How can there be over 40,000 Christian denominations? Can there really be that many things to divide over? Are there really that many reasons to separate from someone or some group and start a new group? Is there any real significance between a Baptist and a Methodist or a Lutheran and a Catholic? Do you think these churches are filled with people who have decided that this one out of 40,000 is just right like Goldilocks and the porridge? I doubt it! Jesus tells us that we should not look down on other flavors of Christianity but that we should have unity with all people who are for Christ.
1. What churches (denominations) would you attend and which ones would you not?
2. What are things you dislike or disagree with in the “other” denominations?
Challenge: Have a conversation with someone from a denomination you have a hard time with. Ask questions and seek to understand, don’t seek to convert them to your way of thinking. Look for places you can affirm and look for places to be united and you just might find that what you thought may not be how it really is.
Why does God ask us to be unified? Why did Jesus pray that the Church would be one as he and the Father are one? Why do all the biblical writers and all the apostles communicate that we are to be united? Unity is something that the world does not know. The world knows war and division. The world knows broken relationships and divorce. Love is the single identifying mark of a Christ follower. Love cannot be seen and cannot exist with out unity. Committing to love even in our differences.
1. How does love and unity go hand in hand?
2. Where in your life do you lack unity and what could love do to change that?
Challenge: Look at what you just wrote on question #2 and do it. Let love win and let love prove that you are a follower of Jesus!
Paul was rather irritated with the Church in Corinth. There were people who were trying to claim spiritual superiority over others because of the type, style and teacher they followed. Paul reminds us that it has nothing to do with who we follow as we are to all follow Christ. The teaching and the one doing the teaching is important, but it does not make you better or more worthy than someone else. Sure, Pastor Doug is amazing and each and every week we are inspired and in awe of his use of vocabulary, hilarious jokes and fascinating stories, but he’s just a man. We don’t follow Doug, we follow Christ!
1. What do you look for in the teaching ministry when you are choosing a church?
2. Are you following the teacher or Christ?
Challenge: Everyone likes to hear that they are doing a good job or that you appreciate what they do but next time you thank a Christian teacher, let them know that they have helped you in your relationship with God…that’s what they really want to hear!
It is important to listen to what God’s Word says, but it is much more important to obey it, doing what it says. We can ingest much of the Word and find that some of what is on that page never produces much change in our behaviors and attitudes. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we don’t “Let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Col. 3:16). Notice the order of imitation in the 1 Corinthians verses. Christ is the supreme example, Christ’s apostle follows His example, and finally, we are to follow the apostle’s example. The Christian has no greater calling or purpose that that of imitating the Lord. The Christian life is designed to reproduce Godliness as modeled by Jesus Christ. Through the power and work of the Holy Spirit, God’s children are to become more like our heavenly Father.
1. Do I put into action what I have studied in God’s Word? Why or why not?
2. What evidence can I point to that reinforces my answer to question #1?
Challenge: As we have just entered a new year, resolve to journal about the changes the Lord is bringing about in your life through the power of His Spirit. Prepare to be amazed to where He takes you to.
Sometimes, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that the Christian life feels hard. Life hurts, following Christ feels difficult, and we feel defeated. Day after day we face the bombardment of the enemy and fail to recognize that, on our own, we have no chance of experiencing victory, no hope for lasting personal change. Living like Christ is not difficult; it’s impossible. We need power; something outside of ourselves. Where are we to find such a great power? The Holy Spirit. There’s the power! The reason we have this life-giving Spirit in us is to power the righteousness and holiness God desires to produce in us. The power to change comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Not by our efforts. Not by our will power. Not by our talents or schemes or support systems. We can only change through the power of the Holy Spirit. Great news, don’t you think!?
1. “The Christian life isn’t just hard; it’s impossible.” How is this statement liberating, rather than discouraging, for followers of Jesus?
2. To what extent do I rely on the Holy Spirit’s power in my life?
Challenge: Would those who know me best say my life is characterized by an evidence of the Holy Spirits work? What evidence of change have I personally observed as the Holy Spirit has continued to work in my life?
I love these verses as they describe how the Lord works as a change agent through His great mercy and His ultimate expectation of that great gift. He gives us His overall protection and provision and gives us good gifts in order that we would pass those on to others. He gives us the means to walk the paths of this life, but we still have to do the walking. When we obey and follow Him, He will not hold anything back that will help serve Him. However, our conduct (the walking), is to be in line as one of Christ’s representatives. In light of this truth, we are challenged to live lives worthy of the calling we have received. What an awesome privilege of being one of Christ’s very own! This calls for the demonstration of humbleness, gentleness, patience, understanding, and peacefulness. People are watching. How are we doing?
1. Can people see a clear indication of Christ in me?
2. How would I characterize my level of commitment in being His representative?
Challenge: Speak this simple prayer. Teach us to “follow in his steps,” to practice spiritual disciplines as an expression of love and admiration for Jesus, not as an empty attempt to earn Your favor. God, You are the one who sanctifies us and works in us to make us more authentic imitations of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray.
Who of us hasn’t faced a tough decision that we knew would significantly affect the days and even years ahead? Our lives can go down many different paths. God Himself cares that you are on “paths of righteousness.” Psalm 37:23 says when you delight in God’s way, He establishes your steps. Aren’t you glad that if you submit to God, He’ll direct you on the right way? How, you might ask? First, God’s Word lights your path; it gives direction. Second, godly counsel will help you discern the right path. Ask wise people which direction to take. Third, Romans 8:14 talks about being “led by the Spirit of God.” So, get into God’s Word. Get under the wise counsel of Godly people, and be open to how God’s Spirit will guide you. God doesn’t make His will a mystery—He is a shepherd who promises to lead you.
1. Which of these three areas do I most need to work on?
2. Take an honest look into your own heart and consider whether your life has been characterized by walking in wisdom. If not, what is one step of obedience I can take today to move toward a life guided by the Good Shepherd?
Challenge: Thank the Lord that He is leading you and changing you to be more like Him. It is a great privilege and, with that, comes great responsibility. Put your complete trust in Him to guide you into righteousness.
Not a day goes by that you and I don’t make decisions that turn the direction of our lives. When you base your decisions on what seems right to you, flags should fly up all around when you read this verse. Its caution is so specific and so current that we need to take every word seriously. The problem is all of this only “seems right to a man” because our minds are darkened by sin, our hearts are impatient for pleasure, and our wills are weighed down with the old nature and the inclination to sin. Trust God with everything you’ve got, ask Him for wisdom, and He will make the path of your life plain and straight. He’ll make it so you don’t have to waste a lot of time going down roads that just seem right. He will lead you to a path you know is right in God’s eyes.
1. When I look back at choices I’ve made, did I decide based on asking God for wisdom or what seemed right to me?
2. What happened?
Challenge: Pray this simple prayer for God’s guidance. Father, I know I need to trust You in everything. I also know that I go my own way more than I should. Help me to pursue Your will for me and even more than this, to pursue You with all I am. I know if I’m pursuing You, I’m on the right path. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Life is tough and messy, but on the day we accept Christ as our Savior, He sends us the best weapon and comfort—the Holy Spirit. He is always there with us, even when we stray from the path. If we look to Him, He will be the constant comfort we draw on when this world beats down on us. The Spirit will remind us of what we are living for and who we are serving, as well as let us know where He wants us to go.
1. What is the Spirit telling you today?
2. Who might the Spirit be leading you to today?
Challenge: Take at least one step or action you listed above.
In this passage, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet as an act of service. He instructs the disciples, as well as us, that we are to do the same. We have the blessing of eternal life and we are the examples to others. If we don’t turn our faith into acts of service, how will others know Him? We can’t become content to just hold onto the Light, but we have to share the Light with the world. This requires action on our part.
1. What actions might He be asking you to take?
2. Who might He want you to share His Light with today?
Challenge: Take at least one step or action you listed above.