Navigating the River of Life: Salvation to Sanctification
We’re so grateful for your continued presence as we journey deeper into the River of Life.
The deeper we go, the more we need one another. Our prayer is for you to have a Christ-centered community as you move toward full surrender to the Holy Spirit and His call.
Lord, Your faithfulness astounds us. Your presence overwhelms. Without both we are lost. Grow our love for You.
Review: Chest-High in the Waters of Life
Fearless: Finding Strength in the Spirit – Part 2
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Hebrews 4:10 NIV
Our review of Chest-High in the Waters of Life is going to look a little different than our previous reviews. We are going to walk through each section of study, because what we studied lays a foundation to move deeper. So let’s dive in.
Washing in the Water.
Our spiritual discipline was Silence, and is closely related to the discipline of Rest.
What did you discover through the discipline of Silence?
Did you practice it? Why or why not?
One thing I discovered through the spiritual discipline of Silence is that I’m terrible at it! This past week I simply could not seem to hold my tongue. (I need another week of silencing myself.)
I heard the call to practice an hour of silence Sunday afternoon. I balked. It felt overwhelming with all I had to do (like write this Bible study). But I surrendered, set a timer and headed into the backyard, leaving my phone inside.
I sat and listened. Or tried to. My brain was noisy. I kept having to reign my thoughts back in and continually bring to mind Psalm 46:10. I imagined God saying to me: Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth! And I’d return to listening.
He brought my attention to things I heard from those around me earlier in the day, and I listened afresh. But I kept “speaking” in my head. I continued — Be still and know that I am God — and finally I came to a place where I was simply listening. I hadn’t looked at my watch, but not long after I reached the place of inner silence with ears tuned to listening, my alarm went off.
I didn’t want to leave the silence. I just wanted to rest in it, content to let Him be God. What I entered into reluctantly, I know I need to practice more. Hopefully, I will establish a regular practice of silence and increase my capacity to listen and let God be God.
The rhythm of silence I practiced, rising early to a quiet house, sipping coffee with Jesus as we talked and shared the Word abruptly stopped one month ago. I’ve spent the last four years cultivating silence in order to listen deeply to God, to myself, to others. In a moment I was birthed into a world where silence is difficult to find.
A few minutes here, a bit of time there is all I can seem to muster these days. If and when I do, there’s not much talking between the Savior and me. Please don’t misunderstand. It’s not that I’ve stopped being in His presence, I just don’t have words in this season. I’m confident Jesus is ok with that. Because each time a show up, I sense His presence and peace. Sometimes silence is sitting with the Savior, no words needed.
Silence is an important practice in the course of sanctification. We must learn to be still, trust God, and listen to what is going on in us, around us, and what God has to say about it. Silence and rest are where strength in the Spirit takes root.
Wading in the Word.
What did you discover in Scripture about finding strength in the Spirit as an individual? in community?
What impacted you most?
Wading in the Word, specifically Ephesians 4:1-6, I was struck by verse 3, be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The word “bond” made me think of being bound in the grave clothes we’ve been asking God to work loose.
It occurred to me that all the ways we are called to walk have a sinful counterpart. Humility and pride, meekness and rebellion, patience and impatience, bearing with one another in love vs bullying to control others. See what I mean? There are things we need to be freed from to walk worthy of His call. Worldly ways we need to cast off to walk His way.
Focused on the proper way to be bound, I looked up the Greek for the word translated as “bond” in Ephesians 4:3. This particular bond is “that which binds together” and “of ligaments by which the members of the human body are united together” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
This bond of peace is very different from the bondage of sin. The bond of peace found in the unity of the Spirit increases our mobility by stabilizing and connecting the members of the body in harmony. We are connected in a manner that frees us to serve alongside one another as the body of Christ, each secure in our place, while the bonds of sin keep us tied up within ourselves and at odds with others.
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…1Corinthians 12:22 ESV
We looked through the pictures of charred rubble and she almost whispers, “Stacy, did you lose everything?” I answered, “Yes, everything.” As I drove home I considered my answer. Is it true? Did I really lose everything?
Coming to grips with my neediness is a wrestling match of sorts. You see, I’m the one looking for needs to meet. I’m the one who attempts to find the good in the worst of times. I’m the one who will gloss over my own broken heart in order to avoid creating sadness in another. In the moment, in the context of our conversation my answer stands. The truth is I have lost 95 percent of my material possessions. My home and its contents. It makes me feel weak. My broken heart clouds most days with sadness and loss. Being the one in need can create a useless feeling in me.
Paul’s words bring much hope in this season. For I am the weakest part of the body right now. Most, if not all, of the strength I find to keep moving, keep taking the next step, is through those in the body who are stronger than me. They remind me, weak or strong, I am indispensable… and so are you.
One body. All indispensable. All essential. No matter how weak or strong. One body bound together by the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. A strength we need to hone if we are to mature individually and bodily. We see this peaceful unity in the full armor of God where our feet are fitted with the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). A picture of stability and mobility. We saw Jesus bring peace to the invalid at Bethesda through healing, then say to him, Go. And with the peace Christ brings all of us — freedom from sin and death — He commands us to Go and make disciples by taking this good news to others (Matthew 28:19).
We are many members making up one body (1Corinthians 12:12-20). If peace is not maintained, the body is unhealthy and its strength as well as the strength of its individual members is weakened. It is in the unity of peace where love grows within the community. A love so foreign to the world’s way, when we practice it, we make God visible through our love for one another (1John 4:7-16).
Moving deeper into the River of Life, calls for us to be eager, diligent, and ready to do whatever it takes to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Here is where we begin to take real steps toward freedom and a willingness to surrender to the Spirit’s way.
Remember your story.
What did you learn from your own history with church? with God’s people?
James 4:7-10 reminds us the way up is down. Humbling ourselves before the Lord readies us to be strengthened and lifted up by the Spirit. Drawing near to God with an attitude of dependence and repentance, we discover strength to resist the enemy’s temptations.
Not only do we need to find ways to do this as individuals but as faith communities.
Discover God’s story.
What did you discover in God’s story about the good Samaritan, where He defines what it means to be a neighbor (Luke 10:25-37)?
Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan to teach us our neighbor is anyone we pass on the road of life. And being a neighbor means showing mercy to those in need by: going out of our way and using our own resources, time, and energy to help them heal. Just like Jesus poured out His life for us, we are called to pour out our lives for others.
This type of love requires the strength of the Holy Spirit. We saw how religion and the law do not inspire us to offer mercy. When God’s people don’t love their neighbor as Jesus explained, people stay stuck, broken and half-dead. Healing only happens when the church gives mercy, and mercy is costly.
Just ask Jesus, it cost Him His life.
Session 6: Over Our Heads in the River of Life
Free to Surrender to the Spirit’s Call
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2Corinthians 5:21 ESV
When my preacher friend asked me, “Do you believe you are righteous?” The answer was easy, “Uh, not for a minute.”
Tears welled because I wanted to be. I desperately desired to be right with God. Yet, all I could see was the wrong in me. I was all wrong, and nothing I could do would change this simple fact. No amount of prayer or study or my living right to-do list changed this fact.
My friend gave me an assignment that day.
“I want you to look in the mirror every day and say, “I am the righteousness of God in Jesus.”
Whew! Sounds simple but it was, Oh, so hard. Most days I struggled to get the words out. Countless times all the wrong in me flashed through my mind as I whispered the words.
Yet, something new was happening deep down. An unfolding of freedom still at work in me today. The truth is I am unworthy. Nothing I do will change it. Because it is not about what I do. It is about what God does in me.
Embracing our righteousness in Jesus is the first step towards truly living out forgiven, fearless, and free.
We’ve considered the upside-down way of God where we find His strength in our weakness and by embracing our inability to do good. Recognizing we are so sin-sick we can do nothing on our own, we are primed to be filled with His strength.
For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin… Jesus came to take on our sin as His identity so we could take on His identity. So that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Faith in Jesus changes everything!
Read 2Corinthians 5:14-21
This passage concludes with the verse at the beginning of Stacy’s story explaining her struggle with her identity in Christ as the righteousness of God. Starting at verse 14, look at how we become what we must first confess we are not.
What controls, constrains, or compels Believers? Why?
Who are we in Christ?
How are we called to live?
When we put faith in Christ’s love for us as evidenced on the cross, we become controlled by His love because we believe He died for the whole world (John 3:16) not just us. We are called to live our lives for Him and His purpose in bringing many more brothers to Himself (Romans 8:29).
We are new creatures in Christ, the old has passed away and all things become new. Our pasts are redeemed, our sins washed away, death is replaced with eternal life. This new life comes with a new job description: Ambassadors for Christ in the ministry of reconciliation. As God’s ambassadors, He pleads through us for others to be reconciled to Him, too.
Ambassadors are authorized representatives or messengers of the ones they represent (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). In the case of nations, they represent their homeland in a foreign country. They not only work to keep relations peaceful between the nations, but they also help fellow countrymen who run into trouble when visiting the foreign nation in which they are assigned.
How does this view of nations relate to being an ambassador for God in Christ? being His representative in a foreign hostile land?
As God’s ambassadors we represent His Kingdom of light in a world wrapped in darkness. We are called to be light in the world, lit up like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16). We let the inhabitants of the world know who God is by our behavior, being a neighbor to them, offering grace and mercy, godly love and compassion.
We are also available to help our fellow citizens, other Believers, when they get in trouble in the world. We support one another, encourage one another, as we work to live in the world but not of the world. All Believers are ambassadors for Christ, representing God’s Kingdom in the world, not for our glory or gain but for His.
God made Jesus, who had no sin of His own, to be sin for us, so we might become the righteousness of God. As His representatives in a world trapped in the grip of sin and death, we are called to offer words of hope, peace, and life.
The unwrapping of our grave clothes of sin and death, involves learning who we are as new creations, citizens of a new Kingdom, and part of a new family. Our entire identity is changed. We are the righteousness of God in Christ.
Read 1Corinthians 12:1-12
What is it we are not to be ignorant of?
What is common among all Believers?
What is different?
What is the combination of commonalities and differences compared to?
We are not to be ignorant of our spiritual nature as Believers. We read in 2Corinthians 5:16, we are no longer to regard anyone according to the flesh. As God’s ambassadors we are to see them and relate to them from a spiritual perspective. In Christ, the eternal spiritual realm is now our priority and primary interest.
We are bound by one common Spirit and one Lord, Jesus. Differences lie in the gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit among Believers: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Although there are many different gifts their sole purpose is for the common good. They are as varied as the parts of our body, which is how these commonalities and differences are depicted.
As we gain strength in the Spirit, the Spirit begins to call us alongside Him to be a part of God’s work in the world. Journeying deeper and deeper into the River of Life we receive spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. New gifts. Gifts we need to discover and learn how to use. Gifts that need to be opened so we can fulfill our role as ambassadors for God.
We need to embrace our freedom in Christ to receive the Spirit’s call and gifts. It is not something we can do on our own, we need to rely on the strength of the Spirit to discover and use our spiritual gifts for the common good.
We must hear His call and surrender.
Closing prayer exercise: Mapping the River
We’ve traveled a long way from the door of the temple where we took our first step of faith into the River of Life. Let’s consider what we are feeling as we get in over our heads.
Close your eyes. Breathe deep. Imagine standing in the River of Life.
Feel the water lapping at your ankles.
Step forward. Keep stepping until the waters reach your knees.
Oh, but don’t stop there… keep going…
Feel the waters swirling around your waist… move deeper until it’s up to your chest… then deeper still…
Now you’re doing all you can to keep your chin out of the water…
There’s a decision to be made…
Do you stay where you are, tippy-toed on the bottom? some small sense of control?
Or do you give one more push toward the deep where you’ll find yourself in over your head?
What emotions well in your heart?
What will you do?
Stay struggling to keep one toe gripped to the riverbed?
Or will you retreat? head for the shore? go back to shallower water?
Like all God’s ways, they are upside-down from the world and our flesh.
Freedom is not found in controlling your life and circumstances.
Freedom is found in surrendering your life to Him.
Hear the Spirit’s call.
He provides the strength you need.
He will be with you… never will He leave you stranded… abandoned…
Quiet your heart.
Listen to what the Lord says, Your Creator, the One who formed you:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name; you are Mine.
When you pass through waters, I will be with you.
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
Lord, Jesus, bless us with the faith to trust Your strength, to surrender to Your call on our lives. Free us to be all You created us to be.
God is love.
Going forth into the deep waters of surrender, there is only one truth we need to remember: God is love. He can do nothing except what is loving. He responds to no one except in love. Because He is love, He is intimate and personal.
There is one God, but this God can never be understood as an abstraction, as an idea, as a principle, as a truth, as a force. All God’s ways of being God are thoroughly personal, not impersonal; relational, not disparate; particular, not general — and only personal, relational, and particular.–Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection
God cannot and will not be put in a box. He cannot be appeased with a to-do list or a regimented keeping of laws. He calls us deep so we can experience His deep love for us. And when we open our hearts to receive His love and call on our lives, we are compelled by this love to share it with others.
But, just like the personal nature of His love, the call on each of our lives and how we are called to love others is personal, too. Only He knows this way of love.
As you begin to surrender to God’s call on your life and open the spiritual gifts He’s blessed you with, remember His very personal love for you. Each call is based on His intimate knowledge of your life, your heart, your wounds, your weaknesses.
Trust Him to love you.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.
1John 4:16 NIV
Go forth relying on His love for you and others,
into a life fully Forgiven, Fearless, & Free, .
Here’s a PDF of the Week 6 Study — Over Our Heads in the River of Life:
Going deep right alongside you…Stacy & Carol