the same way as common people live, you and I can rest in the assurance that He understands. He understands our weaknesses, struggles and temptations. He understands how hard life can be at times, and He is able to empathize because He has been there. What Does His Sacrifice Mean for Me? Jesus death on the cross satisfied Gods anger against us. His sacrifice reconciled us to God. We were Gods enemies in our sin and Jesus made a way for us to become Gods children. It brought God and people back together again. Colossians 1:20 says, And through him God reconciled
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everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christs blood on the cross. God took the first step and initiated reconciliation. While we were yet sinners He sent His Son to save us. Thats the way God works. He initiates a love relationship with us and we simply respond to Him. Read the following Scriptures and describe the insight they give you about Jesus sacrifice. Romans 4:25 ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ 2 Corinthians 5:21 ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Isaiah 53:59 ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Because of the sacrifice Jesus made, we dont have to struggle to do things in order to secure our salvation. We dont have to try to measure up to Gods perfect law. Its impossible to do so, but if Jesus had not died, we would have no choice but to endlessly attempt the impossible. We would wake up every day with a new determination to be good and to try to earn Gods favor, then would go to bed every night discouraged because we had missed the mark again. It would be a never-ending battle. We would also be forever trying to atone for our sins. I am so grateful I dont face that overwhelming pressure day after day. Instead I can rest in the sacrifice already made for me. I have to share something at this point I am ashamed to admit, but I do so for the purpose of perhaps touching someone else. For many years I have understood intellectually the concept of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. I have known that it allowed me to be saved and I was grateful. However a part of me thought, (deep down where terrible thoughts reside) Was it really that much of a sacrifice? Id lay down my life for someone I loved, especially if I knew Id be raised from the dead and be seated next to God Himself! I have since changed my thinking and the catalyst for that change came through a study I did a few years ago. The author wrote, I might lay down my life for someone I care for, but I can assure you, I dont love anyone enough to lay down my childs life. Thats it! Jesus death on the cross was not His sacrifice alone; it was also God the Fathers sacrifice. Imagine watching your only child, a child that you love more than words can express, suffer great pain and die a horrible death. Put yourself in Gods place. He chose to do that. He was responsible for Jesus death. It was His idea. And then He had to sit in heaven and watch it all happen! Imagine the temptation to simply wave His hand and stop it. Stop hurting my Son! I could never sit back in silence and watch my son die, especially if I had the power to do something about it, yet thats what God did. Why? Because He loves us,
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sinful creatures though we are; so much that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son. I get it now. God I thank you, for sending Your Son to die in my place. I am so unworthy. Reflections What does the cross mean to you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How does Jesus sacrifice affect your daily life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ If you are like I was and dont really understand at a heart level the magnitude of what Jesus did, spend some time in prayer and ask God to show you the depth of His sacrifice. He will transform your intellectual understanding into a heart revelation. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3

FORGIVEN AND FORGOTTEN Can you imagine if God kept a record of your sins? If He wrote down every wrong thought, word or deed of your entire lifetime? How long would your list be? There probably wouldnt be enough paper on earth to contain mine! Thankfully He doesnt do this. Love does not keep a record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 3:5). Gods unlimited forgiveness proves His abundant grace and love for us. When God looks at us He sees after; people who are completely forgiven. God is not counting our sins against us.

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When you think about Gods forgiveness, what comes to mind? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Forgiveness, defined as the act of pardoning a person in spite of their shortcomings or mistakes, is part of Gods character. It is who He is. He extends immediate and complete forgiveness to all who come to Him in repentance. To us, some sins seem greater than others. Murder would probably rank near the top on our list and telling a little white lie may appear somewhere near the bottom. This thinking is false because each sin, no matter how big or small by our standards, requires the maximum penalty: shed blood. Because of this faulty human perception, we think some sins are more difficult or even impossible to forgive. Some people seem so corrupt that we doubt God could ever forgive them, but Gods mercy extends even to the most wicked human being. This is proven through the Biblical account of Manasseh. Have you heard of him? Read 2 Chronicles 33:120. List all of the evil things Manasseh did in the Lords sight. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What happened to him that lead to his repentance? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What was the result of his repentance? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

The description of Manassehs evil deeds sickens us (especially the part about sacrificing his own children), and we wonder how God could ever forgive him. However, through Manassehs heartfelt repentance God was able to not only forgive him, but also to restore him. Manasseh spent a lifetime involved in detestable evil practices, and he came to one moment of humble repentance and God forgave him. What incredible mercy! 2 Chronicles 30:9 says, For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you. This is an amazing promise. No matter where we have been or what we have done, if we turn to God in repentance, He will always respond with compassion. There is no sin too great for God to forgive. If God can forgive Manasseh, He can forgive you. There are no limits to His forgiveness.

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Psalm 103:12 says, He has removed our sins as far from us as the ________________ is from the _______________. East and west can never meet. Thats how far our sins have been separated from us. Colossians 2:14 says, He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. There was a record of charges against you. He took that long list and nailed it to the cross and said, It is done. Jesus Ministry of Forgiveness Jesus demonstrated His willingness to forgive during His ministry on this earth. Read the following passages and describe the situations that involved Jesus forgiveness and record any insights you receive. Matthew 9:28 Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Luke 7:44 50 A Sinful Woman Anoints Jesus Feet ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Luke 23:34 Jesus Forgives the Criminals on the Cross ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ John 8:311 Jesus Forgives an Adulterous Woman _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________

Confession and Repentance There are two conditions that are necessary for forgiveness. One has already been accomplished by God (Jesus sacrifice on the cross) and the second is our responsibility. We are responsible for confessing our wrong and repenting. Confession is agreeing with God that we have done wrong and repentance is changing our behavior and doing right. Confessing our sins and coming to God in repentance must come before receiving forgiveness. List the conditions required for forgiveness described in 2 Chronicles 7:14. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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In order to receive forgiveness we must come to God with humility and admit our sins. Jesus said in Matthew 9:13, For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners. He has come for those who are humble. We must trust in His willingness to forgive and accept His forgiveness, and then turn away from that sinful behavior. True repentance is more than just talk, it is changed behavior. God knows our hearts, therefore He knows if we are only seeking temporary forgiveness and plan to commit the sin again. We must be willing to make a change in our lives. Forgiveness is limited, not by the amount of our sin, but by our willingness to repent. Accepting Forgiveness Some people feel so guilty about sins that they confess them over and over. Have you ever done this? You come to the throne and beg forgiveness for something you have done but because of your continued guilt you come again and again asking the same thing. When we ask for forgiveness, we need to receive that forgiveness. Receiving forgiveness means acknowledging and believing God has in fact forgiven us. It involves believing we have been forgiven even if we dont feel different. Hebrews 10:18 says, And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Start believing that you are forgiven! When Satan tries to convince you that your old sins are too horrible and you havent really been forgiven, you need to speak out against him and claim Gods power to forgive. Once Jesus forgives the sins we confess, we never need to bring it up again. It is finished! Pure God revealed this truth to me in a very special way years ago. I have struggled for a long time with the sexual sins of my past. They have followed me into my marriage like a dark cloud over my head. I had asked for forgiveness many times, but found myself repeatedly on my knees before the throne asking again for forgiveness of the same sins. I could not accept that I had been forgiven, and I certainly wasnt free. One particular morning I had spent most of my quiet time in worship. I was studying a passage from Isaiah 61 and it was verse 10 that caught my attention. I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels. God gave me an image that was so clear I can still close my eyes and picture it to this day. It was of myself standing before Him, dressed in the most beautiful wedding gown you have ever seen, with a sparkling crown on my head and jewels around my neck, radiantly smiling. This is how God sees me! The word pure came to mind. God doesnt see me in the context of my past sexual sin, He sees me as pure, dressed as a bride before Him. With tears streaming down my cheeks I thanked Him for the precious image He gave me. To this day, whenever Satan tries to tell me that Im still in bondage to those sins, I close my eyes and bring to mind the picture God gave me, and Im able to stand firm. Selective Memory Has someone ever asked for your forgiveness? Perhaps they have done or said something to hurt you, then have recognized their mistake and have come to you to apologize and ask your
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forgiveness. Being the generous person you are, you have accepted the apology and have forgiven them. But, do you forget? We often have a habit of storing that memory in the back of our minds. It sits there and festers as a grudge against that person, lying dormant until the hurt occurs again and stirs up those old feelings of resentment. My husband would say I have a very good memory when it comes to his past failures! We may say we forgive another person, but do we ever really forget? God does. Scripture says, I yes, I alone will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again (Isaiah 43:25). God not only forgives, He chooses to forget! His memory is not faulty; instead He chooses not to remember our errors. From His perspective it is as though we have never sinned. We are also not very forgetful about our own sins, perhaps for good cause. I remember with great regret, the sins of my youth, yet to be honest, I am somewhat grateful for those memories. They serve as a reminder of where Ive been and the distance God has brought me. They make me never want to go back there again and be imprisoned by those sins. Is that true for you? Are the sins of your past a constant reminder for you? I am not suggesting we remain there. We should not become stuck in our pasts; however, I believe there is a positive purpose to some of the memories God allows us to keep. Reflections True repentance is described in 2 Corinthians 7:810. In this passage Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church about a letter he had written to them. I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. Theres no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Check your level of repentance against the description in these verses. Are you sorry only for the effects of your sin and the fact that you got caught? Or does your sorrow for your sins cause you to repent and change your ways? Describe your level of repentance. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How confident are you of your forgiveness? _____ I dont think God could ever forgive me. _____ I have accepted Gods forgiveness for most of my sins, but there is one thing I did many years ago _____ I am not sure I understand Gods forgiveness. _____ I have asked for forgiveness many times for my past, but I dont feel forgiven.
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_____ I humbly accept Gods forgiveness each time I sin. _____ other _____________________________________________________________ King David exemplifies true repentance. You may be familiar with Davids sins. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, killed her husband and then tried to hide his wrongs. David eventually repented and Psalm 32 was written as an expression of Davids gratitude for the forgiveness he received. Read Psalm 32:15. Have you had a similar experience as David? Can you recall a time when your sin caused your body to waste away? Have you experienced freedom in confession and the joy of forgiveness? Describe your experience. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 4

DECLARED RIGHTEOUS

Let me begin today by reminding you of the before image. Before we met Christ we were a slave to our own sinful natures, an enemy of God and destined to spend an eternity apart from Him. The fact that we were Gods enemy, hopelessly addicted to sin, has significance for our study today, in that when we became His child, Gods view of us changed. We went from being His enemy to being His friend. We went from being sinful in His sight to being righteous in His sight, and its not because of anything we did or didnt do; its His gift to us (Romans 5:17). God only sees righteousness in the after image.
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God is Righteous Justice, fairness, and uprightness are components of Gods righteousness. He can do no wrong. Everything He does and ever will do is right and just. Gods character is the definition and source of righteousness and is described in the following passages of Scripture: He is the Rock; his deeds are __________________________. Everything he does is _______________ and ____________________. He is a ______________________ God who does no ________________; how just and _____________________ he is! (Deuteronomy 32:4) The Lord is righteous in ___________________ he does (Psalm 145:17). Everything he does reveals his ______________ and __________________. His righteousness never fails (Psalm 111:5). But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone; that they truly _____________ me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates ________________________ ____________and who brings ________________ and ________________________ to the earth, and that I _________________in these things (Jeremiah 9:24).

Declared Righteous On day one we read a passage from Romans that really is the emphasis of our entire weeks lesson. Lets review it again. Read Romans 3:2326. Why did God choose to declare us righteous (verse 26)? ____________________________________________________________ God provided a way for us to become righteous, because He wanted to display His own righteousness. This act of justification reveals to us the nature of God. Although He is a God clouded in mystery, He chooses to make parts of His character known so we can emulate them, and through us He can reveal Himself to a lost world. Isaiah prophesied about this act of justification in the coming Messiah. Isaiah 53:11 says, And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all of their sins. God sees us as righteous because of our identification by faith with His Son. When God justifies, He charges the sin of the person to Christ and credits the righteousness of Christ to the believer (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we believe Him we are declared righteous. Read Romans 8:30. What has God done for us? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How does God see you? When He looks down from heaven, does He see all of your past sins, the baggage you are carrying around, your imperfections? No, He doesnt. He sees you as righteous, clothed in white. He sees you in the same way He sees His own Son! Isnt that
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incredible? Allow the magnitude of that truth to sink in. No matter what you have done or where you have been, God sees you as righteous. Thats not often how we view ourselves. We frequently focus on the negative, our own imperfections, our insecurities, and our past sins. How I pray that we would begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Let the face of Christ be our mirror. Righteousness Can Not be Earned Just as we cannot earn our salvation, we also cannot earn our righteous status. Isaiah 64:6 says, We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Our righteous actions apart from faith in God mean nothing to Him. They are like dirty laundry. Read Romans 4:322 People are counted as righteous not because of their ________________, but because of their _________________ in God (verse 5). Righteousness is not based on _______________________ to Gods law, but on a ____________ _____________________________ with God that comes by ________________ (verse 13). Because of our _______________, God counts us as ___________________ (verses 2224).

Read Galatians 2:16 We cannot be made right with God by _________________ the law. Instead its because of our _____________ in Christ. The Divine Exchange When we trust in Christ we make an exchange. He takes our sin and gives us right standing with God. We give Him our mess, He gives us His righteousness. We give Him our ashes, He gives us His beauty. In human terms, when people make a trade it is usually for things of similar value. Consider the trade God made with us. He traded something of infinite value for something of no value. The exchange is definitely in our favor. The key is, we have to be willing to surrender our mess. It is possible to be a child of God and yet cling to those ashes of our former life. In order to receive His righteousness we have to give up something. Describe what you think this means. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Reflections How do you see yourself? Do you view yourself through the context of your sins, or do you see yourself in right standing with God? Can you accept and believe the way in which God sees you? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God deserves our worship for not only forgiving our sins, but also for viewing us as righteous through His Son. What incredible love and mercy. Spend some time now praising God for this. Express your gratitude on the lines below. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE How do we respond to the fact that God sees us as righteous through His Son? There is an appropriate response to each of the four areas we have studied this week. The chart below shows our responses to justification: Aspect of Justification 1) Undeserved kindness 2) Jesus sacrifice
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Our Response Humility Our sacrifice

3) Forgiveness 4) Declared righteous

Forgiveness of others Pursue right living.

1) HIS UNDESERVED KINDNESS PRODUCES OUR HUMILITY Justification is entirely an act of kindness bestowed on us, as undeserving and unworthy people, by a gracious and loving God. We know we dont deserve right standing with God. Our righteous acts are nothing but filthy rags before Him. We are all sinners saved by grace and nothing we could ever do would earn our righteousness, it is entirely a gift. Humility is the only response to Gods mercy. Understanding Humility Many people have an inaccurate perception of humility. They think humility involves putting themselves down. This is not what true humility is. Humility means having a proper respect for God and an accurate perspective of ourselves. Paul instructs us in Romans 12:3 to Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given you. An honest self-evaluation is knowing that our self-worth comes from who we are in Christ. Truly humble people focus only on God and as a result realize their sinfulness, understand their limitations, and recognize their abilities and strengths as gifts from God and are willing to use them as God directs. Humility is a recognition that all we are and all that we have comes from God. In fact, He gives us our very breath. Gods Promises for the Humble at Heart Read the following passages and list the benefits of having a humble attitude. Psalm 138:6 ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Matthew 5:5 ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Luke 14:11 ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ James 4:6 ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

2) HIS ULTIMATE SACRIFICE DEMANDS THAT WE LIVE SACRIFICIALLY What are you willing to give up for God? Your home, job, family, money, security, comfort, your very life? If God asked you to sacrifice any one of these things for Him, could you do it? Jesus sacrifice had many purposes, one of which was to serve as an example for us. He
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sacrificed His life for us, therefore we must do the same for Him. That is our proper response to the ultimate sacrifice. Our Sacrifice to God What are we asked to sacrifice? Jesus said in Luke 9:23, If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your _________________ _____________, take up your cross daily and follow me. We must give up our own selfish ambitions for our lives and be willing to lay aside all of our plans, wants and desires. This is certainly easier said than done. What does it mean to live sacrificially? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What desires do you have for your life that you find difficult to surrender to God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Denying ourselves does not mean losing our identity, instead it means losing our selfcenteredness. Our lives are not our own. We were bought at a price. The price Jesus paid was His death on the cross, now we belong to Him and we must live to serve His purposes. Paul said in Philippians 1:21, To me living means living for Christ. Can you say the same as Paul? Do your actions confirm it? Or are you living partly for Christ and partly for yourself? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Read Romans 12:1. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a _______________ and holy sacrifice the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. God wants a living sacrifice. However, living sacrifices have the tendency to crawl off of the altar. At times in my life I have willingly sacrificed for God and at other times I found myself walking independently away from Him. You may recognize the same habits in yourself. That is why following Christ requires daily surrender. When you think about what He has done for you, is this too much to ask? Sacrificing for Others Not only are we to sacrifice our lives for God, we are to sacrifice our lives for others. Just as Jesus was willing to lay down His life for us, we need to be willing to lay down our lives for each other (John 15:13). We do this practically by putting others needs before our own. We need to eliminate our self-centeredness and become givers of our time, effort, money and other

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resources. When we begin to care more for the well-being of those around us, than our own comfort, we know we are embarking on the sacrificial life. The High Life Sacrificing your life to God does not mean you are destined to spend the rest of your days in drudgery, its quite the opposite. Mark 8:35 says, If you try to hang on to your life you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. A life lived in obedience to God is the most exciting and fulfilling life you will ever have. God promises many blessings to those who follow Him. When you walk in obedience, you will live the best life God has planned for you. 3) HIS FORGIVESNESS MEANS WE SHOULD TOO Scripture provides us many images of Gods unlimited forgiveness. He throws our sins into the depths of the ocean, never again to be uncovered. He removes then as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). And several times Scripture states He chooses to remember our sins no more (Hebrews 10:17). Forgiving Others Gods Word is very clear about what our response should be to Christs forgiveness. Read it for yourself in Colossians 3:13. What are we to do? The Lord ______________________ you, so you must _______________________ others. It doesnt get much clearer than that! Jesus illustrated this point by telling a parable in Matthew 18:2335. What response should the kings act of mercy have produced in the man who had been forgiven? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ When we realize how completely we have been forgiven, we should be willing to forgive others. When one of Jesus disciples asked Him how many times he was required to forgive (Matthew 18:2122), Jesus response was that he shouldnt keep track of the number of times he forgave, and choose unlimited forgiveness. Similarly, we should always forgive those who are truly repentant no matter how many times they ask. Although repentance is required for God to forgive us, we are instructed to forgive others even if they havent asked for our forgiveness. This is more for our own benefit than theirs because it frees us from the burden of unforgiveness. Forgiving others is not easy, especially if the wrong a person has committed against you has had devastating effects on your life. Many have been hurt badly by someone close to them, whether it was through betrayal, abuse or some other form of wrong. These hurts have left lasting scars, and forgiveness does not come easily. But we must remember the act of forgiveness does not mean we condone the action or excuse the behavior. Instead, forgiving others means giving God the responsibility for justice. It means saying, Its ok with me if You decide not to punish this person in their lifetimeI know Your justice will prevailBy doing this, we become free from the

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bondage unforgiveness creates. In these extreme cases, forgiveness benefits the forgiver more than the offender. I have experience with this personally. When I was a teen, a shameful family secret was revealed. Someone whom I greatly respected was exposed as an abuser. I spent many years under the burden of unforgiveness towards that person. I had difficulty imagining that God could forgive him, so why should I? When this man passed away, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking it was over. But sadly the weight of unforgiveness continued to weigh heavily on me. It was not until I agreed to let God handle justice in the situation that I was able to forgive. I realized forgiveness didnt condone his actions, instead by obeying God in this area, it freed me. Are you dragging around unforgiveness towards someone? Is it negatively affecting your life? If so, ask God to enable you to forgive that person. He sees the hurt and pain youve experienced and He cares. Acknowledge that He will look after justice in your situation. Be willing to break the chains of unforgiveness and live in the freedom promised you. 4) HIS DECLARATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS MOTIVATES OUR RIGHT LIVING God has declared us righteous in His sight. He sees us as pure and blameless before Him. What is our response to this? We must continue to pursue right living (2 Timothy 2:22). God calls us to live up to His holy standard because He wants us to act in ways that honor Him. Micah 6:8 says, The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you; to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Isaiah 42:6 says, I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. Its a privilege to be able to demonstrate this aspect of Gods character to a watching world. But we must seek his righteousness (Matthew 6:33) before we can display it. Like many other virtues we are called to demonstrate, we need to first seek God and allow His righteousness to flow through us. We become His channels. Doing the Right Thing God is not content when we only do what is right some of the time; He wants us to do what is right all of the time. How do we learn right from wrong? Gods Word is the plumb line we must live by. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. Knowing what is right is not the same as doing what is right. We can know what is right, but still decide not to do it. This is sin of omission. James 4:17 says, Remember it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. Being blameless in Gods sight does not mean we will never sin, it means sin does not have control over us and we do not deliberately plan to sin. Sin, when it occurs, is reactive, not proactive. Benefits of Doing the Right Thing God gives many promises in His Word for those who do the right thing. Read the following passages and describe the benefits for those who pursue right living.
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Deuteronomy 6:18 Do what is right and good in the Lords sight, so all will go well with you. ______________________________________________________________________ Psalm 84:11 The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. ______________________________________________________________________ Psalm 106:3 There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right. ______________________________________________________________________ Isaiah 26:7 But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and tough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them. ______________________________________________________________________ 1 Peter 3:12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right and His ears are open to their prayer. ______________________________________________________________________

Pursue right living; this is what God wants from you. He has declared you righteous, now keep it that way! This means daily ensuring your relationship with God is right. If you have sinned, confess it. Keep yourself pure and blameless in His sight. God no longer sees the before version of us; guilty people endlessly dragging the weight of our sins behind us. Through Christ, He sees only righteousness. I trust you will respond in gratitude and praise to God for this wonderful truth. Reflections In what ways can you develop more humility in your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How willing are you to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Him? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How have you put others needs before your own? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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Describe your ability to forgive others. Are you slow or quick to forgive? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Has there been a time in your life when you have known the right thing to do, but have chosen not to do it? What were the results? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What are some reasons you avoid doing the right thing? Check all that apply. _____ Im concerned about what others may think of me _____ It requires too much effort _____ It costs too much (in time or money) _____ I bow to the pressure from others to do the opposite _____ Doing the wrong thing, or nothing at all, is simply easier _____ Other ___________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God, we are so unworthy of Your grace. We have fallen short of Your standards so many times and yet You have chosen to view us as pure and blameless before You. We cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of this gift. Thank You for providing the way through Your Son. We praise You now and for all eternity for the sacrifice You have made for us.

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WEEK 5 FROM SINNER TO SET APART


Day 1

HIGH AND LIFTED UP

God is holy. We all know thisbut can you describe it? What is it about God that makes Him holy? __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ Scripture Focus: So all of us who __________________________________________________________ have had that veil removed can see Perhaps you have a good start on our topic with your above description. and reflect the glory Begin with an open mind, allowing the Holy Spirit to expand your of the Lord. And definition of Gods holiness. Lets do our best, by the end of todays the Lord who is lesson, to come to a deep understanding of the incredible holiness of our the Spirit makes God. us more and more like him as we are Our translated word holy in Hebrew is qodesh and the Greek is changed into his hagios. Both of these words mean to be set apart. When we say God glorious image. is holy, we mean that He is separate, He is not like us at all, He is completely different. He is not just more loving, He is completely loving. 2 Corinthians 3:18 He is not just more righteous, He is completely righteous. God is infinitely more forgiving, pure, sovereign, powerful, awesome, and merciful than we could ever imagine. We need to fully comprehend the separateness of God in order to view Him correctly. Often times we may think of beings in the context of a ladder, with the smallest, least complicated living thing at the bottom, like an amoeba. Then as we move up the ladder we see more sophisticated creatures such as insects, then reptiles, animals and finally humans near the top. If we continue, we would guess angels come next and then, of course, God at the very top. We were correct until we reached the top. God is so holy that He cannot even be measured on the same scale. He exists in an entirely different dimension; He dwells in eternity. Unlike everything else, He is not a created being. He is so separate from us that any attempt at comparison is foolish. Pulling God Down We have a tendency to narrow our view of God. We bring Him down by underestimating His sovereignty and His ability to affect our situations. Our problems seem bigger than our God and we doubt His power to change our lives. We put Him in a box and allow Him out only on Sundays. In essence, we shrink Him down to fit our limited understanding. We are guilty of this when we dont bother to pray about situations or people we assume will never change. Unknowingly we conclude the situation is far too difficult, or the person is much too corrupt, for
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God to affect. In failing to believe in His holiness, power and ability, we miss its release in our lives. When God remains where He should be, highly exalted above all the earth, everything and everyone is put into their rightful places. In what ways have you attempted to bring God down? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Isaiah 40:22 illustrates what we have been talking about. Fill in the blanks. God sits __________ the _____________ of the earth. The _____________ below seem like ___________________ to him. Isaiahs Calling Lets journey to a familiar place in Scripture where we can catch a glimpse of Gods holiness. The prophet Isaiah saw God, maybe in a vision or a dream, we are not told. It happened in the year that King Uzziah died, an unsettling and difficult time for the nation of Judah. Read Isaiah 6:18. In this passage, Isaiah was transported to the very throne room of God. And there he saw God, sitting on a lofty throne. What are the seraphim (angels) calling out to each other? _________________________ Out of all of the things the angels could be saying, they have chosen (or are directed) to call holy, holy, holy. They could be emphasizing many other attributes of God; mercy, mercy, mercy or loving, loving, loving or gracious, gracious, gracious. But instead they are recognizing Gods holiness above all of His other characteristics. What was Isaiahs reaction to the holiness of God? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

When we consider the Gods holiness, our reaction should be the same as Isaiahs. We come face to face with our own sinfulness and realize we have no hope of measuring up to the holiness of God. After Isaiahs realization, he was cleansed and his sins were forgiven (with the burning coal). What was Isaiahs response? He submitted himself entirely to Gods service. Another Throne Room We see the same description of God in Johns vision recorded in Revelation. Read Revelation 4:111 and imagine the scene John describes in this passage. What is your reaction as you envision the throne room of God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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Again we see the threefold holy, holy, holy proclaimed aloud in the presence of God. Day after day and night after night for all eternity past and all eternity to come, the angels constantly chant holy, holy, holy. This is not done to satisfy some sort of inflated ego God has; it is because there is simply no other response one can have when in His presence. His very nature demands our worship. Yet Another Vision Ezekiel was a prophet during one of Israels darkest times. He was called by God to speak to the Jewish exiles to help them understand why they had been taken captive and then to encourage them to repent. Read about the vision God gave Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:128. What was his reaction to the holiness of God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Have you ever thought about how you will react when you see God face to face? Will you dance with joy and sing praises to Him? Or will you stand utterly speechless in awe of His majesty? Will you weep uncontrollably falling to your knees? Whatever the reaction, we can be sure that coming face to face with Gods indescribable holiness will more than overwhelm us. God is totally beyond our comprehension. Reflections How does your view of yourself change when you compare it to Gods holiness? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How does God hold a place high and lifted up in your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I pray that you will continue to experience an elevated view of God. Do not be tempted to shrink Him down to fit your own understanding. His thoughts are much higher than our thoughts. His ways are much greater than our ways (Isaiah 55:89). And He is holy, holy, holy. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 2

BE HOLY BECAUSE I AM HOLY

I trust you are still marveling at the holiness of our God described in yesterdays teaching. It is a concept I have tried again and again to wrap my mind around, and yet Im delighted there is an element of mystery surrounding Gods holiness. He wouldnt be God if there wasnt, right? Today we are going to explore Gods expectation of us that flows out of His holiness. This is what God says, You must be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy (Leviticus 19:2, 1 Peter 1:16). God expects us to be holy, to be set apart from the rest of the world. When compared with Gods character of holiness, this seems impossible; however, if we are Gods representatives, it makes sense that He wants us to accurately reflect His character. The beauty of this aspect of our makeover is when we come to Christ, He immediately sees us as holy through His son. We are His holy people, but becoming holy is also a process of conforming to the image of Jesus. This process is called sanctification. Sanctification can be described as change, transformation, growing spiritually, character development, fruit enhancement, crucifying the flesh or walking in the Spirit. It means becoming more Christlike as we learn to walk with Him. All aspects of our lives and character should be in the process of becoming conformed to Gods standards, both inside and out. We are to be separated from sin and become dedicated to Gods righteousness. Sanctification results in holiness, which means we are to be committed to God in everything we do, separate from sin and the worlds influence, set apart to do His will. Some synonyms used in Scripture for holy are pure or blameless. Psalm 19:13 describes what it means to be blameless. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Dont let them control me. Then I will be free from guilt and innocent of great sin. A blameless person is not someone who has never sinned. To be blameless means that sin does not have control. Keeping ourselves pure means being morally straight. In a previous week we said because we have received Christ, we are already blameless and pure in His sight. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes (Ephesians 1:4). We stand before Him without spot or blemish. God views us as holy through Christ, but we must continue to learn and grow during our time here on earth. We have a responsibility to continue to pursue holy living.
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That is the difference between justification (which we talked about last week) and sanctification. As we have already learned, justification occurs at conversion, when God declares us righteous in His sight. Sanctification is both positional and progressive. We are sanctified at our conversion in how God sees us, and we also become sanctified throughout our Christian lives. Set Apart When I was a child, my sisters and I had two different sets of clothes. We had everyday clothes and then we had church clothes. The church clothes were reserved for special occasions only. They were set apart for special use. This is Gods expectation of His people in this world: That we would be set apart for Him to use in a special way. You have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2). Not only does God wants us to be like Him, but He even gives us the ability to become transformed into His image. 1 Peter 1:132:3 issues a call to holy living. Read this passage. What behaviors are we to model? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What things are Gods holy people to avoid? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Sanctification happens from the inside out. It is not merely behavioral change, it is a change in attitude and motives. You may be surprised to know that what goes on in you is more important to God than what goes on around you. This is not to say that God doesnt care about your circumstances, because He does, but your inner life is what God is most interested in. You Have Two Lives Cats have nine lives, humans have two. The first is what is going on around us. In this life we interact with our family and friends, we get married, we have children, we go to work, we take care of our home, and we establish a routine that makes up our life. That is the outer life. Then there is the inner life, what is going on inside of us. Thats the real version. Thats the part of each of us that thinks, reflects, reasons, senses conviction, makes decisions, communicates with God and is being transformed into His image. This is the part of us that we should be the most concerned about, God certainly is. The amazing truth is when the inner being is surrendered to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, the outer person will reflect His image as well. Change Some people like change, even thrive on it, while others are terrified of change. Where do you fit in?
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What is your general response to change? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Like it or not, the transforming work of the Holy Spirit is all about change, and change is not always easy; it is often slow and painful. Sanctification happens from glory to glory which means that God does something in our lives, then there is nothing for a while, then God does something again. There is waiting in between, and it is during this time that we often grow weary. Be aware that the work of transformation is probably going to take longer than you think. Be patient with your spiritual growth. When we express a desire to grow spiritually, we must be prepared that it often means facing things about ourselves we would rather not acknowledge. It is a process of God showing us areas that need to change, admitting our wrongs, and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to change our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Without the work of God in us, lasting change is not possible. Isnt it funny how we often want to be changed without doing the changing? We pray this grand prayer, Lord, change me and we expect Him to wave some sort of magic wand that requires no effort on our part. In His wisdom He knows if He did, we would probably end up right back where we started because we didnt have to work for the change. One main cause of stagnation is a refusal to change. Routine is safe and comfortable, yet it can be a very dangerous thing. When we settle into a routine spiritually, we are less likely to embrace change and therefore less likely to grow. If we have a vision to make an impact for God, we have to do the work of cooperating with Him in our transformation. Whether we like the process or not, this kind of change is in our own best interest. God Is Not Finished With Us Yet! The bumper sticker reads Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet! How true! Read Hebrews 10:14. We have not yet been made perfect, but we are in the process of being made holy. What is the difference between perfection and holiness? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We should not be surprised, shocked or saddened at the fact that we still need to grow. We will not be perfect until we reach heaven. I remember a time in my life when I frequently became so frustrated with the pace of my spiritual growth. I expected to read the Word, make a commitment to behavioral change in a particular area, and then never struggle with that area again.
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Unfortunately, thats not the way it works. It takes time to overcome some of the destructive habits they themselves have had perhaps years to form. The process of learning and applying Scripture and growing in our spiritual walk is just that, a process. We need to be patient and diligent. Im so grateful that God isnt finished with me yet, that He hasnt given up on me. I know I would have given up on myself long ago, but God is always willing to continue the work of transformation in a heart that desires to grow. Radically Different Radically changed. Radically different. That is what Christians are supposed to be, yet often we arent. We settle for mediocre transformation. We keep one foot in the world while the other is in the Kingdom. Let me ask you a question. Did you seriously count the cost before you gave your life to Christ? Did you realize He was asking for a radical commitment? I have to admit that, at the time, I dont think I understood the magnitude of my decision. He was asking for a changed heart, mind and soul. He was asking me to die to self. He was asking me to give up the right to control my life. I didnt understand all of this as I do now. God wants to invade all aspects of our lives and transform us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We hear stories of people whose coming to Christ had a major impact on their lives that resulted in major changes. Some quit their secular jobs to become employed in ministry. Others downgrade their lifestyle, selling all excess to give more money to the poor. Some even uproot their families to pursue Gods work in another part of the world. Perhaps the most radical change of all is in those who refuse to live selfishly any longer and live to serve others. Sounds radical, and yet, is that not what God is calling us to? Transformed lives. Radically changed. Radically different. Reflections What is your reaction to Gods expectation of you to become holy? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How receptive are you to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How are you in pursuit of holiness? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3

HOLY FRUIT We are called to be holy. An overwhelming task to say the least. We will get to the how tomorrow, but first, we want to discuss what holiness looks like in practical terms. As we are being transformed into the image of Christ, we should start noticing certain behaviors emerge, behaviors that were modeled perfectly by our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the face of true holiness. Scripture says we will know a tree by its fruit. Logic dictates that apples come from apple trees, cherries come from cherry trees and grapes grow on grapevines. Good fruit does not grow on bad trees and bad fruit does not grow on good trees. Just as we can identify a tree by its fruit, the world will know us by our fruit, in other words, by our behavior (Matthew 7:20). Make no mistake, the world is watching! Unbelievers need to see the visible difference God makes in our lives. The proof of Gods transforming power is in how we act. A life lived entirely for God is the most powerful testimony.

Use the definitions provided to list the nine fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5:2223. L_______________ J_______________ Expressed in action towards others. A constant contentment and happiness that rises above circumstances. An inner calm, a quietness of mind and soul even in the midst of conflict. Enduring frustrating situations without losing your temper.
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P_______________

P_______________

K_______________

Showing mercy and compassion to all people, even to those who dont deserve it. Praiseworthiness and moral excellence. Loyal, dependant, steadfast. Humble, meek. Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right.

G_______________ F_______________ G_______________ S_______________

God deposited fruit in us in seed form at the time of our salvation. These seeds are the essence of everything God wants us to be. So be encouraged! You already have a measure of the fruit of the spirit in you; however, the Holy Spirit wants to produce more in your life. A holy person operates completely in the fruit of the spirit. We are going to study each of these fruits and discuss how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in developing more. Love God wants to produce love in us. This is the first fruit listed in Galatians and perhaps the one of greatest importance. Before we talk about what love is, lets talk about what it is not. Love is not a feeling or an emotion. Love does not change based on circumstances. Our world accepts and even condones the idea that people can fall in and out of love easily (hence the sky-rocketing divorce rate). This Hollywood-red-roses-and-chocolate version of love is not at all Gods definition of love. Gods definition of love appears in 1 Corinthians 13:47. Read this passage and describe real love. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ This is the kind of love God wants to produce in us. Love is not a feeling; love is a choice and an action. 1 John 3:18 says, Dear children, lets not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Genuine love requires concentration and effort. It demands our time, money, personal involvement and energy. Read Romans 12:910. We are not to _____________ to love others, we are to _________________ love them. Real love is sacrificial. We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16). We are called to love all people just as God loves us. So now I am giving you a new commandment. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other (John 13:34). This kind of love is a rarity in our world.

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We access Gods love in order to love other people, therefore we are able to love those who are unlovable. You can probably think of those people in your life who are a joy to love, those who are difficult to love and those who are seemingly impossible to love. And God calls us to love them all. He even commands us to love our enemies! But remember, love is not a feeling, it is a choice. We dont have to feel love (the mushy kind) for our enemies, instead we have to consciously choose to show them love. As we start with a step of obedience, the feelings of love will follow. Our job is to faithfully love the people God has put in our paths. According to 1 John 4:12 and John 13:35, why is loving others so important? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ This is how the world sees God! They are drawn to God through His love flowing through you. People dont often come to Christ through an intellectual plea or reasoning. Instead they begin to ask questions because they see something in you; something that sets you apart. That something is the love of God. Would you ask God to give you an even greater measure of His love? I pray that your love would overflow more and more (Philippians 1:9). Joy God wants to produce joy in us. This is the second fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians. What comes to mind when you think of joy? Do you think of happiness, big smiles, laughter, contentment, excitement or cheerfulness? These are common synonyms for joy, but all descriptions that are very incomplete by Gods standards. The kind of joy the Holy Spirit desires to produce in us is the kind that is holy and pure. It is not an artificial emotion that is conjured up at will, while smiling through clenched teeth. Notice the difference between happiness and joy: Happiness Joy depends on circumstances rises above circumstances is unpredictable is steady covers discouragement defeats discouragement is temporary is lasting Many people in our world today are seeking happiness. They look for it in relationships, material possessions and money. While happiness is fleeting, lasting only while circumstances are good, joy is constant. Joy is possible even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Read James 1:24 and describe how we can have joy in the midst of trials. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ According to Psalm 16:11and Psalm 43:34 what is the source of our joy? ______________________________________________________________________________
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The kind of joy that comes from living in the presence of God, knowing who we are in Christ, and looking forward to what awaits us in the life to come, is the kind of joy that will not fade. Peace God wants to produce peace in us. Peace is the inner calm found in a person who believes God. It is a hope, a trust, a quietness of the mind and soul. Worldly peace is usually defined by an absence of conflict, whereas Gods peace is a confident assurance in any situation. True peace comes from knowing God is in control. In our fast-paced world, peace is a difficult thing to attain. People are so busy rushing here and there in a frenzy of activity, that peace is almost impossible. Its in the midst of this chaos we lose the ability to hear Gods voice and sense His peace. What did Jesus leave with us when He left this earth (John 14:27)? _______________________ The peace of God has already been given to us in seed form. Our job is to nurture it. A main obstacle to peace is prayerlessness. When we do not bring things to God in prayer we miss the peace He is so ready and willing to give us. Often we do everything but pray. We choose to do things that seem more productive, like talking to a friend, reading Scripture or trying to manipulate the situation ourselves. Prayer is a last resort. Have you ever heard a person say, Ive tried everything! I guess all I can do now is pray. How backwards! Prayer should be our first line of defense. Read Philippians 4:67 and fill in the blanks. Dont __________________ about anything; instead _______________ about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience Gods _________________, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your ________________ and _______________ as you live in Christ Jesus. God instructs us to pray about everything, then He promises to give us His peace in return. Simple. We pray and rest in Him, He gives peace. Do you need to turn your worries into prayers? Patience God wants to produce patience in us. Patience means to be long-suffering and long-spirited. It means to endure situations without losing our temper. Patience is not an ability to wait, it is our attitude and actions while we wait. God instructs us to be patient with everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14) and in all situations. This includes being patient with the slow clerk at the grocery store, with your two-year-old as he insists on helping you with the dishes, and with the line of slow-moving traffic in front of you. A servant of the Lord must be patient with difficult people (2 Timothy 2:24). We can choose to behave patiently even if we dont feel patient on the inside.

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Gods timing is always best. God has an appointed time for everything to happen, including the breakthroughs in our lives, and He is usually not in a hurry. Remember the Lords patience gives people time to be saved (2 Peter 3:16). We can prove we trust God by being patient while we wait. Sometimes God makes us wait because He is testing us. If you think about it, we actually spend more time in our lives waiting for things than we do receiving. We may as well just sit back, relax and enjoy the journey. Being impatient is not going to change anything Have you noticed your expressed impatience with the clerk never makes her speed up? Be patient enough to accept that breakthroughs will come in Gods timing. As you pray for increased patience in your character, be aware God may place you in situations that require you to practice it. That is the only way to develop patience in your life. You may be in for long lines, traffic jams and slow-moving people! Kindness God wants to produce kindness in us. Kindness shows mercy and compassion and gives blessings to people who dont deserve it. Its not hard to be kind to someone who has shown kindness to you. The difficulty comes when we are asked to be kind to those who are ungrateful. Matthew 5:47 says, If you are only kind to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the pagans do that. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone (2 Timothy 3:24). All people are made in the image of God and should be treated accordingly. We are to be Christs representatives and He is kind to all people (Luke 6:35). In fact, none of us deserve Gods kindness, but He gives it to us anyway. Our fast-paced society hinders kindness. Often we dont slow down long enough to recognize the people God has placed in our paths to whom He wants us to show His kindness. Many times our lack of kindness is because we are in too much of a hurry to even notice. Its also difficult to be kind to those who hurt or frustrate us. Satan tries to tell us not to bother; he convinces us our efforts will be wasted because we wont receive anything in return. Believing his lies prevents us from being kind to people. But God promises our reward will be great, maybe not in this life but definitely in the next. He promises to bless us when we act in obedience to Him. Clothe yourself with kindness (Colossians 3:12). Goodness God wants to produce goodness in us. Lets not be confused. Gods Word clearly states that no one can receive eternal life based on good deeds alone. Many people mistakenly believe that because they are good people they will get to heaven. Believers and unbelievers alike can be good people and do good things, but we know our goodness alone is not a ticket to heaven. Goodness, as one of the fruits of the spirit, is acting out of praiseworthy character and moral excellence. We are called to model Gods goodness as we live out our faith. Gods example of goodness is what we are to emulate. The Bible speaks often of the goodness of God. Psalm 38:4 says, Taste and see that the Lord is good. This is an invitation to experience
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God. When we walk with Him daily, we experience how good He is. Gods goodness consists of His kindness, mercy, grace, love and patience. We can be confident that we will see Gods goodness on earth (Psalm 27:13). He desires to lavish His goodness on us. Read Psalm 31:1920. He has stored up His goodness to give to those who _______________ Him before a watching world. I dont know about you, but Id like to be on the receiving end of this promise! Ephesians 2:10 says we were created to do the good works God had planned for us long ago. Titus 3:8 says we are to devote ourselves to doing good. Jesus Himself went around doing good while on this earth (Acts 10:38). Pray for opportunities to be good to people; actively look for them. You dont have to wait until you feel like doing good; do it anyway. Faithfulness God wants to produce faithfulness in us. Websters dictionary defines faithfulness as steadfast in affection or allegiance; firm in adherence to promises or in observance of a duty. Faithful people are those who are loyal, dependant, and steadfast. They see things through to the end. Faithful people do what they say they are going to do, they do not betray other people, and they remain true to their word. God has called us to be faithful to Him by obeying His instructions, but faithfulness goes beyond obedience to Gods written Word. We are called to be faithful to other people by following through with what we say we are going to do. We are called to be faithful with our time to our employers. We can demonstrate faithfulness to our spouses by monogamy in action as well as thought. Like displaying other fruit in our lives, we can choose to be faithful even when we dont feel like it. God remains faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him. Read 2 Timothy 2:1113. Why does God remain faithful? ________________________________________________________ Faithfulness is a part of His character, and He cannot go against His nature. He will never turn His back on us even though we may turn our backs on Him. This is almost unbelievable because it is totally opposite to human nature. We are tempted to be good only to those who are good to us. But Gods faithfulness is not dependant on our actions. He is faithful because thats who He is. God promotes only faithful men and women. If we are faithful with what Hes given us, He can entrust us with more (Luke 16:10). However, if we are unfaithful with what He has given, we cant expect added blessing from the hand of God. God expects us to faithfully steward all He has given, including our time, energy and resources. Gentleness God wants to produce gentleness in us. A gentle spirit is kind and compassionate, humble and meek. Being gentle and humble does not mean we allow people to mistreat us. Being meek actually takes strength of character. It is much easier to be arrogant and prideful than it is to be
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gentle and humble. Gentleness is not weakness; instead it is strength under control. Again God doesnt ask us to be something that He is not. Jesus calls Himself humble and gentle at heart in Matthew 11:29. Self-control God wants to produce self-control in us. Self-control means disciplining ourselves. It means doing things we dont want to do because we know they are right, and refraining from doing things we know we shouldnt do. Its not about how we feel; its about what we choose to do. Self-control can help us display all the other fruits of the spirit. For example, if we are impatient with someone, by using self-control we can refrain from speaking in frustration. Self-control can help us to be kind to someone even though they dont deserve it. Every time we discipline ourselves to do the right thing, the next time the fight against our flesh will be a little easier. Isnt it ironic that some people try to control those around them and manipulate situations, but they have very little control over themselves? Self-control is one of the qualities God asks us to add to our faith (2 Peter 1:6). 1 Peter 1:13 commands us to think clearly and exercise selfcontrol. What do you need to discipline yourself to do or not do? Some people need to discipline themselves to spend more time in the Word, to pray more often, to exercise, to work harder, to play with their children more, or to keep their house cleaner. Others need to control their tongues, their spending, their eating, or their anger. Whatever it is, the Holy Spirit can help you increase your self-control if you ask Him. Fruit Inspections You have a responsibility, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, to develop fruit in your life. God wants you to become a person who truly reflects His image. He wants you to be filled with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As His representative, He wants others to see Him through you. The world is not interested in our talk, they want proof. A life lived in the fullness of the fruit of the spirit will cause people to stop and take notice. I challenge you to become a fruit inspector. Spend some time honestly looking deep within yourself. This kind of introspection is so important because Scripture says, Every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19). When you look ahead to the goal, dont be discouraged. We are all on a journey, one that will not end until we meet Him face to face. And when you look behind, be encouraged at the distance you have come. God has indeed been faithful in transforming you and God who began the good work within you will continue his work until it is finally finished (Philippians 1:6).

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Reflections Which fruit(s) are you most actively displaying in your life? Give examples. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Which fruit(s) do you need to work on the most? List ways you can develop this fruit in your life. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 4

HOW ON EARTH? How on earth? Good question. I mean how, while we are living on earth, do we fulfill Gods command to become holy? The truth is, its a partnership. It takes two to grow spiritually, you as a willing servant totally surrendered to Him, and the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot become holy on our own. If we try, it is merely works of the flesh. Galatians 3:3 says, How foolish can you be? After starting your Christians lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? We cannot underestimate the Holy Spirits involvement in transforming us. In fact, sanctification is not possible without the Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us obey, overcome sin and to do the work of transforming us, but this doesnt absolve us of responsibility. Today we are going to attempt to draw a distinction between our part in our own transformation and Gods part. Only when we understand our responsibility and rely on God for the rest, is transformation into His image possible.

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Gods Part in Sanctification Ezekiel 36:2527 clearly describes Gods overall responsibility in transforming His people. Read this passage. What is offered to us? Who does it? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God promises to replace our stony, stubborn hearts with a tender, responsive heart. He promises to put a new spirit in us so we can follow Him. This is the essence of sanctification. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, And the Lord who is the Spirit makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. From these passages we clearly see that God is the one doing the transforming. Lets look specifically at how God accomplishes this. God gives us the desire to do His will Read Philippians 2:13 and fill in the blanks. For God is working in you, giving you the _________________ and the power to do what pleases him. Have you ever noticed that you dont always want to do the right thing? Our flesh wages a powerful war against our desire to follow God. God recognizes this and supplies us with the desire to do His will. God gives us the ability to do His will Philippians 2:13 also says that God supplies the power to do what pleases Him. Not only does He cause us to want to obey Him, He gives us the ability to do it as well. If we were left to our own strength, change would be impossible. God gives us the Holy Spirit to convict us The Holy Spirit is responsible for pointing out when and how we have strayed from Gods will. He convicts us when we make wrong choices. John 16:8 says, He will convict the world of its sin, and of Gods righteousness. He uses the Word of God and our consciences to speak words of warning to us when we are heading down the wrong path. The purpose of conviction is to lead us to repentance and allow us to grow spiritually. God is responsible for finishing the job Philippians 1:6 says, And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. We have mentioned already that the work of transformation is a slow process, being completed only when you meet Him face to face. While on this earth, we will never arrive, but God promises to finish the work He began in us. He molds us and shapes us throughout our lifetimes.

There have been improvements in my character that I can only attribute to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. I am certain of this because I know I could not have changed on my own. God is the one who does the changing. Transformation is His work.
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Our Part in Sanctification There are numerous commands in the Bible that imply believers have a responsibility in their own sanctification. We read a passage a few days ago from 1 Peter describing the kinds of behavior we are to avoid and those we should model. This is just one place in Scripture that instructs us to be holy. The Holy Spirit will do His job of prompting us, however, we must be responsive and obedient to His promptings. Ask God God never forces His will on a person, instead He gently invites. Nothing pleases God more than a person who desires to be more like Him. Ask the Lord to show you areas of your life that are contrary to His nature and to begin changing you in those areas. God honors and blesses the desire to change. Have a willing spirit A parents desire is to reach the heart of their children. When parents ask for obedience they prefer the child to respond with a willing and obedient heart, instead of reluctant compliance. Mere behavioral change is not the goal. Children can obey their parents through an attitude that clearly communicates their resistance. The same is true for us as children of God. We can respond in obedience to God only because we feel we have to, but God desires heart change. He wants us to have a willing spirit, to be pliable and submissive, to be receptive to the shaping and molding of our character. Respond in obedience It is good advice to focus on what God is trying to do in our lives today. God wants us to be involved in our transformation and to do this we need to respond to His promptings with obedient actions. Crucify the flesh The Bible uses the word flesh to describe our sin nature. It is the part of us that is selfish and wants its own way. The moment we became believers our old selves were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Paul said, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. We died to our old life. We are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6). We are to consider ourselves dead to the power of sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). So why is it that we continue to battle our flesh? In short, we still live on this earth, and Satan tries very hard to make us submit to our flesh. I remember the moment I realized how powerful my flesh really was, and how difficult it is to crucify it. The hours of that particular day seemed incredibly long as I tended to the needs of my young children. I was very much looking forward to the time my husband was due to arrive home from work, so I could have a break. Just when I expected him to walk through the door, he called to inform me that he had to stay late, which meant I had to do the supper, bath and bedtime routines with my kids all by myself. As he was telling me this I immediately became angry. Didnt he know I needed him at home? In those few
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seconds I had an argument with my flesh. I wanted so desperately to explode in anger. At the same time, the Holy Spirit reminded me that God does not promote those who exhibit fleshly behavior. And so the battle began. To yell and scream satisfying my flesh, or to respond with godly understanding? That was the decision before me. This incident happened during a time in my life when I was beginning to sense Gods call to write. I knew God would not open a future of writing His truths, which I desperately wanted, if I couldnt surrender control of my emotions to Him. Even though I was aware my future was at stake, I consciously decided to give in to my emotions. Thats just how powerful the flesh can be. Although I failed in the moment, I am happy to report that by the time my husband got home, I had repented and surrendered to the Holy Spirit and was behaving in a godly manner. That day I learned a valuable lesson about the powerful influence of my flesh. Christ must have dominion over every area of our lives for us to be completely transformed. Our flesh still rules in those areas that have yet to be surrendered to Him. Daily we must crucify our sinful desires. Galatians 5:4 says, Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Just as living things starve if they are not fed, so the flesh begins to die when we stop feeding it. As we learn to deny our flesh, it begins to starve and lose power in our lives. We must rely on the Holy Spirits power to overcome our fleshly tendencies. Romans 8:13 says, Through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature. Separate ourselves from the world Romans 12:2 says, Dont copy the behavior and customs of this world. The NIV says it this way; Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. The pull of this world is extremely powerful. Incredible pressure to conform to materialism, selfish desires, and worldly thinking often overrides our desire to be godly. But God instructs us to separate ourselves from all of this. He calls us to live holy and blameless lives before Him. Be dedicated to Gods righteousness Studying the Word of God is such a powerful way of allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us. Just before Jesus was crucified, He prayed for His disciples. This prayer extends to all believers, including you and me. Read John 17:1319. Make them holy by your _________________; teach them your ____________________ which is truth. Time spent in the Word is never wasted, and God promises His Word will not return void. It will produce a harvest of righteousness in the believer (Isaiah 55:11). Perhaps you had hoped for an easier way but my answer is the same as many who have gone before me. Spend time in His Word, studying and memorizing Scripture. Go after it with a

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spiritual hunger equal to your physical hunger and ask God for insight as to how to apply it in your life. I promise you, your life will change. Press on Read Philippians 3:1214. Paul _________ ________ to reach that perfection. He ___________ whats in the past and __________ _______________ to what lies ahead. We need to follow suit. Sanctification hurts. Its hard work, but the result is well worth the effort. We need to press on and never give up our pursuit of becoming like Christ.

As we have learned today, sanctification is a joint effort. As we submit in obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, He begins to change us from the inside out. We work in cooperation with God, and we begin to look more and more like His Son. Our faces will reflect His glory and the world takes notice. Reflections Have you ever tried to change solely by your own efforts? What was the result? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What does it mean to rely on Gods strength and not our own? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Which of your responsibilities in sanctification do you struggle with? _____ asking God to change me _____ demonstrating a willing spirit _____ responding in obedience _____ crucifying the flesh _____ separating myself from the world _____ dedicating myself to Gods righteousness What is one way you can improve in the above area? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you trust that God will transform you? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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As we have said, the Holy Spirit gives us the desire and the ability to do His will. Im so grateful He supplies the desire to follow Him in obedience. Then, on the days where my flesh would rather run in its own direction, I can ask God for the desire to do His will. God doesnt expect us to be holy and then stand back and watch us struggle to attain it, He supplies all we need to live holy lives (2 Peter 1:3). Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE You are responsible for your own spiritual growth. No one else can do it for you. Many Christians mistakenly believe they will grow spiritually solely by attending church on Sundays. We cannot expect our pastors to study Gods Word, spend time in His presence, come to us with a powerful message from God, and then not do any of the work ourselves. Although going to church is a good thing, and we are instructed to do so, it is not enough. A few hours on Sunday morning will not sustain us for the rest of the week. Scripture says to crave pure spiritual milk. Just like viewing photographs of the Grand Canyon is not quite the same as being there yourself, living your Christian life through other peoples experiences with God will never be satisfying. We cant have a second-hand relationship with God; we must develop the relationship ourselves. Baby Christians Sadly some do not move beyond their salvation experience, they are content to remain spiritually in the place God found them. They remain babies in their faith. Paul accused the church in Corinth of this. Read 1 Corinthians 3:13. Why were the people of Corinth spiritually immature? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Being complacent limits our growth in Christ. As well, our own selfish desires keep us at an infant stage in our spiritual development. But God wants us to grow up! He wants to be able to feed us solid food instead of milk. He wants to reveal greater truths to us and trust us with more responsibility in His Kingdom. And more importantly, He wants to reveal Himself to us in greater measure. To avoid remaining in infancy we need to actively pursue spiritual growth. Neither Hot nor cold Laodicea was a wealthy city in the Lycus Valley in Asia known for its banking industry, wool manufacturing, and a medical school that produced eye ointment. But despite its material wealth this city had a problem with its water supply. The water pumped into the city was neither hot, nor cold, but lukewarm. And lukewarm water is a nauseating drink. The church in Laodicea was also very wealthy. This church is one of the seven churches of Asia Minor that Jesus dictated a letter to in the book of Revelation. Read Revelation 3:1422. What did Jesus call the church of Laodicea (verse 16)? __________________________ What three things did Jesus advise them to do (verse 18)? ______________________________________________________________________ Jesus correction and discipline to this church was a sign of His _________________ for them.

The church of Laodicea was lukewarm, just like the citys water. The people within the church had grown complacent and indifferent. Gods desire was for them to be passionate towards Him. They considered themselves to be the body of Christ yet they were so complacent they offended God. Jesus advice for them was three-fold. He told them to buy gold from Him, which meant He wanted them to invest in real spiritual treasures, to invest in their faith instead of earthly wealth. Secondly, He instructed them to buy white garments from Him, which symbolized His righteousness, and finally He told them to buy ointment for their eyes from Him so they could see the truth. He was showing them the worthlessness of their material possessions and imploring them to invest in things of lasting value. Gods love for this church is shown by the fact that He cared enough about them to correct and discipline them. If He didnt care, He wouldnt have bothered. I love the way God used analogies that were familiar to the Laodiceans to teach them His truth. Some scholars believe this church presents an accurate picture of the age in which we live. I happen to agree. I believe this state of indifference describes many of our churches as well as many individual believers. We live in a society consumed with material wealth. We race around from activity to activity attempting to accomplish and accumulate more. We are laying up treasures on earth instead of treasures in heaven. We pursue luxury and happiness often at the cost of our spiritual well-being. We show more passion for sports, politics and television
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programs than we do for Christ. We give the best of ourselves to everything else, and then give the leftovers to God. Have you become indifferent to the things of God? Are you half-hearted and self-sufficient? Do you go to church on Sunday mornings and then forget God throughout the week? It is possible to be a Christian, assured of your eternal destination, yet not live victoriously. You can be saved yet not be positively impacting people around you. You can be a child of God and yet not walk seriously with Him. Satan doesnt need to worry about lukewarm Christians making a difference for God, because they dont. Motivation What prompts us to continue in our journey? What motivates us to seek God and to continually do the work necessary for our own transformation? Perhaps it is different for each person, but I am going to suggest there are a few general reasons people are motivated to pursue their own spiritual growth. Facing the reality of our sinfulness There is nothing like recognizing the depth of our sin to cause us to run towards holiness. When we see how dark our hearts can be, we are more likely to cry out for a heart like His. Im grateful God doesnt reveal our sinful condition to us all at once. We would be so overwhelmed by our own depravity. Instead God convicts us of our sin little by little and shows us how to follow Him. Desiring greater glimpses of God As we continue in our spiritual walk, we get to know our Father better, and once we have caught glimpses of Him, we want more. We want to see Him more visibly, hear Him more clearly and experience Him in greater measure. The more time we spend with Him the more willing we are to wait in His presence in hopes of catching another glimpse of Him. Longing for a deeper relationship with God We often compare ourselves to spiritual giants we know and then become discouraged because we wonder if we could never be like them. Is it possible for us to have the kind of vibrant, passionate relationship with God they have? God does not play favorites. What is available for one is available for all. God wants each person to know Him completely and to share the deepest most intimate relationship with Him. Desiring this kind of relationship with God motivates us to grow in our faith. Transformation means experiencing God, not just learning about Him. Thats the essence of relationship. Wanting to live the best life possible One of the biggest motivators for my own spiritual growth is I want to live the life God has planned for me. I know this is the only way I will be satisfied and fulfilled. I want to accomplish the purposes He has laid out for me. I want to become the person He
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designed me to be. I want to stand before Him some day with the confidence of knowing that I followed Him to the best of my ability. My Story For many years I lived with the knowledge that I was saved, but not much more than that. My actions did not reflect my relationship with God. There were a lot of things I knew. For example I knew God loved me and He sent His Son to die for me. I knew I could accept Him and be saved, but all of this knowledge had not traveled the twelve inches from my head to my heart. I battled constantly with my fleshly nature. It was a horrible cycle of falling into sin, realizing my mistake, repenting, exerting my willpower in that area, and unfortunately failing again. I did not rely on the Holy Spirit. I did not spend time in the Word or in prayer and my life reflected it. I was a worldly Christian, and Satan was quite pleased. It was only when I started to get serious about my faith that my life began to change. I took responsibility for my own spiritual growth. The method that worked for me is not the only way, but I will mention it, because it may prove to work for you as well. I was asked to be involved in a small group with some ladies from my local church. At first this seemed very overwhelming, for a number of reasons. The study we were about to embark on had homework; daily homework! I would be forced to read Scripture and answer questions. Another factor that contributed to my reluctance was that all of the other women in the group were older than me, women who had spent years in their walk with the Lord, women who were much further along in their spiritual journey than I was. I was terrified to reveal my lack of knowledge or experience. Despite my reluctance, something within me prompted me to agree to join the group. I have to say it was the most amazing experience and the spark I needed to begin pursing God. After those eight weeks of intense study I emerged a different person. I was so excited about the Word of God! I became hungry for more of Him. As I listened to those women share about their journeys, I knew I wanted that for my life. I wanted to run hard after God. Surprisingly, these women were still on their own journeys, they were not perfect and were honest with me about their struggles. They made me realize I didnt have to be perfect either. I was allowed to learn and grow, and in the process make a few mistakes. It doesnt matter where you are on your road to spiritual maturity; all that matters is that you are moving forward. Look Within The following tool will enable you to examine where you are spiritually. Take some time to prayerfully consider where you are on your own journey. Always I spend daily time with God (prayer, reading the Word, other spiritual disciplines). I increase my prayer and/or devotional times. .
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Reflections Reflect on your answers above. Where are you in your walk with the Lord? Are you continually moving forward, or at a standstill? Is there something blocking your path? If so, what is it? Journal your thoughts below. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spend time in prayer asking God to give you the motivation and desire you need to passionately pursue spiritual maturity through relationship with Him. He promises to increase your spiritual appetite and give you such a hunger for Him that nothing else will satisfy. We are becoming more and more like Him. We are being changed into His glorious image. Bit by bit our flesh is being chipped away until all that remains is the radiance of Christ. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Lord, thank You that You love us too much to leave us as we are. You gently convict us of areas in our lives and character that need changing. Help us to be responsive to Your Holy Spirit. Help us to follow in obedience and turn from our selfish ways. God, give us a passion for more of You. Give us an unquenchable hunger for Your Word. Your love is better than life. We want to follow hard after You and surrender ourselves completely to You. Father, we have the courage now to pray the most difficult prayer of allLord change us.

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WEEK 6 FROM INDEPENDENCE TO SURRENDER


Day 1

WHO IS IN CHARGE? All humans have a natural aversion to submitting to authority. Just watch any two-year-old who is outwardly demonstrating his or her independence. My sons favorite phrase when he turned two was No, Mom. Hed say it even when he meant yes. We are born with a natural tendency to be willful and want things our own way. Submission is not commonly viewed as a positive thing, but the reality is Scripture Focus: we all have authority figures in our lives. Whether it be a parent, a God has put all teacher, an employer, a pastor, or the government, we are all responsible things under the to people in authority in one way or another. authority of Christ and has made him As a believer, Scripture tells us we are under Christs authority. God has head over all things put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over for the benefit of the all things (Ephesians 1:22). And yes, all things includes you! Before church. our makeovers, we were independent, stubborn and rebellious. Matthew Ephesians 1:22 28:18 says, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Jesus speaking). God sees you as a person under His authority. When we accepted Christ as Lord of our lives, thats exactly what He intends to be, the Lord of every aspect of our lives. Read Colossians 1:1517. This passage clearly describes Christs authority, both now and before time began. What does this passage say about Christs supremacy? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We have an ever-increasing problem in todays society with submitting to authority. In generations past, children generally obeyed authority figures without question and if they didnt, there were severe consequences. Society has changed. Generally speaking, children today dont respect authority as they used to. Our culture advocates individuals rights, promotes tolerance and tells us we have the freedom to live as we choose. We are taught what is right for one person may not be right for another, and we are to respect each others lifestyles. The line between right and wrong is blurred. To some, absolute truth is non-existent. In a society like this how do we communicate submission to a sovereign God? How do we teach our children that disobedience has consequences, and they are to live as people under authority? Not only that, how do we ourselves live in submission to God when our human nature pushes us to go our own way?

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Many situations in life demand our submission including submission to a leader on a ministry team, to our spouse and to the authority of Scripture. Resisting these authorities and especially Gods authority has consequences. We will eventually be given over to our sin. The Potter and the Clay When you were a child, did you ever question your parents authority? If so, you probably heard responses like, Because I said so or Because Im your father. Perhaps God says the same things to His children. When we resist the will of God and ask why, He says, Because I am your Father and I know what is best for you. Throughout Scripture many divinely inspired writers have used the potter and clay analogy. You are probably familiar with it. Isaiah 64:8 says, We are the clay and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand. God sees us as people under His sovereign authority. Read Isaiah 45:912. What awaits those who argue with their Creator (verse 9)? ______________________________________________________________________________ God is the Creator, we are His created ones. Its foolish for us to ask why He made us the way He did, yet thats often what we do. We wish we were more this or less that (Im sure you could fill in the blanks for yourself!). As a teenager I wished I had been given different hair as mine is so thin and fine. I was certain my life would improve dramatically had I been given thick, luxuriant hair. Or maybe you can identify more with these: wishing God had given you the talents and abilities you see in someone else; wishing God had not allowed those traumatic circumstances to come into your life; wishing you had been given a different body. When we have these thoughts, or ones like them, we are foolishly saying we are wiser than the Creator. Have you ever wished God had formed you differently? If so, how? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The same description of the potter and the clay appears again in Romans 9:2021. Read this passage of Scripture. What does Paul mean when he says, Doesnt he [God] have the right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Paul is not saying that some of us are worth more than others; he is saying the Creator has complete authority over the created one. God alone determines our purpose. Some are called to be teachers, some evangelists, some policemen, some housewives, some pastors and some nursery workers. God has the right, as our Creator, to determine what we are made for. But this is not meant to be a life sentence. The beauty in this design is that we find ultimate satisfaction
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and joy in fulfilling our purpose. Nothing in this life will satisfy us as much as becoming what God intended us to be and doing what God purposed us to do. God fashioned each of us to fill a specific calling and graciously blesses us with complete joy and fulfillment when we walk in it. Our very existence depends on God. This realization removes any temptation of pride in personal achievements. I am ashamed at the number of times I have proudly considered my accomplishments, forgetting God was the one who gave me my abilities in the first place. What do I have that God hasnt given me? And if everything I have is from God, why boast about it as if it were not a gift (1 Corinthians 4:7)? Consider the sorrow God must feel as He looks down on the human race as we continually pat ourselves on the back for all of our good works. God must shake His head and think, But My child, it is I that blessed you with the ability to do that. It is intended only for My glory. When a person becomes prideful, God tends to send situations their way that will humble them and these are rarely pleasant experiences. Daniel 4:37 says, He is able to humble the proud. The least painful way is for us to humble ourselves, before God is forced to do it for us. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up in honor (James 4:10). Has God ever humbled you? What was the outcome? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Gods Authority God does not abuse His right to authority. His persuasion is often initially gentle. Consider the story of Elijah. God had proven Himself powerfully and miraculously to Elijah as he faced the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, but a short time later Elijah found himself fleeing for his life, and running ahead of God. God confronted him for his lack of faith. Read what happened next in 1 Kings 19:913. In what way did God appear? ______________________________________________________________________________ And that is how He appears in our lives as well. He is found gently whispering in the quietness of a humbled heart. On the other hand, there are times when our persistent disobedience prompts God to deal a little more harshly with us. Consider the way in which God treated Jonah as the prophet deliberately ran in the opposite direction of Gods will for his life. Three days in the belly of a huge fish is not exactly a picture of gentle discipline. God will never force us to obey Him, but He can make our circumstances such that we realize obedience would be the better option. Why submit to God? Because He is the Potter and we are the clay. The reality is, our lives are not our own regardless of what this world teaches us. We belong to God, and He has the right to mold and shape us into the vessel He desires. We live under Christs authority.
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Reflections Describe a time in your life when you resisted authority. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Take a moment now to confess any recent situations in which you have taken control and tried to shape your life in the way you wanted. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Acknowledge God as your Creator, surrendering the right to direct your life as He sees fit. Thank Him that He does this in a loving way. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 2

THINKING AND CHOOSING Yesterday we learned God is the boss. Hes the ultimate authority. He is the Potter and we are mere clay in His hands. Over the next few days we are going to examine how to bring each part of ourselves under the authority of Christ. We must live under His authority because thats how God sees us. We are spirit beings, we have a soul, and we live in a body. Our soul is comprised of three parts, our mind, our will and our emotions. These three aspects of our personality need to be under
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Christs authority, but how does that happen given we are naturally selfish creatures? Its not easy because and is a conscious choice we need to make daily. We tend to focus more on behavioral change and dont often talk about the importance of changing the way we think, choose and feel. But mere behavioral change is not lasting change at all. Over the next two days we will look at each of these three parts of our soul separately and our bodies and discuss how to bring them under the authority of Christ. MIND Would it surprise you to hear you can control what you think? I used to believe I had no control over the thoughts that entered my mind. They just came and went as haphazardly as waves tossed in the ocean. But this isnt true. As a believer, our minds, including what we think, can and should be brought under the authority of Christ. Our minds are dangerous battlefields because it is where godly thoughts war with worldly and selfish thoughts. Positive thoughts confront negative ones. Worrisome thoughts face peaceful thoughts. Loving thoughts collide with hateful, judgmental and critical ones. The thought that wins the battle determine how we will behave. All of what we say and do originates in our minds, and where our mind goes, we will follow. Have you ever rehearsed a scenario in your mind and when the scene is over you are angry with someone? I used to do this all the time with my husband. Hed make a comment and I would take it the wrong way. Then Id imagine a conversation in my mind, and it never turned out well for him. In the end I was angry for things he said only in my imagination. Sounds silly, but perhaps Im not the only one who has done this. We need to consciously surrender control of our minds to the Holy Spirit to avoid these runaway thoughts. Have you ever wondered what other people would think if they could read your mind? Its a good thing they cant, right? But the Lord knows peoples thoughts (Psalm 94:1). Psalm 34:1315 says, The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. God not only knows our hearts and our thoughts, but He also knows the motives behind them. What Goes In Must Come Out Consider what you are filling your mind with through television, books, movies, the internet, the types of people you associate with and the activities you participate in. This potentially harmful input will undoubtedly affect what you think about, how you feel and ultimately how you live. Why is that so dangerous? Because again, everything we say and do originates as a thought. There is a natural progression from thoughts to words to actions. THOUGHTS (Psalm 139:2324) WORDS (Psalm 19:14) ACTIONS (Psalm 15:12)

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When we stop negative or sinful thoughts before they become words or actions, we are in control of our minds. As the Holy Spirit completely rules our minds we will find ourselves thinking, What would Christ have me do in this situation? What would Jesus think? How Do I Bring My Mind Under Christs Authority? 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (NIV). How do we do this? By capturing every thought and yielding it to Christ. This means instead of thinking our own thoughts about a situation, which often are influenced by Satan or the world, we choose instead to think Gods thoughts. Step 1 Think about what you are thinking about. Most of us are oblivious to our thought life. Once we learn to pay attention to our thoughts, we can begin to evaluate them. Is this thought pleasing to God? Is it critical of another person? Is it judgmental or immoral? A good guideline to use appears in Philippians 4:8. What does this passage say we are to fix our thoughts on? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ If you evaluate your thoughts through this filter you will be able to distinguish good thoughts from bad ones (by the way, using this Scripture is another way to evaluate the types of things you are putting in your mind i.e. music, movies, television, books, internet etc.). Step 2 Stop sinful thoughts. If you decide a particular thought is not of God, then change what you are thinking about. When exposed to ideas or opportunities that might lead to wrong desires, you have a choice. You can recognize the danger and focus on something else, or you can allow the unhealthy thoughts to take you captive. You capture sinful thoughts when you honestly admit them to the Lord and ask Him to redirect your thinking. Step 3 Renew your mind in Gods Word. Gods Word is truth. Romans 12:2 says, Dont copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know Gods will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Begin filling your mind with Scripture to replace wrong thinking. If you find yourself struggling in a certain area, look up all the Scripture you can on that topic and commit some to memory. Consider writing them out and posting them around your home. Speak the Word out loud. The more time you spend time in the Word, the more your mind will be renewed.

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Step 4 Surrender control to the Holy Spirit. As your mind is renewed through the Word, ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your thoughts. Surrender this part of your life to Him. Read Romans 8:57. What do people, who have given control of their minds over to the Holy Spirit, think about? ________________________________________________________________________ What does this lead to? ________________________________________________________________________

The good news is the process of controlling our thoughts is not our task alone. Ephesians 4:23 says, Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. We work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to allow Him to renew our thoughts. Its comforting to know that when God instructs us to do something, He gives us everything we need to succeed. The Mind of Christ Read 1 Corinthians 2:16. What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We already have the mind of Christ. It was given to us at the time of our salvation, although some choose not to engage it. Are you spending enough time with God for Him to develop the mind of Christ in you? _____ Yes _____ No _____ Sometimes Resolve today to engage the mind of Christ by taking control of your thought life and surrendering it to His authority. Let this be your prayer: May all my thoughts be pleasing to you (Psalm 104:34). WILL We all have freedom of choice. This is the part of our personality called our will. God always wants us to make right choices, but the final decision is left up to us. He does this because He does not want to force anyone to love Him. He would rather have the unconditional love of a few people than the forced worship of everyone. And if we have freedom of choice in one area, we have freedom of choice in all. It is an awesome privilege, but it is also an awesome responsibility. Wrong choices have the potential to destroy our future and negatively affect those around us.

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Deuteronomy 30:19 says, Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live. God is saying He has given us two choices, life or death. And in case we get confused, He gives us the answer: Choose life! God doesnt force His will on us, but He desperately wants us to choose His way because it is for our ultimate good. Gods Will God has a purpose for each of us, and when we become a Christian the Holy Spirit begins revealing Gods will for our life. Although each of us may have a different calling, Gods basic purpose is that we become like Jesus. Therefore, God will always choose the ultimate best and the highest good for our lives. Our job is to agree with God and make His will our own. What do the following passages say about the will? Psalm 143:10 ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Psalm 40:8 ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Hebrews 13:21 ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 1 Peter 4:2 ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Proverbs 3:6 ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Ephesians 6:6 ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How Do I Bring My Will Under Christs Authority? Doing Gods will on your own is impossible. Any attempt to do so will end in frustration. It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13 NIV). God equips us with what we need to carry out His purposes.

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Its difficult (to put it mildly) to put aside our own will and surrender to Gods. Scripture calls this crucifying the flesh and as we learned last week, it must be done daily. Its a conscious decision we need to make each morning to say, God, I have plans for this day, but I want to follow Your will above all else. Show me what You want me to do. Adopting Gods will also means not doing some things that will satisfy our flesh momentarily, but instead choosing to do those things that, although more difficult, will lead to fulfillment. Reflections What kinds of things do you fill your mind with? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What is one area of your thought life that you need to give to God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How do you struggle with putting aside your own desires to follow Gods will? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 3

FEELING AND MOVING

Yesterday we discussed how to bring our minds and wills under the authority of Christ. Today we will conclude our discussion of the soul by looking at the third part of our personality, our emotions. Then we will also talk about how we can bring our bodies under the authority of Christ. EMOTIONS I am an emotional person. Thats just who I am. I cant change it because thats the way God made me. Thats what I used to think. I was ruled by my emotions for much of my early life. I wasnt able to control my response to situations, then I learned I didnt have to be that way because God wanted to be the Master of my emotions. He wanted me to be Spirit-controlled and respond in ways that honored Him. What are emotions? They are God-given feelings of pleasantness or unpleasantness. They are the way in which we experience life. Emotions in themselves are not good or bad, its the way we use them that determines their outcome. Emotions can range from sorrow to joy, anger to love, anxiety to peace and many other responses we have to situations. Describe the last time you felt: Anger: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Joy: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Fear: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Loneliness: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Anxiety: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Embarrassment: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Peace: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Excitement: ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How Do I Bring My Emotions Under Christs Authority? God wants to produce His emotions in you, filling you with His abundant love and joy. The Holy Spirit is present in your life to give you the ability to control your emotions. This will not happen overnight, we gain victory one day at a time. When we are confronted with a situation in which we are tempted to react negatively we can follow these steps: Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Acknowledge the emotion. It does no good to deny what you feel. Determine why you have that emotion. What is causing you to react this way? Is there a deeper issue than what appears on the surface? Decide what the godly response is. How should a child of God react? Act according to the leading of the Spirit, demonstrating the appropriate fruit of the spirit.

You might say, That sounds good, but sometimes I dont feel like reacting in a godly way, I feel like yelling and screaming (or worse). That may be true however, a person who has given control of their emotions to the Holy Spirit does what is right, instead of what they want or feel like doing. Giving in to your emotions may feel good momentarily, but could have damaging longterm effects. It is a conscious act of the will to surrender our emotions. We cant wait until we feel like doing the right thing because that may never happen. We have to learn to live beyond our feelings. Demonstrating the fruit of the spirit is not about how we feel, its about what we choose to do. BODY In addition to our souls, our bodies are another aspect we need to bring under the authority of Christ. When you accepted Christ as your Savior the Holy Spirit came to live in you. Christ dwells in you, not around you or beside you, but in you. In Old Testament times the temple was where God made His home among His people. That is where His Spirit dwelled. Today Gods Spirit still dwells in a temple. 1 Corinthians 6:1920 says, Dont you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.
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So you must honor God with your body. Our bodies do not belong to us. God paid a very high price for them, not to mention, He created them in the first place. Misuse and Abuse There are many ways humans have misused and abused their temples. Really, every time we sin we are misusing our bodies. Overeating, starvation, excessive busyness, purposely injuring ourselves, not exercising and not controlling our tongues are all examples of misuse. Scripture highlights one form of misuse above the rest. Read 1 Corinthians 6:1320. We are to _______________ from sexual sin. Not only avoid it, but turn the other way and run as fast as we can. No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. Why? ________________________________________________________________________ What are some of the devastating affects of sexual sin? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Some of you, as I do, know first-hand the damage sexual sin can cause. God knew deep wounds would result from sexual sin, which is why He limited sex to marriage. This restriction is not meant to be confining, instead it is the only place where sex can be fulfilling and beautiful. How Do I Bring My Body Under Christs Authority? In Old Testament times God filled the temple with His presence and His glory (2 Chronicles 7:1 2). He wants to do the same with our bodies. He longs to fill them with His glory. If you are misusing or abusing your body in some way, relying on the power of God will change this destructive habit in your life. Dedicate your body to Gods service. Even if youve done this before and have since returned to your former habits, re-dedicate it. Do it as many times as you need to. He will fill you again with His presence. Allow Him to use your body for His Kingdom. Weve now studied how to bring our entire beings under the authority of Christ. The reality is, He made us and from His perspective, we are completely under His authority. Our lives are His. All we need to do is operate as people under His authority. Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to be submissive, and then make a conscious decision to follow His leading. Reflections Do you control your emotions or do your emotions control you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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What do you think is going to be the most difficult part for you in allowing the Holy Spirit to control your emotions? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How have you misused your body in the past? _____ overeating _____ starvation _____ purposely injuring yourself _____ uncontrolled tongue

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lack of exercise lack of sleep laziness over-working

What is one step you can take today to bring your body under Christs authority? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 4

OUR AUTHORITY OVER EVIL Some New Age philosophers teach that evil does not exist in this world. But one needs only to watch the six o-clock news to be convinced that we live in a fallen world. Satan is as alive and active in the world today as you and I are. Today we are going to discuss the authority over evil given to us when we surrender to Christ. As we learn to live our lives in complete dependence on Him, He gives us victory over Satan.

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Our Enemy What name does Paul give Satan in 2 Corinthians 4:4? _________________________________ What has he done to those who dont believe? ________________________________________ Scripture says, Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul compares Satan to a lion whose instinct is to prey on the weak. Similarly, Satan does not hold back. He does not embody one ounce of mercy. He would not hesitate to attack when we are at our lowest points. He is pure evil. Scripture also reminds us We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). We live in a spiritual world and this war we are fighting is no joke it is very real. There are unseen battles taking place in the heavenly realm all around us. We will probably be surprised when we reach heaven to realize the extent of the battle. But we need not worry. Like reading the last chapter of the book first, God has told us in advance what the outcome will be. We are assured the victory. In the end Satan will be defeated; however we must engage now in the battle until Christ returns. Our Spiritual Battle We live behind enemy lines here on earth. 1 John 5:19 says, The world around us is under the power and control of the evil one. Spiritual battles occur when there is a conflict between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. They can take many forms and occur on many different battlefields. They can be personal in nature, or broader to include the culture and world in which we live. Describe a time when you experienced a conflict like this in your life. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Read 2 Corinthians 10:34. What are we knocking down with our weapons? ________________ The weapons we use in spiritual battle have the divine power to demolish strongholds. A stronghold is an idea, a thought process, a habit, or an addiction where Satan has the advantage in our lives. It is an area in which we are held in bondage due to negative thought patterns. Can you think of an area of your life in which Satan has the advantage? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Our enemy does not have permission to defeat us. When we experience defeat, we are giving in to the war within. Sometimes defeat happens even before we begin to fight. Have you ever given up in your mind before you even started? That happens when we say things like, Ill never change. Ill never get this. Ill never be good enough. Satan has won before the battle has even begun. Dont give in. Believe instead what God says about you. Begin to believe who He says you are in Christ. Christs Victory The good news is, Christ has already won the victory over all evil powers, and He gives victory to those who totally depend on Him and use the spiritual weapons He supplies. Read Colossians 2:15 and fill in the blanks. He __________________ the spiritual rulers and authorities. He __________________________ them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Evil no longer has power over believers because Christ has disarmed it. This happened through His death on the cross. He took the record of charges against you and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Satan had a warrant out for your arrest, punishable by death, but Christ ripped it up and nailed it to the cross. Satan no longer has dominion over you. He no longer has rights to your soul or to your daily life on earth. Our Authority We not only are instructed to fight, but we have been told we already have authority over the enemy. Luke 10:19 says, Look, I have given you authority over all power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. If we obey God and align ourselves with His purposes, Satan has no power over us, we in fact, have authority over him through Christ. At the heart of spiritual warfare is our reliance on Gods presence. Satan is defeated by our testimony (Revelation 12:11). It is the fact that we stand firm in our faith in Christ that Satan is defeated. 1 John 5:45 says, For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We dont fight for victory, we are fighting from victory. Our victory comes through our surrender to Christ. Claim the victory Christ has already won for you. Our Fight We fight the war with the spiritual weapons God has given us. Paul compares our spiritual weapons with the armor a soldier wears. Read Ephesians 6:1018. What are the pieces of the armor of God? The Belt of ______________________________ Satan is the father of lies, but sometimes his lies sound like truth. We, as believers, have Gods truth which defeats the devils lies. Use honesty when praying through spiritual battles. An ounce of dishonesty gives Satan a foothold.

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The Body Armor of Gods__________________________________ This breastplate protects our heart, the target of many of Satans attacks. We keep this piece of armor firmly in place with upright character and righteous living. The _____________________________ Shoes We need to be ready at all times to share Christ with the lost world around us. Satan instills all kinds of paralyzing thoughts in our minds when we think about sharing our faith, but God instructs us to be fully prepared to share and He will give us peace. The Holy Spirit even gives us the words to speak. The Shield of _____________________________ Believe God when He says He has already secured the victory. By acting from faith we claim the victory. The Helmet of ________________________________________ In the same way a helmet protects the head, the helmet of salvation protects our minds. Satan wants us to doubt we are saved. We need to think like saved people by putting on the helmet of salvation, thanking God that we are His children, and praising Him for giving us eternal life. The Sword of the _____________________________________ (Word of God) Unlike all the others, this is an offensive weapon. Gods Word is sharper than any double-edges sword (Hebrews 4:12). We use this weapon to attack the devil by hiding Gods Word in our hearts and praying Scripture in the midst of our battles. When the devil attacked Jesus in Luke 4, Jesus responded by saying, The Scriptures say He used the power of the Word to resist temptation. This is our most powerful weapon. And what is it that we are to do at all times and on every occasion (verse 18)? _____________ The Word says, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16). God begins to act when we pray. Often we attempt to battle in the flesh, when in fact the battle is a spiritual one. We engage in spiritual battle when we begin to speak the Word of God out loud. Praise and worship, talking about the good things God has done in the past, and speaking positively about our future are also ways to fight the enemy. Focusing on God is what gives us victory in the fight. Reflections Do you believe that Satan is real? How have you seen evidence of him in your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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How does your surrender to Christ give you authority over the enemy? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Which spiritual weapon do you need to develop most in your life? How do you plan to enhance it? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Rest in the assurance of Gods Word. Gods Son holds you securely, and the evil one cannot touch you (1 John 5:18). Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE On day one of this week we talked about one of the typical behaviors of young children. They insistently demonstrate their independence by wanting to tie their own shoes, dress themselves and pour their own drinks. This is how they learn to become independent adults. But as believers, God does not want us to demonstrate our independence. He desires quite the opposite. He wants us to be totally and completely dependant on Him. Isaiah 30:15 in The Message Bible says, Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me.

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What does it mean to be dependant on God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Many other things in this world are tempting to put our trust in, such as our wealth, our abilities, our national security, and other people to name a few. But none of these things are lasting. Scripture says, Trust in the Lord with all of your heart; and do not depend on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). We are told to put our trust in the Lord. We must depend on Gods grace, not our own human wisdom (2 Corinthians 1:12). Depending on anything else will not work. What are you tempted to put your trust in instead of God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ As a believer, you are under Christs authority. This is not an oppressive place to be, but rather a place of freedom. We will talk more in later weeks about what it means to be free in Christ, but for right now, know that the only true place of freedom in this world exists in surrender to Jesus Christ. Surrender is our only appropriate response to being under the authority of Christ. Complete Surrender Surrender is defined as yielding our being to another. It means putting aside our desires to fulfill the desires of another, and putting another persons well-being above our own. Again, its not one of those words that we are comfortable with. It may conjure up images in your mind of giving up or admitting defeat, but that is not biblical surrender. When Jesus called each of His disciples, He did not hesitate to demand complete loyalty (Matthew 8:1822). Jesus made sure these men counted the cost before making the decision to follow Him. They had to understand that nothing took priority over obedience to Him, not family, friends, business obligations or financial pursuits. This same complete devotion is what He expects from us today. How completely have you surrendered your life to God? Check all that apply. _____ I surrender the big decisions of my life to God. _____ God doesnt care about the little details of my life, so I handle them myself. _____ I want to be completely in control of all aspects of my life. _____ I am working towards complete surrender. _____ God is in control of my entire life. God wants all of you, not just parts! Have you easily surrendered parts of your life to God, but are unwilling to let go in other areas? Incomplete surrender is not surrender at all. Luke 14:33
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says, You cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. This does not necessarily mean that we must give away all of our earthy belongings (unless God calls you to do so). What it does mean is that we must love Him more than anything else in our lives. Can you honestly say that? Saying yes to God means saying no to selfishness. Surrendering to God does not mean we will avoid hardships and trials. Then why surrender? Because saying yes to God is also saying yes to Gods greatest blessings for our lives. One of these blessings is peace. Promises to Those Who Surrender Surrendering every part of our lives to God is the only way to have complete peace. Have you ever noticed that in times of extreme difficulty, when things are completely out of your control, you are more likely to surrender the situation to God? And in those same times you have probably noticed that you are filled with a sense of peace. Why is it that we feel less peace in less difficult situations? Could it be because we are less likely to surrender those situations to God? We mistakenly think we can handle it on our own. Our measure of peace is directly related to the amount in which we surrender. Rest accompanies surrender. Its too exhausting to continue to struggle between selfish ambition and Gods will. If you are trying to blend both in your life, you have probably already come to the same conclusion. We cannot serve two masters; we cannot both please God and pursue selfish living. The ultimate tragedy would be for us to get to heaven and have God show us what our lives could have been like if we had surrendered them entirely to Him. We dont want to miss the life God has planned for us. God has a way of giving back even more than the amount surrendered to Him. God will restore what weve lost in greater ways than we can imagine. The difficulty comes during the time that exists between the moment of surrender and the moment of blessing. It is in the meantime that we often lose hope. Write 2 Chronicles 16:9 on the lines below. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God is searching the earth; Hes sifting through the hearts of people to find those who have surrendered completely to Him. Why does He do this? Because He wants to strengthen them! He wants to encourage them, to make them strong, to cause them to stand firm. Do you know what is so exciting about how this verse applies to our study this week? The word hearts in this passage in the original Hebrew is the word lebab. If you were to look up the original transliteration you would find that lebab refers to the parts of ones soul, the mind, will and emotions. When God is looking for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him, He is looking for people whose minds, will and emotions are under His authority and He promises to

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strengthen them. I want to jump up and down with my hands waving in the air and shout, Here I am! Strengthen me! Reflections What are some things you need to surrender in order to follow Jesus? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you ask God to walk with you (to bless your plans) or do you walk with Him? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Write your reactions to the following Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 5:15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead they will live for Christ. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Is it your desire to surrender your entire being: mind, will, emotions and body to Christ alone? If so, express your desire to Him. Ask Him to help you to live a life under His liberating authority. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Lord, forgive us for taking control of our lives. We make conscious efforts again and again to surrender control to You and then before we know it, we realize we have taken over again. Father, make our desire to do Your will greater than our desire to follow our own ambitions. Thank you for the safety and rest You provide under Your authority. Help us to surrender our entire lives to You. We want to live only for Christ.

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WEEK 7 FROM ISOLATED TO BELONGING


Day 1

UNITED ACROSS THE WORLD

Have you ever been in casual conversation with someone you have just met and felt an instant connection, only to discover they too are a Christian? Do you ever wonder why that connection exists? Its because you are family. You are brothers and sisters in Christ! I love meeting members of my spiritual family. Scripture Focus: There is an immediate kinship. As His children, God sees us as members There is no longer of His family, which is why Scripture tells us we are one in Christ with all Jew or Gentile, other believers. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and slave or free, male female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). and female. For you are all one in In His last moments on earth Jesus prayed for all future believers, which Christ Jesus. includes you and me. Read His prayer in John 17:2026. Galatians 3:28 What specifically did Jesus pray for? _____________________________________________________ May they experience such ___________________ __________________. Why? ________________________________________________________________________

Jesus wanted His disciples unified so they would be a powerful witness of His love to the world. Our unity with other believers grows out of our unity with Christ. Jesus prayed, And may they be in us (John 17:21). God wants us to be one with Him. It is a description of a close intimate relationship. We are unified with Christ when we believe in Him, depend on the Holy Spirit each day and follow Gods will for our lives. Ones In what ways are we, as believers, unified? Read Ephesians 4:36 and list the seven ones this passage describes. B_________________________ S_________________________ H_________________________ L_________________________ F_________________________ B_________________________ G_________________________

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Across the world believers are united in these seven things. Isnt it exciting to think there are people living on the other side of the globe who are worshiping the same God and studying the same Bible? We have family world-wide! We all are united through our faith and love for Christ. What are we to bind ourselves together with (Ephesians 4:3)?____________________________ King David expressed how God feels about unity and harmony among believers. Read Psalm 133. Why did David describe harmony as precious and refreshing? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Threats to Unity Unity is able to transcend culture, race, social status, gender and location but occasionally these differences can hinder unity. A lack of unity can be fueled by a variety of things (like gossip, critical or judgmental thinking, intolerance etc), but every one of these symptoms boils down to a lack of love. Galatians 5:1415 says, For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you are biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. When we lose the motivation to love, we can become critical of others and this can lead to gossip and back-stabbing. Soon we lose our sense of unity. We need to constantly remind ourselves of Jesus command to love one another, and then express our love in actions so we can be a powerful, united force to a lost world. When we as believers are not united, we destroy our witness to the world. We lose our ability to draw people to Christ. We are no longer appealing, instead we become just like the many other people and organizations who do good deeds in their communities. Nothing of substance sets us apart. Divided We Fall If God desperately wants unity among His children, we can bet Satan is out to destroy it. Harmony is not always found as it should be. Divisions among believers happen far too frequently and sometimes for insignificant reasons like worship style, music preference or the distribution of financial resources. Ultimately they occur when people take their eyes off of Jesus. Divisions among His body are so unfortunate. God never intended for this to be. What are Pauls instructions for the church in 1 Corinthians 1:10? ______________________________________________________________________________ Our message to the world becomes far less effective when there is disunity. God instructs us to Keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When we take our eyes off of Christ, we get disoriented and that is when strife occurs. We end up wasting our energy on arguing with each other instead of using it to build the Kingdom.

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Love Unifies Read 1 Corinthians 8:1. It is _____________________ that strengthens the global church. When the love of God flows through us to others, we cant help but be united. When we serve and encourage one another, we cant help but be built up in our faith. When we reach out to the world around us, we cant help but fulfill Gods purposes in the world. Believers must be united in love. This was Pauls prayer for the church in Philippi when he said, I pray that your love will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding (Philippians 1:9). This kind of love for one another flows out of our understanding of Gods love for us. We cannot love others using our own human efforts, instead it must come from God. Biblical love is not based on feelings, but is rooted in actions. It is the choice to respond with love in every situation. How are we dependant on one anothers relationships with Christ to keep us unified in love? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Genuine love must flow through us from the Father of love. We have a responsibility to one another to keep our relationships right with God, so His love can be expressed to those around us. Have you known this to be true in your own life? I find the less time I spend with God, the crankier and more irritable I become with those around me. Im less likely to respond to situations in love. I owe it to my family to keep my relationship with God current, so I can react in love to them. God described love in John 15:1213. What kind of love was Jesus talking about in this passage? ______________________________________________________________________________ There are many ways to practice sacrificial love including listening, encouraging, helping, and giving to others. Jesus gave a new commandment in John 13:34. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. How did Jesus love us? He died for us. This kind of love will keep believers united in a less-than-peaceful world. The kind of unity we studied today may seem like a lofty goal, but it is Gods vision for believers. We have to remember that living in harmony does not mean we will always agree about everything, but it does mean we will be united in purpose and work together to build the Kingdom of God. Reflections How would perfect unity among believers be a powerful witness of Gods love to the world? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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How do you love believers across the world in the way that Jesus commanded? Give examples. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How can you contribute to increased unity among the believers that you know? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Lets follow Jesus example and pray for continued unity among believers across the world. We must join hands against the forces of darkness and reach lost people for Christ. One person cannot do it alone; we must be unified in purpose. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 2

THE LOCAL BODY OF BELIEVERS I absolutely love the people in my local church. They are authentic Christians who are kind, generous and very caring. They always extend compassion when a fellow member is in need. They are not perfect, which gives me some level of comfort, because neither am I. We are a group of imperfect people on the journey of life together. No other organization on this planet is larger then the church, and it continues to grow at an incredible rate. For over two thousand years the church has had a reputation of caring for the sick, helping the poor and leading people to Christ. Dont misunderstand me. I am well aware of the evil that has taken place both presently and in history all in the name of religion, which proves the church is not perfect. However, hope for lasting change is found only in Jesus Christ,

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and God has chosen to advance His Kingdom through the church. Narrowing our global view of the church from yesterdays lesson, brings us to the local church. God loves the church, so much so that Jesus died to create it. What makes this group of people so special? What is it about the church that made Jesus willing to leave the comforts of heaven, suffer on earth and give up His life? Lets begin by examining the early church, which was established on the day of Pentecost after the death and ascension of Christ. The Early Church Read Acts 2:4247. What types of activities characterized the early church? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What was the result (verse 47)? ________________________________________________________________________

Read Acts 4:3234. All of the believers were __________________ in __________________ and _______________. Gods great __________________________ was upon them all.

As you think about the early church, compare it to todays model. What differences do you see? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ There are startling differences between the early church and todays version. Allow me the privilege of generalizing for a moment. The early church practiced togetherness by worshiping and eating together. Fellowship today is often lost to busyness, and we dont have time to get to know one another authentically. Early church members were dependant on one another, so much so, that they shared all of their resources with each other. There wasnt a sense of ownership, but instead a spirit of generosity which ensured each persons needs were met. Today our culture promotes independence. We have a sense of pride and accomplishment in making it on our own. The early church devoted themselves to prayer which allowed the Holy Spirit to work dramatically among them. Today, simple prayer sometimes takes a back seat to flashy programs. The early church was established to help people in need (Romans 12:13), use its money to do good (1Timothy 6:18) and care for widows and orphans (James 1:27). We might do well to closely examine and continue to follow their example.

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One Body God uses the analogy of a human body to describe the church and how it should function. Paul writes of this in 1 Corinthians 12:1231. Read this passage. How is the body an appropriate image for the church? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Churches are comprised of many different types of people with different backgrounds and a multitude of gifts and abilities. This has the potential to divide a church but all believers share one thing in common. What is it (verse 13)? ________________________________________________________________________ There are two types of dysfunction that occur in churches that are described in these passages. One appears in verses 1420. What is it? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ The other dysfunction appears in verses 2126. Describe it below. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ The first type of dysfunction Paul mentions is when people feel their gifts arent important and as a result, they envy the gifts of others. Have you ever felt this way? The truth is, God gave you your gifts for a reason and He wants you to use them. If you attempt to develop a talent God hasnt gifted you in, you will only end up frustrated. You may improve marginally, but your greatest potential lies in developing the gifts God has given you. It is a waste of time to long for gifts you havent been given. Consider praying that God would pour out His blessing on the person who possesses the gift you are envious of. The second type of dysfunction Paul warns us about is when people feel their gifts are superior to the gifts of others. This also can damage the body. Sometimes the visible gifts like teaching and preaching are more highly regarded than the behind-the-scene gifts. No one should discount the contributions of another person because we all have been called into various ministries. The bottom line is all abilities, whether they are perceived large or small, are gifts from God. None of us could do what we do if God had not gifted us, and every gift is valuable to God. We need to respect and accept the diversity of gifts and treat each one as important. What are we to earnestly desire (verse 31)? ________________________________________________________________________

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The most helpful gifts are those that are beneficial to the body. The gifts and abilities you have been given are not to be used selfishly, but instead for the advancement of the church. As you can see, we need one another. God didnt bless any one person with every gift, and He did that for a reason. It was to force us to live in community with one another, sharing what we have with each other. We cannot function alone. The Head We have established that we all make up various parts of a body, the church. The head of this body is reserved for Jesus Christ. Read Ephesians 1:2223. In what ways is the church made full and complete by Christ? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The church should be the full expression of Christ. What does that mean? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God intended for the church to be the full expression of Christ. His design is that the church will demonstrate the fullness of Christs love, grace, mercy, kindness, goodness and holiness. This is impossible to do without reliance on the Head. All of these expressions of Gods character must flow from Him through us to others. This is a huge challenge and calling for our churches, to be the fullness of God to a lost world. Reflections Think about the church you belong to. In what ways is it similar to the early church? In what ways does it differ? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you know what your gifts are? What special abilities has God given you to use in the local church? There are many different tools available today to help you discover your spiritual gifts. I encourage you to do so. One way to figure this out is to simply start serving. Choose an area of passion (which by the way is a big clue to your gifts) and get involved. You will soon discover if it is an area of ministry that God has called you to. If its not working, try another, and keep trying until you find a place in the body in which God blesses your efforts and you feel a sense of fulfillment.

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Do you feel you have found your calling within the body? How are you using your God-given gifts to serve your church family? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Have you ever found yourself behaving dysfunctionally in one of the two ways described earlier? Have you ever wished you had someone elses gifts or abilities, viewing your own as less important? Or have you ever thought the gifts God has given you are far superior to others? Check any that apply. _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ My gifts are not as important. I wish I could _____________ like he/she can. I love that the gift God has given me can be used centre-stage to be seen by all. Im not sure what my gifts are. I have a sense of what my gifts may be, but Im not using them right now. I am using the gifts God has given me to serve my church family. Who has time to serve?

If you are using your gifts for God, keep in mind that He is responsible for the results. We are only responsible for acting in obedience. If you are serving in an area God has designed you for, I am confident you are seeing some results. In what ways is God using your contributions to further His Kingdom? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God believes in the church. It is His plan to bring a lost world to Himself. And All the powers of hell will not conquer it (Matthew 16:18). Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 3

A SPIRITUAL FAMILY Today we continue our discussion of Christs body, His church. Just as God places us in a specific earthly family for a reason, He also intentionally places us in our spiritual families. Lets draw a parallel between physical families and spiritual ones. Physical Families What types of things do physical families do together? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ My family celebrates together, laughs together, cries together and grieves together. We help each other, encourage one another and serve each other. We also unfortunately have the potential to disagree, annoy each other, gossip about one other and react in jealousy or anger. There is level of comfort that comes with being in a family, the security to be open and honest with each other and the freedom to be you. This means positive emotions are expressed, as well as negative ones. My sisters and I share a relationship that is probably typical of most siblings. When we were young, I can remember laughing together so hard, we would fall to the floor. I remember acting totally silly together. I also remember yelling at each other when we were upset. There was a sense of freedom to express both positive and negative emotions. All of these dynamics (and more) are true for a spiritual family as well. Along with any kind of family comes dynamics resulting from the closeness we live in proximity with each other. Just as physical families share life together, so do spiritual families. There are constructive dynamics as well as potentially harmful ones. And just as physical families arent perfect, neither are spiritual ones. Lets look at the similarities between physical and spiritual families in greater detail. Flourishing Spiritual Families The following are characteristics of flourishing spiritual families: 1) Do Life Together Yesterday we spent a great deal of time looking at a passage of Scripture we will re-visit today. Read 1 Corinthians 12:26. What are we to do alongside our fellow believers? ________________________________________________________________________ Believers exist in the world together. We have been placed in a church in the exact place God wants us (1 Corinthians 12:18). We have a responsibility to get involved in the lives of others and share in their joy and sorrow. That is what a family does; they celebrate and mourn together and all points in between.

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What are some other responsibilities we have to each other? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ A family does life together. We have a responsibility to share our lives with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to worship together, serve together, practically care for one another, challenge each other, and pray together. We also must be willing to be vulnerable, to open ourselves up to each other, to be accountable and to place ourselves under the authority of the church. 2) Relate Authentically Read 1 Peter 3:8. What are the key elements that should characterize any group of believers? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ It takes time and hard work to get to this level of authenticity in a church, but the rewards are well worth the time invested. We benefit from being supported, encouraged and prayed for during difficult times. We have people with whom to share our joys, fears, regrets, pain and successes. 3) Serve One Another Families do things for one another because they love each other. We are to follow Jesus example when He said, For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). We are called to put the needs of others above our own and serve them with humility. Regardless of the situation of your physical family, you are entitled to go through life together with a spiritual family. You were never meant to journey through life alone. You have the privilege of linking arms with your brothers and sisters in Christ and battling through the tough times together. Dysfunctional Spiritual Families The sad truth is Gods vision for the church is not always reality in our fellowships. We have already talked about a lack of unity causing divisions. Other things threaten to destroy Gods ultimate plan for His church. Fear of gossip or backstabbing hinders people from sharing their struggles and ultimately prevents authenticity. Corrupt leadership makes it impossible for churches to fulfill Gods specific purpose. Often underlying spiritual conditions exist in churches that cripple them. There is fear of addressing the real issues because of the conflict that may arise. Sadly people leave churches in anger; a trail of bitterness, resentment and unresolved

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issues dragging behind them. Satan knows in the end the church will prevail, but in the meantime he will stir up as much dissention as he can, and unfortunately we often fall prey to his tactics. The following are characteristics of dysfunctional spiritual families: 1) Critical and Judgmental Thinking This type of behavior in a body can poison it to the point of death. When a family becomes critical and judgmental with each other, either openly or in secret, roots of bitterness and resentment begin to grow, which can ultimately destroy it. 2) Lack of Involvement You have probable heard the term benchwarmer. This is a label often given to people who warm a pew on a Sunday morning, but do little else. They are not using their gifts to serve. They are not willing to be vulnerable and share authentically with others, and they mistakenly assume that what they experience on a Sunday morning is enough to sustain them for the rest of the week. They dont develop their personal relationship with God Monday through Saturday. Dont be a benchwarmer, get in the game! Playing has risks, but it also provides the greatest excitement, the most fulfillment and the ultimate thrill. 3) Woundedness The reasons for peoples lack of involvement in a church can vary. Many people have been wounded in the past by others in a church setting. Perhaps a confidence has been broken, or exhaustion has occurred as a result of over-serving. Maybe conflict has arisen and blame has been misdirected. Whatever the case, when wounds occur, people withdraw. If we dont individually deal with our issues before God, we are likely to act out of our own brokenness and wound other people in the process. It is so unfortunate when this happens because it is not at all Gods vision for His family. 4) Shallow Relationships Another form of dysfunction in a church is shallow relationships. You can tell this type of dysfunction exists when conversations go no deeper than discussing the weather or similar surface topics. Families are meant to authentically share both joys and sorrows together, and when a church family doesnt do this, it is not functioning as God intended. 5) Empty Religion When a church merely practices religion together, it is dysfunctional. Church families are meant to experience dynamic relationships with God together, not legalistic, empty worship. God has called us to relationship, not religion. Victorious Spiritual Families We can overcome these dysfunctions that exist in our churches. The secret in doing so is not really a secret at all; we must keep our focus on Jesus. Corporately, we must come together and pray against dissention. Pray for direction, blessing, purpose and vision. We must ask God to remove the obstacles in our way that hinders us from being the church God wants us to be. God
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has already said the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. We are already conquerors. Lets believe it and make it a reality. Reflections Describe your level of connectedness to the people in your church. Do you feel a part of the family? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What family dynamics have you experienced with your spiritual family? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Does your church match Gods vision for His church? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What can you do to move your church closer to Gods original intent for His body? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 4

MISSIONAL CHURCH

A church does not exist to serve itself. Its purpose is to demonstrate Gods love both within and outside its walls. We have already talked about the aspects of its inward responsibility, but the church also has a responsibility for reaching out. God desires His church to be a beacon of light in a dark world. He wants the church to reach out in love into its community and beyond. What are some ways a church can reach out into its community? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Meeting Needs Our desire must be to reach a lost world for Christ, but sometimes we must meet peoples basic needs before we share the gospel with them. People are more likely to listen to what you have to say when their basic needs are met. If missionaries serving in poverty-stricken countries only told people about the care and sufficiency of Christ, without first feeding them, their words would be lost. Jesus demonstrated this principle when He fed the five thousand (Mark 6:3542). In the same way the church needs to respond to the needs of those around them. When a local church practically responds to the needs in its community, people take notice. Acts of kindness then open doors to share Jesus. Reaching Out What is the churchs mission? What is its purpose? There are many functions a church has, but the overall mission of the church we have already mentioned. It is to reach a lost world for Christ. Paul urged Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:12 to preach the Word of God. Preaching the Good News is the most important responsibility the church has. Paul says again in verse 5 to work at telling others the Good News. How does a church do this? Its when each of its members makes it a priority. We must never fall into the trap of assuming the church will share Christ with others. Remember, you are the church! We cannot wait for some corporate entity to fulfill this commission; each member of the body is responsible for reaching out to those around them. Then and only then will the church fulfill its mandate. A common excuse people use for not sharing God with unbelievers is they have not been gifted in evangelism, and assuming those that are gifted have the responsibility of reaching the lost world. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 was not spoken to select individuals, it was an instruction for all people. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others (2 Corinthians 5:11).

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Building Relationships There has been a shift in recent years in effective evangelism. In the past, it may have worked to wait for people to walk through the doors of the church. Most people were considered Christian and professed to belong to a fellowship somewhere. Today is much different. We cannot simply open our doors and wait for people to come. They are not as likely to do so on their own. A sign on the front lawn of the church stating visitors are welcome is not sufficient. We need to go to them. Im not talking about street evangelism, although that has its place. Im referring to actively pursuing the relationships with the people God has placed in our lives. The most effective way to share Christ is first to build relationships with those around us. When we develop friendships first, people are more likely to listen to what we have to say about God. Not only that, but the closeness of relationship will enable them to see Christ in us. Being Relevant People are not looking for another club to belong to. Most are so busy that they can barely maintain the activities they are already committed to. Thats why the church needs to stand out from all other groups, and it must be relevant. God is as relevant today as He was thousands of years ago, but its our job to help people connect the dots. They want to know things like: How can God enhance my life? How can He help me during difficult times? How can He relate to what Im currently struggling with? And they also want an answer to one of lifes most difficult questions: Why does a loving God allow terrible things to happen? We need to be honest with them, to clearly communicate the cost and the commitment involved in following Christ. Our generation wants authenticity. Many people already assume the church is full of hypocrites. It makes me cringe to think there is some truth in that statement. The reality is, the church is full of sinners, saved by grace. Lets not be so holy that we forget where we came from. Lets be real with people and not pretend we are perfect. People are attracted to authenticity, not pretense. Demonstrating Gods Heart To reach a lost world we need to have Gods heart for those that are destined for hell. How does God feel about the lost (see Luke 15:36)? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Gods heart is that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He loves all people and wants everyone to be saved. He seeks out each individual person that has ever lived and ever will live. He pursues each one and gently calls them to Himself. The church has been established to do just that; to guide people to the Way, the Truth and the Life. Does your church care about the lost in its community? Does it care enough to reach out in love to them? If you are not seeing evidence of this, perhaps the breakdown is in you. Do you share the same concern and love for the lost that God does? What if God held you accountable for those around you who will die without knowing Him? What if the only way a person would hear about Gods love for them was through you? What if you were responsible for their eternal death?
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Praying for the Lost The most powerful weapon we have against the forces of evil in this world is prayer. Scripture says, The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe (2 Corinthians 4:4). How can we combat this? We can pray for the Holy Spirit to open their spiritual eyes and give us an opportunity to share with them. Pray for the unbelievers God has placed in your life. This will loosen Satans grip on them and make them more receptive to Gods invitation. I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth (1Timothy 2:1, 34). Making Disciples Being a missional church is not limited to evangelism only. A church has equal responsibility for developing followers of Jesus Christ. The church begins with evangelism but continues with discipleship. This is a vital part of our mandate. We must intentionally disciple people, helping them grow in their faith towards spiritual maturity. We havent completely done our jobs if all we do is lead people to Christ and provide them little more to develop their relationship with Him. The church needs to focus on making more and better disciples. Reflections What is your comfort level with sharing your faith? Check all that apply. _____ I share my faith without hesitation whenever I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to do so. _____ I feel comfortable talking about what God has done in my life with people I am close to. _____ I want to tell people about God, but Im not sure where to start. _____ I have a fear about sharing my faith. What if Im rejected? _____ I have to admit I dont often think of sharing my faith. _____ God has not gifted me with evangelism, therefore Im off the hook. Perhaps it is easier to feel compassion and a sense of urgency to tell those we love about God, than it is to share with a stranger. We dont want to miss opportunities with our friends and families to share what God can do in their lives, but what about those outside of our inner circle of connection? Do we share Gods heart for them as well? This is a sobering question, one in which I have struggled with recently, and Im ashamed to admit that my heart for the lost is not the same as Gods. The only way I know how to enhance my love and concern, is to ask God to increase it. Do you need to do the same? If so, share this with God in the space below. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Is there someone you believe God has placed in your life with whom you would like to develop a relationship with? Begin by praying for that person. What can you do this week to initiate that relationship? Detail your plans below. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How are you discipling other believers? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE Belonging to a spiritual family and being united with all believers across the world, provides amazing benefits for each of us. Specifically, belonging to a family of believers in a local church is where we experience the greatest benefit. Today we are going to celebrate the church by discussing the benefit it provides for believers. Since we are Christs body, our appropriate response is to be the church to one another! Lets discuss how to do that. I must make mention that these benefits we enjoy as members of the church, are Gods perfect design. You may have had some less than ideal experiences in your local body, and I acknowledge that not all churches express the kind of care and concern we are going to discuss today. These biblical characteristics are what every church should be striving towards. Love One Another Gods design for a body of believers is that each person be loved unconditionally. In a church we are to love even when others act unlovable, because this type of love, as weve said many times,
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is based on Gods unconditional love. The church is a place where we can know for sure that we are accepted. In a world where true sacrificial love is scarce, this is very reassuring. All other benefits of the church are by-products of the love we demonstrate to one another. How do you demonstrate unconditional love to your church family? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Care for One Another There is care and concern expressed in a local body of believers. When someone has a need, the family gathers around to help. I believe our God is practical. He knows there are things we cant live without, and He has placed us in a spiritual family so those needs can be met. We must be there practically for one another, not just spiritually. There are many needs that may arise, such as the need for housing, food, clothing, employment, yard work for the disabled or elderly, child care for the single mother or meals for the bed-ridden. You, as a part of the body of Christ, have a responsibility to help. How have you met a need of someone in your church family? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I have such a wonderful story to share of how my own familys needs were cared for during a difficult time in our lives. During my second pregnancy, I was on bed rest for over four months, and as a result, I could not care for my family the way I needed to. My church family rallied around me to provide daily child care, cleaning and meals during that entire time. What an incredible sacrifice on their part, and what a wonderful example of how we are to care for one another. I will be forever grateful to them. And my turn will come, in which I can care for them in practical ways. Encourage One Another Gods Word instructs us to encourage each other and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and this is true especially in the body of Christ. There are times in life when we all need someone to cheer us on, to tell us not to give up, to stay the course, to run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1). There are going to be difficult times in our lives and that is when we need encouragement more than ever from our spiritual family. You are responsible for encouraging others in the church. Describe a time when you gave encouragement to someone in your church family. What was the result? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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Challenge One Another Part of the churchs responsibility is to challenge us in our faith and inspire growth. We can be challenged in many ways; through messages from the pulpit, worship or one-on-one conversations with other believers. We must receive challenges positively and use them to increase our faith and move further down the road towards spiritual maturity. If we are never challenged, we will grow stagnant. You are responsible for lovingly challenging others in the fellowship. Be Transparent With One Another What would happen if we all decided not to put on our masks every morning? You know the mask Im talking about; the one you carefully apply before you leave your home; the one that causes you to respond Im fine to all who ask, instead of revealing the truth. I have had experiences when my husband and I have argued all the way to church (which wasnt a short drive at the time!), and once I stepped foot inside that church building, I forced a smile on my face and responded positively to everyone who asked how I was doing. This type of concealment does no one any favors. For the person who is hiding, it denies them the opportunity to receive comfort and encouragement, and for the person who is being lied to it denies them the opportunity to give comfort and encouragement. It doesnt make sense to pretend. We all walk this earth. We all know the pain, suffering and emotional hardship we can experience from time to time, and we all need a shoulder to cry on when those times come. Life was never meant to be journeyed through alone. That is what a church family is for. Lets have the courage and vulnerability to be real with one another; to be transparent. How transparent are you? Are you hiding behind a mask or do you regularly risk vulnerability? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Be Accountable to One Another At first, accountability may not seem like a benefit, but it is in fact a valuable way to support one another. Being accountable is a gift we can give each other. When we establish these relationships with one or two others in our church families, we are asking those individuals to walk with us and help to keep us from falling. Accountability relationships necessitate complete transparency, requiring that we are honest with each other and that we receive correction with humility. James 5:16 says to Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. This is not an easy thing to do; to expose our dirty laundry to another person. Im sure we would all like to maintain the perception of perfection, but the reality is we all fall at one time or another. We can help warn each other of dangerous situations, we can pray for one another to resist temptation and we can help each other up after weve fallen.

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Each individual is responsible for taking the first step in establishing these relationships. We need to want to be held accountable for our actions. We need to want to be completely vulnerable to another person. Once this first step is taken, the rewards are huge. Lets support each other so we do not fall. Have you ever been in an accountability relationship? How did you benefit from it? If you havent, is this something you would like in your life? Take some time to think and pray about who you would like to enlist as your accountability partner. Have the courage to take the next step and establish this relationship. Before we continue with the benefits, I have to pause to say that not all of these benefits are ones you may share with every person in your church. Its impossible (and might I say inappropriate) to be transparent and to be accountable to each person (unless you are a church of ten members or less). Im not suggesting that you need to share at a heart level with hundreds of people and confess all of your sins openly to everyone. People may think you are a little strange if you did! These types of benefits are most commonly shared in the context of smaller groups. I am suggesting that you develop this kind of intimacy with a handful of people. Use Our Gifts to Serve One Another Read 1 Peter 4:10. How are we to use the gifts we have been given? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The church is a place where God wants us to use the gifts He has given us. Our gifts were never meant to be used selfishly; instead they were meant to be used for the benefit of the body. It is in the safety of the church that we are given the grace to practice our gifts in their infancy, to make mistakes, to learn from them and to develop them into the fullness that God intended, for His glory alone. How are your gifts benefiting the body? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Worship Freely with One Another There is something so incredible about corporate worship. Masses of people, eyes closed and hands raised, proclaiming glory and honor to the only One who deserves it. A church is a place where we can feel free to worship with abandon, where we can join with our brothers and sisters in Christ and give praise to our God. It is a safe place to worship in the form God fashioned each of us to, without fear of ridicule or criticism. I believe corporate worship gives us a foretaste of what heaven will be like.

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Do you feel comfortable to worship freely on a Sunday morning? What does corporate worship mean to you? If you dont feel freedom in worship, what is holding you back? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Include One Another What is one of the greatest benefits to being in a church family? A sense of belonging. A place to be yourself. A place to be identified with other people who share the same hope, the same faith and the same God. Every human being has a desire to belong somewhere and for Christians, the church is that place. It is possible for people to be involved in a church and yet not feel connected. Each person needs to make an effort to look for people within the church who appear isolated. Sometimes churches can be big places full of people who are lonely. Make an attempt to connect with someone who you have never really had the opportunity to get to know. Be a blessing to them. Help them feel a part of the family. Do you appreciate your spiritual family for all that they do for you? Do you show your appreciation by loving them sacrificially and caring for them in practical ways? Look for opportunities to serve those in the body. We need each other. Lets do our best to be the church God designed us to be. Reflections Which benefit of belonging to a church do you currently appreciate most? Why? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Which aspect of doing life together do you need to demonstrate more to your fellow believers? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God, in His infinite wisdom, established the church on earth as His vehicle for changing the world and He did so with us in mind. He wanted to provide His children with a place of refuge, a place of support and a place of belonging. Who are you in Christ? You are one with all believers, united in His love. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Lord God, we absolutely love Your design and purpose for the church. You knew we would need one another to make it through this life. It was Your love for us that prompted You to create such a wonderful place to journey with other people. God, thank You that Your church has stood the test of time, that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Help us Lord to be a well-functioning part of Your body. Help us to use the gifts You have given to each of us to serve in Your church. And Lord, give us Your heart for the lost. Help us to realize the magnitude of what will happen to people if we dont tell them about You. Give us Your compassion and Your sense of urgency. And Lord, when we make an effort to share Your love, would You give us the words to say. Prepare the hearts of those we are to share with. May we always be striving to become more and more like Your Son. May we rise about all dissensions that threaten our unity. We are all Your children and therefore we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank You for the blessing of the church.

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WEEK 8 FROM VULNERABLE TO SECURE


Day 1

SAFE IN THE ARMS OF GOD I love the feeling that wells up inside of me when my husband hugs me. When he wraps his big arms around me I feel so safe and protected. I can easily get lost in the security of his embrace, and for a moment, all is right in the world. Do you have a place of safety? Somewhere you feel as if nothing could ever harm you? Somewhere you can rest, feeling completely secure and totally loved? God wants to be that Scripture Focus: place for us. He wants to be the ultimate place of safety and rest in every The Lord is my believers life. rock, my fortress and my savior; my Before our extreme makeover we were exposed to all the dangers of this God is my rock, in world. We were vulnerable to Satans attacks and often left defenseless. whom I find After coming to Christ, we move under His protective shelter. We are protection. He is secure because we have a Father who is looking out for us. The awesome my shield, the security of God is our theme for this week. power that saves me, and my place of Scripture, especially the Psalms, are filled with promises of Gods safety. protection. In week two we discussed the difference between Gods refuge Psalm 18:2 and His protection. Can you recall what the difference is? ___________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ To begin our study, we are going to examine a few Scriptures. What do you learn about Gods protection from these passages? Psalm 116:6 The Lord protects those with childlike faith. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Psalm 145:20 The Lord protects all those who love him. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Proverbs 2:8 He protects those who are faithful to him. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

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Psalm 37:24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Isaiah 46:34 Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime - until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Psalm 91 has always been a favorite of mine. It was shown to me by a friend who instructed me to replace all of the pronouns in verses 1116 with my name and rest in these promises of God. I have done so on more than one occasion. Read Psalm 91 in its entirety. List all of the words used in this passage to describe Gods protection. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What is our protection (verse 4)? ____________________________________________ What earthly circumstances do you fear the most (check all that apply)? _____ famine _____ crime _____ war _____ death of loved ones _____ disease _____ loss of employment _____ financial troubles _____ homelessness _____ failing health _____ other: __________________ According to verses 56, what are we not to be afraid of? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Who will God protect (verse 14)? ____________________________________________
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This psalm is a depiction of the believers trust. We are instructed to trade our fears for faith in Him and receive His protection. It sounds like a good trade to me! I want to point out a word that you may or may not have noticed in the beginning of this passage. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety. Putting our trust in God alone is the only place we can find true refuge. False Security Those without Christ often depend on a false sense of security. Before our makeover we did the same. Read Deuteronomy 28:52. What did the Israelites trust for protection? _____________________ What do you falsely cling to as protection in your life that could easily come crumbling down? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Placing our trust in anyone or anything else will only lead to disappointment. It will eventually crumble and fall. Lets take a look at another psalm that describes the safety of God. Read Psalm 121. What insights about Gods protection do you gain from this passage? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Isnt it comforting to know the God of the universe never sleeps? He is always awake watching the activity on earth. He watches over your life, He knows when you come and go, when you lie down and when you get up (Psalm 139:23). Nothing happens on earth that He is not aware of. Even as you are sound asleep, God is wide awake, making sure the earth continues in its orbit. Sleepless Nights We have all had sleepless nights at some point in our lives. The inability to sleep can be caused by a number of reasons; worry about a loved one or a situation; regret about past actions; thoughts about tomorrow and all the things needing to be accomplished. Whatever the case, lying there desperately try to turn off the relentless thoughts as minutes turn into hours can be quite difficult. I have been there a time or two in my life and the most frustrating part is, the more I try to fall asleep the more it escapes me. David writes in Psalm 4:8 In peace I will lay down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe. David was going through some very troubling times and yet he was able to sleep. According to this verse, why was David able to sleep in peace? __________________________

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David knew God would keep him safe, and he trusted Him to do so. Sleep does not come easy during stressful times, however, its easier to sleep with the calm assurance that God is in control. If you are lying awake at night worrying about things you cannot change, use it as an opportunity to pour your heart out to God. The Good Shepherd Many times in Scripture, Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd. We dont have many professional shepherds in our western culture today, so we need to spend some time getting an accurate picture of a shepherd in biblical times. A shepherds primary responsibility was to care for and protect his sheep. Shepherds would keep their flocks safe from harm as they guided them in search of fresh water and pasture. Sometimes several shepherds would pen their sheep together in a cave or a sheepfold at night. The next morning the shepherds would call to their sheep. Each sheep knew their shepherds voice and would respond immediately by following. Sheep are curious but dumb creatures, often unable to find their way home even if the sheepfold were in sight. Thats why the shepherd would never take his eyes off the sheep. Shepherds would serve as a protection for their sheep and they would literally lie across the entrance of a cave, placing their bodies between the sleeping sheep and harm. In this way, the presence of the shepherd offered comfort for the sheep. A shepherd cared about each sheep, so much so that he would leave his entire flock of sheep to search for one missing sheep. Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd in the gospel of John. Read John 10:118. What does the Good Shepherd do (verse 11)? __________________________________ What kind of relationship does the Good Shepherd have with his sheep (verse 14)? ________________________________________________________________________ What is the Good Shepherds priority (verse 16)? ________________________________

Savor the following Scripture taken from Isaiah 40:11: He will feed the flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. What a picture of tender care! The Good Shepherd will feed you, He will carry you in His arms and hold you close to His heart. He will gently lead you. Eternal Security Read John 10:28 29. What can never happen to you? ______________________________________________________________________________ You can never be snatched from Gods hand. Gods promises of protection often refer to your soul. He promises to protect you from eternal harm. The promise of eternal life can never be taken away from you because you have eternal security in Christ.

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Reflections Have you ever placed your trust in someone or something other than God that in the end failed you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ When have you experienced Gods protection? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ When have you experienced Gods tender care? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you truly believe God can and will take care of you? How does this affect the way you live your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 2 WHEN YOU GO THROUGH DEEP WATERS

I know what some of you are thinking, because I have been there many times myself. You completed yesterdays lesson, agreeing the concept of security in Christ sounds good. The protection and care of God are things you believe to be true, and you believe God has the power and the authority to protect you from all harm. After all, nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). However, you have been through things heart-breaking things in which you didnt receive Gods protection. You know He had the power to remove that situation from your life, and yet He didnt. You prayed and prayed, yet your child still died, you still suffered physically through that illness, your spouse still left you, or you still lost your job. How can this make sense? Why did God allow this to happen? You have every right to ask those questions. I continue to ask them of God as situations arise in my own life. What a delicate topic that I hope to treat with extreme gentleness and love. I dont know the specific hurts youve been through, but I do know that for some of you, they have been almost more than you can bear. I hope to shed some light on the fact that your Father knows all of your hurts, and He cares deeply for you. Lets allow God to gently speak to us today in love, even if its through our tears. Is Anyone Immune to Difficulty? Difficult times are a certainty in our fallen world and we cannot escape them. James 1:2 says When troubles come your way it does not say If troubles come your way. We are guaranteed to go through hard times on this side of eternity. Being a believer does not exempt us from these. Why doesnt God make our life easy the moment we become His? There are a number of reasons: We live in a fallen world. Since the time Adam and Eve sinned, our world has been corrupt. Sin entered the world, and along with it came hardship, difficulties and trials. We will never be free from these until we reach heaven. Satan has authority on this earth (1 John 5:19). Scripture refers to Satan as the god of the world (2 Corinthians 4:4). The thiefs purpose is to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). He is the author of all evil. God allows Satan to work in our world, but the good news is, God is still in control. God has purpose in our trials. He wants to teach us and develop our character. The times of intense spiritual growth in my life have taken place when it feels as if my world is falling apart. Unfortunately, that is true for most of us.

Even the apostle Paul endured great suffering and hardship during his ministry on earth. And yet he kept looking to God for strength. Paul speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 4:812. Read this passage and fill in the blanks. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but _________________________________
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We are perplexed, but ____________________________________________________ We are hunted down, but __________________________________________________ We are knocked down, but ________________________________________________ Through suffering our bodies share in the death of Jesus, so that __________________ ______________________________________________________________________ Live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that ______________ ______________________________________________________________________ Live in the face of death which results in ______________________________________

I have often wondered why some people seem to experience more difficulty in their lives than others. Some people move from trial to trial, with seemingly no break in between. Perhaps you are one of those people, and it doesnt seem fair. We could make assumptions about why this is, but I dont think we will find answers this side of heaven. The ultimate in trust is believing Gods overall plan is for our good and His glory. Why Does God Allow Suffering? Many people, believers and unbelievers alike, get stuck on this question, unable to move beyond it. They cant imagine why a loving God would allow people to suffer. The reality is, it wasnt His choice. When He created the earth and everything in it, it was good. The way God originally planned life to be is not what we see around us today. It was us, as humans, who allowed sin to come into the world. We cannot answer the why question with certainty for every difficulty in our lives because we dont see all of the things God sees. He has chosen to allow evil to reign in this world for a time. Jesus said in John 16:33, Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. Yes, God permits suffering among His children, but it grieves Him terribly. When you cry, He hurts. He understands your pain. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus suffered too. We can take comfort in the fact that He sees, He understands and He walks through it with us. We dont always know why bad things happen, but we can be sure its not because of a lack of love on His part. Read Romans 8:3539. Hard times cause us to wonder if God has abandoned us, but Paul says in this passage that it is impossible to be separated from Gods love. We are absolutely secure in His love for us.

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What circumstances are you facing (or have faced in the past) that have caused you do doubt Gods love for you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Where Do Difficulties Come From? Often we are tempted to think every difficult situation in our lives comes from Satan. If its bad, it must be his doing, right? And so we start rebuking the devil. Why doesnt this always work? Because Satan isnt always the author of troubles; he is the author of all evil as we have previously said, but this doesnt mean hes responsible for all adversity in our lives. Other times we may believe our situation is a result of not enough faith on our part. So how do we attempt to fix that? We start praying for greater faith, and we muster up a greater amount of believing. And again, this does not work. The reality is, difficult circumstances happen in our lives for a variety of reasons and some may go unexplained, however we will attempt to put them into three broad categories. 1. Difficulties as a result of sin When we are faced with difficult situations, the first thing we must do is look within. Is there an area of disobedience in our lives? If we have sinned, Scripture teaches God will eventually give us over to our sin (Psalm 81:12). God forgives but He often still allows us to experience the consequences of our sin. Read James 1:1415. What does sin always result in? ____________________________ Sometimes it is physical death, but usually it is more subtle. Our relationships may die, our self-esteem may decrease, or our ministry may suffer. But sin is not the only reason for difficult times in our lives. There are two others we will consider. 2. Difficulty as a result of Satan A second source of adversity is Satan. God could be allowing Satan to attack us in a certain way. Perhaps the most vivid example in Scripture of Satans involvement in adversity is in the life of Job. If youre not familiar with Jobs story, I encourage you to read it for yourself. Job experienced horrendous difficulties in his life at the hand of Satan, and he suffered immensely. This account captures a conversation between Satan and God in which God allowed Satan to literally destroy Jobs entire world. Perhaps these conversations happen in the heavenly realm even today. We can be sure Satan is involved at some level in adversity on this earth because he loves to stir up trouble. Have you ever noticed when you have a spiritual mountaintop experience, Satans attacks follow closely behind? We are a threat to his dark kingdom, and his intention is to try to turn us away from God. He wants us to suffer through crisis because suffering often destroys our trust in God.

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3. Difficulties as a result of God This is an area that is difficult to accept. Keep in mind Gods ultimate purpose in our lives is always for good (Romans 8:28). Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life. God brings difficult situations into our lives to test us, to prepare us for service and to develop our character. These situations are often painful, but flow out of His love for us. He sees our lives from eternity; whereas all we can see is the moment we are currently in. He brings situations into our lives that He knows will prepare us for what is to come. An example in Scripture of adversity that came from God appears in John 9:13. Describe what happened. What was the reason for this particular trial? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ So how are we supposed to know where a particular difficulty comes from? The truth is, we may not always know. We begin by examining our hearts to see if weve sinned. If there is sin, we need to confess it. We still may reap the consequences of our sin; however we need to stop it from continuing. God uses this type of chastisement for our benefit. If we take a good look within and dont find any known sin, either Satan is the author of our difficulty or God is bringing the situation into our lives for a greater purpose. How do we narrow it down from there? We can ask God to give us a clearer perspective on the situation, but if God does not give an answer, we mustnt get stuck trying to figure out why. God may have a reason for not telling us. Our response should be the same in both cases. God will use Satans attacks on our lives for our good. What Satan intended for evil, God intends for good. And the adversity God appoints is always meant for our good. He is doing it to cause us to grow spiritually, so in either case our response should be the same; trust Him. Look to Him for strength, cry out to Him in our despair, and then ask Him to use our suffering to increase our faith and dependence on Him. Regardless of its source, hardship is Gods most effective tool for growing faith and deepening trust in Him. Reflections What is your understanding of why God allows people to suffer? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Have you ever asked God why in the midst of a difficult situation? Did you receive an answer? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Are you able to accept Gods love for you even in the midst of tragedy? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you find it difficult to believe in the security of God, given your present or past circumstances? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3 WHEN YOU WALK THROUGH THE FIRE

The topic we began yesterday is so critical that we will continue our discussion today. I trust you are letting Gods Word and His promises heal some of your deep hurts as we study together. What Is God Doing While We Are Suffering? Does God not care? Is He too busy? Does He not see my situation and not hear my desperate cries for help? We have all asked these kinds of questions at one time or another. What is God doing while we are going through crisis? Read Exodus 14:14 and fill in the blanks. The Lord himself will ______________________ for you. Just stay calm. What is God doing? He is fighting for you! He cares deeply when He sees one of His children suffering, even if He allowed the circumstance to happen. He is watching and fighting on your behalf.
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Read Isaiah 41:10 and fill in the blanks. Dont be afraid, for I am with you. Dont be discouraged for I am your God. I will _________________ you and _____________ you. I will ____________ __________ _________ with my victorious right hand. Even though we face trials, God promises to be with us. He promises to strengthen us in the midst of them. If we call on Him, He promises to hold us up.

Read Nahum 1:7 and fill in the blanks. The Lord is good, a strong ____________________ when trouble comes. He is _____________ to those who trust in him. God is our refuge in times of trouble. We can run to Him when we are overwhelmed by grief, sorrow or despair. Where is God while you are suffering? Hes right beside you.

Read Mark 4:3541. Where was Jesus when the disciples faced the fierce storm? ________________________________________________________________________ We can find strength and security knowing that Jesus is with us in the boat of life.

Read 2 Corinthians 1:4. He _________________ us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others. God offers us comfort when our world is falling apart so we can be a comfort to others when they are experiencing difficulties. God gave me an illustration that may be appropriate here. I was putting my two-year old son to bed for a nap on an especially windy day. He happens to be terrified of the wind, and unfortunately his room is located on the corner of the house that, most of the time, receives the brunt of the winds attack. On that particular day I really needed him to sleep, probably more for my own sanity! So as I tucked him in and closed the door I began to ask God to calm the wind. But something made me stop midstream and revise my prayer. Instead, I prayed God would calm my sons fears in the midst of the wind. Because the reality is, there will be other windy days, and the more effective solution to the problem is that he would no longer fear the wind. This is so true in our own lives. Often we ask God to calm the storm and remove the difficulty, but a better prayer is to ask God to calm our hearts in the midst of the storm, because lets face it, when this one ends, another one is sure to follow.

Through Gods Eyes God sees our lives from the position of eternity. Do you agree that our limited five senses do not allow us to understand what is going on in the spiritual realm? Because of this, have you ever wondered how many times you have been unaware when God has protected you from harm? We
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tend to automatically think of the times in our lives when we would have rather been spared the pain, but what if He already has protected you from countless situations you didnt even know about? I cant wait to get to heaven and view the movie of my life. Im convinced it includes special features that will allow me to see what could have happened. Lets praise God now for His protection from things unseen. We need to look at our situations through Gods eyes, not our own. If we look at them through our own eyes, all we see are trials, suffering and hard times. If we look at them through Gods eyes we see opportunities to trust, to find comfort, to grow, to change and to lean on Him. There are many things going on in the spiritual realm that we cannot see. Keep in mind, heaven views your situation from a different angle than you do; its an eternal perspective. The End is in Sight Read Pauls encouragement in 2 Corinthians 4:1618. What is the secret to enduring hardship? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ One day suffering will end. Revelations 7:1617 says, They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. When we reach heaven all of our trials, sorrows, hardships and difficulties will be over. There are no tears past the gate. Read James 1:12. What does God promise those who patiently endure testing? ______________________________________________________________________________ Romans 8:18 says, Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. We must fix our eyes on Jesus and keep an eternal perspective. We must believe that whatever we endure while on this earth will be worth the overwhelming joy of heaven. Reflections Have you ever felt as if God didnt care about your difficult situation? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe the hope you feel when you realize the difficult times you go through while on this earth, do not even begin to compare to the joy you will experience in heaven. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Being safe in Gods arms doesnt mean you are always protected from hard times. What it does mean is God holds you up and protects you while your world may be crumbling around you. He becomes your strength. Read the following passage as many times as you need to until His amazing promises sink into the core of your being. But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. You are precious to me. You are honored and I love you. Isaiah 43:14 Have you gone through deep waters in your life? Have you almost drowned in a river of difficulty? Describe Gods care and protection during these times. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God cares about what you are going through. Psalm 56:8 says, You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all of my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Describe the comfort this brings you. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God is with us in the valleys of life. He is right by our side, giving us strength to face the storm. He has the power to free us from difficulty. He is big enough, wise enough, and strong enough. But many times He chooses not to. He chooses to leave us just where we are. Why? So well learn to trust Him. So well learn to rely on Him and lean on Him. If God rescued us from all of our troubles we would begin to think it was of our own doing and slowly forget Him. We would lessen our dependence on Him. So God chooses to leave us where we are. But the precious part is God says, Ill join you. Ill walk through it with you. Hold My hand, Ill lead you out. Experiencing difficulties, ranging in severity, are not an option in this world. So if we cant escape hardships and suffering, Id rather do it with God than without Him, wouldnt you?
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Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 4 GODS PURPOSE IN TRIALS

God promises He can use all things for our good if we allow Him to. All things includes our difficulties. We need to believe God has purpose in our trials; that He can and will use them for our betterment. Rest assured that God will never allow you to go through a difficulty unless He can use it for good. The purpose will always be greater than the pain. Today we will focus on some of the reasons God may allow us to walk through the furnace of affliction. 1) Develop Our Character It is easy for us to live obediently when things are going well, but the true test of our character happens when we face difficulty. This is Gods main purpose in our trials. He wants to grow our character. He is much more interested in our character development than in our happiness or comfort. Thats a difficult statement to hear. I know, because I continue to struggle with it. God cares more about whats inside you than whats around you (1 Samuel 16:7). He cares about the type of person you are, and He wants to shape you until you closely resemble His Son. Read James 1:24. When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great _____________. God doesnt expect us to pretend to be happy in difficult circumstances. Instead He expects us to rejoice because of what can be produced in our lives from the trials. Isaiah 48:10 says, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering. Just as silver is refined in a fire, so we are refined in fiery trials. In the refining process, impurities rise to the top of the metal and are scraped off. The same is true for our refining. When placed in difficult situations, our impurities surface causing us to recognize them, then we and God together are able to address the real issues. When we find ourselves responding to situations in old ways, God is saying, We

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need to deal with that again, Child. Difficult situations bring sin to the surface so God can remove it from our lives. Read Romans 5:34 and fill in the blanks. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop ______________________. And endurance develops ____________________ of _________________, and character strengthens our confident ________________ of salvation. 2) Test Our Faith God may allow difficulties in our lives to increase our faith. When our circumstances drive us into His arms, we are giving Him the opportunity to prove Himself faithful, which He will do again and again. Struggles cause us to trust God for who He is, not only for what He does. They strengthen our faith as we endure. Read 1 Peter 1:67. What is being tested during trials? _________________________________ Read 2 Corinthians 1:89. What was the purpose behind all of the hardship that Paul suffered in Asia? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God wants us to learn to rely on Him. He wants our complete dependence. As we recognize our own powerlessness over situations, we learn to depend on Him more and more. With this attitude, our problems will move us toward God, instead of driving us away from Him. If we only trust God when times are good, we really dont trust at all. 3) Discover Our Potential Many people overcome devastating odds to go on to accomplish great things. Sometimes it seems the more intense the struggle, the more determination is needed to rise above it. We may not know what we are really capable of until we go through difficulties and come out on the other side still breathing! God uses trials to prepare us for our calling. He sees us for who we will become, whereas we are often limited to what we currently see in ourselves. God may allow difficulties in our lives to make us realize the extent of our own potential and His power through us. 4) Reach Beyond Ourselves Part of Gods purpose in our suffering is so we can help others who ware going through similar situations. Nothing speaks more effectively into a persons hurt than someone who can say I understand. Ive been there. There is great comfort in knowing someone else has gone through a similar circumstance and survived. Again, He comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4). Our faith can serve as an example to others. When others see how we respond in the midst of difficulties, our faith is a demonstration of Gods faithfulness.
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5) Reveal His Glory Read 2 Corinthians 12:10. What happens when we turn to God in our weakness? ______________________________________________________________________________ When we allow God to fill us with His power and strength, others can see Him at work in our lives. When we appear strong in the midst of a situation that should devastate us, others will take notice and wonder how we are able to respond that way. Then when God is given the credit, He is glorified. Many people are living testimonies of Gods grace, strength and comfort as they stand firm during overwhelming trials. God has great purpose in our trials. We must recognize that if we didnt suffer, we wouldnt grow. We would never discover our own strength and reach our full potential. We wouldnt be able to reach out to others in authentic care and complete understanding. We wouldnt learn to rely on Him and we wouldnt catch glimpses of His glory. These are things I dont want to miss out on. We must not conclude we are not secure in Christ when we go through hard times. As we have learned, God has far greater purposes than sheltering us from pain. Every human being suffers to some extent. The difference is that, as Christians, our suffering need not be in vain. If we allow God to work in and through our difficult circumstances, He is glorified and we are continually transformed. We would have no reason to lean on Him if things went well all of the time. All of our trials are opportunities for God to demonstrate His power in and through us. Trust Him. God already knows how He can use everything that comes into your life for eternity. My Testimony One of the most difficult times in my life (to date) occurred while I was pregnant with my first child. My pregnancy didnt go quite how I planned. I went into pre-term labor at 5 months, which thankfully was stopped by a team of skilled physicians. As a result I spent the next seven weeks in the hospital on complete bed rest. It was a very trying time for my husband and I. We were very concerned for our unborn child. Could God have spared us from going through that difficult experience? Of course He could have, but view my situation in light of our current discussion. God kept me immobilized on that hospital bed as a way of protecting our baby until the time was safe for our son to enter the world. My difficult circumstance was actually a demonstration of His protection. And I am forever grateful. I am anticipating the question that may be forming in your mind. You are wondering why God didnt save me from the situation entirely. Why didnt He just enable me to have a completely normal pregnancy with a full-term, healthy baby? He could have. Please listen to what I am about to say. I wouldnt have wanted Him to. It was during those seven weeks that I experienced Gods presence more than I ever have before. It was a turning point in my life. I learned to spend time with Him, to lean on Him and to experience His peace. Dont misunderstand me; the situation itself was extremely difficult, and yet it was a very precious time in my life of experiencing God.
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Reflections Do you trust God? Do you believe He always has the best in mind for you even when He is leading you through valleys? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Why do difficult times actually put us in a good position to receive Gods greatest blessings? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe how God has used a difficult time in your life to fulfill His purposes (i.e. develop your character, test your faith, discover your potential, reach out to others, reveal His glory). ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I pray I have not said anything to offend you or to wound you further this week. My intention was not to trivialize or cause you to re-live your pain, but instead to give you fresh insight into Gods care and compassion for you. I believe He cries when you cry, He hurts when you hurt, and Hes speaking into your heart, My Child, let Me use this for your good. Let Me carry you through it. Ive watched My own Son die on a cross, but I did it for you so you would know that I love you. Let Me share in your pain. Let me bandage the wounds and heal you. Let Me wipe every tear from your eye. We can get through this together. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE Well, fellow believer, we have come through some difficult topics this week. I hope you have a clearer understanding of Gods love for you even in the midst of trials. Let me remind you the purpose of this weeks study was to examine what it means to be secure in Christ. Weve moved from before: a place of vulnerability, to after: a place of security. Lets review some reassuring passages of Scripture that speak to this. 1 John 5:18 We know that Gods children do not make a practice of sinning, for Gods Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. God holds you securely in His hand. Colossians 3:3 For you died to this life and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. What does it mean to be hidden with Christ? It means to be safe and secure. We can trust God with our lives because we are hidden with Christ.

We have also learned this week that being secure in Christ does not mean He will always protect us from every difficulty that comes our way. In fact, we are promised we will go through trials on this earth. The good news is, we can find shelter in Him in the midst of the storm. And we can experience His grace, mercy and love when our world is falling down around us. We are allowed to ask why. Its alright to come to Him with questions about why we are suffering but we need to follow it up with a what. What is our response to this situation? How do we respond to our security in Christ even in the midst of difficult circumstances? Thats what we are going to talk about today. How can we practically go through lifes ups and downs and still live out our security in Christ? See, its one thing to know in our heads that we are secure in Christ, but its a totally different thing to actually live like we believe it. We will examine five ways our security in Christ can become a reality in our lives. 1) Resist Fear Experiencing fear is normal. We all have at one time or another. But being paralyzed by fear reflects an inability to trust God, and it keeps us from Gods best for us. God wants us to come to Him with our fears. Fear evaporates when we trust God. When we believe He is with us during our trials, we conquer our fear. God can bring peace amidst any storm in your life. May you be able to say in truth, Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4). What is your greatest fear? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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My greatest fear is the loss of my children. The thought of one of them dying can almost render me frozen with fear. However, I must tell you, I am gaining victory over this fear. Do you want to know what changed it for me? I realized that no matter what happens in the future, including losing a child, I can get through it with God and I mean that from the depth of my soul. No matter what lies ahead of me, I know that I will be alright. Yes, I will go through seasons of difficulty, grief and sorrow, and many of those times will be almost more than I can endure, almost. Im claiming Gods promise that He will not allow me to suffer more than I can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). I trust Him to walk through trials with me. I believe Him when He says I will not drown in rivers of difficulty and I will not be burned by fiery trials. 2) Resist Worry Worrying has many ill effects on our lives. It can damage our health, lessen our productivity, negatively affect the way we treat others and more importantly, it reduces our faith in God. Worriers are consumed by fear and are unable to trust God. Philippians 4:6 Dont ______________ about anything, instead _________________ about everything. Easier said than done, I know. I have been known to be a worrier about many things, mostly things that are beyond my control. But the truth is, we cannot change what is going to happen in the future by worrying about it today. Worrying is futile, it accomplishes nothing. The sooner we learn to turn our worries into prayers, the more productive we will be. Read Matthew 6:2534. What does Jesus command us not to worry about? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Why are we instructed not to worry (verse 27)? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What are we supposed to do instead? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

Even through the most difficult circumstances, we are not to worry. That doesnt mean we cant be concerned. Worry and concern are very different. Worrying means allowing fearful thoughts to consume us, while being concerned about something is the feeling we have when something affects us and motivates us to do something about it. The former is useless and the latter is productive. If we are concerned about a situation, we need to bring those concerns to God in prayer and act as He directs.
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In what situations are you most likely to pray? Least likely? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Make a list of things you are currently worried about. Spend some time turning these worries into prayers. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ 3) Rest in Him Read Matthew 11:2830. What does God promise if we come to Him? ____________________ Scripture tells us God is a place of rest for the believer. We do not need to wait until eternity to enjoy the rest of God. Scripture says Gods promise of entering his rest still stands (Hebrews 4:1). We can claim daily rest now. It comes from trusting God. So lets do our best to enter his rest (Hebrews 4:11). I dont know about you, but resting in Gods promises sounds wonderful to me. Too many people spend much of their lives trying to manipulate situations. We often work ourselves to the point of exhaustion doing things to advance ourselves and please others. Wouldnt you love to be free from all of that and instead rest in Gods promises? When we place our full trust in God, He will let us rest in green meadows (Psalm 23:2). 4) Wait on Him What a difficult concept! In our action-packed, results-oriented world, waiting is so hard and often foreign to us. It goes against our very beings for many reasons, including our stubborn independence. How can we live in the security of Christ? We need to wait in His presence, trusting Him as we do. Read Psalm 37:7 and fill in the blanks. Be _____________ in the presence of the Lord, and ______________ __________________ for him to act. Wait patiently? Yes, patiently. Waiting on God demonstrates our faith in Him, it shows Him that we trust Him. How many times have you taken things into your own hands and tried to fix a situation because you had grown tired of waiting for God to intervene? Did it work? My guess would be no. Its always best to wait on Gods timing, even though it is not an easy thing to do.

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Have you ever found yourself running ahead of God? What happened as a result? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ King David lists benefits he received from waiting on God in Psalm 40:13. List them here. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We receive the best of the blessings God has for us when we wait on Him. Waiting for deliverance from difficult times increases our maturity and develops our character. Be patient and wait on God. 5) Persevere When we are faced with difficulty Scripture instructs us to persevere and to press on. Read 1 Peter 4:19. What does this passage promise to those who trust their lives to God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We are to keep on doing what is right, trusting God in the meantime and He promises never to fail us. When you feel as if you cant go on, trust God. Rely on His strength and power to sustain you. He will carry you through this life as you lean on Him. Be determined to come out pure as gold when you are tested (Job 23:10). The Bottom Line These five areas we just studied all come down to one thing, our faith in God. When we believe we are secure in Christ and live that way, we demonstrate we trust Him. Even in the midst of difficult situations we dont understand, we can trust Him. Even when we cant imagine what morsel of good could come out of our trial, we choose to trust Him. After every attempt to rationalize our situation and depend on our own understanding yields nothing, we will trust Him. We acknowledge that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:89). And we trust Him. Reflections Which do you find most difficult? _____ resisting worry _____ resting in God _____ persevering

_____ resisting fear _____ waiting on God

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Why do you find it difficult? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your level of trust in God. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What does your security in Christ mean to you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Paul described his philosophy on life in Philippians 1:2024. Read this passage. It didnt matter to Paul whether he lived or died. If he lived, he would live for Christ, if he died, he would die for Christ. What an amazing testimony of abandonment of self and total confidence in the security God provides. Can we say the same? It doesnt matter what happens to me in this life, I will continue to live for God. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

God, Your Word says You hold us securely in Your hand. It says we can find refuge in You. And yet we still face difficulties. We have things happen in our lives that almost destroy us. They are painful experiences. God, help us to run to You in those times. Enable us to allow You to use our difficulties for your purposes. Refine our character, show us Your glory and test our faith. May it come out pure as gold. And Lord, please walk with us. Dont let us drown in the rivers of difficulty. Lift us up with Your powerful arm. God, we trust You.

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WEEK 9 FROM CURSED TO BLESSED


Day 1 SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS

Thanksgiving is the time of year we reflect on the many blessings in our lives. I remember as a child sitting at my Grandmothers table after the turkey feast, listing all of the things we were thankful for. We would go around the table and each person would share. This is a precious tradition I want to continue with Scripture Focus: my own children. All praise to God, the Father of our As Christians, we recognize the blessings in our lives come from the Lord Jesus Christ, generous hand of God. As children of God, we are blessed in many ways. who has blessed us This week we are going to focus on what it means to be blessed in Christ with every spiritual and how that awareness should impact our lives. Lets begin by blessing in the participating in the Thanksgiving tradition. heavenly realms because we are List all of the things in your life you are thankful for. united with Christ. ___________________________________________________________ Ephesians 1:3 ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We will come back to the response of gratitude in our final day of study this week; however, I wanted you to begin our study by recognizing that, regardless of your present circumstances, you are in fact blessed. Before to After From cursed to blessed. Thats the effect Gods extreme makeover has on us. We move from a position of receiving curses to receiving blessings. Read Deuteronomy 28:126. Think about some curses and blessings that would be todays equivalent to those God listed for the Israelites. Ive given you an example.

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Curse Your children will always be at the bottom of the class. ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________

Blessings Your children will succeed in school. _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________

Before our makeover we were cursed. After, God sees us in a position of blessing. Because we belong to Him we are highly favored. Gods favor rests on those who love Him. Many Spiritual Blessings Today we are going to focus on the spiritual blessings God bestows on us as His children. Our central scripture for study is found in Ephesians 1:3 and is our Scripture focus for this week. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. What a wonderful verse! It means that in Christ we have all the benefits of knowing God. They have already been given to us. Why? Because we are united with Christ. The phrase heavenly realms means these blessings are eternal and cannot be taken from us. So exactly what are spiritual blessings? What benefits do we enjoy because we know God? I have provided a list of spiritual blessings below, but be aware that it is incomplete. You may think of others to add. The rest of todays material is self-directed. The best way to understand and embrace Gods wonderful blessings for us as His children, is to read about them in His Word. In each case, read the Scripture and write down any insight you receive about the spiritual blessing described (Note: some we have discussed in previous weeks). Insight 1 Corinthians 2:14 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Power to do Gods will Philippians 2:13 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________

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Eternal life Romans 6:23 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Holy Spirit - John 16:515 and 2 Corinthians 1:22 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ The Word Psalm 119:105 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Prayer Matthew 6:515 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Peace John 14:27 and Psalm 29:11 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Wholeness Colossians 2:10 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Hope Philippians 3:1314 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ Godly wisdom Proverbs 2:311 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________

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Comfort 2 Corinthians 1:37 ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ These spiritual blessings are guaranteed. They are not dependant on how often you go to church, how little you fall into sin, or how godly you behave. They are available because of Gods extreme makeover in your life. Claim these blessings for yourself, they are from Gods generous hand to yours. Reflections Which spiritual blessing are you most grateful for and why? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Which spiritual blessing do you take for granted? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 2 WHO WILL GOD BLESS?

A study of the blessings of God would not be complete without taking a look at the Beatitudes. This list, given by Jesus to believers, tells us Gods criteria for blessing us. Jesus began His longest recorded sermon by describing the characteristics He expected from His followers. The blessings of God, promised in the beatitudes do not refer to material blessings or wealth on this earth. Instead, the Greek word translated blessed in these passages means having spiritual well-being. Jesus is referring to spiritual blessings. Read Matthew 5:312 and fill in the following blanks 1. God blesses those who ____________________________________________________. 2. God blesses those who ____________________________________________________. 3. God blesses those who ____________________________________________________. 4. God blesses those who ____________________________________________________. 5. God blesses those who ____________________________________________________. 6. God blesses those whose ____________________________________________________. 7. God blesses those who ____________________________________________________. 8. God blesses those who ____________________________________________________. These words seem to be the exact opposite of what the world teaches. Gods way of thinking usually doesnt agree with human logic. God often uses the most unlikely candidates through whom He does great things. He chooses the weak to become strong. He teaches submission to find freedom. He tells us to give up our lives so we will find them. And He commands us to love our enemies. We are going to examine each of the eight blessings individually. As we go through them, remember that Jesus is describing a true disciple. And Hes also giving us the secret to living a blessed life. Blessed Are Those Who Realize Their Need For God People, who are poor in spirit as the NIV describes, are those who acknowledge their own helplessness, and choose to rely on God instead of themselves. The world teaches us to be proud

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of our independence, but God does not bless those who rely on their own strength. He wants us to rely solely on Him. I love the way The Message paraphrases this first Beatitude: Youre blessed when youre at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. Being at the end of your rope is not a fun place to be, but it is a place where God can begin to say to you, Are you done trying all by yourself? Allow me to step in and take over. And when God is allowed to take control of any life, amazing things happen. I imagine my body as a container filled with me and the more of me I empty, the more room God has to fill me up with Himself. We know we are growing spiritually when gradually there is less of us and more of God. The more I depend on God, the more He is able to make Himself known to me. The reward for those who depend on God is inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. As we place our trust in Him, He rewards us with eternal life. Describe your level of dependence on God. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Blessed Are Those Who Mourn When we are in a place of sorrow, we are able to experience Gods comfort. Sorrow in this case refers to the feeling we have over our sin, as well as actively sharing with Jesus in the worlds hurt and sin. Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah when he said, The Lord has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1). Comfort was part of Jesus job description when He walked the earth. The world strives for happiness at all cost and tries to avoid sorrow altogether. However, we cannot experience Gods comfort if we dont feel broken over our sin and the hurt we see in the world around us. Describe your level of sorrow over your own sin. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Does the state of our world grieve you? What effect does the hurt and suffering of people have on you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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I believe God gives each of us a different heartache. Some peoples hearts break for children who are abused, others hurt for the hungry and others experience a broken heart over the homeless. There is no shortage of sorrow in the world. What is your specific heartache? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Blessed Are Those Who Are Humble Humility is a holy unawareness of ourselves. Humility is not a word the world finds favorable, instead it prefers power and pride in accomplishments. Scripture says in Isaiah 57:15, The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: I live in a high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. Humility comes when we compare ourselves to God, then we see ourselves as we truly are. What is the blessing for the humble? They will literally inherit the earth when Christ reigns for a thousand years. Everything we give up now in the name of Jesus will be given back one hundred times over in eternity. Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness Part of pursuing righteousness is a longing to see honesty, integrity and justice in the world. Those who want these things will work hard to positively affect their corner of the world. People will take notice when believers go out of their way to demonstrate these qualities, because it is counter-culture. Unbelievers would rather pursue their own personal desires, but our first priority as Christians must be the things of God. The Message says, Youre blessed when youve worked up a good appetite for God. If we hunger and thirst in true desperation after Him and seek Him first, He promises to satisfy us. How hungry are you? Do you have a passion for righteousness in your own life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How are you positively affecting the world around you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Blessed Are Those Who Are Merciful Check all that describe a person who is merciful: _____ actively compassionate _____ punishes those who offend against them _____ helps others in need _____ readily forgives _____ is too consumed with their own lives to recognize the needs of others God says if we are merciful to others, He will in turn show mercy to us. The Message says, Youre blessed when you care. At the moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for. How can we develop mercy in our lives? The secret is found in Ephesians 5:1. What is it? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We are to follow the example of Christ. He offered Himself for us as a sacrifice. This sacrificial way of living is how we demonstrate mercy to others. Blessed Are Those Whose Hearts Are Pure God does not look at the outward appearance. His first priority is not what we do or where we go. Gods interest is our hearts. He examines the motive behind every action. We cant fool Him by doing good deeds for the wrong reasons. Youre blessed when you get your inside world your mind and heart put right (MSG). The blessing that awaits those who are pure in heart is they will see God. The pure in heart are able to see God now at work around them as they seek Him through the Word and prayer and will literally see God in eternity. Do you want to see God? I desire nothing more than to catch a glimpse of Him. All who have the eager expectation of seeing God will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3). If Gods priority is my heart, then my priority must be the same. What are some specific things you can do to keep your motives pure? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ thoughts holy? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ conscience clean? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

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heart set on God? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Blessed Are Those Who Work For Peace Notice it doesnt say blessed are those who love peace? Its not good enough to say you would prefer peace, or you would like to live in a peaceful world. Blessed are those who work for peace; those who strive to maintain it; those who actively intervene to make peace in the midst of conflict. The Message puts it this way: Youre blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. Thats when you discover who you really are, and your place in Gods family. Some people, me included, try to avoid conflict at all costs. This isnt the same as working for peace. Sometimes it is necessary for us to confront people or situations, but this can be done peaceably. For example, confronting a friend who has broken a trust can be done with the motive of restoring the relationship to wholeness. How actively do you strive for peace in your family, in your relationships and in your work environment? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted We are blessed when we suffer for doing what is right. Suffering is often a result when we take a stand of faith against the evil in this world (2 Timothy 3:12). God promises the Kingdom of Heaven will be ours if we are persecuted for following Him. We are given great and eternal rewards as we suffer for the sake of Christ. The world teaches self-preservation at all costs; again completely opposite to what the Word teaches. But God promises to reward those who stand firm in His name. The fact that we are being persecuted proves our faith. Its important to realize, as well, that not everything that happens against us is because we are doing great things for God. Sometimes we bring negative consequences on ourselves by inappropriate behavior or wrong motives. We must guard ourselves against developing a martyr complex. Reflections Who will God bless? Will it be you? How does your life match the characteristics Jesus described? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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How does your life fall short of Jesus description? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3 GOD LONGS TO BLESS HIS CHILDREN

I love surprising my children with things I know they will like. It brings me great joy to see their little faces light up when presented with a gift. The same is true of our Heavenly Father. Not only does God supply our needs, but He delights in spoiling us as well. Jeremiah 32:41 says, I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land. God loves to bless us with little things in the midst of every day life. We must take notice of the ways in which God blesses us, and give Him the credit He deserves. As we discussed on day one, being blessed by God means more than just being happy, it implies the privileged state of those who belong to God. Are you still marveling at how blessed you are as a child of God? Regardless of your present circumstances, you are blessed in Christ. But lets go one step further. Not only do we receive spiritual blessings in Christ, there are many other blessings God gives to us as His children throughout our lifetimes. You probably included some of these in your thanksgiving list on day one of this week. The Heart of a Parent One of my most precious memories of my son occurred when we were traveling home one evening. As he was gazing through the window up into the night sky I pointed out the moon. There were a few moments of silence, then he turned to me and asked, Me hold on moon, Mommy? I smiled and said, No buddy, you cant hold onto the moon. Its too high up in the sky. In a sweet small voice he responded, Pease Mommy? My mothers heart wished I could
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have reached right up to heaven, snatched the moon from the sky and given it to my son. Thats the heart of a parent. We want to give gifts to our children to make them happy. We would do anything to see a smile. Do you think it might be the same with God? Many people mistakenly believe the Christian life is characterized only by suffering and drudgery. Although suffering is unavoidable for believers and unbelievers alike, this is far from the case. As we learned last week, even pain and suffering can be a blessing in itself because of what God can do through it. Your life with God can be an exciting journey filled with wonderful moments. Other people also mistakenly believe that as Christians we must live a meager existence; that anything beyond our basic needs is sinful to acquire. This is not true, dont believe it for a moment! God wants to bless you! If God didnt want to bless His children, then who would He want to bless? Let me add a disclaimer before we go too far. There are requirements on our part. There are things we must do to receive Gods blessing, which we will discuss tomorrow. But for today I want you to join me in believing that God wants good things for you, and that He longs to shower blessings on your life. Write Psalm 37:4 in the space below. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ He will give you what? Your basic needs so you can barely scrape by? No. Your hearts desires! The things you want. The things you would enjoy. The things that would make you happy. The word happy has almost been removed from our Christian vocabulary. We replace it with words like joy and contentment, and there are certainly situations in which that is appropriate. But in this case, I believe God wants to bless us purely to make us happy! Happiness is appropriate when it is Gods gift to us. We are allowed to be, and should be, happy when God blesses us. Allow me to provide further scriptural proof. He grants the desires of those who fear him (Psalm 145:19) Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things (Psalm 81:10). How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed (Psalm 112:1). God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation (James 1:12). Blessings reward the righteous (Psalm 13:21). Read Luke 11:1113.What reasons do you have for giving gifts to those you love? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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If we as sinful people, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will God give to those who ask Him? Im sure we have all enjoyed the satisfaction and joy that comes when we give a perfect gift to someone. Its the excitement and gratitude of the recipient that is the reward to the giver. The same is true for God. He delights in giving us good gifts, He likes to spoil us as His children. Take Notice Whenever I am awake early in the morning and witness a beautiful sunrise, it makes me smile. Its a special moment between God and me. I receive it as Gods gift to me. Other people see the same sunrise, but youll never convince me God didnt intend it for me as well. Do you recognize the blessings of God in your life, whether big or small? Are you aware of the little things He does for you, purely for your enjoyment? I think partially this is a matter of perspective. If we truly believe that all good things come from God, then we will begin to give credit where credit is due. Nothing that happens in this world is coincidence. Every good thing originates in and through God Himself. I like looking back through my spiritual journal to remind myself of the God moments in my life; those times when God decided to bless me. Each day I make a habit of reviewing yesterday and consciously look for ways God showed up, even if its in the small things. One day stands out in my mind as an example of what we are talking about. It happened while I was on rest during my second pregnancy. On this particular afternoon I had an incredible craving for fresh, home-made bread. And because I was restricted to the sofa, it was impossible to make or buy some. I decided to look through a catalogue to find a bread maker and planned to talk to my husband when he got home about the possibility of getting one, in order to satisfy future cravings. It wasnt even five minutes after I had selected one from the catalogue that the doorbell rang. And there stood a lady from my church with fresh, home-made bread in hand! Such an overwhelming sense of Gods love and care flowed over me. No one else knew of my craving, only my Heavenly Father. It was like He spoke into my soul, This is from Me to you. I love to spoil you, Child! God does little things like this for each of His children all the time. We just need to take notice of them and recognize they are from His hand. Missed Blessings What are some reasons we may fail to notice Gods blessing in our lives? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Sometimes we take for granted the blessings God has showered on us. Do the blessings in your life make you thankful, or do they make you feel self-sufficient; like you have somehow attained them on your own? Imagine Gods disappointment when He is so excited to give you something, and then you fail to recognize who its from. You take it and run. Taking for granted Gods blessings can cause us to miss them, then God isnt as likely to bless us in the future. A norm
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exists in our world today that Im convinced contributes in a large way to the fact that we miss Gods blessings - busyness. The faster we go and the busier we become, the more likely we are to miss the subtle hand of God. I guarantee you, He is present and active in each and every day of your life, but your warp speed may be blurring His activity. The more we slow down and look for the blessings of God in our lives, the more we will see them. Keep your spiritual eyes open. Reflections Do you find it difficult to believe God wants to bless you? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Do you make it a habit to look for Gods activity in your life? Do you slow down long enough to recognize His blessings? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What little things has God blessed you with recently? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I challenge you to think back over the past week. Think about what you did each day, where you went and who you saw. Look for evidence of God in your life, and specifically how He blessed you. You may want to consider making this a habit each morning. Lets learn to recognize the visible prints of His invisible hands. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 4

LIMITING GODS BLESSINGS There are blessings that are unconditional (like the ones we talked about on day one) and then there are blessings that are conditional. Isnt that a sobering thought? There are blessings that God is waiting to pour out on you, but they are dependant on you doing your part. I dont know about you, but Id like to do whatever I can to receive each and every blessing that God desires to give me. Conditional Upon What? Gods blessings are conditional on our actions. We are going to study some of the same Scriptures we looked at yesterday, but today we will include the part that explains our responsibility in receiving the blessing. Underline the portion in each verse that describe our part: Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your hearts desires (Psalm 37:4). He grants the desires of those who fear him (Psalm 145:19). Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things (Psalm 81:10). How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed (Psalm 112:1). God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation (James 1:12). We are to take delight in Him to receive His blessings. We are to experience great joy and pleasure simply being in His presence. We are to fear Him; a reverential awe of Him. We are to open our mouths wide, which means we are to expect good things. And not just a few good things, but many good things. We are to obey His commands, and we are to patiently endure testing and temptation. God may withhold blessing if we are not doing our part. Are You Limiting Gods Blessing? There are three main obstacles that limit the blessing of God. They are unbelief, unfaithfulness and disobedience. The latter usually follows the former. God will not bless us if we dont expectantly wait on Him to do so. The more we believe in His good hand, the more we will receive. He will also not bless us if we are unfaithful, and God definitely will not bless those who are walking in disobedience. Lets look at these obstacles separately. Unbelief There is a cycle of unbelief we can get caught up in. We believe little because we have seen little and we see little because we believe little. There are many areas of unbelief that can trap us. Perhaps you dont believe God is able; or maybe you dont believe He

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wants to bless you; or possibly you dont believe you are worthy of receiving His blessing. Whatever the reason, unbelief will limit the blessings of God in your life. Lets look at an example in Scripture. Read Mark 6:16. What limited Jesus miracles in the town of Nazareth? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Because of their unbelief, Jesus didnt perform the mighty miracles among them He was capable of. I wonder how many miracles God is withholding from our lives because of our unbelief. Read Jeremiah 17:78. What characterizes the lives of those who trust in the Lord? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Mark 9:23 says that Anything is possible if a person believes. This means trusting God and having confidence in Him alone. Note the word possible. This verse doesnt mean that if your faith is great enough, you will automatically be granted everything you want. We cant just claim what we want and expect to be blessed in that way. But what it does mean, is if you believe nothing is too difficult for God, He will intervene on your behalf in accordance with His will. The stronger our belief, the more likely our prayers will be in line with Gods will and then the more likely God will grant them. God loves it when we pray big and expect much. Then He can demonstrate His power. We must believe God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). If we are going camp in one extreme, lets choose to believe anything is possible. Unfaithfulness Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven by telling a story in Matthew 25:1430. A master, who was preparing to depart on a long trip, divided his money among his servants according to their abilities. One man was given five bags of silver, a second man was given two bags, and the third man was given one bag. Upon return, the master asked them to give an account for what they had done with the money. Both the first and second servant had doubled their masters money. What was the masters response? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What was the masters response to the third servant who had hidden the money instead of using it to earn more? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
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We must be faithful with what God has already given us. God may not be willing to give us more, if we havent used wisely what Hes already blessed us with. The issue is not how much we have, but how well we use what we have. God wants to pour out His blessings on every person, but first He wants to see if He can trust us with what He has already given us. God rewards faithfulness. Disobedience Along with Gods blessing comes the responsibility to live up to His standards. God simply will not pour out His blessings on those who are living contrary to His Word. How does John 15:7 relate our obedience to God to receiving blessings? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Again, we find a condition. We must remain in Him and His words must remain in us. And as we do, our will conforms to His. In other words, we must walk in obedience to Him. God has no favorites. He chooses to show favor to all those who are obedient to Him. We must do our part in order to receive Gods blessing. We dont want to, in any way, limit the blessings He longs to pour out on us. If we examine our hearts and find that, to the best of our knowledge, they are pure, we have to also recognize God is sovereign. He alone chooses when and how to bless. But lets believe that He wants to. He wants good things for all His children, including you. Reflections Rate yourself in the following areas as to how you are doing at fulfilling your responsibilities in order to receive Gods maximum blessing for your life (circle your response 1 = poorly, 5 = very well). Delighting in God 1 2 3 4 5 Fearing God 1 2 3 4 5 Expecting blessings 1 2 3 4 5 Enduring tests and temptations 1 2 3 4 5 Believing God 1 2 3 4 5 Faithfulness 1 2 3 4 5 Obedience 1 2 3 4 5 Which area do you need to improve on the most? _____________________________________ What are some ways you can improve? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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Describe a time in your life in which you received a clear and immediate blessing as a result of obedience to God. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE We have hinted at our proper response to Gods blessings throughout the week. We live in a place of blessing instead of a place of curses, and for that we must respond with an attitude of gratitude. Ephesians 5:20 says, Give thanks for everything to God the Father. If Gods material and spiritual blessings in your life dont create in you a sense of thankfulness, something is wrong. Recognize the Giver In order to be thankful, we must first recognize that all of the good things in our lives come from above. They are not merely coincidence. The card says, To you. From God. Because I love you. Nothing in your life exists by happenstance. No good thing is yours because of anything you have done, it all comes from God. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens (James 1:17). If we fail to thank God and acknowledge that the blessing is from Him, He will be less likely to bless us next time. Thankfulness is really giving credit where credit is due. In Gods terminology it is glorifying Him, as He alone deserves all the glory, honor and worship.

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Have an Attitude of Gratitude To be grateful means focusing on the things in your life you have, instead of those things you are lacking. The Israelites fell into the trap of focusing on what they were missing during their wilderness wanderings. They began complaining about the manna God provided and wishing they were back in Egypt enjoying meat and vegetables (Numbers 11:46). They missed the blessing of what God was doing for them (leading them to the Promised Land) because they were consumed with what He wasnt doing for them. Do you have the same tendency? Are you grateful for what God has given you, or are you always thinking about additional things you would like to have? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Give Thanks Praise and thanksgiving needs to be a regular part of our routine. We need to do it continually, and then we will find we arent as likely to take His blessings for granted. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High (Psalm 92:1). It is not good enough to just be thankful, we must also give thanks. What is the difference between the two? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ To illustrate this, lets turn to Scripture. Read Luke 17:1119. How many of the ten lepers were healed? ________________________________ How many returned to give glory to God? _______________________________ Imagine you were one of the ten lepers. You had a disease that covered your whole body, caused you to be in pain continually, and forced you to live apart from your loved ones. If you had been healed by this Teacher, would you not be grateful? Of course you would! We dont question that all ten lepers were indeed grateful to Jesus for healing them, but only one took the time to return and thank Him. He worshiped God while flat on his face at Jesus feet; which is the true place of worship. God desires not only that we be thankful, but that we also express our thanks. King David expressed gratitude to God many times over throughout his life. One such song of thanksgiving appears in 1 Chronicles 16:8 36. Read this passage. David tells us not only to remember what God has done and respond in gratitude, but also to tell others about what He has done. Do you make a habit of sharing Gods blessings in your life with others? We are to shout His praise and to burst out with joy! That doesnt sound like a quiet, reflective type of gratitude to me. That sounds more like a shout it from the rooftops variety.

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Bless Others In addition to our response of gratitude, Gods blessing to us should flow outward to those around us. God desires that we use the good things He gives us to bless the lives of others. Matthew 10:8 says to Give as freely as you have received! We are to give generously of our time, love and material possessions, in the same proportion as God has blessed us. Blessing others is a privilege. We must live with an open hand; whatever God chooses to put into our hands should be held loosely until the time He asks us to give it away to others. How do you use the blessings you receive from God to bless others? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me (Psalm 103:12). Increase your thankfulness. Get into the habit of regularly taking an inventory of your life (including your family, relationships, career, home, memories, abilities, and your material possessions). Use this inventory as prayers of gratitude for all that He has blessed you with. Reflections Do you have an attitude of gratitude? How often do you express your thanks to God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How does God see you? As one who lives in His circle of blessing. All that His longs to give you can be yours if you humbly follow Him. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Start believing and obeying Him and remain faithful. Then you will receive showers of blessings. I think I hear raindrops starting to fall Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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God, we thank You for the many blessings You shower upon us. Lord, help us to recognize Your blessings. Open our spiritual eyes so we will become more aware of Your generosity. May we not limit Your blessings. Help us to believe You, to remain faithful to You and to obey You. We are so incredibly privileged to be Your children. Enable us to give generously in the same way You have so freely given to us. Speak to us about ways in which we can be a blessing to those around us. We dont deserve Your kindness and yet we humbly receive it. And we will be careful to give You the glory.

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WEEK 10 FROM DISSATISFIED TO COMPLETE


Day 1

EMPTINESS

Are you the type of person who cant wait for the future to happen? Do you find yourself missing out on what is happening today because you are anticipating the events of tomorrow? This description fits me perfectly, or at least it used to. When I was in my early teens I couldnt wait to have a boyfriend, then I would be Scripture Focus: happy. Once I was in a relationship, I couldnt wait to get engaged, then I For in Christ lives would for sure be happy. When I was proudly wearing the ring on my all the fullness of finger, I couldnt wait to get married. All married people are incredibly God in a human happy, right? After settling into our brand new home with my husband, I body. So you also convinced myself a baby was what I needed to fill the void in my life. are complete And then it dawned on me (well actually, my husband made a comment to through your union me that went something like this: You are never happy!), this recurring with Christ, who is pattern in my life was probably going to continue if something inside of the head over every me didnt change. By then I was smart enough to know that after having a ruler and authority. baby, I would start striving for the next thing I thought would satisfy me Colossians 2:10 (like another baby?). I needed to find another way to be content. Do you have a similar story? Are you searching or waiting for something to make you happy and feel fulfilled? Do you sense there is a void in your life? Many people do, and they attempt to fill that void with a variety of things including relationships, material possessions, or addictions. Many, although having very full lives, live in a constant state of emptiness. Review this list and check all the ways you try to fill your nagging sense of emptiness. ___ marriage relationship ___ relationship outside of marriage ___ bigger, newer house ___ children ___ drugs ___ alcohol ___ food ___ recreational activities ___ material possessions ___ excessive work ___ money ___ success ___ fame ___ power ___ position ___ other: ____________________

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Happiness Versus Contentment Being happy is not the same as being content. Happiness depends on external circumstances, which are entirely beyond our control. Being satisfied and feeling content is the sense of peace that comes from knowing who we are in Christ. Contentment is difficult to attain in our culture because of the bigger and better attitude. The world teaches us we can only be happy if we have the best of everything, therefore contentment remains beyond our grasp because we are always striving for more. We focus on the things we think we deserve. We also can fall into the comparison trap. This is a dangerous practice because either we will conclude we are better than others, which is pride, or we will determine ourselves to be less, which creates jealousy. Hebrews 13:5 says to be satisfied with what you have. True contentment comes from our relationship with God. When we recognize that we can find our value in Him instead of in our possessions or achievements, we can rest from all of our striving. Paul said in Philippians 4:1113 I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Think about Pauls statement for a moment. Incredible, isnt it? How many of us can say the same thing? Jesus said in Luke 12:15, Life is not measured by how much you own. This is the exact opposite of what our world thinks. The world says, The more you have the happier youll be but Proverbs 27:20 says, Human desire is never satisfied. How do you respond to the constant pressure to accumulate material things? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Symptoms of Emptiness When we stop long enough to listen to our soul, we may realize we feel empty. This sense of dissatisfaction can manifest itself in different ways. A person may be driven to succeed professionally, or feel the need for constant change (i.e. job, home, spouse etc). It could be a pursuit of money or a substance addiction of some kind. Going from experience to experience seeking fulfillment, yet never finding it, is a symptom of emptiness. All of these things are an attempt to fill the void. Whatever in our lives is elevated above our relationship with God, points to our emptiness. When we find ourselves in constant pursuit of something, yet never feeling truly content, we are attempting to fill the emptiness with the wrong things. This is a stronghold waiting to happen. It is an area of our lives in which Satan can very easily take up residence. Emptiness for a Reason People may not even recognize that their constant striving is the result of a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. Perhaps they just dont know how to describe it, or dont want to admit it. There
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is a good reason all of us have felt emptiness or dissatisfaction in our lives at one time or another. Its because God put it there. God has planted eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This means we can never be completely satisfied with earthly pleasures. Anything on this side of heaven will never make you feel complete; not your marriage, your children, a new car, an expensive vacation, not even the goal you are working so hard to achieve. God has planted eternity in the human heart. He has put something inside of us that makes us incomplete and dissatisfied until we find Him. This week we will talk about how God alone fills the void He has placed within us. We will explore the fact that after our makeover we are complete in Him. Reflections What is your greatest area of dissatisfaction? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Have you ever come to the point of admitting that something is missing from your life? If so, when was it? What were the circumstances? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ In what ways (if any) are you currently attempting to fill the void in your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Confess any earthly pleasures you have pursued ahead of God. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I began todays lesson with an account of my own quest for satisfaction. You may have been able to identify with my story. Looking back, I regret missing out on a lot of todays by wishing tomorrow were here. After I realized my marriage, having children, and having the perfect house would not satisfy me, I began to search in the one place I should have started in, the Word of God. It was there I found the answer. Only God could fill the emptiness in my life. My relationship with Christ is the only thing that would make me complete. I have since learned to enjoy the journey. You see, in most cases, the destination is not as important as the path that leads us there. Often times the destination is an illusion, because once we arrive, the mirage

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disappears and settles itself again beyond our reach. We find ourselves on another journey to the next goal. We must learn to enjoy the journey. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 2

THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD We talked yesterday about the emptiness God has placed in each person. This void is to cause us to turn to Him, but sadly many turn elsewhere. Today we are going to discuss what happens when we attempt to fill our lives with the things of this world, instead of seeking satisfaction in God alone. Israels Greatest Struggle The nation of Israel struggled repeatedly with the sin of idolatry. Throughout the Old Testament we see Gods people again and again creating images to worship in place of their Creator (e.g. the golden calf in Exodus 32, Gideons ephod in Judges 8 and many more). So serious was their sin of carving images to replace God, that idolatry was listed as one of the Ten Commandments. Read Exodus 20:46. God will not ___________________ our affection for any other gods. He is a __________________ God. Notice what happens when idolatry takes over our lives? It affects our children and our childrens children. The generations after us reap the effects of our disobedience. How many generations exactly? ____________ But the same is true of our obedience. God promised to lavish his unfailing love to (how many?) ____________ generations of those who love and obey His commands. What mercy! The effects of disobedience last only four generations, while the promise of love lasts for a thousand generations!

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If you follow the journey of the Israelites throughout the Old Testament you will notice the cycle of behavior they found themselves imprisoned by. When times were tough they cried out to the Lord for help, but when times were good, they began to forget God and turned to idols. This cycle was repeated over and over again. Before we are too quick to judge them, how many times do we do the same thing? When we are faced with difficult situations we run to God for His help, then when the situation turns around, we slowly forget Him. Have you recognized this pattern in your own life? Please describe. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The Hard Truth The reality is, anything we try to put in the place where only God belongs is an idol. We are not unlike the Israelites. Although we dont carve images out of wood or stone to worship, we often idolize things or people in our lives. Lets expand our definition of idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of something created as opposed to the worship of the Creator Himself. It is a reflection of our desire to rely on our own strength and control our own lives. Whenever we look to other sources for wholeness, we are guilty of idolatry. We spoke yesterday of our desperate attempt to fill the empty places in our lives with something or someone, the moment something appears to be satisfying our needs, we begin to worship it. Wait a minute, you may say, I recognize I have some things in my life that I pursue ahead of God, but I certainly dont worship them! Are you sure? Worship is expressing adoration, love, respect and devotion to someone or something. Do you feel that way about your spouse? Your children? Your career? Its not wrong to feel that way about those things; the error comes when those things are placed above God. The problem arises when we concentrate too much on our idols and use them for personal identity, meaning and security. No one sets out with the intention to worship these things, but with the amount of time we devote to them, they can grow into gods that ultimately consume our thoughts and energy. Scripture clearly points out the foolishness of idols. Read Isaiah 44:620. Describe why idol worship is foolish. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What will happen to all those who worship idols (verse 11)? ________________________________________________________________________

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Not only is worshiping idols foolish, it is also harmful. Read Jeremiah 7:56 and 1619. How does worshiping idols harm us? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Colossians 3:5 gives the New Testament definition of idolatry. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Dont be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Read Ecclesiastes 5:15. We all come to the end of our lives as ______________ and _____________-_______________ as on the day we were born. We cant take our ________________ with us. People come into the world with nothing and they leave with nothing. The things of this world will never satisfy because they are only temporary. What was Pauls reaction to the things of this world in Philippians 3:711? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Paul considered all of his achievements, successes and credentials worthless when he compared them to knowing Christ. Can we say the same? Read Psalm 135:1518. What cant idols do? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Sometimes we dont believe God can or will do the things He says He can. In this way we are turning God into an idol that cannot hear, think or speak. Idolatry is also our temptation to shape God to our liking; to create Him in our own image. This thinking runs rampant in our world today. Many people say it doesnt matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something. How sadly mistaken they are! Hidden Idols Idols are sometimes hard to identify in our lives, and because of this we must constantly check our priorities and our motives. Isaiah 44:19 says, The person who made the idol never stops to reflect. We may get so caught up in the busyness of life that we dont evaluate our priorities to see if there is anything or anyone in the place where God should be. Idols often disguise themselves as good things. For example, serving in the church can become an idol if we are seeking the approval of people rather than the glory of God. Pursuing a higher education or career advancement can become an idol. Even our spouses can take the place of God in our lives.

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Taking the time to stop and reflect may reveal some hidden idols we didnt even know were there. Gods Invitation God shakes His head in disbelief at our choice to worship idols. Why would we bow down to things that have no power to save us, when the God of the universe is so ready, willing and able? Isaiah 55:23 says, Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to meand you will find life. Why are we working so hard to attain something that will never fill us up? Only God can truly fill the emptiness inside of us. Reflections 1 John 5:21 says, Dear children, keep away from anything that might take Gods place in your hearts. Do you have an idol in your life? Is there anything that has come between you and God? Examine your heart by answering these questions: What do I dedicate most of my time, energy and thoughts to? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Who do I ultimately trust? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Who do I look to for security and happiness? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ The last time I needed help, to whom or what did I run to? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Is there anything I feel I cant live without? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

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God says in Joshua 24:15 Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. We must make a choice. Will it be God or something else? Whatever we hold tightly to, in place of satisfaction in God is a lie. Confess the thing you hold as an idol, asking Him to remove it from your hand and your life. And then replace it with the only One who can truly satisfy your soul. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3

THE KING WHO HAD EVERYTHING

Today we will further reflect on this weeks topic by examining the life of an Old Testament Biblical character. Imagine a person who has it all; wealth, wisdom, authority, power, honor and Gods favor. We expect this person to be incredibly happy, completely satisfied and totally content, right? But thats not the case with King Solomon, who in fact did have all of these things. King Solomon Solomon was King Davids son and the third king of Israel. Early in his life, Solomon had the good sense to ask God for wisdom, and God granted his request. God gave Solomon the great responsibility of building His temple in Jerusalem, which added to his fame and success. Although Solomon was the wisest man who had ever lived, he still maintained the ability to make choices, and therefore he was not immune to making mistakes. He chose to marry hundreds of wives for political gain, which was strictly forbidden by God. The one man who had it all, is the one in Scripture who told of the ultimate emptiness of the things of this world. In the book of Ecclesiastes, which Solomon wrote, we read of a man proving through bitter experience that finding meaning in life apart from God is a worthless pursuit.
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Everything is Meaningless Solomon shares some of his personal experiences in Ecclesiastes 12. Take the time now to read both chapters. List the things in this world that Solomon describes as meaningless. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Whenever Solomon says everything is meaningless he adds like chasing the wind. The wind is something we cant grab hold of. Similarly, the good feelings our accomplishments give us are only temporary. The material wealth we gain will slip through our fingers. Our status and positions are elusive. God is sitting on His throne in heaven watching humans endlessly chasing the wind. What a waste of time. Think about what you consider important; where you place your time, energy and money. Will you one day look back and decide that you too were chasing the wind? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What happened to Solomon as a result of his search for the meaning of life (Ecclesiastes 2:17)? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Solomons Conclusions Solomon shares his findings about the purpose of life in Ecclesiastes 3:14. Gods purpose is that all people should ____________ him. To fear God means to respect and stand in awe before Him because of who He is. Purpose in life starts with Who we know, not with what we know or what we do. Solomon tried everything and found all earthly pursuits to be meaningless. Lets learn from his experiences and not repeat the experiments for ourselves. He restates his conclusions at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes. Now here are my final conclusions: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyones duty (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Why? God will judge us for everything we do including every secret thing, whether good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14). All people will one day stand before the Creator and be judged for all the things theyve done in their lives. And at that time we will not be able to use excuses, because the motives behind all of our actions will be revealed, and we will be held accountable.

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Reflections Rank the following in order of importance to you (1 being most important). When considering its importance, think about the amount of time you dedicate to each area, the amount you think about it, and the amount of money you spend on it. ___ family ___ education ___ God ___ friends ___ money ___ church ___ serving ___ work/career ___ hobbies When you are nearing the end of your life and you look back on it, will you be satisfied with your life? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What do you need to change in your life in order for you to feel fulfilled? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ As you consider your current priorities, is God asking you to re-think the purpose and direction of your life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ True and lasting meaning comes from God alone. Security and contentment comes from a personal relationship with Christ. How strange that people spend their entire lives striving for completeness and contentment God so freely gives. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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Day 4

FILLING THE GOD-SHAPED HOLE I am a hopeless romantic. In my mind every story should have a happy ending, every princess should find her prince charming, and every cloud should have a silver lining. There is a line in a movie I saw years ago that Ive never forgotten. Its your typical Guy meets Gal movie, Guy pursues Gal, and then something happens to separate them. The situation eventually gets resolved and Gal ends up living happily ever after with Guy. And this is the line he says to her, You complete me. It makes my heart melt! You complete me! I began to think, yes, my husband does complete me. He is the other half of me, like the perfect puzzle piece. What a romantic thought, but how wrong! Not that my husband and I arent suited for one another, because we certainly are. And not that we arent totally in love, because we are. But I was wrong in the notion that another human being could complete me. A relationship with any human cannot permanently fill the deep emptiness we have in our lives. We have been talking about the fact that every person has a void in their lives. God has created us with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only He can fill. God is the answer to the endless searching people do to find meaning in their lives. Our Scripture focus this week from Colossians 2:10 says we are complete through our union with Christ. God sees us as complete in Christ! We have been made whole. We no longer need to search the world for things to make us feel fulfilled. God is saying, I complete you! Everything that is in Christ is in us. Christ alone holds the answer to the true meaning of life because He is life. John 14:6 says, I am the way, the truth and the life. Jesus didnt say He can give you life, He said, I am the life. 2 Corinthians 1:22 says He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Isnt it amazing to think that our heart is where the void is and thats exactly where the Holy Spirit takes up residence? Sounds like a perfect fit! Satisfaction Only Comes From God Have you ever worked so hard to attain something that, in the end, did not bring the satisfaction you were expecting? Please explain. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We spend vast amounts of time doing things that years later dont matter. We get distracted with things that give us enjoyment temporarily instead of investing our time in things of eternal value.

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According to 1 Corinthians 7:31 and Psalm 49:1617 why will earthly pursuits never satisfy? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God made us in such a way that nothing on this earth could ever completely satisfy us. God has built in us a restless yearning for the kind of perfection only He can provide. To me, this speaks of His compassion. He not only longs for us to come to Him, but Hes purposefully planted something inside of us that makes us want to draw near to Him. We can be completely satisfied by God Himself because it is Him alone who makes us complete. What do the following Scriptures teach us about finding satisfaction in God alone? John 6:35 I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Matthew 5:6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

The words hunger and thirst imply desperation; seeking after; running hard to get something. We need to pursue God to find satisfaction. We will be filled to the measure in which we are hungry. If we seek Him, God promises we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). Gods Love Makes Us Complete Gods love is the ultimate satisfaction for our souls. Its His love for us that makes us whole, valued and complete. Psalm 90:14 says, Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Read Ephesians 3:19 and fill in the blanks. May you ____________________________ the love of Christ, though it is too __________________to understand fully. Then you will be made ___________________________ with all the fullness of __________ and _________________ that comes from God. Even though we can never fully understand the love God has for us, we can still experience it. The same is true of our relationship with Him. He wants us to experience Him, not just collect facts and Bible knowledge about Him. When we experience Gods love, we are complete. Daily Portion God is so willing to give us more than we could possible imagine to ask Him for, and His resources are available to us every day. In order to avoid chasing the wind we must ask God
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daily for the filling of His Spirit, asking Him to fill up every empty place with His glorious presence. We can make a practice of coming to God in the morning and emptying ourselves of all of our worries, fears, disappointments and regrets. After we pour these out at His feet we can then ask Him to fill us up with Himself; to give us enough grace to make it through the day. When we are full of Jesus we wont look to others to fill us up. Often we expect those around us to give us what we need to feel complete. They can try, but the reality is, they will never succeed because only God can truly satisfy. People have limited resources, but God gives without limit. He can fill cavernous needs completely. Spiritual Thirst Remember when you first fell in love? Do you recall that feeling of always wanting to be around that person? Of missing them terribly when you were separated? Have you ever missed God in the same way? I have gone for days or sometimes weeks without spending quality time with Him. In those times I miss Him, I miss the closeness. When I begin to feel distant from God I know He has not moved away from me. Sadly I have moved away from Him. Something amazing happens when we get into the Word of God. We cant get enough of it! The more we get to know God, the more we want to know. That happens because God created us that way. He gave us a thirst for righteousness. King David describes this condition in Psalm 42:12. Read this passage and describe Davids spiritual thirst. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The more we spend time in Gods Word and in His presence the thirstier we will become for Him. On the other hand, we can spend so much time away from God that we are no longer thirsty. Allow me to challenge you. If you have never spent enough time with God to miss Him when you are apart, I encourage you to do so. Begin by giving Him a small portion of your day. You dont have to do anything, just sit in His presence. Over time an amazing thing will happen. He will give you an unquenchable thirst for more of Him. Reflections We may realize we are spiritually hungry if: We have gone through a dry spell (i.e. we havent spent a lot of time with God). We have gone through a season of disobedience. We find ourselves just going through the motions of Christianity.

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Have you experienced any of the above symptoms recently? If so, please describe. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ You will be filled to the portion in which you are hungry. Describe your level of spiritual hunger. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Finish the following sentence: Lord, I want to become unquenchably thirsty for You because ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Let this be our prayer: Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth (Psalm 73:25). Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE

How does God see you? As complete in Christ. You are whole! You will find ultimate fulfillment through your relationship with God alone. What does being complete in Christ mean to us? How should it impact our lives? How do we live daily in the reality of our completeness in Christ? This is what we seek to discover today.

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Choose This Day Who You Will Serve Every person needs to answer a fundamental question. Who will you serve? Will you pursue God or will you choose to pursue the things of this world? The answer to this question will determine the focus of your life. It will guide how you spend your time, invest your money and use your talents. Because we are complete in Christ, we need to pursue Him alone, which will ultimately lead to fulfillment. Re-adjust Your Priorities Our study of King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes proves the worthlessness of striving for earthly pleasures. Everything is meaningless like chasing the wind. Read Solomons personal testimony again: Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasureBut as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish it was all so meaningless like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Solomon tried all this world has to offer and found the pursuit of earthly pleasures to be meaningless. You will find the same if you conduct a similar experiment. Save yourself the time, and trust King Solomons conclusions. Scripture commands us to stop pursuing earthly pleasures. Titus 2:12 says, And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. According to Titus 3:3 what happens when we pursue our own desires? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Living a life of pleasures leads to slavery. For you are a slave to whatever controls you (2 Peter 2:19). When we construct idols and bow our time, money and resources to them instead of the living God, we become mastered by them. The things of this world will pass away. They will not last. Stop the futile pursuit of things. Intentionally Pursue God A relationship takes time and effort in order to be maintained and to grow. I have learned this lesson the hard way in my marriage relationship with my husband. I wrongly thought that all of the work in the relationship happened before marriage. During our time of dating I diligently presented my best face. I went out of my way to make him feel respected and loved. Then once our vows were made, I subconsciously assumed I didnt need to work on our relationship as hard; after all, I already had him. I became aware of the massiveness of my mistake in our third year of marriage. You see, my husband is a very giving person. He makes every effort to do extra special things for me, and he began noticing his behavior was not being reciprocated by me. This wasnt my intention and when confronted, I recognized the huge error of my ways. The same is true of our relationship with God. Our pursuit of God does not end at the time of our conversion. That is merely the starting point. Our relationship with God takes time and effort to
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grow. In our fast-paced world we have come to expect everything instantly. We have fast food, drive through bank machines, instant coffee, microwave dinners and many instant gratifications. But developing a satisfying relationship with God is not instantaneous. There is no instant fix; no waving of a magic wand. And no one can do it for you. You need to make the effort to develop your relationship with God. It requires time and a lifetime of pursuit. I am going to address the common objection that may be forming in your mind. I dont have time to develop my relationship with God. That is simply not true. Each person has been given exactly twenty-four hours a day, no more, no less. We all have the same amount of time. The difference is in how we choose to fill up those hours. It comes back to making God your first priority, and if it means you have to give up doing something good, to do something better, then so be it. Jesus did this in Matthew 14. He dismissed the crowd of thousands to go and be alone to pray. If your life is too busy to spend time with God, then its too busy. Be aware as well that there are seasons in life. There are times when you will be able to spend vast amounts of time with God and then other periods in your life when it decreases. I have been reminded of that during this season of my life, having two young children. We dont want to become legalistic, but we certainly want to continue developing our relationship with Him. We naturally drift away from God if we dont intentionally seek Him. And its a slow fade. Its not noticeable at first but eventually over time, if we are not careful, we find ourselves so far from Him we are left wondering how it happened. Hebrews 2:1 says, So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. Living out our faith takes conscious effort. Pursuit of God is an intentional choice. King David said in Psalm 27:4 The one thing I ask of the Lord the one thing I seek most is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lords perfections and meditating in his temple. God wants us to run hard after Him. He doesnt only want our service to Him; He wants us to spend time with Him. Imagine that! The God of the universe wants to spend time with you. He wants to talk with you, to laugh and cry with you, and to share with you. Psalm 27:8 says, My heart has heard you say, Come and talk with me. And my heart responds, Lord, I am coming. God longs for all people to turn to Him, just as a parent longs for their childs love and affection. How To Pursue God 1. Spend time in the Word. The Bible is Gods message of love to you. Its perhaps the most common way He speaks to His people. You may think spending time in Gods Word sounds like hard work, but its not. Its getting to know your Maker. Through His Word, He speaks His truth into your heart and He provides you with all of the answers for living. His Word is what sustains us as believers. I promise you, if you begin to read the Word, it will become alive for you (Hebrews 4:12). You will start to look forward to times spent in Gods Word. Ive established a habit of regularly asking God for a thirst for His Word and God
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has granted my request. The more I dig into Scripture, the more I want to linger there. Try it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 2. Spend time in prayer. Talk to God. Talk to Him as you would a friend. Share with Him and ask Him things. Tell Him whats bothering you, whats frustrating you, whats making you angry. Celebrate with Him in happy times. Confess any wrong-doings in your life. Praise Him for all Hes given you. God wants you to be real with Him. Read James 5:1316. In what situations are we instructed to pray? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Our most powerful resource is our communication with God and yet it is sadly underused. A person who maintains intimacy with God communes throughout the day with Him. How often is prayer our last resort? We exhaust all of our own resources, and when everything else fails, we run to God in prayer. Gods power is infinitely greater than ours so why dont we go to Him first? Im not speaking from victory in this area, not even close. I have to admit, I am still on the road to achieving an effective prayer life. Like Paul, I dont mean to say that I have already achieved these things, or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on (Philippians 3:12). Commit to making a greater effort in this area. We want to have praying lives and then the power of God is released to move in our lives and change our world. These two things, spending time in the Word and prayer, will enable us to find God. I think many times we make it harder than it has to be. Jesus said My yoke is easy to bear and the burden I have given you is light (Matthew 11:30). God doesnt want us to come to Him because we feel like we have to. I must spend thirty minutes in prayer every day and forty-five minutes reading my Bible. Thats not a relationship, thats legalism, which God detests. Allow your time with God to flow out of your love for Him. Lets follow Isaiahs example who said, All night long I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek for God (Isaiah 26:9). Isaiahs longing to spend time with God was a result of his love for Him. There are many ways to pursue God and to spend time with Him. God gives each person a unique personality and also a unique way in which to connect to Him. You may feel closer to God in nature, or through study or through music. We can find God through a variety of activities. The following are ideas for spending time with God: Take a walk in the beauty of Gods creation. Thank Him for the things you see around you. Listen to worship music while driving in your car.
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Attend a Bible study or small group at your church. Teach your children about God. Talk to God as you go about your work (the dishes have to be done anyway, right?). Talk to Him if you find yourself lying awake through the night. Study an attribute of God. Read a Christian book. Turn up the worship music and dance before Him. Go out for coffee with a friend and share about what God is doing in each of your lives. Watch a Christian T.V. show. Sit quietly and think about God (meditation). Write out your prayers to God.

There are many more creative ways to spend time with God. Let it flow naturally out of who God has made you to be. Reflections Are you willing to make sacrifices in your life to know God better? Are you willing to re-arrange your schedule to allow time for God? Will you change some of your plans, goals and desires in order to align them with Gods will for your life? Whatever you must change or give up in order to pursue God will be worth the sacrifice in the end. If we give God one hundred percent, He promises to give back to us one hundredfold. The words of Psalm 63 have been words I have prayed over and over for my life. I want to be like King David in this passage and pursue God with such intensity, that the desire consumes me. Read Psalm 63:18. List words from this passage that describe an active pursuit of God. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ What does God promise to do in verse 5? ________________________________________________________________________ What does God promise to do in verse 8? ________________________________________________________________________

Re-read this passage saying these words aloud (if possible). Meditate on them. Make them your prayer and your greatest hearts desire. God is everything you will ever need. He completes you. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Lord, we thank You for the feeling of emptiness You have placed inside us. We know it is there to draw us to You. God, help us to recognize the ways we are using the things in this world to attempt to fill the void. Enable us to cast them aside and seek You first. We know satisfaction comes from You alone. We want You to be our whole world. We want to seek You in the morning and think about You through the night. Give us an unquenchable thirst for more of You.

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WEEK 11 FROM IMPRISONED TO FREE


Day 1

DYING TO BE FREE

We have come to our final week of study! I pray you are closer not only to understanding who you are in Christ, but also to living as God sees you; in the abundance of after. I trust it has been a liberating journey for you. I saved this aspect of who we are in Christ for last because I thought it would be appropriate to Scripture Focus: end in celebration. This weeks theme is one of those truths youll want to And you will know shout from the mountaintops. I am free! I am free! And that is exactly the truth, and the who you are in Christ; you are free. God sees you as one who is no longer truth will set you imprisoned by fear, guilt, shame, regret or any other form of bondage. free. Lets conclude our study together in this glorious knowledge. John 8:32 What does freedom mean for us? It means no more striving, no more attempting the impossible, no more slavery to sin, no more remaining stuck in our pasts, no more addictions, no more strongholds. The list could go on and on. The reality is, regardless of what we feel imprisoned by, God can and longs to set us free. It is part of the gift Hes given us through Christ. We couldnt possibly talk about all the aspects of our freedom in Christ in just one week. We will highlight the major ones; the ones I believe we all, at least in part, can identify with. We will discuss these tomorrow. Today we will unlock the keys to freedom. Lets begin by going to Scripture to find the source of our freedom. Read our scripture focus for this week in John 8:32. What sets us free?_____________________________ Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). The truth of who we are in Christ, which we have been discussing over the past ten weeks, leads to freedom. When we are confident of who we are, and Whose we are, we can begin to live in the freedom Christ offers. Freedom Is Yours Freedom is not something reserved only for those who are truly spiritual. It is not reserved for pastors and leaders, for missionaries and ministry workers. Freedom is available to all of Gods children. It is yours for the taking. One of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to set the oppressed free. Isaiah prophesied about this very thing (Isaiah 61) and Jesus quoted it from Scripture in Luke 4:18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that the captives will be released, that the blind
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will see, that the oppressed will be set free. When we become children of God we become free. God promises in 2 Corinthians 3:17, Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Because Gods Holy Spirit resides in you, He brings freedom. But the question is, do we live in freedom? Do we experience freedom daily? Read Galatians 4:47. What were we before we became children of God? ______________________________________________________________________________ Slaves are told what to do. They dont make their own decisions; instead they rely on someone else to direct them. They live in bondage. Read Galatians 5:1. What is this passage suggesting about freedom? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Paul is pleading with the Galatians to recognize their freedom in Christ and not to fall back into slavery. How would they do that? By returning to legalism and submitting again to the compulsion to obey the law in hopes of achieving salvation. This passage suggests to us that although we are free, we can live in bondage. Why is it that people often fall back into comfortable old habits? We need to leave our slave mentality behind and stop operating out of the old. Sometimes freedom can be scary because it means stepping out into unknown territory and taking responsibility for our own decisions. However, it is a liberating existence to claim freedom in Christ. What Freedom in Christ Is Not You may be getting excited about freedom for the wrong reasons. Let me caution you. Freedom in Christ does not give you the license to go out and do whatever you please (1 Peter 2:16). In fact, if you do follow that path, you will become enslaved again to your own selfish desires and eventually enslaved to sin. Read Galatians 5:13. Do not use your freedom to _________________________________________________ Instead, use your freedom to ________________________________________________

The Keys to Freedom Read John 8:36. So if the Son sets you free, you are __________________ free. If Scripture gives us this promise, why is it that sometimes we dont feel free in Christ? Why do we often feel like we havent really gotten rid of the old person? You know the one, the version of you who behaves in situations like you used to. When that person periodically appears, it leaves you
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asking, Where did she come from? I thought that old me was long dead and buried! Why does the old you keep popping her head up every now and then? The answer lies in one of those truths of God that seems totally backwards to us. Our freedom exists only in the parts of our lives where God is in control. What are the keys to freedom? Obedience and surrender. Psalm 119:45 says we walk in freedom because we have devoted ourselves to His commandments. How does walking in Gods commands give us freedom? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ When we walk in obedience we avoid getting tangled in the consequences of sin, and not only that, we position ourselves to experience the best God has for us. We are free to live in our purpose and passion. We talked about surrender in week six as an appropriate response to the fact that, as Gods children, we are under His authority. Now we are taking the concept one step further. Our surrender leads to our freedom. At first this does not make sense. Giving control of our lives over to someone else causes us to become free? It doesnt sound logical. But its not human logic, it is Gods truth. The areas of our lives in which we surrender to God, are areas in which we experience freedom. When we cease struggling to succeed, or struggling to please, or struggling to obtain happiness, we can finally rest in His freedom. Dying to self leads to liberation. God promises to share our burden and to trade our yoke for His own. His yoke is light and easy to carry. Explain how obedience and surrender ultimately lead to freedom. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ You may find, as I have, that the closer you get to God, the further it seems you need to go in terms of character development, specifically in this area of surrender. God will continue to show you areas in your life that have yet to be surrendered to Him, areas where you need to become more broken and more humble. When you are broken and humble before Him, He shows up. He is attracted to weakness. This means giving up some things to gain everything. It means total dependence on Him. It means ultimate freedom. Reflections How free do you feel in Christ? _________________________________________________________________ Imprisoned Totally Free
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In what areas of your life do you still remain in captivity? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What areas of your life have you yet to surrender to Him? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Greater surrender can result in greater freedom. How have you known this to be true in your own life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 2

PAST PRISONS Freedom is one of those national privileges that are often taken for granted. In our generation, we have known nothing else. Slavery is unheard of, a thing of the past in our western society. People who truly understand the gift of freedom, are those who have once been enslaved. Not many of us would be able to say we have experienced slavery in the literal sense, but Im sure most of us would agree that we have been enslaved mentally, emotionally or spiritually at one time or another. We have been slaves to whatever has controlled us (2 Peter 2:19).
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Living in captivity is not at all what God envisions for His children. God went to major efforts to set the Israelites free of their enslavement in Egypt. Jesus came to earth to set the oppressed free. But free from what? When we understand the areas in which we were, or still are, held captive, we are much more appreciative of our new found liberty. We are going to look at several of those areas that have the potential to hold us captive. Free From the Power of Sin One of the characteristics of a person without God, is that they are a slave to sin. They are controlled by their own selfish desires and by the influences of the world. It is our natural human impulse to be selfish and sinful. But Scripture says clearly, as believers, we are free from the power of sin. Read Romans 8:12. What is it that has freed us from the power of sin? _______________________________ What does sin lead to? _____________________________________________________

Not only have we been freed from the power of sin, but we have also been freed from the end result of sin which is spiritual death. That is cause to celebrate! Read Romans 6:6. What happened to our old selves? ___________________________________________ We are no longer ______________________ to sin! What does it mean to no longer be a slave to sin? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Although we still often willingly cooperate with our sinful nature, sin no longer has control over us. The difference is now we have the power to choose to do the right thing and live for Christ. We have the ability to rely on Gods power and rise above the temptation.

Describe what it means to you to be free from slavery to sin? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We become Christs slaves when we become Christians, which means we are free, because sin no longer has control over us. Romans 6:18 says, Now you are free from your slavery to _____________, and you have become slaves to ___________________ _______________.

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Free From Our Pasts As believers we are free from our pasts. Many of us have a past we would rather forget, a past we are ashamed of. Im sure everyone would change one thing or another if we were able to go back in time. Satan knows this, thats why he frequently uses our past to enslave us. So often our past hold us captive in a prison of guilt and regret. Perhaps we wonder what could have happened if we had only done this or avoided that, or we blame all of our present failings on the fact that we were mistreated or abused in some way. The habitual sins of our former life continually haunt us. Whatever it is, we get trapped in yesterday and it affects our today. The scary part is, it will affect our tomorrow if we do not stop it. Read Leviticus 26:13. What does this verse tell us about the shame of our past? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Jesus came to set the oppressed free from their past. Whatever you have done or whatever has happened to you in the past, God knows about it. He was there. He watched it happen. The wonderful part is He can use whatever it is for your ultimate good if you will let Him (Romans 8:28). Surrender your past to God and ask Him to turn it into something beautiful. What is it about your past that keeps you in captivity? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Free From Working For Our Salvation Those of us who have tried to work for our salvation, or to add to it, know what a heavy burden this is. Its a cycle of constantly trying to please God with our actions, and then experiencing the incredible guilt of failing to do so. The reality is, God has freed us from the task of following the law, which by the way, is impossible. There is not one person who has lived or who ever will live, who can follow Gods law perfectly. And thank God He doesnt require us to! Gods gift of salvation is just that, a gift, it cannot be earned. The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). So we are free from having to try to earn our salvation. I am so grateful, because to be honest, its exhausting! God doesnt need our good deeds in order for Him to find pleasure in us. Scripture says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It does not say without good deeds it is impossible to please God. God is pleased with you when you simply believe Him. Have you ever fallen into the trap of trying to earn salvation or Gods favor? What did you learn from that experience? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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Free From Fear Many people are bound by fear. It could be fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or fear of change. Whatever the variety, fear can be paralyzing. The fear I live with daily is the fear of what others think or me, so much so, I replay conversations Ive had with people over and over in my mind to determine what their reaction might be. Did they take it the wrong way? Are they mad at me? Do they think Im unintelligent? God has been convicting me of this recently. Whenever I begin to play this tape in my mind, I force myself to stop and ask God to show me anything I may have said that I need to go back and make right. If nothing comes to mind, I move on. No more obsessing. Satan uses fear as a way of keeping us from becoming all that God wants us to be. It can keep us from seizing opportunities God places before us. But as a child of God, you can be free of fear. This doesnt mean you will never be afraid again, but it does mean you dont have to be paralyzed by it. You can step out in faith, even if you are trembling. The Word says perfect love drives out fear. Only Gods love is perfect. What do you fear? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ God wants to free you from the bondage of fear. He wants you to step out boldly in His name. And if you cant do it boldly, at least step out. Hell make up the difference. We may not have discussed your specific area of captivity, but let me assure you, you can be free of that as well. As a child of God, you can rest in His presence. Freedom is yours to claim. Reflections Which area of captivity can you identify the most with, and why? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ What area of captivity has God set you free from? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

Day 3

OUTCOMES OF FREEDOM Freedom enables people to enjoy a quality of life they otherwise wouldnt. What does our new found freedom mean for us as believers? What does it enable us to do? This is what we seek to learn today. Free To Enjoy God Freedom allows us to enjoy a relationship with God which includes His presence, His friendship, and His love. An image comes to mind of sitting in the sunshine on a warm summer day, eyes closed, face lifted towards the sun, just basking in its warmth. Thats how we are to enjoy God. Sitting at His feet, looking up adoringly, just basking in the pure intimacy of simply being with Him. Some people are too busy serving God to be with Him, but God wants us to spend time with Him. What an incredible thought that the Maker of the universe, not only wants our service, but He wants our company as well! How can we just be with God? Find a quiet place. Read His Word. Talk to Him. Listen for His voice. When Jesus accomplished His work on earth, the veil between God and humanity was removed and we now can approach Him directly. We can march boldly into the throne room. We can stand before Him pouring our hearts out to Him or we can sit in total silence, just enjoying His company. Are you too busy serving God to be with Him? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Our motivation for a relationship with God can not be based on what God can do for us. God sees through our actions to the motives within our hearts. We need to seek His face, not His
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hand. He wants our desire for Him to grow out of our love for Him. This is the kind of intimate relationship He wants with us. Is this the kind of freedom you experience in your relationship with God? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Free to Live Unselfishly There is great freedom in living unselfishly. There is freedom in extending our time, energy and resources to help others. When we were yet in our sin, we were unable to live beyond ourselves. Our sin nature was in control, and it was impossible to live unselfishly, but God has freed us to look beyond ourselves and put the needs of others before our own. This is how He expects us to live. How are you living beyond yourself? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Free to Proclaim Boldly This may not be an area you thought would appear on our list. But Ive included it because I dont believe this struggle is relevant only to me and others can benefit from this discussion as well. Our freedom in Christ means we can proclaim His wonders boldly. We can confidently and fearlessly talk about how God has been working in our lives. This is an area I have, and continue to, wrestle with. You see my background is one of conservatism. When I was growing up, my parents took us to church and expected us to become Christians, but we didnt share much about our personal relationships with God. As a result, I have found it extremely difficult to talk about the things of God. I think about Him all of the time, but speaking verbally about Him is hard for me. I want desperately for God to show up in my every day life. I want my children to be able to talk about God with ease. I want to demonstrate a passionate relationship with God. Im so glad Im on the road to freedom in this area! Scripture says that, If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the father and the holy angels (Luke 9:26). I do not want God to be ashamed of me when He comes again. Paul prayed for freedom in this area as well. Read Ephesians 6:1920. Instead of Paul asking for the people of Ephesus to pray that he would be released from prison (which I would think might be top on his list, given his situation!), he asked for courage to proclaim the Good News boldly. I pray for the same courage for myself. If this is an area you long to be free in, begin to speak out boldly. Ask God to give you courage, just as Paul did. He will supply.
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How free do you feel to talk about the things of God? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Free To Be Yourself It is wonderfully freeing to be around people with whom you dont have to pretend. When you are with your spouse or your close friends, you are free to be exactly who you are. Why is there freedom in these situations? I believe the answer is because you trust their love for you. You know that no matter what you do or what you say, they will love you anyway. This is how we can be with God. We dont have to pretend. It would be of no use, because God knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us anyway. That is the essence of unconditional love. We have to know who we are in Christ in order to accept ourselves. If we were honest, not many of us could say we love and accept ourselves completely. Our acceptance of who we are as people comes from who we are in Christ. It is an acceptance of who God created us to be. When we recognize our true identity we can rest in the person we are. God doesnt ask us to wait to approach Him until we have it all together. He sees our brokenness, He knows our hurts and disappointments, and He wants us to come to Him just as we are. He longs to heal us. We can be authentic before Him. Do you feel free to be yourself with God? Are you able to come to Him and express your true emotions? Why or why not? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Free To Live Passionately When we are confident of who we are in Christ we experience a freedom to embrace life. We feel comfortable to live with enthusiasm, making the most of each day. In life we can only move forward, there is no rewind button, so we must live in a way that produces little or no regrets. And the only way to truly live with no regrets is to invest our entire lives in Gods kingdom. We are able to pursue our calling and our purpose with passion when we understand our identity. Do you feel free to live passionately? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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How does God see you? As gloriously, abundantly free! And what does this freedom bring? Triumphant, victorious living in Christ. Believe in your freedom. Claim your freedom. Make freedom in your life a daily reality. Reflections In which area do you experience the most freedom? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ How do you live out your freedom in Christ? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Lord, our greatest desire is to know You. We want our freedom in Christ to be a daily reality. We want so much to live in the reality of what we know, and to have Your love permeate our entire beings to overflow to all those around us. Release us from strongholds that hold us captive. We want our whole lives and everything we do to glorify You. We want You to be in control of every aspect of our lives, total and complete surrender. Would You work this miracle within our hearts? Help us to live as free children of the King!

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Day 4

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

Today we will go back over the past eleven weeks and review what we have learned about how God sees us. We want to be able to look in the mirror and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are the children of the King! We want these things rooted so deeply in our souls that whenever we are tempted to believe otherwise, we can confidently say, No, I am a child of God and that means My hope is that we no longer allow Satan to convince us that we are still the people we were before we gave our lives to Christ. We need to believe instead what God says about us. God is in the makeover business, extreme makeovers. His transformation is instantaneous, occurring the moment we choose to believe in His Son. The change occurs in the way God sees us. I trust by now you are beginning to see yourself in the same after image God does. You may remember on the first day of our study, you were asked to describe who you were. Take a moment to glance back at what you wrote (page 79). Are there things on that list you now want to change? To add? After studying who you really are in Christ, describe that person here. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We are going to take some time to look in the mirror and review who we are in Christ. I pray you see these characteristics in your reflection. Get out your mirrors and examine the person staring back at you. Take some time to journal your thoughts as you reflect on your true identity. Describe your reflection as a child of God; one that is sharing in the privileges and responsibilities of being in His family. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your reflection as a new person; a masterpiece; a person who is living in the fruit of the spirit. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Describe your reflection as a person in right standing with God; someone who has been completely forgiven and totally justified. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your reflection as someone who is becoming more and more like Jesus; who is reflecting His glory in ever increasing measure; who has been set apart for His use. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your reflection as a person fully submitted to God; completely under Christs authority. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your reflection as a person living in unity with other believers; enjoying the benefits of community. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your reflection as a person who is resting in the protection and security of God. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your reflection as a person who is blessed both in this physical realm as well as spiritually. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe your reflection as someone who is totally satisfied in this life and fully complete. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Describe your reflection as a person who is gloriously free from every possible bondage. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I trust you are beginning to see some of these characteristics in yourself because that is exactly who God sees when He looks at you. That is who He says you are. All of these qualities are possible only for those who are in Christ, because these are attributes of Christ Himself. And because Christ lives in you, all that He is and all that He has, is available to you. Reflections Which aspect of your new identity do you struggle with the most? Why? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Which aspect of your new identity are you most confident of? Which one have you incorporated into your daily life? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ It is one thing to know of our identity in Christ at an intellectual level, but I trust over the past several weeks you have learned how to experience it. I trust you know how to live it. There is nothing more dangerous to the kingdom of darkness than believers who believe who God says they are and who live that way. We must claim what is ours in Christ. When I look in the mirror, there is one thing and one thing only I want to see; the reflection of His Son. I trust your desire is the same. Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

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Day 5

APPROPRIATE RESPONSE For our final day of study together, we will take one last look at what our response should be. Not only our response to our focus of discussion this week, our freedom in Christ, but what our response should be for all aspects of our identity in Christ. It is a response that would have been appropriate to list each week. It is found in Jeremiah 32. Read Jeremiah 32:39. What is our one true purpose? ___________________________________ Our response for all that He has done, all that He has given us, our entire identity in Christ, must be worship and praise to our Creator. Worship should be a natural daily response. Worship Defined Worship is first and foremost an encounter with the holy and living God. It brings us into His presence. Worship is glorifying God because of who He is. Its acknowledging His holiness, His lordship and His character. It means expressing worthiness to Him. It is a heart response and should be as natural as breathing. We often get confused when we think of worship. If our definition of worship is limited to a time of singing in a church on a Sunday morning, we need to expand our thinking. We can worship God in everything we do. Again, worship is a heart response, acknowledging God for who He is. We must honor God and be willing to give Him what is most valuable to us. The best gift is an obedient and surrendered heart. Worship should be an attitude of the heart and not something we schedule into our busy week. This means being constantly aware of Gods presence and activity in our lives. We should take advantage of every opportunity to praise God. Describe true worship. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ False Worship Scripture warns us about worship that is based on ritual and not expressed from the heart. Read Isaiah 29:1314 and fill in the blanks. And so the Lord says, these people say they are mine. They honor me with their __________, but their __________________ are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but manmade _______________ learned by rote. Have you ever had the experience during the praise time at your church where you suddenly realize your mind and heart are not in what you are singing? That you were thinking about

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something else? God does not honor that kind of worship. He desires true worship from the heart, not empty words and meaningless ritual. God convicted me of this very thing several years ago with a passage of Scripture from Isaiah. I want to share it with you to illustrate what kind of worship God is looking for. Why this frenzy of sacrifices? Gods asking. Dont you think Ive had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves? Dont you think Ive had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats? When you come before me, who ever gave you the idea of acting like this, running here and there, doing this and that all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship? Quit your worship charades. I cant stand your trivial religious games: monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings meetings, meetings, meetings I cant stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! Youve worn me out! Im sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, Ill be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, Ill not be listening. And do you know why? Because youve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I dont have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.If you are willing to obey youll feast like kings (Isaiah 1:1019 MSG). As you can see, God detests false worship. He detests empty words and disobedience to Him. Authentic worship reveals the condition of our hearts. Examine your own worship experience. Is your worship routine or real? Is it a genuine heart response? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ The Real Me I am so grateful for who I am now compared to who I used to be. I shudder to think at what my life would be like today without God. And I know that who I am today is a result of His grace and His mercy and His work in my heart, it has nothing to do with anything I have done. Ten years from now, when I look back at the present me, I pray I will notice His continued grace in my life and find I have moved further along in my spiritual journey. I dont want to remain unchanged. I want to live every day in the fullness of who I am in Christ. I want my extreme makeover to be evident in how I live my life each day. I want to live as God sees me.

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Reflections Read Psalm 8. This psalm is a wonderful expression of worship to God for who He is and what Hes done. It is also so fitting to close our study because it tells of our worth to God. God values us so highly that He created us in His own image and crowned us with glory and honor. Take some time now to express your worship to God, based on this psalm, for who you are in Christ. Bless Him for the journey Hes lead you on over the past eleven weeks. Ask Him for continued understanding of your identity as His child. More importantly, ask Him to help you to experience it in your daily life. Worship Him. He alone deserves all the glory and honor and praise. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Describe what changes you would like to see in yourself ten years from now. What transformations are you praying that God will make in you? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ We would be negligent if we failed to commit to positive change in some way. After all you now know about your identity in Christ, what are some specific things you are going to do to walk in that new-found identity? List them here. Share them with a friend who can encourage you and hold you accountable. How are you going to claim your position as his child? I have provided some examples to get you started. I commit to developing my relationship with God by waking half an hour earlier each morning to spend time in His Word. I commit to praying instead of worrying. Each time I find myself worrying I will stop and begin praying about that issue. When I sense those old feelings of guilt and shame wash over me, I will reject them as lies from the enemy and begin to speak the truth of Scripture out loud about who I am in Christ. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
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______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ I have enjoyed this journey with you more than words can express. I have learned so much in the process and know that I am closer to the fullness in Christ He wants for me. I trust you can say the same. Thank you for sharing this voyage with me. My prayer for you as we part, is that you continue to live in these truths. The journey is not over, it is just beginning. Lets begin to actively live out our faith! Lets claim what is ours! Who are you? You are a new child of God, under the authority of Christ, who is united with other believers and who is made right, set apart, blessed, secure, complete, and gloriously free! Spiritual Journal ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Lord, we praise and worship You, for You alone are the one true God. You created the whole earth and everything in it. And You crowned us with glory and honor. Thank You that You give us assurance of who we are in Christ. In Him we can experience abundant life. Lord, help us to make this identity a reality in our lives. Help us to live in the fullness of Christ. And we will give You the glory, for You alone are worthy.

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