Here are my notes for the sixth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my small group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.
What might you accomplish with your life? How often is this just asking about your five-year or ten-year plan? Sadly, we often focus only on the future rather than on the here and now.
1. Why might it be safer to follow “God’s will for your life” than following God in what he may lead you to do today?
2. If you were absolutely, 100% submitted to the will of God at this moment, what do you think he might ask you to do?
Read Romans 8:1-13
That which is impossible to do, and live up to, in Romans 7 is possible in Romans 8. What makes the difference?
3. In Romans 8:5-8, Paul writes about the difference of the mind set on the flesh and set on the Spirit.
4. In Romans 8:9-13, what does Paul mention that set the Spirit-filled person apart?
5. What do you think it means to “by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). The process of following the Spirit’s leading is walking according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4, Galatians 5, 16, 25).
6. The analogy of walking: We don’t really think about the getting from point A to point B when we walk, we are focusing on the next step. Practically, what would it mean for you to walk by the Spirit in your daily life?
- Walking by the Spirit means we are moving in a particular direction, and that direction is set by the Spirit.
- What is the real difference between adding the Spirit to your life and actually following him step by step?
- When you just add the Spirit to your life, you are not open to change, you want the Spirit to enhance what you are already doing.
- When you follow the Spirit, you will find yourself changing, maybe letting go of some things that were once important to you, maybe even giving up some good things in your life.
7. Which is more frightening? Giving up everything you own or going through life without the Holy Spirit?
- Remember the rich, young, ruler (Mark 10:17-22). He didn’t realize what was keeping him from Jesus until Jesus asked him a similar question.
- By definition, submitting to the Spirit leading means giving up control. This is not a one-time act but a lifelong process. Walking by the Spirit comes down to daily dependence on God. Falling into sin means you are disregarding the Spirit’s leading.
Identify a particular sin in your life. What would it look like to be Spirit-led in a moment of temptation?
There can be real pressure to try harder to produce the Fruit of the Spirit. Truth is, you can’t try harder! Obedience comes through the power of the Spirit.
Quotes from The Forgotten God book:
- And to expose our hearts to truth and consistently refuse or neglect to obey the impulses it arouses is to stymie the motions of life within us and, if persisted in, to grieve the Holy Spirit into silence. – A.W. Tozer
- It makes sense that Jesus would say it’s to our advantage to have this “other counselor.” After all, Jesus merely walked beside the disciples; the Spirit would actually enter their human bodies (John 14:17).
- To be honest, I believe part of the desire to “know God’s will for my life” is birthed in fear and results in paralysis. We are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God’s will. We wonder what living according to His will would actually look and feel like, and we are scared to find out. We forget that we were never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead, God promises multiple times in Scripture never to leave or forsake us.
- My hope is that instead of searching for “God’s will for my life,” each of us would learn to seek hard after “the Spirit’s leading in my life today.” May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit’s leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now. To say that we are not called to figure out “God’s will for my life” does not mean God doesn’t have purposes and plans for each of our lives or that He doesn’t care what we do with our lives. He does. In both the Old and New Testaments He tells us that this is true. The key is that He never promises to reveal these purposes all at once, in advance.
- Nowhere in Scripture do I see a “balanced life with a little bit of God added in” as an ideal for us to emulate. Yet when I look at our churches, this is exactly what I see: a lot of people who have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.
- I think repentance is one of those words we hear a lot but maybe don’t incorporate into our lives very often.
- Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel.
- I say I want to give it all to God, to truly submit myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But I won’t lie, sometimes the reality of what that means leaves me wanting to hold back a little. There are things on this earth that I really enjoy, like surfing, golfing, eating out, and laughing with friends. I know what you’re thinking: that those things are not sinful. And you are right. But that doesn’t mean the Spirit will not lead me to forgo those things occasionally or maybe even permanently for His purposes and the glory of the Father.
- Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not limited to the day we first meet Christ. Instead, throughout Scripture we read of a relationship that calls us into an active pursuit of the Spirit.
- Imagine I buy a treadmill to lose some weight. Three months later I take it back to the store and complain to the clerk that it didn’t work, I didn’t lose a pound. He would asked me, “What’s the problem? Did it not work properly?” I respond, I don’t know if it works. I never ran on it. I just know I didn’t lose weight, so I am done with it!
- Receiving freedom and healing in answer to prayer is generally not something that is done to you, a situation in which you are just a passive participant. Occasionally God works this way and simply heels or freeze a person outright. He is certainly capable of this. But in my experience, he typically asks us to play an active role in the journey toward wholeness. He doesn’t need our help but invites us to participate. Also this journey to freedom takes time, sometimes a very long time.
- Have you been stuck in a cycle of sin for a long time? Have you given up on the Holy Spirit and resign yourself to thinking that he doesn’t work or doesn’t have the power to bring freedom, at least not in your life? If this is you, then maybe you have not internalized the reality that walking in the spirit requires action on your part.
- The hopeful part in all this is that even when I do ignore the Spirit and sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sin. Though at times we sin, we are not ruled and enslaved by sin as we once were.
- The Holy Spirit will not, cannot, lead you into sin. If the Holy Spirit is in you, as a believer, then when you sin you are not listening to the Spirit’s leading.
- Living by the Spirit implies a habitual, continual, and active interaction with the Holy Spirit. While this sounds exhausting, it really isn’t because all of this living and action is done in the power of the Spirit. It is not by your own strength.
- I love the apparent contradiction in Philippians 2:12-13. Paul says in one breath, work out your own salvation, and then the next, it is God who works in you. The both-ness here doesn’t allow us to escape a simple conclusion. Yes, it is God who works in you. And yes, there is work for you to do. Yes, the spirit empowers you to do the work. And yes, you do the work.
Today I’m going to talk about Deuteronomy 29:29 – the “secret things” of God.
ILLUSTRATION: Are you a fan of the old Twilight Zone show? It’s a lot different from the Twilight series we have today! Do you remember this episode?
THE DOWNSIDE OF DIVINATION
When Don and Pat Carter’s automobile breaks down in Ridgeview, Ohio, they decide to have lunch at the Busy Bee Cafe while they wait. The booth they sit in has a fortune telling machine on the table that answers yes or no questions for a penny each. Don asks the “mystic seer” if he is going to get a promotion at work. The card says that it has been decided in his favor. When Don calls the office, he discovers that the seer was right. Because of this initial success, Don asks the seer more and more questions.
Pat begins to recognize that Don is taking the seer too seriously. Based on the seer’s predictions, Don believes it is unsafe to leave the diner until after 3 p.m. Pat convinces him to leave a few minutes before 3, but the couple is almost struck by a car while crossing the street. A nearby clock shows it is 3 p.m. After they calm down, Don wants to go back to the cafe for more answers.
The breaking point comes when Don wants the seer to tell him where they’re going to live and asks the seer every conceivable yes/no question to arrive at that information. Pat tries to break the spell the seer has over Don. After a persuasive speech from Pat, Don apologizes and then announces directly to the mystic seer that they’re leaving to go do what they please.
INTRODUCTION: This is a great example of our desire to know “secret things,” those things that have not been revealed to us.
God seems to be so mysterious. There are a lot of things that we just don’t know about or understand about God; we have questions of which we don’t have answers that satisfy the human mind or heart.
- Why is there suffering in the world?
- What is God’s will for my life?
- When is Jesus coming back again?
THE MISUSE OF MYSTERY
Some things are just a mystery. We finished a January Bible Study a couple of weeks ago in the book of Colossians, and the concept of “mystery” was a big part of it.
I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. –Colossians 1:25-27
At the time, there was a philosophy called Gnosticism, which claimed that only certain people had some special knowledge of God, and it was a secret to most people. It was a heresy that was condemned by Paul as well as early church councils. In Colossians, Paul’s reference to the “mystery” was not some secret knowledge, but the mystery of how God is able to bring Jews and Gentiles together into one family, breaking down the dividing wall of separation.
THE CONTEXT IS COVENANT
Moses writes about some secret things of God, but we must seek to understand this verse in context. Let me read it again, in the NASB…
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. –Deuteronomy 29:29
The first thing to understand about this passage is that it is in the context of the “covenant.” This chapter is describing the conditions of the covenant and the results of disobedience. The phrases in this verse pair together: “the secret things” with “the things revealed.” Since the Jews were the chosen people of God who possess these unconditional promises of God, there is a question that poses a problem, “How could Israel, the recipient of everlasting promises, be destroyed and deported?”
THE EXPECTATION OF EXILE
God’s word says it best in Deuteronomy 29:24-28…
24 And all the surrounding nations will ask, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why was he so angry?’ 25 “And the answer will be, ‘This happened because the people of the land abandoned the covenant that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. 26 Instead, they turned away to serve and worship gods they had not known before, gods that were not from the Lord. 27 That is why the Lord’s anger has burned against this land, bringing down on it every curse recorded in this book. 28 In great anger and fury the Lord uprooted his people from their land and banished them to another land, where they still live today!’
This is the problem, the continuation of Israel and its apparent termination seem to be mutually exclusive. They saw no hope of recovery. But God’s people should know better, because God had revealed the end from the beginning.
THE REGATHERING OF THE REMNANT
In the very next chapter, we read – then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. -Deuteronomy 30:3
This is generally referred to as the remnant returning from exile. Not everyone came back, since after 70 years many families established new roots, building businesses and growing their families. But there were three returning stages under Zerubbabal (525 BC), Ezra (458 BC), and Nehemiah (444 BC), which is the fulfillment of what we read in Deuteronomy 30:5 – The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
Actually, the first ten verses of Deuteronomy 30 is a prediction of this regathering of Israel from all nations to which she was scattered. It did not look very likely, but perhaps you remember that Ezekiel had a vision where he saw the “dry bones” of Israel in exile coming back together, infused with divine breath that would resuscitate the nation to its proper role as 1) servant of the Lord and 2) mediator of God’s divine grace (Ezekiel 37:1-28).
THE CLOSENESS OF THE COMMANDMENT
In order to make clear the possibility of knowing and doing the will of God, Moses spoke of the accessibility of the Lord’s commands and requirements in Deuteronomy 30:11-14. As I read this, the word “commandment,” which occurs regularly in Deuteronomy, refers to the ENTIRE Law of God, not a single command they are to keep.
11 For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. –Deuteronomy 30:11-14
The point here is NOT the ease or even the possibility of keeping God’s Law, but the fact that we can even KNOW God’s Law at all. Contrary to the pagan nations around them, the Lord’s promises and purposes for Israel are crystal clear; they are NOT too difficult, or too wonderful, or beyond comprehension. Human beings CAN understand God and his Law despite their human limitations.
Notice what you DON’T need to do to find, hear, or listen to God’s Word: you don’t seek it in the highest heaven, or cross the deepest sea, because then we can blame it on someone else who has not gone to these places to retrieve the Commands of God. “Ignorance is bliss,” we say. Moses assures us that his Word is “very near you” in your mouth and in your heart. This tells me that Bible study is not all that difficult since we have the Holy Spirit guiding us, illuminating us, and inspiring us. This passage is very reminiscent of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:6-7),
6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your HEART. 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall TALK of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Everything God wants his people to know is revealed in his Word, which is unveiled to the human heart and mind, and is to be communicated by one’s mouth.
Perhaps you recognize that Paul picks up this theme in Romans 10:6-8…
6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
There is no need to go to heaven to get the message, or cross the sea to get it; the incarnation and the resurrection have already occurred and don’t need to be repeated. Instead, there is a life-changing message of the gospel, the word of faith that is to 1) be believed in the HEART and 2) confessed with the MOUTH. Just as the gospel message represents the very presence and purpose of Jesus Christ, Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 30, that the word of this covenant is close and authoritative, just as the Lord is close and authoritative.
So, back to Deuteronomy 29:29, it was this knowledge and hope that should have inspired obedience to “all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) Let’s read it again:
The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. -NLT
THE PASSAGES ABOUT OUR PURPOSE – WHAT IS GOD’S WILL?
Now it is time to get practical:
Is God keeping secrets from us? Well, since we don’t (and can’t) know everything, he obviously has kept some things from us. Even Jesus said that only the Father knows the timing of his second coming (Mark 13:32). Remember, anything that we know about God, is known ONLY because he has revealed it to us.
What is the one thing that most people seek to know from God? What does the future hold for me? Or what is God’s will for my life? Or why do bad things happen to good people or innocent people? Or why do the innocent suffer?
So, let’s talk about the future. What IS God’s will for my life? Well, we’ve talked about this before; but we usually ask the wrong question. We should be asking, “What is God’s will?” We should not search for that one, elusive, divine plan, and, at the risk of choosing poorly, forever being out of God’s will. We must discover God’s will, God’s purposes, and then align our lives to that revealed purpose. When we discover that which God is doing, we seek to deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow him to join him in that work (Luke 9:23).
Here are some passages that tell us about God’s will:
- Mark 3:35 – For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother. (Believing and serving the Lord is God’s will)
- Romans 8:27 – and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Intercession or prayer is God’s Will)
- Romans 12:2 – And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (The renewal of our mind is his will).
- 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1 – Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, (Paul was called to be sent out, which was God’s will)
- 2 Corinthians 7:9 – I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. (Godly sorrow for and repentance of sin is God’s will)
- 2 Corinthians 8:5 – and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. (giving yourself to the Lord and to others is God’s will)
- Colossians 4:12 – Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. (A holy life and assurance of salvation is God’s will)
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (your sanctification [becoming like Jesus] and personal purity, is God’s will)
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Being a thankful person is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 2:15 – For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (Living rightly as a testimony of the gospel is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 4:2 – so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (Avoiding the lusts of men is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 4:6 – For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (Living in the spirit is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 4:19 – Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. (Suffering for the cause of Christ is God’s will)
- 1 Peter 5:2 – shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; (Eagerness in serving and shepherding others is God’s will)
But for human beings, even believers, we want to know the future, rather than seek God’s will. Have you noticed, in the One Year Bible reading, that divination is condemned; the Bible tells us to avoid soothsayers, seers, fortunetellers, astrologers, psychics, mediums. Why? Because God knows there is a problem in wanting to know the future.
THE CHOICES TO CONSIDER
I believe that THIS is the reason why. If we know the future, we no longer LIVE and WALK by faith. How often have we read about the admonition to walk by faith and not by sight? (2 Corinthians 5:7, Colossians 2:6). Eventually we will begin to place our trust in some other person or discipline rather than trusting in the living God. We are in essence telling God that all of the information you have revealed to us is NOT sufficient. Peter tells us…
He has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of him who calls us by his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).
When we look to the stars by reading our horoscope, or call Miss Cleo’s 800 number during late night TV, we slap God in the face and tell him that he is NOT sufficient. He is NOT all that we need. The sacrifice of Christ was NOT enough, I need more answers.
Warren Wiersbe writes, “Our responsibility as God’s people is NOT to pry open the doors to the future, but to obey God’s will here and now. It is not necessary that we know God’s secrets, but it is essential to obey that which he has revealed to us.”
Ask yourself these penetrating questions at the bottom of your outline.
As we finish here, what has God said to you this morning?
- Maybe you recognize that your have not been trusting God with your future. Today is the day to repent and make things right with God. Tell him today that he IS sufficient and repent of your seeking answers in some place other than in Christ. This morning is a time to pray, trust, repent, and start fresh in your relationship with Christ. Recommit yourself to God right now.
- Maybe you have been attending here for a long time, and it’s time to officially join this congregation. You’ve held out for months if not years. You’ve been waiting for some special revelation from God when his will has been very clear for so long. You continue to worship here for a reason, it’s time to be obedient and join the family. A Christian without a church family is an orphan. Every team has a roster, every class has a roll, it’s time to join the family.
- If you don’t know Christ as your Savior and Lord, don’t let this opportunity to get away from you. Today is the day of salvation. You’ve been seeking answers all this time and God has made it painfully clear that he is very near. You sense his presence. You long to understand and experience forgiveness and purpose he has for your life. Remember, you don’t need to know all the secret things of God; only believe the things he has already revealed.
The passage for this message is First Corinthians 12:12-14, 26.
We have been studying how to best experience God, not just to know God but to experience him. The seven realities of Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God can change our perspective from a self-centered theology to one that is God-centered, understanding these profound truths:
1. God is always at work around us
2. God pursues a continual love relationship that is real and personal
3. God invites us to join him in his work
4. God speaks to us to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways
5. Having heard from God, we will experience a crisis of belief that requires faith and action
6. We will have to adjust our lives to join him in his work
7. We come to know God through experience as we obey him
It been challenging and this confronts us on a deep and personal level. These realities cause us to think about our current relationship with God and force us to admit that we have often been simply a casual fan of Jesus, but not a follower of Jesus at all, believing just enough to know that heaven is the place we want to go after this life, but not enough to make actual changes in our lives that will allow God to use us and make an impact on his kingdom. We believe the mission and purpose of God is to call out pastors, teachers and missionaries to build his kingdom, and we settle for sitting on the sidelines, never really wanting to get into the game. We are glad we “made the team” by saying YES to Jesus at some point in the past. We know there’s a playbook but have not really gotten it out to read it, or to prepare for the game, and we justify ourselves by saying, “I just sit here on the bench so I leave reading the playbook and running the plays to the starting team. I don’t expect to get in the game so I’m just fine sitting here on the bench, dressed out and wearing my team’s colors. I don’t really like practice too much: the coach is always telling us what to do and how to do it. He makes the team run, shoot, get in shape, hone our skills and get prepared for the games. But I don’t really DO all that stuff. I prefer just sitting over here on my little bench, next to this little orange water cooler filled with Gatorade. Why am I on this team? It’s because I like the crowd cheering for me and my team, knowing I can make it to the Final Four and the Championship Game because of all the dedication, commitment, skills and efforts of those five starters who get all the playing time.”
Wow, I didn’t think I would take this illustration so far, but the more I thought about it, how often is this the truth? My faith is all about ME. My faith is personal. But the Bible begs to differ. Faith is not something that we believe in or live out on our own. There is way too much evidence in Scripture that the Christian faith is to be carried out in the context of community. We often seek God’s will in our own lives but fail to realize that God has a will for the church. The church is the gathered group of Jesus followers. The church is people, those who have confessed allegiance to the One who bought them and saved them, not just to sit and soak, but to serve. I’m not talking about volunteering, although that is expected when we have a corporate mentality to Christianity. I’m talking about truly understanding what the church is all about. What does God expect of the church? Why do we gather in worship? Jesus mentioned that there are two great commandments: to love God, and then to love others. The whole law can be summed up in these two commands, but the Bible also has a lot to say about HOW we live as believers and followers and disciples of Jesus. Let’s first see what the church IS:
1. The Church is a Creation of Christ.
A. He builds the church: Matthew 16:18, I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
B. He builds the church using Spirit-led pastors and leaders: Ephesians 4:11-13, And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
C. He builds the church and arranges its members according to his own will: 1 Corinthians 12:18, But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
2. The Church is the Living Body of Christ with many Members; 1 Corinthians 12:27, Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. It is not an organization as much as it is an organism; people make up this active and living body of Christ.
3. The Church is Uniquely Related to Jesus Christ as the Head of the Body;
- Ephesians 1:22, And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.
- Ephesians 4:15-16, 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
All matters of the church are to come under the lordship of Christ.
4. We (believers) are the Members of the Body of Christ who are Uniquely Related to Every Other Member of the Church; Ephesians 4:11-13, 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
5. The Church is on Mission with God in Carrying Out the Father’s Redemptive Plan;
The Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-20, 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The Ministry of Reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Wanting to Know God’s Will
We often desire to know God’s will for our lives, but remember, THAT is the wrong question. We need to ask, “What is God’s will?” rather “What is God’s will for my life?” Discover what God WILLS and align your life to what we know. Of those two questions, one is God-centered while the other is self-centered.
There IS something called “God’s will” and as individuals, we want to hear God speak, discover that will and then make major adjustments to be a part of God’s will. But God also has a will for the church, which is the gathered body of Christ. As the body of Christ, we want to hear God speak in order to discover his will, and then make major adjustments to be a part of God’s will.
So today, I want to focus on ONE aspect of what God’s will is for the church. It can be summed up in one word, ACCOUNTABILITY. Since we are NOT involved in an individualistic religion but rather a faith of interdependent relationships, what does God really want from us? How can the body of Christ best function? How can I be the best member that I can be, not only for myself but also for the church?
Accountability is not something that we can do alone, by reading the Bible more, praying more, tithing more… accountability is done in connection with other people. It’s more than just BEING WITH other people. Face it; there is no real accountability in a worship experience where we find ourselves looking at the back of another person’s head, sitting in rows like this. Real accountability takes place in the context of small groups, and it is only within a small group that lives intersect and believers grow, and help OTHERS to grow toward Christian maturity.
I want to spend the rest of my time building the case that Christianity is lived out in the context of small groups, and that the proof is found in a repeated phrase, “one another.” Let’s begin this lesson on the church by looking at ancient faith accountability:
In the Early Church:
- Acts 2:47, Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart
- Hebrews 3:13, But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
- Hebrews 10:24-25, and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
John Wesley and the Rules for Band-Societies
I did a little research on the Band-Societies of John Wesley (like a band of brothers). These were basically class meetings; this guideline was drawn up December 25, 1738.
The design of our meeting is, to obey that command of God, “Confess your faults to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
To this end, we intend.
- To meet once a week, at the least.
- To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
- To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
- To each speak in order, freely and plainly, of the true spiritual condition of our souls, including the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.
- To end every meeting with prayer suited to the spiritual condition of each person present.
- To each speak of his own spiritual condition first, and then to ask the rest, in order, probing questions regarding their spiritual condition, sins, and temptations.
Wow, these statements reveal that John Wesley had a passion for accountability in small groups. Remember that HE was the catalyst for a great spiritual awakening, speaking to hundreds of people at a time. Speaking to the crowds was not enough to live the Christian life.
Wesley was influenced by the Moravians, who were founded by John Huss. He was actually burned at the stake in 1415 for heresies against the doctrines of the Catholic Church. His teaching eventually influenced theology in the west, primarily in Europe, and it laid a foundation for a young Catholic monk named Martin Luther, who sparked the Protestant Reformation that began in 1517.
John Wesley described his small groups as “a company of men [and women] having the form of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation” (The Book of Discipline pg.75).
You may be saying to yourself, “But I don’t like accountability in my spiritual life. It’s a private matter and I don’t want to talk about my journey and struggles and failures.” But does it not make sense to have all of our assets in place to increase the probability of our success in the Christian life? If we go it alone and fail miserably, why not have trusted, spiritual people around us to help us become mature in our faith and in our lifestyle and behavior?
Did you know that you CANNOT avoid accountability forever? Do you know why? Because…
Accountability is Inevitable: Romans 14:12 says, So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
Accountability is Anticipated: Hebrews 13:17 tells us to, obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
If accountability before God is inevitable and anticipated in the church, then it only stands to reason that it would be advantageous for us to keep short accounts HERE in this life (with the church) before we ultimately stand before God.
An accountability relationship involves giving permission to a group of fellow believers to ask and expect an honest answer to mutually agreed upon questions. It’s not me telling you that I’m going to hold YOU accountable.
There is a classic verse on accountability: found in Proverbs 27:17, As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Accountability isn’t a remedial class for wayward Christians; accountability is God’s way to achieve God’s very best for our lives. Who among us does not want to please God, by becoming the best Christian we can be, the best husband or wife, employee or employer, teacher, student, parent or child? Christian growth happens in community, in the context of small groups, accountability. We all need encouragement and instruction, guidance, warning, admonition, challenge, to build up… it doesn’t happen in the large corporate worship setting. Let me tell you why.
This public gathering has one purpose, to offer worship to God out of a grateful heart. We don’t come to worship for what WE get out of it, because if we do, worship becomes self-centered. No matter how inspiring the service might be, from music to message, it’s not about US. It is in the context of a small group where we live out our faith in a culture of accountability.
Since I have three other things to tell you, and have no time to do so, I am going to put these items on my blog, and here is what you can find there:
- What are some reasons why we need accountability?
- Why do people avoid accountability?
- Obedience (to God and His Word) is always a positive thing; so take a look at all the “One Another” statements in the New Testament and see how great God’s Will is.
The New Testament is filled with imperatives (commands that God expects us to obey). These imperatives instruct us how to interact with one another, and talk to one another. Our talk should include confession, prayers, exhortation (which are basically suggested “next steps” for someone to follow), words of comfort, rebuke, admonition (or warnings), and the list goes on. Check out the church website for more.
As I wrap up, maybe today is the day that you finally realize that simply attending worship is not God’s will for the church. As important as worship is in the life of a congregation, God has so much more planned for his children. He expects us to be a community of faith, interdependent with each other, under the lordship of Christ.
It is God’s will for his children to share life together for the mutual benefit of the body of Christ. Each member of the body has a function and if we don’t do what God desires for us, the whole body suffers. You have to seriously ask yourself, “Why does God have me in this place at this time in history? What function am I supposed to do at this church? Why has God brought me here?
Today is the day of salvation; it is the day of commitment and a day of making decisions to embrace God’s will for the church, his kingdom and your life. Please bow in reverence while I pray.
My Prayer: Father, we have read many passages from your Word this morning, we ask that your Holy Spirit remind us of what you have said, and convict us about how to live the Christian life as YOU have designed and intended according to your will. Amen.