Freedom in Christ Lesson 11: What’s Next
1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV2011)
5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Objective: To evaluate what we believe in the light of God's word and make adjustments where necessary so that we can stay on the path of becoming more like Jesus.
Focus Truth: Nothing and no one can keep us from being the person God created us to be, but if we want to be truly successful, fulfilled, satisfied, and so on, we need to uncover and throw out false beliefs about what those things mean and commit ourselves to believing the truth in the Bible.
What would you like to do before the end of your life?
Worship – Suggested theme – He will be with us always.
Read aloud the following passages:
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NIV2011)
5 …God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
Psalm 94:14 (NIV2011)
14 For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.
Matthew 28:20 (NIV2011) (Jesus Said)
20 …I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We need to remind people, and ourselves, that we can never be alone or go anywhere at all without God being with us.
Make Freedom a Way of Life
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and produce fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16).
We don't want this to be one of those courses that you enjoy but then as time passes the principles you learn just fade away. Our objective is that these principles become a part of your everyday life so that you will bear fruit that will last. What we've taught is very straightforward. There are three main points:
1. Know Who You are In Jesus
You are, of course, a holy one who can come boldly into God’s presence at any time.
2. Resolve Your Personal and Spiritual Issues
This is about repenting and getting back on track if you fall into sin or have some other issue. Hopefully, you now know how to go about this. We recommend that you use the Steps to Freedom in Christ on a regular basis, like you have a regular service for your car.
3. Be Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind
Stronghold-busting really works. As you keep building your spiritual muscles, remember it will feel like a complete waste of time, but you will see progress as long as you keep working.
The Road Ahead
In this session we want to consider where you're headed for the rest of your life. In your participants guide there is a questionnaire entitled “What do I believe?” on page 184. If you haven't completed it yet, do it quickly now.
This survey will help you identify what you actually believe right now. Assuming that your basic needs of food, shelter, and safety are met, we’re daily motivated by how we can be successful, significant, secure, and so on. How you answered these questions or the way you completed the sentences, “I would be more successful if”, or “I would be more significant if”, reflects what you really believe.
Would it be acceptable, do you think, for a Christian to answer every question with a 5? If you feel uncomfortable about that, the chances are you may not see yourself in the way God does. Does God want you to be successful? Does He want you to feel secure? Well, He certainly hasn't called you to be insecure, insignificant, or a failure!
We're going to look at each of those eight areas.
Success Comes from Having the Right Goals
We looked at life goals back in lesson 7. Success is all about whether you achieve your goals. So if you want to be successful in God's terms it's important to understand what His life goal is for you.
Before we do that, let me ask you a very important question. If God wants something done, can it be done?
To put it another way, would God ever say, “I have something for you to do. I know you won't be able to do it, but just give it your best shot.” That wouldn't be fair! It's like saying to a child, “I want you to mow the lawn. I know the mower doesn't work and there's no fuel. But try your best anyway.”
Whatever life goal God has for you, you can be sure that no circumstance and no person can stop you from achieving it. God loves you too much to give you something you couldn't do.
2 Peter 1:2- 8 will show us the life goal God has for each one of us.
Peter starts by telling us that we've already have everything we need for life and godliness. Then he reminds us that we share in God's nature, we are holy through and through. That's a great starting point!
The passage goes on to show us God's goal for our lives. Let me read it to you from verse 5:
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control, and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peter wants us to start with faith. Then we are to make every effort to build on our faith and add to it these characteristics: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
What we have here is a list of character qualities. This is where we begin to understand God's goal for our lives.
It's about building our character. His primary concern is not so much what we do but what we were like. Because what we do flows from who we are.
Who is the only person who has ever perfectly reflected the character qualities in that list? Jesus, of course.
The life goal that God has for you could be defined like this: To become more and more like Jesus in character.
The great news is nobody and nothing on earth can keep you from being the person God planned. Except... you!
We've looked in lesson seven at how our emotions and specifically anger, anxiety, and depression are like the big red light on the dashboard of your car. Your emotions are a warning that you may have some unhealthy life goals that depend on people or circumstances that you have no right or ability to control.
Think about the pastor whose life goal was to reach the community for Christ, which is something that could be blocked by every person in the community. In light of what we've just said, what if they made their life goal: “to become the best pastor I can be?” The irony is that, as the pastor learns to adopt God's goal, and gets rid of a lot of anger, anxiety, and depression, they will become more and more like Jesus, and people will follow them and trust them more. Paradoxically they may end up reaching the community for Christ.
Remember the parent whose life goal was to have a happy, harmonious Christian family? What if they made their goal, “to be the husband and dad or wife and mom that God wants me to be?” Wouldn't that greatly increase the chances of their having a happy, harmonious family?
Perhaps you think you don't have enough talents or intelligence to be the person God wants you to be. Or perhaps you think the circumstances you find yourself in prevent you from being the person God wants you to be. There is no mention in Peter's list of talents, intelligence, or positive circumstances.
The fact is all believers are not given the same amount of talents: some have one talent, others have ten. We don't all have the same intelligence, and our circumstances can be totally different.
You might be thinking, “That's not fair! How can God do that?” Well, God is not measuring you by those things! He's looking at your character, not your talent or your intelligence. It's equally possible for a Christian with one talent and a Christian with ten talents to see their character grow to reach the life goal that God has for each of us.
Pause for Thought 1
Here we are looking for people to see that achieving God’s goal for our lives is all about our character and that it really is true that nothing can stop us achieving it except ourselves.
Look at the questionnaire “What do I believe?” on page 184 of the participant’s guide. If you feel comfortable, share with the group where you put your lowest score and what you wrote for that question.
2 Peter 1:3 states that we have “everything we need for life and godliness”. Discuss the idea that, whatever life goal God has for you, no circumstance or person can prevent you from achieving it, except you.
There is no mention in Peter's list of talents, intelligence, or positive circumstances. How does that change your thinking?
Significance Comes from Proper Use of Time
How did you score yourself on significance?
What's forgotten in time is of little significance. What's remembered for eternity is of great significance. Significance is about time.
The tragedy is that often we don't realize our own significance. We read this in Isaiah 49:14-16:
But Zion said, “the Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
This is how God responded: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
God uses a graphic illustration, engraving them on the palm of His hands. Now, people write things on their hands to make sure they won't forget something. God has placed us somewhere where no matter how much time passes, we will still be there. That's how significant we are!
You may say, “All I do is help with the children at church.” No, you are teaching truth to five-year-olds! What they choose to believe will have eternal consequences. That makes it very significant. That’s in addition to the significant service that you are doing for their parents, releasing them to worship God and learn about Him.
If you want to increase the significance of what you do, focus your time on things that will make an eternal difference.
Fulfillment Comes from Serving Others
What about the fulfillment? You've probably noticed that there is so much self-help advice out there in books, blogs, magazines, and the internet about how to live a fulfilled life. Yet not that many people actually seem to be fulfilled!
Jesus must have been the most fulfilled person that ever walked the earth. Where did He get his sense of fulfillment from? He said, “my food... is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Interestingly, it didn't come from trying to be fulfilled. It came when He didn't focus on Himself but on serving God the Father.
Peter wrote, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). God has made each of us unique. and each one of us has different gifts. Yet we are to use them to serve others, and when we do, paradoxically we become fulfilled.
Fulfillment comes when we “grow where we're planted” instead of looking for better soil or a prettier pot by changing the circumstances or people in our lives.
It's not by accident at all that God has sovereignly placed you in your family, on your street, with your friends, at your job, or at your college. Of the nearly 8 billion people in the world I'm the only one who can be a father to my daughter, Haley, and my son, Brennan.
You have a unique role as a husband, wife, father, mother, or child in your family, no one can be that person better than you. God has specifically planted you to serve Him by serving your family. That's your first and foremost calling.
And you're the only one who knows your neighbors as you do. You have a unique role as an ambassador for Christ where you work. These are your mission fields, and you are the worker God has appointed for the harvest there.
God wants Christians who are becoming more and more like Jesus in every area of society. You're calling to business or industry or education or art or the health services, whatever it is, is a high and holy calling where you can make an eternal difference.
Don't try to be someone else. Be the unique person that God has made you to be.
God won't ask me why I wasn't Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. But he might ask me why I wasn't me!
Satisfaction Comes from Living a Quality Life
How did you rate yourself on your level of satisfaction? I wonder what you thought would make you more satisfied, that's a clue to what you've come to believe will bring satisfaction.
In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”, in other words, satisfied.
The truth is that nothing else really satisfies except living a righteous life. If you wrote something like, “I would be more satisfied if I worked harder for righteousness in my community”, you are on the right path.
Think about something you purchased that left you dissatisfied. What was the issue?
It generally has to do with quality. Satisfaction is an issue of quality. We achieve greater satisfaction from doing a few things well than from doing many things in a haphazard or hasty way. The key to personal satisfaction is not found in doing more things but in deepening our commitment to quality in the things that we are doing.
The same is true in relationships. If you are dissatisfied in your relationships, perhaps you have spread yourself too thin.
We can learn from Jesus, who taught thousands and equipped 70 for ministry, but invested most of his time in 12 disciples. Out of those 12, he selected three, Peter, James, and John, to be with him at crucial times: on the Mount of Transfiguration, on the Mount of Olives, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. We all need the satisfaction that quality relationships bring.
Happiness Comes from Wanting What We Have
What about happiness? The world's concept of happiness is having what we want. Advertisements tell us that we need a flashier car, a better phone, another pair of shoes, or any number of items that are better, faster, or easier to use than what we already have. We become restless, (don't we?), and start to want all the latest fashions, fads, and gadgets.
I'm usually content with what I have, until I walk into the shopping mall. Then suddenly it's “I need, I need! I want, I want!”
Never has there been a society where people have so many things yet are so unhappy. Why? Because things don't make us happy!
In 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul wrote: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
In other words, happiness isn't about having what you want. It's about wanting what you have.
As long as you're focusing on what you don't have, or what you can't do, you'll be unhappy. But when you begin to appreciate what you already have, you'll be happy all your life.
Actually, you already have everything you need to make you happy forever. You have Jesus. You have eternal life. You are loved by a heavenly Father who has promised to supply all your needs. No wonder the Bible repeatedly commands us to be thankful!
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
God brought the Israelites out of slavery with amazing miracles. He gave them clear guidance as to where to go. He used a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to direct them. He provided bread from heaven and water from rocks. And what did they do? They complained “That's not enough!”
We too are continually tempted to feel like we don't have enough. Christians change churches because the old one “wasn't meeting my needs”. And how often do we hear complaints that a sermon or worship time “didn't minister to me”.
Church isn't there to meet your needs! You are part of a church so that you can meet the needs of others and glorify God. In God's Kingdom, it's more blessed to give than to receive.
Pause for Thought 2
Objective: To consider some of the aspects of the “what do I believe” questionnaire.
In what ways can we know significance by focusing our time on things that will make an eternal difference?
What causes us to want to be someone else, rather than growing as the unique person God has made us to be?
Christians can often feel overwhelmed by the many things that demand their time. Discuss the idea that greater satisfaction comes from doing a few things well, rather than from doing many things in a haphazard or hasty way.
Fun Comes from Enjoying Life Moment-by-Moment
You may think fun is a strange thing to include in this list. Yet of all people, a Christian who has been set free by Christ, and knows who they are and what they have in Him, should be having fun!
Often when you plan for fun, it leads to a let down because it doesn't turn out as expected. Most fun happens spontaneously. Maybe it was a pillow fight with the kids or a ridiculous conversation with a friend, it just happened. That spontaneous fun comes when we throw off our inhibitions and we stop worrying about what other people will think of us. Paul wrote, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Do you still find yourself thinking, “What will people say?” Those walking in freedom will respond, “Who cares what people say? I'm not playing to the crowd any longer. I'm playing for God alone.”
When David got the ark of the covenant back which had been stolen by the Philistines, he was so happy that he leapt and danced before the Lord in celebration. His wife, Michal, was embarrassed by his behavior and told him so in no uncertain terms. David said, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this” (2 Samuel 6: 21-22).
I have realized that the same embarrassment that often keeps me from having fun also keeps me from telling others about Jesus if I do not make a constant effort to throw it off.
Steve Goss shares this testimony:
When Steve's father-in-law died, he had the privilege of doing the address at his funeral service. Steve started by telling his favorite joke. He was intrigued to see the looks on people's faces, especially those who were not regular churchgoers. They were, not unreasonably, expecting seriousness and religion. There was quite a pause before they realized it was OK to laugh in church.
How have we managed to give people the impression that our wonderful, loving, creative God is a killjoy? When we are free, we can laugh. We don't need to keep up appearances.
Security Comes from Focusing on Eternal Values
“I would be more secure if...” Actually, you can't possibly be more secure than you already are. Jesus said that no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:27- 29). Paul declared that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8: 35-39).
We can, however, feel insecure when we depend upon earthly things that we have no right or ability to control. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of working toward a goal of finding our security in money or some other worldly thing.
Everything we now have we shall someday lose. Jim Elliot, a missionary who was murdered, said, “He is no fool to give up that which he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Peace Comes from Quieting the Inner Storm
How can we have peace? Jesus is the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) and He said:
“My peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27).
The peace of God is something we need to take hold of everyday in our inner person. A lot of things may disrupt our external world because we can't control all of our circumstances and relationships. But we can control the inner world of our thoughts and emotions by allowing the peace of God to rule in our hearts on a daily basis. There may be chaos all around us, but God is bigger than any storm. Nothing will happen to you today that God and you cannot handle.
Difficulties Help Us Toward the Goal
You may think that your past or present circumstances are so difficult that they stop you becoming the person God wants you to be, but actually the opposite is true.
Paul says that we can rejoice in our sufferings because “we know that that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5: 3-4).
James offered similar advice in James 1: 2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Persevering through difficulties develops our character and helps us fulfill our life goal to become more and more like Jesus.
Steve Goss presents this testimony:
Steve remembers when his wife was really ill over a period of two years and couldn't really do much apart from sit in a chair. Their children were at a critical stage in their education and the ministry was growing. It was a tough time. One of Steve’s friends reminded him recently of something that he apparently said to him during that time: “If I don't come out of this changed for the better then it will have been a wasted opportunity.”
Steve, and I, really believe that. It's in the tough times that our characters can really grow to become more like Jesus and in due course we'll see the fruit of that. I don't know anyone with any kind of significant ministry who hasn't persevered through great difficulties.
Defeated spouses say, “my marriage is hopeless”, then try to solve the problem by changing partners. Others feel their jobs or churches are hopeless. So they move, only to discover that their new job or church is just as hopeless. What should you do? Can I give it to you straight? Hang in there and grow up!
Those difficult situations may be helping you achieve God's goals for your life. There are legitimate times to change jobs or churches, but if we are just running from our own immaturity, it will follow us wherever we go.
We need occasional mountain top experiences, but the fertile soil of growth is always down in the valleys, not on the mountain tops.
It’s the First Day of the Rest of Your Life
We're all going to die. One day you will lose everything you have, including your closest relationships, your qualifications, your possessions, and your money.
Well, this is the last session of the course so I thought you might need cheering up!
Actually there is just one thing we won't lose: our relationship with Jesus and everything that comes with it.
That is why Paul can say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
If you try putting anything else other than Christ in that verse, it doesn't work.
For me to live is my career, to die is... loss.
For me to live is my family, to die is... loss.
For me to live is a successful Christian ministry, to die is... loss.
But when the point of our life here and now is simply Jesus and becoming like Him, when we die it just gets better.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life! You can become everything God wants you to be. Regardless of your current circumstances.
Whether or not you feel you are very far along the path of becoming more like Jesus, you can leave here in this sure knowledge that you are God's holy child and that He delights in you.
He is intimately concerned with your life and has plans to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Amazingly, you can leave here knowing that nothing and no one can prevent you from becoming the person God wants you to be.
Are you ready to adopt God's goal for your life, to become more and more like Jesus in character?
I want to finish by reading something written by someone, of unknown source, who decided to take God at his word:
“I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed”. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I've stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, miserly giving, and dwarfed goals!
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, top, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, lean by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer and labor by power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up, let up, or burn up till I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops.
And when He comes to get His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.”
The rest of your life is ahead of you. It's exciting. You can become the person God wants you to be. Nothing and no one can get in your way. Let's pray.
Thank You that we are saints, holy ones, because of what Jesus has done. Our goal is to become the people You have created us to be. Thank You that nothing and no one can stand in our way. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
We commit ourselves to truth, to being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Please fill us with Your Holy Spirit and send us out In His power to become more and more like Jesus, to grow as disciples and to bear fruit.
Send us into the world to make disciples too, Lord.
Thank You that nothing can separate us from Your love. Thank You that You will always be with us.
We love you, Lord, and we choose to put You first. For me to live is Christ. To die is gain.
Objective: To make a commitment to God's life goal and workout next steps.
Discuss the idea that God's goal for your life is that you become more and more like Jesus in character. What would it look like for you to embrace that?
Spend some time in prayer committing to God's goal for your life and thanking him that you can achieve it in His strength.
Spend some time thanking God for what He has shown and taught you through the course. Ask God what steps He wants you to take next.
Witness: Pick two or three of the eight areas we have considered. How would not-yet-Christians around you be affected if you were to put the principles into practice?
In the Coming Week: Work out which of the eight areas in the “What Do I Believe?” questionnaire are the most challenging for you. Spend some time reading the relevant passages for those areas in “God’s Guidelines for the Walk of Faith”. You could use them to develop a stronghold buster for the ongoing renewing of your mind.
God’s Guidelines for The Walk Of Faith
Success comes from having the right goals
Success is accepting God’s goal for our lives and by His grace becoming what He has called us to be (Joshua 1:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:3–10; 3 John 2).
Significance comes from proper use of time
What is forgotten in time is of little significance. What is remembered for eternity is of greatest significance (1 Corinthians 3:13; Acts 5:33–40; 1 Timothy 4:7, 8).
Fulfilment comes from serving others
Fulfilment is discovering our own uniqueness in Christ and using our gifts to build others up and glorify the Lord (2 Timothy 4:5; Romans 12:1–18; Matthew 25:14–30).
Satisfaction comes from living a quality life
Satisfaction is living righteously and seeking to raise the quality of our relationships and the things we do (Matthew 5:5; Proverbs 18:24; 2 Timothy 4:7).
Happiness comes from wanting what we have
Happiness is being thankful for what we do have, rather than focusing on what we don’t have — because happy are the people who want what they have (Philippians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 6:6–8)!
Fun comes from enjoying life moment by moment
The secret is to remove unbiblical hindrances such as keeping up appearances (2 Samuel 6:20–23; Galatians 1:10, 5:1; Romans 14:22).
Security comes from focusing on eternal values
Insecurity comes when we depend on things that will pass away rather than things that will last forever (John 10:27–30; Romans 8:31–39; Ephesians 1:13, 14).
Peace comes from quieting the inner storm
The peace of God is internal, not external (Jeremiah 6:14; John 14:27; Philippians 4:6, 7; Isaiah 32:17).
Anderson, Neil T.; Goss, Steve. Freedom in Christ Participant's Guide: A 10-Week Life-Changing Discipleship Course . Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.