THE JESUS HABITS It was during 40 Days earlier this year that I believe we had a significant time of spiritual renewal within the life of the church. There are particular seasons within the life of any church - times when we experience and encounter the grace of God in new and fresh ways. When we seek God and respond in joyful obedience then it is quite remarkable what God accomplishes as he moves by his Spirit among us. We are called to be disciples – followers of the Lord, following with passion and purpose. How do we sustain such a life of commitment? In what ways can we build and strengthen the heart of our relationship with the Lord? There are many questions that quite naturally arise. We are called to experience life in all its fullness. John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” There are times when we think we are doing okay. Then the challenge comes and we realise that simply doing okay is not what the Lord is looking for in our lives. John Ortberg puts it this way – ‘We forget that Jesus never said, “I have come that you might do okay.” Okay is not okay. The Spirit comes to stir us from the tendency to mediocrity. What is the secret to the long haul in our relationship with Jesus? What is it that will strengthen us in being faithful to the Lord? How do we really grow as Christian believers? It is so easy to think that it will just happen – it won’t! If you think it will, then you are taking hold of the recipe for not living to the fullness of all that God has for you in Christ. The challenge of growing spiritually – lies with you and your commitment to the Lord in seeking him and finding him to be the continuing and sustaining source of life and love in Jesus. The modern age is the age of superficiality – the call is to go deeper with God. In this series I unashamedly make the strong call to discipleship – it is a call to be more like Jesus. We are therefore looking at the habits that Jesus displayed in his life and endeavouring to understand the practical outworking of such habits in our own lives – for our desire is to be more like Christ. This is not about being more ‘religious’ but more authentic. May it be that through your cell group – strong authentic and enduring relationships will help us to strengthen one another to be true followers of our Lord and Master. Alan Dinnie August 2005 1. THE JESUS HABIT OF LIVING EACH DAY FOR GOD This first study forms more an introduction to the series that looks at the core ‘disciplines’ that feature in Jesus’ life - THE JESUS HABITS. CONNECT There is generally something like a 500% increase in gym membership after the Christmas holidays but only 15% of people are still working out come Easter! Getting started in the gym is the easy part, but it is sustaining the workout routine that will offer you lasting benefit. Have you got a story about an experience down at the gym? Does this thought of the gymnasium have an application to our own discipleship? We can have a healthy body but live with a flabby soul! The imagery of the athlete in training is a frequent metaphor (1 Cor. 9:24-27). We are called to a commitment of spiritual pursuit – living lives that are pleasing to God. There are no shortcuts to spiritual fitness. GROW Mark 1:21-39 A day in the life of Jesus. Take a snapshot of Jesus’ day in Capernaum from this passage in Mark’s gospel. It was the Sabbath day; what was to be the day of rest, yet it proved to be incredibly pressurised. Jesus taught the people v.21 – Jesus went to the synagogue which was the place of teaching as well as worship. It was going to be a busy day for Jesus and perhaps typical of many days in his life. Note how people spoke and interacted with Jesus. There was something very compelling about his teaching. Jesus had time for individuals v.22-28 - There is the man who is under the grip of an evil spirit. Jesus liberates the man. This led to further pressures of natural expectations placed upon Jesus. Jesus did not seek for needy people – they simply came across his path in the day and he ministered appropriately to them. Jesus shared with friends v.29-31 – Jesus relaxed with friends like Peter, but even then there were needs. Peter’s mother in law was unwell with a fever. Jesus ministered to the crowds that gathered v.32-34 – the evening was taken up by the demands of countless people. Jesus took time to be alone with his Father v.35-38 – he knew where his priorities were. He was guided as a result of seeking the will of the Father. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What observations do you make regarding this one day in the life of Jesus? What indicates the way Jesus wanted the whole of the day to count for God? 2. Jesus had the twelve followers who literally followed him each day. The disciples observed and interacted with Jesus from close quarters. Take time to imagine what it would be like to spend a day with Jesus? Share what some of your own thoughts and observations might be! If you walked, talked, eat, slept with Jesus being around like these first disciples – in what way do you think your day might be different? 3. Take time to reflect on a typical day in your life. On a sheet of paper list what have been the key parts of your day so far! Take the day from waking up – washing – breakfast – working – worrying – decision making – shopping – talking to people – answering the phone – recreation. Ask the question – What does it mean to live and work with the reality of Jesus in our lives? There is a verse in Colossians 3:7 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. How do we do things in the name of Jesus? The truth is that we can experience the reality of Jesus with us – in fact Jesus said to his disciples that they would be better off after he had returned to the Father as the Holy Spirit would reside within them. Jesus will be close to us! Paul calls us to embrace the whole of life and living with one passionate desire – So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31. WORSHIP Take time to worship – be conscious of the great verse and promise of Lamentations 3:23. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases His mercies never come to an end They are new every morning Great is Thy faithfulness. Take time in prayer, maybe in silence – replay the video of the day that we talked earlier about. Go from scene to scene – and respond as you express gratitude over something specific or remember in prayer a particular need. SHARE Take time to read and reflect on a powerful commitment that Rick Warren led his congregation to make on the occasion of their 25th Church Anniversary. In what way does such a statement impact you? What part of the statement particularly impresses you? On April 17, more than 30,000 members of the Saddleback Family gathered in Angel Stadium to celebrate our congregation's 25th anniversary. But we did more than just rejoice in the way God fulfilled the original vision he gave me for the congregation in 1980. I also shared a new vision God has placed on my heart, one for mobilising all God's people -- all over the world -- to tackle the giant obstacles that keep people in spiritual darkness. At the end of the celebration, we all stood together and read the following declaration that I wrote to help us express our radical commitment to this global spiritual revolution. Rick Warren THE ANGEL STADIUM DECLARATION April 17, 2005 Today I am stepping across the line. I'm tired of waffling, and I'm finished with wavering. I've made my choice; the verdict is in; and my decision is irrevocable. I'm going God's way. There's no turning back now!I will live the rest of my life serving God's purposes with God's people on God's planet for God's glory. I will use my life to celebrate his presence, cultivate his character, participate in his family, demonstrate his love, and communicate his Word. Since my past has been forgiven, and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying. Instead I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfil my mission in the membership of his family. Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, "we" over "me," character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most, and I'll give it all I've got. I'll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today. I won't be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems, debilitated by temptation, or intimidated by the devil. I'll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me. When times get tough, and I get tired, I won't back up, back off, back down, back out, or backslide. I'll just keep moving forward by God's grace. I'm Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused, so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race. I'm a trophy of God's amazing grace, so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for everyday, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me. To my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I say: However, whenever, wherever, and whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes! Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I'm ready. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyway. Whatever it takes Lord; whatever it takes! I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I'll hear you say, "Well done, thou good and faithful one. Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!" 2. THE JESUS HABIT OF LOVING GOD This study is about the priority seen in Jesus’ life of putting God first. Perhaps we would expect that, for he is the Son of God – but there remains a challenge to each of us to know how we are to follow the Master in loving God. CONNECT We will be looking at the only occasion in the gospel where Jesus is spoken in his childhood years. Do you recall any incident from your childhood that influenced you to think about loving God? GROW Mark 12:28-30 & Luke 2:41-49 A question and a crisis. The whole of Jesus’ life was shaped by his love for the Father. There was something very compelling about Jesus and this love for God was clearly observed. An expert in the law approached Jesus with a pressing question. Mark 12:28-30 One of the teachers of the law, asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one”, answered Jesus, "is this, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' We need to always remember that Jesus was a 1st century Jew – and he grew up within the disciplines of Judaism. A Jew would daily recite a creed that is known as the Shema and is to be found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Pious Jews would recite twice daily – at the break of each morning and after sunset. This would be the first prayer that a Jewish child would recite – and this would be so for Jesus as he was brought up by Mary & Joseph. The thing about the word ‘most important’ is that it doesn’t get any more important! God wants me to love him: Thoughtfully ‘with all of my mind’ that is with all our thoughts and attention. Passionately ‘with all your heart and with all your soul’ and this is the centre of everything, the focus of our being. Practically ‘with all my strength’ and this is with our ability, energy and resources. We are to love God with our attention, our affection and our ability. In a later study we will see how Jesus further expanded this fundamental creed when he linked it to loving others as themselves. This was a powerful transformation of the creed that has changed the course of human history. We want to take time in this study to look at the episode when Jesus was twelve and he was taken to the temple. Luke 2:41-49 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.  When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.  After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."  "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Jesus at 12 years of age was no longer a child but regarded as a man. A child up to the age of 12 years would be in the care of the Mother but when over 12 years the care would be taken on by the Father as the Son learnt a trade. This was why confusion was created on the way home – it was only when they stopped they realised that each had presumed Jesus was with the other. When Joseph returned Jesus was found in the temple courts among the teachers – listening and asking questions actively participating in debate. The response of Jesus was, ‘Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house.’ He was being obedient to the will of his heavenly Father whose business he was going to accomplish. The work in the Carpenters shop was only temporary. Before the great teachers he was testing his knowledge of God. Asking questions was going to be a key characteristic of his future ministry. It was an extraordinary event that caused amazement and wonder by those who were involved in the discussions. As Jesus is baptised – it is in obedience to the will of the Father who responded this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Jesus was launching into the ministry the Father called him to accomplish. There were key priorities that are observed in Jesus’ ministry, the priorities of God’s name, the Kingdom, the plans and purposes of the Father. The verse that spells this out is Mark 10:45 I have come not to be served but to serve. This meant that he would lay his life down. He was always taking time out to commune with the Father. His praying was always to Abba Father. To truly love God means to pray and know the reality of Abba. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. In what ways can the repetition of a creed be a helpful means of developing our spirituality? Was it all just a ritual that even Jesus went through or was it reality? 2. Imagine what it was like for Jesus to regularly recite such a prayer. How did Jesus seek to cultivate his own relationship with God? Do you think that there is benefit in a regular prayer recited on a daily basis? How do we help our own children develop their spirituality? 3, How are we to love God practically with our attention, affection and ability? Take one of these areas and begin to unpack it in the practical outworking of how we are to love God. 4. Why do you think that Jesus needed to ask questions when he was in the temple? How do we see Jesus increasing in his knowledge and awareness of God as a boy? 5. When Jesus commenced his ministry there were numerous occasions when he expresses his dependence on the Father and how he does nothing without the Father’s ok. What are the principles here that help us in our desire to live lives that are pleasing to the Father? WORSHIP Use the opportunity to worship through expressing your love for God. Allow it to arise from a deepening awareness of the rich nature of love that God has for you. Loved with everlasting love Led by grace that love to know Spirit breathing from above Thou hast taught me it is so. SHARE Jesus ministered to people out of the rich nature of his relationship with Abba Father. This is the calling that is placed on our lives as we go out to love and serve the Lord where he places us in the home, community, place of work. 3. THE JESUS HABIT OF GRATITUDE CONNECT In this study we are considering the whole area of gratitude but let’s think for a few moments about the opposite – ingratitude. Share an encounter with ingratitude and how did you find yourself reacting? Now think about gratitude and the impact that such action has on you. Sir John Templeton is a world famous financier and philanthropist. His primary objective was to make money and to give it away – and he made lots of it, and gave lots of it away! There is the Templeton Award for Excellence. It is said that ‘every morning when Sir John awakes he quietly lies on his bed and thinks of five ways in which he has been blessed. He says that he finds this simple procedure spiritually enriching and believes that this is one of the chief reasons why so much peace and contentment floods his life.’ How does your day begin? How about thinking of some ways you have been blessed! GROW Matthew 14:13-21; John 11:38-44; Luke 22:14-20 In this study instead of one particular passage, we are going to look at a number of events that highlight the spirit of gratitude that exuded from the heart of Jesus. Jesus lived a life of thankfulness. This is observed throughout the gospel accounts. There were many occasions when Jesus took time to stop and offer thanksgiving to his heavenly Father. There was this incredible life of positive attitude that naturally overflowed. As a Jew he would have been brought up realising the responsibility to offer thanksgiving to God. There were many ‘blessings’ that were celebrations of gratitude for the ordinary things of life that are so often taken for granted. Remember Psalm 100:4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” There were particular OT offerings that reflected thanksgiving and gratitude – like the Peace Offering. This was a pure celebration of thanksgiving to God for his mercy and love that had been experienced. There was the influence of his mother, Mary and how with Joseph, seven days after the birth, sacrifices were made in the temple celebrating their thanksgiving for the gift of the baby. In the ministry of Jesus there were numerous occasions when specific thanksgiving was made. There is the feeding of the 5,000 – Matthew 14:19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Thanksgiving was made as Jesus blessed the five loaves and two fish before the miracle took place. Is this a case of Jesus giving thanks for the miracle before the miracle took place? Jesus was expressing his trust in God and this is what thanksgiving is really all about. Outside the tomb of Lazarus there is a prayer of thanksgiving. John 11:41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. Here is thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God who will not fail. Jesus gives thanks before he sees the answer to his prayer. There was another meal that was filled with thanksgiving and that is the Last Supper. Luke 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Facing the most critical moment of anguish and suffering there were expressions of thanksgiving. There can be genuine thanksgiving that arises in the deepest and most distressing moments of life. There is a remarkable prayer in John 17 that indicates the spirit with which Jesus fulfilled the mission the Father had given him. There is a profound sense of gratitude in the work of Jesus until the time on the cross where he utters the words it is finished. Thanksgiving is a choice Thanksgiving is a celebration Thanksgiving is a commitment Thanksgiving is a creed DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Scripture encourages us to express gratitude – read the following verses by way of celebration of thanksgiving. 1 Chron. 16:34; 1 Thess. 5:18; Col 3:17; 2 Cor. 2:14; Psalm 107:31 2. How would you answer someone who questioned the need of Jesus giving thanks to the Father when he was such an integral part of the godhead as the Son of God? 3. With the feeding of 5,000 – do you think that Jesus was simply saying the equivalent of ‘grace’ before a meal or was there something deeper happening? 4. Jesus gives thanks before he sees the answer to his prayer regarding Lazarus. What do we learn from this regarding our own praying? How do we cultivate a thankful spirit not just when things are going well for us? 5. As you think about the special meal in the Upper Room of bread and wine why not celebrate communion in your group with a special emphasis on the spirit of thanksgiving. WORSHIP You are invited to come with thanksgiving – in worship take time to express thanksgiving. It so easy to come in prayer immediately with our requests. Find a way to celebrate the blessing of our generous and gracious God. There is the old hymn: Count your blessings name them one by one Count your blessings, see what God has done ….and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. There is another hymn. Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things. Psalm 103:1-5. SHARE Pray about some act of gratitude that you can give towards not a fellow believer (let’s not make it too easy) but a non-Christian. Let the act of gratitude be a hidden act and not one that places the spot light upon us as the giver. Be prepared to share next week in your cell group, how we really felt about participating in such servant ministry. GRATITUDE expressed I am thankful for….. • The taxes I pay...because it means that I am employed. • The clothes that fit a little too snug...because it means I have enough to eat. • The lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning ...because it means I have a home. • All the complaining I hear about government….because it means that we have freedom of speech. • The lady behind me who sings off key….because it means that I can hear • The piles of laundry and ironing….because it means my loved ones are nearby • The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours...because it means that I’m alive. • Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day….because it means I have been productive. 4. THE JESUS HABIT OF PRAYER CONNECT Try to recall what Christmas/Birthday Present gave you the most joy. It needn’t have been terribly expensive or big, just the one that thrilled you the most. Why did that particular gift mean so much? Who gave it to you? Was your relationship with the giver any part of the reason for the joy you felt? Share your experiences of receiving ‘gifts of love’ GROW The Lord’s Prayer - Luke 11:1- 4. Jesus continually communicated with His heavenly Father. His prayer, his communication, was based on this Father-Son relationship. Jesus was never slow to speak to God, and his joyful familiarity was so noticeable to His disciples that they asked Him to teach them to pray in the same way that John taught his disciples. Jesus offered them a model prayer, a framework on which to base their own personal relationship with God. This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13) There are six main phrases in this prayer and it is Mike Breen who has suggested the image shape of the Hexagon to help us remember the power of this prayer in enabling us to align our wills with God’s will. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' Matthew 6:9-13 There are six main phrases in this prayer and it is Mike Breen who has suggested the image shape of the Hexagon to help us remember the power of this prayer in enabling us to align our wills with God’s will. 1. THE FATHER’S CHARACTER - Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. This is as informal and familiar a greeting as you could possibly imagine. “Hallo Daddy” – “Hi, Pops” – “Morning Dad”. The greeting reveals the relationship between Jesus and His Father. But this Father is “in heaven”, emphasising that our “Dad” is all powerful, all knowing, all glorious, and infinitely able to cope with anything our lives will throw at us 2. THE FATHER’S KINGDOM – Your Kingdom come, Your will be done. This wonderful Dad is the great King of the greatest kingdom in the universe, and you are His child! His kingdom of Love, Light and Goodness needs to be manifest right here on earth – and more particularly right here within your life and mine. 3. THE FATHER’S PROVISION – Give us this day our daily bread. Our Father provides for us each and every day. As we pray this part of the prayer we trust Him to supply all our needs out of the riches of His heavenly kingdom. 4. THE FATHER’S FORGIVENESS – Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. We will all sin from time to time, but our Dad will 5. THE FATHER’S GUIDANCE – Lead us not into temptation. We pray, “When You take us out into the world, Father, to do your bidding, to advance your kingdom, be sure to help us not to fall into the traps set by the enemy, Satan.” 6. THE FATHER’S PROTECTION – And deliver us from the evil one. Our Father’s enemy is our enemy. We need God’s protection from the devil, as he tries to cause us to sin - in order to divide us from our loving Heavenly Father This is a prayer that can create a powerful framework for our own praying and our corporate praying as a church. Too often we have set it aside as a liturgical prayer and ignored the depths of inter-relationship with God it can reveal. See it as six important segments of this hexagon that can be worked round as you pray the phrases through. It is important not to allow familiarity to create a casual approach to God, but to ask the Holy Spirit to take your praying deeper as you pray just one or two of the segments. IN YOUR GROUPS Read the parable of the persistent friend (Luke 11: 5-8). This is the story of the visitor who unexpectedly arrived at midnight, and asked (nay almost demanded) bread in order to feed some guests. THE PROMISE – Luke 11 : 9-13. Note the verbs ……again it is about persistence ask and keep on asking. seek and keep on seeking. knock and keep on knocking DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. The power of this prayer lies in the reality of the Father Child relationship. What are some of the ways we can strengthen that relationship? Try to keep your suggestions practical. 2. Take each section in turn and share together the focus that each phrase has for us as we seek God in prayer. Is there some aspect of this section that comes to you fresh and new now that we have studied it together? 3. There is a wonderful sense of the ‘daily’ in this prayer – daily provision, daily forgiveness, daily guidance. How can we make it our daily prayer without losing its effectiveness through familiarity? 4. Why is it that Christians can so often feel guilty about praying for their own needs and yet would have no problem about praying and believing for the needs of others? 5. List some of the things that Jesus prayed for during His earthly ministry. If He asked out of His need, why are we shy to ask out of our need? WORSHIP Have someone quietly and very slowly read again Luke 11 v 1 - 4 As you hear this familiar passage read, spend a few minutes silently imagining that you were there when the disciples first heard Jesus teaching them to pray the “Lord’s Prayer”. Think of this shape – the Hexagon – and into the framework pour your own thoughts, concerns and prayers allowing it to be a practical and yet flexible model for your own praying. Richard Foster says: ‘Jesus has transfigured the trivialities of everyday life. Try to imagine what our prayer experience would be like if He had forbidden us to ask for the little things. What if the only things we were allowed to talk about were the weighty matters, the important things, the profound issues? We would be orphaned in the cosmos; cold and terribly alone. But the……etc. etc……….pray for daily bread.’ SHARE Face the challenge this week of doing two things. Take the six phrases and pray one each day. Pray deeper into the phrase and allow your Heavenly Father by the Spirit to open your eyes further to the wonder of prayer. Share with an unbeliever this week – perhaps to the extent where you could say to them – “I’ll pray for you’. Make sure you do pray for them and further contact with the person can bring a further witness that God can use. 5. THE JESUS HABIT OF SOLITUDE CONNECT What are some of the pressures that you experience during a typical day? For instance, there is the pressure of getting the children to school, dealing with umpteen emails, the pressure of performance in the work place with appraisals. How do you cope with those pressures? GROW Selected passages – Bill Hybels says ‘If an ordinary car engine turns four thousand revolutions per minute, a racing motor can turn up to ten thousand. The marketplace mentality says, ‘Rev that engine up to ten thousand as soon as you get up in the morning, and keep it there until you collapse on the sack at night.’ How are we to reduce our rpm’s? This study is about the experience and expression of solitude in Jesus’ life. Yes he lived in a very different era and perhaps there were not the pressures of the M25 in order to get to work but there some very real pressures and expectations that were placed upon him. Jesus knew what it was like to be tired – When he arrived at the well in the city of Samaria (John 4:6)– he was exhausted and thirsty after the journey. Is there a habit of ‘slowing up and solitude’ in the life of Jesus that we can experience ourselves as disciples in the 21st century? Jesus growing up in childhood experienced solitude. There are very few verses that say anything about Jesus’ early years. But if he learnt anything from Mary his mother it would be to ponder the ‘revelation’ that was growing within him in his own heart. There must have been many occasions when he was aware that he was very different from the other boys his own age in the village of Nazareth. There was a growing consciousness of his calling as the word made flesh. When Jesus was 12 and in Jerusalem – some of the insights that came through solitude, exuded from his own spirit to those around, in the questions and answers that were being shared. 1. Jesus experienced solitude in the wilderness. In Matthew 4:1 we see Jesus experiencing solitude in the wilderness when he was tempted for a lengthy period of forty days. There was a deep silence in the wilderness. 2. Jesus experienced solitude before the demands of the day. In Mark 1:35 – Jesus knew pressures upon him. He was a man on a mission and the demands were relentless. There had been huge crowds and a wonderful response. The next day Peter goes looking for Jesus and discovered him in a ‘secluded place’ where he was found to be praying. Imagine the discipline that Jesus exercised in order to achieve this period of time alone without the clamouring crowds. 3. Jesus experienced solitude with his disciples. In Mark 6:30-32 The disciples have been out on their mission for a period of time for Jesus and on returning there is a debrief session – it is a time of solitude, an opportunity to reflect. It was also the occasion when Jesus had heard the news of John the Baptist’s death – and he wanted time apart from the crowds for he sensed the great loss of the trailblazer, his own cousin. Jesus spoke about when praying to go into a quiet place, a place where you can shut the door and be alone. He was able to meet the needs of the people – yet there are occasions when he deliberately draws apart and takes ‘time out’ to commune with his Father. This whole area of solitude is a tough discipline, the pressures otherwise are all around us. 4. Jesus experienced solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane. In John 18:1 we find Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane There is every indication that this was his regular practice. It was a special place of retreat and stillness. If we are gong to become more like Christ then we should learn from solitude. That does not mean that we need to go on retreat for several days at a time but in the busy day find solitude where you can be alone with God. During times of solitude: You can pray You can meditate on scripture You can write in your journal Solitude can cause you to experience: Hearing God’s voice Embracing fresh faith Declaring your worship Personal renewal Seek the will of God DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Take a few minutes to be silent in your group. Plan it in order that there is a focus in perhaps a verse of a song or scripture. Share how you coped with the silence and the struggles you encountered. Why is it that silence makes us ‘nervous’ and we long to move on from silence? 2. In Mark 1 it was early in the morning. Why do you think that early was the appropriate time? Why do you think that the disciples felt Jesus was wasting his time? 3. Find some other verses of scripture or some other events of solitude in the lives of a biblical character that indicate the benefits of solitude. 4. How can you create solitude in your own life? How do we stop our minds wandering the minute we are in ‘silent’ mode? Vance Haver once said, ‘If you don’t come apart, you will come apart.’ WORSHIP Psalm 46 is a powerful Psalm that acknowledges all the chaos and confusion that so often exists in the world. Nature is in upheaval and there are the enemies that are no longer on the horizon but at the front door and so war ensues. Yet there is the powerful call to be still and know that I am God.’ To the Silent Heart Some of the deepest prayers ever prayed are prayers of silence. Being in My presence saying nothing and wanting nothing is a prayer. Being together letting our Presence merge and our wills blend is a prayer. Two hearts, beating as ONE, is a prayer. STAY WITH ME IN THE SILENCE WHILE I LOOK AT YOU AND YOU LOOK AT ME. Angela Ashwin 6. THE JESUS HABIT OF HUMILITY CONNECT Surely humility is not a habit that we can readily cultivate in today’s ‘dog eat dog’ world with all its pressures? What is humility all about anyway? GROW Philippians 2:5-11; John 13:15-16; Matt 21:5; Mark 10:35-45 The great celebratory hymn concerning Jesus Christ is found in Philippians 2:5ff Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus….he humbled himself and became obedient to death. The theme of humility in the life of Jesus is emphasised. There is this incredible servant attitude that is exemplified in the life of the master. He was the Servant King! The Lord of the universe made himself nothing and took the nature of a servant and served. The attitude of humility is a choice we are to make. Humility is an attitude of mind worked out in action. Jesus spoke of humility in the picture of being yoked to Christ in the well known verse Come unto me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest…. for I am gentle and humble, in heart and you will find rest for your soul. Matthew 11:29 Right at the heart of Jesus’ ministry was the declaration that he had come not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. There was the occasion when the disciples were in disagreement together about who was the greatest. Mark 9:33-35 to which Jesus proclaims ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’ Illustrations of self-sacrificing humility. Jesus expressed humility when in the Upper Room he washed the feet of the disciples. John 13:15-16 where we have been set an example – to humble ourselves and serve others, even those closest to us. John 13:13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Jesus sought to underline the truth with his followers – that the way up was in fact the way down. Humility is the choice that values people above ourselves. There was the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday Matthew 21:5 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' " He did not come riding on a white stallion like a victorious Roman general but on a back of the lowly donkey. The attitude of humility is a heart attitude. This is where Proverbs reminds us to (4:23) Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. We need to watch over our hearts There is the great section in Philippians 2:8 “he humbled himself”. Humble people refuse to take advantage of their position v.6 Humble people set aside privilege to function as servants v.7 Humble people place no limit on their obedience to God v.8 Humble people receive honour according to God’s timetable v.9-11 Humility in our lives Leads us to salvation. We come as little children with childlike faith. Mark 10:14 "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “ It is so often pride that hinders people recognising their need of a Saviour. Leads us to be teachable James 4:6 He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Leads us to God’s blessings Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Leads us to know God Isaiah 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One says, he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. As soon as we think we’re humble, we’re not! The call of 1 Peter 5:5-7 is to keep clothing ourselves with humility. Charles Swindoll ’the discipline of humility is an act of faith, and faith is never easy...The path to greatness in the kingdom of God will lead you through the valley of selfishness. Christlike humility will emerge on its own.’ DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1.Why is it that humility is rarely associated with strong leadership roles? The authority and power that goes with the position does not express itself in acts of humility. The attitude is to be served rather than serve – cannot afford to be humble! 2. Why do you think that the disciples constantly stumbled in learning the lesson of humility – even when they had Jesus as their visual aid? 3. What do we learn about humility from Jesus? Look at one of the examples or think about some others in the life of Jesus. 4. What encouragement regarding humility do we receive from the passage. 5. Why do you think we can be humbled by a certain situation but that does not necessarily make us humble? 6. In Ephesians 4 – one of the values of a healthy church is to do with humility. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” v.2. In what way does this present a challenge to us as a church? WORSHIP Phillip Yancey co-authored with Dr. Paul Brand several books – Fearfully and wonderfully made and The Gift of Pain. The late Dr Brand was one of the twentieth century’s greatest, most respected physicians because of his selfless care for those who suffer from leprosy. His love for India’s least of the least led him to make discoveries that centuries had overlooked and to pioneer surgical techniques that surgeons use today in orthopaedic reconstruction. He was a brilliant physician, medical teacher, writer, speaker, and champion for discarded people. Here’s what Yancey had to say about him: Meeting Dr Brand, I realised that I had misconstrued humility as a negative self-image. Paul Brand obviously knew his gifts: he had finished first throughout his academic career and had attended many awards banquets honouring his accomplishments. Yet he recognised his gifts as just that, gifts from a loving Creator, and used them in a Christlike way of service. When I first met him, Brand was still adjusting to life in the United States. Everyday luxuries made him nervous, and he longed for a simple life close to the soil. He knew presidents, kings, and celebrities, yet he rarely mentioned them. He talked openly about his failures and always tried to deflect credit for his successes to his associates. Most impressive to me, the wisest and most brilliant men I have ever met devoted much of his life to some of the lowest people on the planet; members of the Untouchable caste in India afflicted with leprosy. SHARE What does humility mean for us in the work place? How can a servant heart be expressed – let’s experiment this week and return to share our experiences - the good and the bad! 7. The Jesus Habit of Humour We are continuing in our series of The Jesus Habits. There are many abiding characteristics to Jesus’ life that we need to consider. If we are going to be Jesus’ disciples then we need to discover what characterised Jesus’ life and then put them into practice. CONNECT God’s will for his people is that we grow up spiritually. Think about what Peter means in 2 Peter 3:18 where he issues the call ‘to grow up’ What is to be our guide enabling us to recognise maturity? When we think about the subject this week of humour what immediately comes to mind? I find myself writing this the day Ronnie Barker died - one of the funniest comedians. We are not talking about humour simply in the realm of entertainment but in living life with a lightness and seriousness that communicates effectively. GROW Perhaps one of the last habits we might think about with regard to Jesus is the Jesus Habit of Humour. Jesus certainly had the ability to draw a crowd of people wherever he went. He was able to hold the crowd with his effective communication skills. It has been said that Socrates and Aristotle each taught for 40 years, Plato for 50 years, but Jesus for only three. Yet his influence far surpasses the combined 130 years of teaching by these men who are acknowledged as the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God and he was incredibly varied in his approach. He taught using pictures, parables, proverbs and paradox. There were occasions when Jesus was very amusing with his observations and his turn of words that made his messages memorable. There must have been many occasions when Jesus was with his disciples and there would be great hoots of laughter. Take time to think about laughter and its effect upon us! Did you know that children are said to laugh 300-400 times a day - in comparison to adults who laugh only 10- 15 times a day. Does this indicate that the joy and laughter in life is rapidly lost until we become ‘grumpy old men and women?’ Some of you have pets at home - but have you ever seen your dog, cat or gerbil laughing? They may be the source of your own amusement— but it is only man who laughs. Laughter therapy can have a positive input upon mind and body. Laughter actually achieves a great deal for us: 1. Laughter exercises the upper body, quickening the heart beat and expanding circulation, working muscles, stimulating nerve endings and raising oxygen intake. 2. Laughter releases endorphins. These are the body’s natural pain control mechanism. This means that when we laugh we feel heaps better. 3. Laughter affects the workings of the brain and therefore improves the immune system. GOD IS THE GOD OF LAUGHTER ‘He who sits in the heavens laughs.’ Psalm 2:4 A cheerful heart is a good medicine—a crushed spirit dries out bones.’ Proverbs 17:22 Let’s return to Jesus and think about his life... HOW DO YOU THINK OF JESUS? • Sombre and gloomy • Meek and mild • Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief • One who was saddened over the hardness of men’s hearts. • Children loved being around Jesus. • There were those who wanted to have Jesus in their homes. • Jesus attended celebration events and contributed to their success. • He was accused of eating and drinking with the wrong kind of people. 1. JESUS IN ASSOCIATING WITH PEOPLE EXPRESSED HUMOUR Jesus was always with people—he travelled many miles on foot with his disciples. There would have been a relaxed atmosphere within the bond of friendship. Jesus attended the Wedding feast at Cana in Galilee—John 2:1-10; think about how Jews celebrate at a wedding—do you remember the film Fiddler on the roof! There was the meal in Levi’s house that is recorded—Luke 5:29. Jesus was criticised. 2. JESUS IN COMMUNICATING TO PEOPLE USED HUMOUR. There were times when Jesus used exaggeration and hyperbole. When talking to the Rich Young Ruler—Jesus explained to his disciples ‘How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.’ Mark 10:25 Faced with the hardness of the religious leaders—Jesus challenged them saying ‘Blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel’ Matt 23:24 The parable of the two debtors - Matthew 18:23-35. A ruler forgave a man who owed him £5million, but the man refused to forgive one who owed him £5. When talking about judging others - Matthew 7:3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own? 3. JESUS IN CONFRONTING PEOPLE OFTEN USED HUMOUR. The desire of Jesus was not to ridicule people but to redeem people. Jesus uses paradox when he spoke about the blind leading the blind Luke 6:39 In Matthew 23 there is a whole series of woes [laced with humour] when he pronounces how the Pharisees were giving the wrong impression of God. Jesus uncovered their pride and challenged their prejudices. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. What do you understand by the statement in Psalm 2:4where we are told that God laughs? Read the whole Psalm to see the context. 2. In what way do you think of Christ? If you were one of his twelve disciples what do you think would have impressed you about this travelling rabbi teacher. 3. Jesus associated with people - and often he was condemned for spending time with what were perceived as the wrong kind of people particularly by the religious leaders. Pick up on some of the sections of Jesus’ interaction with the religious leaders that highlight this issue— but think about the way Jesus communicated to them in order to enable them to see more clearly and also defuse anger, bitterness and resentment. 4. Think about the way Jesus used humorous phrases like when talking with the disciples following his conversation with the Rich young ruler in Mark 10:23-26—a camel going through the eye of a needle. Or take the brilliant story-telling in the parable of the two debtors and the way Jesus in Matthew 18:23-35 makes a humorous contrast. 5. When we think about the humour of Jesus or what could be described as the ‘light touch’ of Jesus as he related to people - what implications do you feel it has for us as his disciples today? WORSHIP Take time to worship the God of all joy. Jesus was a joyful person. Joy broke through on numerous occasions. Read the section in Galatians 5:22 regarding the fruit of the Spirit and use it to express your group worship— love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. SHARE - The benefits of laughter. • Laughter gets us beyond our mistakes • Laughter keeps fear at a distance • Laughter frees us from the grip of worry • Laughter enables us to sustain a positive attitude • Laughter is contagious, it affects others. God must see us as very funny people a lot of the time and he gives the gift of holy hilarity so that we can laugh with him.’ 8. The Jesus Habit of Servanthood Today’s study will put before us three attitudes to Servant hood to show us just what Jesus meant when He asked us to “Follow” Him. CONNECT Have you ever had to be a SERVANT to anyone? How did it feel? Were you demeaned, or were you treated with respect? What do you think the difference is between being a SERVANT and being a SLAVE? GROW The Servant King. Isaiah 53 v 7 ff. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. …He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken……though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. He left a throne to become a slave! Philippians 2 v 5. Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a SLAVE and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross. He wants to serve us! Luke 12 v 35 – 38. Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. He wants us to serve Him and everyone else! Luke 22 v 24 ff. The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. INSTEAD THE GREATEST AMONG YOU SHOULD BE LIKE THE YOUNGEST, AND THE ONE WHO RULES LIKE THE ONE WHO SERVES. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves… THREE ATTITUDES OF A SERVANT HEART. 1. Everything you have, everything you are, including your gifting and your ‘ministry’ has to be relinquished to Jesus – all ‘ministry’, everything is His and His alone. A slave has no particular position; in fact he has no position at all. His sole purpose is to give his master pleasure. 2. To qualify for God’s “friendship” and for Him to give you “anything you ask”, you must learn to be a doormat. Please have your Bibles open at John chapter 15, and we will read verses 12 – 20. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” 3. All hurt, anger and negative attitudes need to be sacrificed to Jesus at the moment it costs you the most. This is the great LOVE GIFT that Jesus longs to receive from each and everyone of us. No one can possibly understand the joy and freedom that comes from being Jesus’ servant unless they have tried it. Nothing can free us from the bonds of the daily grind like developing a “Servant Heart”. At W.B.C. we are committed to reaching out to the unbelievers round about us. If, as a community, we enjoy the benefits of a “Servant Heart”, then we will be lifting Jesus up, and – just as He promised – He will then draw all those unbelievers to Himself. We cannot ‘save’ anybody, we cannot ‘draw’ anybody, there is only one way to truly evangelise the nation, and that is to live the life of the Servant King daily in our own lives, and then to leave the rest to Him. Praise His Holy Name. THE DARE Prayer : - “Lord Jesus, Master, Saviour; when you walked this earth You were a Servant. I ask You now to make me like You. Lord, You were a Servant, make me one too. AMEN” DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. How would you feel right now if Jesus walked into the room, politely asked you to sit at table and began to serve you a meal? How special would that make you feel? How humble would that make you feel? What do you think your reaction would be? 2. “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” If this text is to become a reality, what changes will have to take place in our church community? What changes will we have to make in our lives? 3. If God has ‘gifted’ us in some way why do you think we need to give it back to Him? Jesus said that He did nothing ‘out of’ Himself, but only what He saw the Father doing; how can we follow that example? 4. Do you think that God can trust you with failure? What kind of failure would you find it the most difficult to face? 5. We all hate to think of ourselves as “doormats”. Is there anything in John 15 v 12 ff that takes the “sting” out of being a “doormat”? What do you think would be easier, laying down your life – literally – for someone, or laying down your life day after day after day by serving them? 6. Why is it that we love to hold onto our hurt, or anger or resentment (or whatever)? What excuses do we use to justify our self-pity? Do you have an instance in your life that you could relate to the group, which illustrates this bad habit that we all have? 7. Is the idea of giving Jesus a LOVE GIFT of our inadequacies a new concept to you? We know that Jesus wants to rid us of the burden of sin, but how difficult do you think it would be to release that burden to Him? 8. Giving that LOVE GIFT at the moment when it costs us the most is very difficult. What is it in our personalities that make us hang on to those things that really cause us harm? WORSHIP Have someone in your group read very slowly the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John chapter 13. As it is read imagine yourself there amongst the disciples. See Jesus come to you and wash your feet. Experience the lovely refreshing feeling as the dirt and grime is cleaned off of you. OR Sing (or read) the words of the song “The Servant King”, and again really enter in to the true meaning of what you are singing. We praise Jesus as we sing about His glorious attributes, but has it ever occurred to you that God “rejoices over us with singing” (Zephaniah 3 v 17)! Is there really anything in me that He can sing about? Now, in the silence, thank Him for all that He has done for you. Begin to recognise what a wonderful refreshment you could be to those around you if you too had a true Servant Heart. If it is right for you - pray, once again, the prayer for a Servant Heart. SHARE If you feel you can, make a commitment now to walk the path of a Slave of Jesus. During the coming week, write out that commitment and put it in your Bible as a promise to Jesus that you really do want a “Servant Heart”. PONDER “Seven times a day, as I work upon this hungry farm, I say to Thee, ‘Lord, why am I here? What is there here to stir my gifts to growth? What great thing can I do for others – I who am captive to this dreary toil?’ And seven times a day Thou answerest, ‘I cannot do without thee. Once did my Son live thy life, and by His faithfulness did show my mind, my kindness, and my truth to men. But now He is come to my side, and thou must take His place. Hebridean Altars 9. The Jesus Habit of Compassion CONNECT Compassion is a word that is used in many different contexts. Politicians frequently talk of creating a more ‘compassionate society’. There are numerous organisations that have ’compassion’ in their name. Seeking to respond to some of the major tragedies—relief organisations often speak of ’compassion fatigue.’ What immediately comes to mind when you think about compassion? What words can be used to further unpack our understanding of compassion today? What do we believe militates against compassion in our society? GROW The charge laid against the early Christian Church was that they had ’turned the world upside down’. (Acts 17:6). The apostle Peter would have claimed to be simply turning the upside down world the right way up! The early believers impacted their world through a compassionate care that was sacrificial. Think about the Christian heritage we have within our own country. In what ways does it reflect the idea of Christian compassion in action that changed society for the better? Take the passage in Matthew 9:35-38 where Jesus is ministering to people with a huge variety of needs. v.35 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF COMPASSION. How would you define compassion? What does the dictionary suggest? In what way would we say the compassion of Jesus is different from some of these definitions. Take another passage Luke 7:11-17. It is about the Widow of Nain who was on her way to bury her son who had died. v.13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." I like the translation of Brennan Manning when he refers to ‘the relentless tenderness of Jesus.’ Try and capture the scene of grief, loss, pain. Luke mentions for instance that it was her only son. Jesus in compassion breathes life into the dead. A miracle takes place. Note that she did not approach Jesus, she did not plead with Jesus to heal her son. Jesus interrupts and brings great joy to her heart that day. Jesus would be ritually unclean as a result of contact with a dead body. Here is an event full of rich tenderness. The word compassion could be translated ‘he was deeply moved in his guts’. There is the link with the inward parts of a person and the Greeks say that this is the seat of all human emotion. 2. THE MOTIVATION FOR COMPASSION. Jesus reflects the compassion of his heavenly Father. God is rich in compassion. Psalm 103:8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. SEEING THE SPIRITUAL NEEDS OF PEOPLE. Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. People were attracted to Jesus and his compassion caused him to act and spend time teaching them the truth. SEEING THE SUFFERING NEEDS OF PEOPLE. The leper experienced healing (Mk 1:41) ‘Filled with compassion Jesus reached out his hand.’ The two blind men who called upon Jesus in Jericho (Matt 20:34) Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes.’ SEEING THE SORROWFUL NEEDS OF PEOPLE The Father of the demonic boy spoke to Jesus ‘take pity on us and help us.’ Mark 9:22. Jesus touched the boy and released him from the powers that gripped his life—great joy came to the Father as a result. The compassion of the master challenges us in the areas of the evangelistic, teaching, healing and pastoral care of the church. 3. THE MANIFESTATION OF COMPASSION. God calls us to manifest relentless compassion. A heart of love that reaches out and acts. Brennan Manning said ‘we are never more like Jesus than when we are choked with compassion for others.’ As Christ was filled with compassion and acted to meet particular needs, may we be filled with compassion and act in his name. The parable of the GOOD SAMARITAN is the most powerful challenge to compassion—read the story and face the challenge—You will find it in Luke10:25-37. It is very familiar but let’s make sure we do not lose impact of Jesus’ words because we know the main story line. There is a huge amount of truth to unpack from these verses. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. How do you observe compassion characterising Jesus’ life? 2. What does the story of the widow of Nain’s son reveal about compassion in Jesus’ heart? Yes, it was a remarkable miracle, but is there an application for compassion to be in action in our own lives reaching out to those who experience some kind of loss in their lives? 3. ‘Like Father, like Son’ - how do we see this in the life of Jesus? Share some verses that declare the compassion of the Father. 4. Alan mentioned three areas that caused the compassion of Jesus to be expressed—they were the spiritual, suffering and sorrowful needs of people. Where does the challenge lie before us when we consider these areas and we face the call to be like Jesus? 5. You could spend the whole session simply meditating on the parable of the Good Samaritan. There are many points of application. What are the key points that challenge us in the whole area of compassion that this parable underlines for us? There is the challenge about what we do that Jesus indicates is just as important as what we believe. WORSHIP Take time to celebrate the compassion of God that has been poured out in our own lives - this relentless tenderness that fills us with the wonder of knowing and serving the Lord. John Stott 'Jesus was not afraid to look human need in the face, in all its ugly reality. And what he saw invariably moved him to compassion, and so to passionate service. Sometimes he spoke. But his compassion never dissipated itself in words; it found expression in deeds. He saw, he felt, he acted. The movement was from the eye to the heart, and from the heart to the hand. His compassion was always aroused by the sight of need, and it always led to constructive action. It seems incontrovertible that if we are even to begin to follow the real Jesus, and to walk in his shoes, we must seize every opportunity to 'do good'. Story of a missionary called Father Damien. In 1873, this Catholic priest heard a call from God to go and minister to a colony of 700 lepers on the island of Molokai. He was there for over ten years, ministering the Father's love without much breakthrough. Then one morning in 1885, he got up and made himself a cup of tea. Accidentally, he spilled the boiling water from the kettle on his toes. Out of instinct he winced, but in reality he felt no pain at all. There was no feeling in his foot. The following Sunday, he looked out at his congregation and began 'We lepers....' 10. The Jesus Habit of Forgiveness Forgiveness is something that, in the Christian church, we have come to accept without real comment. In this study we will take a new look at FORGIVENESS to see whether, as individuals, we have really ‘plumbed its depths’. CONNECT Is there anything/anybody that you would find it impossible to forgive? What circumstances would cause you to dig your toes in and scream, “No – I can’t forgive this!” GROW a) What is FORGIVENESS? • Forgiveness is NOT forgetting that something has happened. • Forgiveness IS not dwelling on the past. • Forgiveness is NOT cheap • Forgiveness IS rare, and needs to be prayed for • Forgiveness is NOT saying that sin doesn’t matter • Forgiveness IS acknowledging sin, yet being prepared to be the one who wipes the slate clean. b) Who needs FORGIVENESS? Everyone. We are not sinners because we sin – No – we sin because we are Sinners. God offers everyone the choice between JUSTICE – because He is a Just God, and MERCY – because He is a forgiving God. Romans chapter 6 v 23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal Life.” c) What does FORGIVENESS Accomplish? (i) Jesus’ Crucifixion (an amalgam of all four Gospels) They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which in Aramaic means the Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with myrrh, but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. And they crucified him, along with the criminals – two robbers, one on his right, the other on his left. It was the third hour when they crucified him. Pilate had a notice prepared of the charge against him and fastened above him to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another, “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” The people stood watching and the rulers who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”..... One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…. then “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (ii) Forgiveness is the large book stuffed down Jimmy’s trousers that stops the big stick doing damage. “FORGIVENESS PUTS THE HANDCUFFS OF HEAVEN ON HELL ITSELF” (T. F. Tenney) • FORGIVENESS destroys Satan’s ability to manipulate our relationships. • FORGIVENESS gives God the room to cement the individual members of His church into one Body. • FORGIVENESS means that we are really and truly beginning to understand what it means to be Children of God. • FORGIVENESS means that I can live securely and happily with you because I know that my mistakes are not going to spoil our companionship. • FORGIVENESS means that you and I are becoming the kind of creatures who will be able to exist in the rarefied atmosphere of Eternity without being destroyed by the glorious Presence of God. • FORGIVENESS means that we are beginning to understand a little of what it cost Jesus Christ to obtain our salvation d) What does this mean for You and Me? Matthew 18 v 21.Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’ 1 Peter 4 v 13. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. By forgiving others we are actually allowed to share in the sufferings of Jesus. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. Why is it so important for us to recognise that we are Sinners? What is it in us that causes us to reject this fact? 2. Why do you think that God’s JUSTICE is so harsh? Do you really think that the ‘wages of sin’ should be death? Can you devise any other suitable outcome for sin? 3. What is so amazing about God’s MERCY? How would you describe His Mercy to someone who had never heard of it? 4. Christ’s forgiveness on the cross affected the whole of history. It encompassed all time before his life, and all time after his death. Can you think of anything else that contains such power? Discuss. 5. If, by forgiving someone, you are effectively wiping out sin, how do you think that alters the present situation and the eternities to come? 6. Forgiveness is amazingly powerful. How would you explain this power to someone who was finding it dreadfully difficult to forgive? 7. INDIFFERENCE When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree, They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary: They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds, and deep, For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap. When Jesus came to Ashford they simply passed Him by. They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die: For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain, They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain. Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”. And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through. The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see, And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary! Studdert Kennedy Why do you think Jesus ‘crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary’, when faced with the indifference of our modern world. What did ‘Calvary’ have that we lack today? Could our refusal to forgive (and thus be obedient to Him) be seen by Jesus as a form of indifference? What else constitutes indifference? WORSHIP Pray that Jesus will enable us to use this powerful weapon of FORGIVENESS each and every time we have the opportunity. Ask His Holy Spirit to come into each of us that He may live out His FORGIVENESS in us. SHARE Having done this study, is there now anything or anybody that you would find it impossible to forgive?