Forgiven, Fearless, and Free: Session 4

paper kite butterfly perching on red flower in close up photography

Navigating the River of Life: Salvation to Sanctification

We’ve come to the halfway mark of our journey. There have been some challenges along the way. Daily, we’re reminded this world is not our home. But moments together with others in the family of faith give us a place of rest and sustenance.

We’re glad you’re here and pray you have some people to gather with as we do at the shop.

Father God, continue to lead us into an ever-deepening life of faith. Teach us to truly live.

Review: Coming to Our Knees in the River of Life
Forgiven to Pray in the Spirit

selective focus photography of wheat on brown surface
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Then the Lord said, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to have you to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have repented, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32 MEV

Use the questions below to process what you learned last week about Praying in the Spirit.

What did you discover in your study of Coming to Our Knees in the River of Life

What impacted you most?

What did you learn from your own story?

What did you discover in God’s story?

What questions were answered?

What new questions arose?

Stacy says:

One week after fire consumed my home, I made my way to praise band practice. I sat by my sweet friend as she played the piano and gathered strength from her to sing. We began a song we’ve sung together for years. 

Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful when the streams of abundance flow. Blessed be your name. 

As we approached the song’s bridge, the part I usually begin as a solo, I sang: You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name. Before I knew it there I stood with hands lifted high. 

In the span of a few hours, I watched fire consume the place we called home for twenty-five years. God allowed almost everything we own to be taken. 

I sang Job’s words as praise that evening.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:21

Am I brokenhearted? Absolutely. The journey through this will be long and hard. But it doesn’t change God’s goodness. It doesn’t change that God is worthy to be praised. Practicing prayers of praise in my daily living gives me strength to sing: My heart will choose to say, Blessed be your name.

woman sits on grass during dawn
Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

Carol says:

Wading in the Word, researching the five Ws and H of praying in the Spirit, I found an especially important aspect of Why we need to pray in the Spirit.

But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Pray in the Spirit.
Jude 20 MEV

Praying in the Spirit is one way we build up our most holy faith. You may not think this reason is very profound. It makes sense that praying in the Spirit would build our faith. But when I read this verse and saw it as an answer to why, I realized we have many different types of faith. And it’s not all holy.

We put faith in people, the economy, politicians, science, family, friends, education, tradition, our own understanding and insights, in health, wealth, and happiness. But all these things are of the world and the flesh. Everything we put our faith in, other than God, at some point, will show itself faithless, untrustworthy.

Praying in the Spirit is a way we build on the foundation of our most holy faith. It builds our trust in the things of God — holy things, eternal things, sacred things. Spirit-led prayer increases our faith where it needs to be enlarged and, likewise I believe, decreases our faith in the things of the world.

Learning to surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit, like Jesus did, requires we put less and less faith in the world and ourselves, and more faith in the things of God. Praying in the Spirit is an essential aspect to our walking deeper and deeper into the River of Life.

silhouette of woman near shoreline
Photo by Jordan Donaldson | @jordi.d on Unsplash

Session 4: Waist-Deep in the Waters of Life 
Fearless to find Strength in the Spirit – Part 1

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit...
1Peter 3:18 ESV

Stacy says:

Jesus endured the emotional fallout of being forsaken by God, so we could be reclaimed.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 ESV

Jesus persevered through the rejection of his closest friends and family so we could be accepted.

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. …”
Luke 4:24 ESV

Jesus died a horrific physical death, laid in the tomb for three days, and rose again, so we could fearlessly enter God’s presence. 

Jesus paid what we owe. Jesus wiped away our debt.

Why? Why would God wrap up in human flesh and leave the infinite space of heaven to make a way for us?

Because God’s love is never ending and unchangeable. Though the Scriptures tell the story of God’s kind of love, God knew this would be hard for us to grasp. He knew our first response would be fear that might send us running for the hills away from Him.

Dear one, let me assure you. Fear can’t change God’s love for us, but it can change our acceptance of that love.

Jesus, the Son of God, emptied Himself of His divinity, left His home in heaven to enter the world as every human does — through a womb. The gospel of Jesus is the story of the Son of God embracing His role as the Son of Man. It begins with Christmas when He becomes vulnerable and weak to show us just how trustworthy His Father is. He lived life fearless.

Placing our faith in Jesus, opens the door for us to live free of fear, too.

blue wooden door
Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

Read 1John 4:18

What casts out fear from our lives?

What is fear associated with? 

Love. Perfect love tosses fear out of our lives. 
All fear, according to God’s Word in 1John, is grounded in the dread of punishment: a penalty inflicted on an offender (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

We fear being punished for:

  • Not measuring up.
  • Sinful actions: intentional and unintentional.
  • Failure to follow through.

Without faith in Jesus we have plenty to fear. We are all offenders when it comes to God’s law.

But, the love Jesus demonstrates for us on the cross — the punishment He took on our behalf — has the power to lay all that fear to rest.

Read Romans 5:6-11

How does God demonstrate His love for us?

How does His demonstration of love contrast with man’s valuation of people?

While we were still sinners — His enemies — God sent His Son to die for us.

People, He tells us, will rarely lay down their lives to save a good man, but never a no-good man. Hmmm. This love is different from any love found in the world. It’s a powerful love willing to die to save ungodly people.

For God so loves the world, He sent His only true Son so that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life, instead of the death they deserve. For God didn’t send His Son to condemn the world in all its wickedness, but to save the world through Him. (John 3:16-17)

woman holding girl while learning to walk taken at daytime
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Father’s perfect love gave Jesus strength via the Holy Spirit. He had no sin, so there was no fear of punishment. Emptied of all His power He came into our world to make the way for us to know the Father’s love and find strength in the Spirit. Strength to admit weakness, strength to be both praised and cursed, loved and hated. Strength to be unjustly condemned and even crucified.

God’s love offers us the strength to walk like Jesus. Saved from the fear of sin and death. Justified and worthy in His sight. We are enabled to do all He calls us to.

Read Matthew 9:9-12

Who did Jesus and his disciples go to dinner with?

What did Jesus say when the religious leaders questioned why they were associating with a houseful of sinners?

Who did Jesus come to save? Who did He come to call?

people having a toast
Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners. Devious unethical government employees and their friends of questionable character. 

When Jesus heard the Pharisees asking the disciples Why? He said only those who are sick need a Healer, and He didn’t come for those who believed they were righteous, but for those who knew they were sinners.

Sinners. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), and sinners are the only ones He calls.

The Greek word translated as sinners means devoted to sin, preeminently sinful, especially wicked (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). 

Is this a definition that describes you? Can you embrace yourself as a sinner? especially wicked?

He said only the sick need a doctor.

The one word “sick” in the English translation is two words in Greek. The first — kakos — means miserable, to be ill (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). The second — echontes — to have, hold, to have in the hand, and also conveys the sense of wearing, as in owning or possessing (Dictionary of Biblical Languages).

To be one of the sick whom Jesus calls is to own your infirmity. Admit your sickness, take hold of the truth you are miserably ill and in need of healing.

woman leans on wall in white fur jacket docking her head while holding it using her leaf hand
Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash

Read Romans 5:6 again.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (NIV)

The word powerless is also translated as weak, helpless, and without strength. The original language here means infirmed, feeble (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). The Dictionary of Biblical Languages defines it as “unable, weak, pertaining to a limited capacity; morally weak, hence unable to do good.”

All of us — without exception — enter the world weak, infirmed, unable to do good. Period. Hence, we are fearful of the punishment we deserve. Fearful of coming face to face with our Creator who makes Himself evident to everyone through creation (Romans 1:20) and our conscience (Romans 2:14-15). 

Fear wrapped up in the threat of punishment makes us feel unloved. And living in a world devoid of grace amplifies the threat. Thus enters Jesus. He comes to reveal God’s great love for you. for me. for everyone.

And, counterintuitively, owning our spiritual sickness, sin, and weakness, is the key to freeing us from fear and unlocking access to God’s strength in our lives. It’s important to note, if we don’t own our sin, we won’t hear Jesus’s call, and we’ll miss His invitation to repent and be healed. The Pharisees, the ones who missed Jesus the first time around, didn’t own their place at the table of sinners.

Let’s not miss our invitation to eat with Jesus.

Closing prayer exercise: Mapping the River

Holy Bible
Photo by Alex Grodkiewicz on Unsplash

Today we’ll consider how we view our state of being: sick, well, dis-eased, whole, broken, strong, weak. We’re putting ourselves in the middle of one of the gospel stories with Jesus (John 5:2-7).

Close your eyes. Turn your thoughts toward God. 

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great crowd of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting…

Picture this crowd in your mind. A vast array of dis-eased people.
Look around and into the different porches.

Do you see yourself among the sick? lame? paralyzed? blind? 

Imagine yourself among those waiting… 

They are waiting for the water to move. Waiting for an angel who comes at a certain time to stir up the water. After the stirring, whoever steps in first is healed of whatever dis-ease they have.

What emotions rise as you wait? Not just wait, but prepare yourself to be first in the water after its stirring?

How do you see the others infirmed around you? Are they competitors for the limited amount of healing available? Or are they friends, comrades, to encourage?

Imagine how these sick and diseased might relate to one another. What kind of conversations might they have? What would you say to those closest to you?

A certain man was there who had an illness thirty-eight years. Jesus sees him lying there, and knows he has been in the condition he’s in a long time.

Imagine you are that man. How long have you been sick? 

Jesus says to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Put yourself in the man’s place. Think about His question.
What is your very first thought at hearing Jesus ask you about being healed?

The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. But while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

How do you answer Jesus’s question: Do you want to be well?
Do you make excuses? 
Do you blame others for your continued state of dis-ease? 
Do you even think of yourself as sick?

Do you want to be healed?

How might being healed change your life? 
Would it be joyful? Or might it bring a new set of responsibilities?
Are you comfortable in your sickness?
Or are you ready to be free of it?

Ask Him to speak truth into your life about who you are and what He wants for you now and in your future.

Going forth.

body of water surrounded by pine trees during daytime
Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

…perfect love casts out fear. 
1John 4:18

Perfect, this word in the Greek means mature, full grown (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

All our fears are banished when we grow in Christ to the point of trusting God’s full-grown fully mature love for us.

Coming to live a life without fear gives us the strength to receive all God calls us to be and do. It comes with spiritual healing and growth.

When Jesus heals, life changes. This can seem risky, especially when we look at Jesus’s life. Giving greater love to others calls us to lay down our lives (John 15:13). Sacrificial love can lead to varying forms of crucifixion and suffering.

We are only able to live the kind of life God calls us to in the strength of the Spirit.

Are you ready to go deeper? Do you trust His love for you?

It takes courage to continue going deeper into the River of Life. Our flesh says it’s risky business, and the world calls us crazy.

But God says it’s the way of life. The only way.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 16:24-25 ESV

We’re called to risk it all or lose it!

Let’s keep going deeper… it’s the only way to live Forgiven, Fearless, & Free!

Here’s a PDF of the Week 4 Study: Waist-Deep in the Waters of Life:

Going deep right alongside you…

Stacy & Carol

Leave a Reply