People of Prayer

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Ask the group the questions in black.

Words in italics are written to help give some guidance and ideas.

Read out loud the text in blue.

Have someone read out the Scripture passages.

1        In the Beginning

Facilitator notes:            Background reading chapters 1-3 of First Love

Goal:                                To introduce the concepts of identity, purpose and design

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Introduction

If God guaranteed you an answer to any question, what question would you ask?

Gather thoughts. Ask why? This is not the time to answer those questions, but just to get people thinking.

People are curious about many things, but when it comes down to it, two of the most basic questions of life are: Who am I and why am I here?

Can you answer those questions with total certainty?

 

Who am I?

The question “Who am I” is a question of identity. Your identity is simply who you think you are.

When you think about your life, what influences have shaped your identity (who you think you are)?

This could be parents, teachers, sports coaches, pastors, friends, the world etc.

Share something about who you think you are.

Let people share at whatever level they are willing. Simply listen.

We all begin creating our sense of identity from birth, mainly based on our interactions with other people. The things we believe about ourselves can be both positive and negative.

So for now, we know that the “who am I” question is about identity. Over the coming weeks, we are going to explore this more.

 

Why am I Here?

The second question “Why am I here?” deals with our sense of purpose.

Think about things that people have created and their purpose? What comes to mind?

Share ideas. Choose any examples such as toasters, cars, lightbulbs, roads, houses etc.

Can you think of anything that has no purpose at all?

There is nothing that has been created that has no purpose. Things like space junk may seem to have no purpose now, but they did once have a purpose.

We have been created, so what is our purpose?

Gather thoughts. Ask, “what makes you think that?”

Does something that is created have the ability to determine its own purpose?

Use an example from above to pose the question. Can a toaster decide to be a jug instead?

Design

We can only come to a true sense of identity and purpose when we first understand our design. Think about a lion.

What is a lion designed to do?

To hunt animals. No healthy lion defies its design to become a vegetarian! It never happens.

What gives a lion the ability to be a hunter?

Its whole body is designed to hunt from tooth to claw. The lion’s identity as a hunter comes from its design.

In the same way, our sense of identity and purpose is connected to our design.

Do we begin life with an understanding of our design?

No, newborn babies have no knowledge or understanding of purpose or design.

How do babies learn about their physical design?

Babies and infants learn their physical design by watching people around them.

Studies have shown that if an infant does not hear someone talking, they will not learn to talk. If they do not see a person walking, they will not learn to walk. The same is true spiritually. When we first begin to follow Jesus and are born again, we are like spiritual infants, and we learn our design by looking at people who we consider “spiritual.”

In our spiritual infancy, how can we be sure that the people around us are actually living in their spiritual design?

We really can’t be sure. Babies do not have the capacity to question their design. Because they are so vulnerable, there is a great responsibility to protect babies and nurture them in truth.

What if we have not truly learned our design? Imagine that you discover an object you’ve never seen before, and you don’t know what it is designed to do.

How could you find out?

You would ask the person who made it!

Read these Bible verses together:

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:26-27
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Who is the Creator of the universe and of us?

God.

As our Creator, we owe our existence to God. We are not random products of chance. We have been wonderfully created by a God who has a clear design for our lives. And as our Creator, He alone holds the answers to those questions “who am I and why am I here?” The only way we can discover our design is to ask the One who designed us.

So, how does God reveal our design to us?

Gather thoughts.

Our Mirror

Look up the following passage in James.

James 1:22-24
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

What is the purpose of a mirror in the natural realm?

To see what you physically look like.

So, if you want to see a spiritual reflection of yourself, what is the spiritual mirror that you look into?

The word of God.

The Word is a spiritual mirror that shows us our natural face. The word “natural” used in this verse is the Greek word “genesis” meaning “source, origin or birth”. You could say that when we look into the mirror of the Word, we see our genesis face. We see our true identity and purpose as God originally designed it.

Summary

There are two questions we need to answer: Who am I? and Why am I here? These are questions of identity and purpose. Only our Creator has the right to determine our design – who we are and why we are here. So, over the coming studies, we are going to look into the mirror of the Word to find out how God answers these questions.

Questions for Further Discussion

Has there ever been a time in your life when you consciously asked yourself Who am I? or Why am I here?

Do you have any early memories of believing that God is Creator?

What do you think spiritual infants need most?


 

1       In the Beginning—Homework

 

Summary

There are two questions we need to answer: Who am I? and Why am I here? These are questions of identity and purpose. Only our Creator has the right to determine our design – who we are and why we are here. So, over the coming studies, we are going to look into the mirror of the Word to find out how God answers these questions.

Reflect

Read these verses from Psalm 139 and reflect on the questions below.

Psalm 139:13-14
For You formed my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

What do these verses reveal about the value of your life?

What does it mean for you to be a unique creation?

Is it important for you to know “who am I” and “why am I here?” Why or why not?

Do you spend time looking into the mirror of the Word? Is this a focus for you?

Pray

As you begin these studies, ask God to reveal your identity and your purpose/design in life to you in a fresh and deeper way. Share with Him your desires for your own spiritual growth.


 

2        The Design of Love

Facilitator notes:            Background reading chapters 1-3 of First Love

Goal:                                To discover that love is the design for life

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Introduction

Discuss homework.

Recap the last study – what do you remember from our last study?

In the last study we asked two questions: who am I and why am I here? These are questions of identity and design.

As created beings, we cannot define our own purpose or identity.

It is our Creator who holds the answers to these questions. He alone can tell us the purpose of our design and how our identity flows from that design.

 

In this study we are going to look into the mirror of the Word to see what God says about our design as people.

The Clock Analogy

As we go through life, most of us make assumptions about our design, based on the lives of the people around us. Other influences such as the world, the media and our culture also shape our understanding of our design. How can we know what our true design is?

Suppose that you were a clock maker and you created a beautiful kitchen clock. Now imagine that your clock came to life and asked you “What is my purpose?”

What would your simplest answer be?

To tell the time.

Would you be willing for your clock to choose its own purpose? Why or why not?

Gather thoughts.

Imagine that your clock noticed all the other kitchen appliances and decided it wanted to be a toaster. What would you say to the clock?

Share ideas.

Like the clock, we have a definite purpose that never changes. But if we look at those around us to try and define our purpose, we can become like a clock that wants to be a toaster. We need a mirror to show us our true identity, so we can see what we are truly made for. The Bible is our mirror. It reveals who God is, and who He created us to be.

So, is there anywhere in the Bible where we can find out what we are designed for?

Gather thoughts.

The Greatest Command

Matthew 22:34-40 (BSB)
And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?”
Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.’”

Without looking at your Bible, recap these verses in your own words.

 

What does Jesus mean when He says this is the “first and greatest” command?

It is not first in number but first in priority and importance for our lives. This is God’s number one priority for our lives.

The first and greatest command to love God and love others is like the command to the clock to “tell the time”. It is a statement of design and life purpose. It tells us why we were created and what we were created for.

In your mind, what is the difference between a command and a suggestion? What are the implications of each?

It may be useful to relate answers back to the clock. As a clockmaker, would you just suggest that your clock tells the time?

What scope is there within the greatest command for us to choose a different design or life purpose?

Discuss ideas.

Within the first and greatest command, God our Creator reveals the ultimate design and purpose for our lives. Every human being has been uniquely created to love, by a God who is love. This design can never be changed because it can never be improved. It is His very best for us.

When Jesus answered the expert in the law about the greatest command in the law, was He telling him something new?

No! Look up this verse in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

From the very beginning, this command to love has always been God’s design for humanity. The Bible is like a manual for our lives. If we wrote a manual for our clock, every word in the manual would depend upon its overarching design to tell the time. The same is true for the Bible. Every word in the Bible, every command and every promise—they all depend on the greatest command and lead people to it. Jesus Himself says this in Matthew 22:40 “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Why love?

Why is love the greatest command, as opposed to something else like worship God or serve Him?

Gather thoughts.

Love is who God is. It is what is most important to Him. We only find love within the context of relationship. The greatest command therefore requires us to be in relationship with God where we discover His love – a love we are designed for. It would be quite possible to worship God or serve Him without ever coming into a relationship of love with Him and therefore never discovering our design.

Can you think of any type of person that the greatest command may not apply to?

The greatest command applies to all people, everywhere. No-one is disqualified or excluded. It is God’s design for all humanity, regardless of race, religion, age, gender etc.

How do you feel when you love someone, or someone loves you?

This could be the love of a spouse, parent, friend, pet etc.

Even science confirms that the presence of love in our lives positively impacts our mental, physical, and emotional health. For example, our body reacts to love by releasing good hormones, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and improving our immune system. Love reduces stress, anxiety and depression and makes us feel more safe, secure, and confident. Basically, love brings us alive!

Mission Impossible?

Can you imagine what it would be like to love God and love others with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? What would your life be like?

Share ideas.

Is it even possible for a person to obey the greatest command? Why or why not?

Just listen.

Luke 18:27 (BSB)
But Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Do you think it is possible for God to make the greatest command a reality in your life?

Gather thoughts.

Summary

God has clearly revealed to us through the mirror of the word who we are and what we are designed for. The first and greatest command is a statement of our design. God is love and we have all been created in His image to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love others. And God can make it possible! As we set this command as our first and greatest priority, we will go on a journey to find out how God can make it a reality in our lives.


 

Questions for Further Discussion

Do you have a vision for your life? What is it?

What message(s) does the world give you about your life purpose?

Share some positive experiences of love in your life.

 

2       The Design of Love—Homework

Summary

Imagine a lion as it hunts. The process of stalking, giving chase and capturing its prey is all part of its design. When it hunts, the lion is doing what it is created to do. And the lion LOVES it! It is hard to imagine a lion feeling fulfilled if it just ate grass. The greatest joy and fulfilment that we can find in life is doing what we are designed to do and being who we are created to be.

Reflect

How real is joy in your life? What brings you joy?

Read these verses from John 15. It may help to read them aloud and repeat several times slowly.

John 15:10-11
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Imagine

Take some time to imagine Jesus coming to you and offering you His joy, a joy that would make you full. Would you like to receive His joy? What would you say to Him?

Pray

Write an honest prayer to God in response to His words about joy in John 15:10-11.


 

3        It’s Possible!

Facilitator notes:            Background reading chapters 4-5 of First Love

Goal:                                To discover that wholehearted love is possible through unity with Jesus

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Introduction

Discuss homework.

Recap the last study – what do you remember from our last study?

When we look into the mirror of the Word, we see who we are and what we are designed for.

Our design is clearly stated in the first and greatest command to love God and love others with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If we are willing to put the first command in first place in our lives, God is able to make it a reality.

In this study we are going to explore how God makes it possible for us to live in our design of wholehearted love.

Perfectly Impossible

God has revealed to us in the Bible that His whole design for our life is contained within the first and greatest command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love others. It is only within this design that we will be truly fulfilled in this life. Yet instinctively we all know that this command is impossible to obey.

Why is it impossible for us to obey the greatest command in our own strength?

Explore ideas.

Can you think of any reason why God has given us a command that is impossible to obey?

Because God does not intend us to obey the greatest command on our own.

The Bible says in Psalm 119:68 that God is good and everything He does is good. Because God is entirely good and entirely just, He cannot do anything cruel or unfair. At first glance, we could think that by commanding us to do something that is impossible, God is unfairly condemning us to a life of failure. Or we could think that the greatest command is simply an ideal but unattainable goal that we are supposed to endlessly strive after all our life. Neither is true. God has made it impossible for us to love in our own strength, precisely because He wants us to discover Him as the source of love. He wants to carry the responsibility for our obedience. Not only did He come up with the design, but He will fulfil that design in us.

Jesus in Me

John 17:22-23
22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

What does Jesus mean when He says, “I in them”? How does Jesus live in us?

When we are born again, the Spirit of Jesus is birthed in us. The actual presence, nature and life of Jesus Christ becomes alive in us. This allows us to share His feelings, thoughts, and instincts within us.

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

How do you know that Jesus lives in you?

Gather thoughts. We know that Jesus lives in us because we see the evidence of His life in us. For example, if you met someone possessed by a spirit of greed, you would soon recognize it through their words and actions. You would see the evidence of greed in their life – an uncontrollable appetite for more. In the same way, if we are possessed by the Spirit of Jesus, we will start to see His character and nature manifesting in our lives.

The starting point for loving God and loving others is receiving the life of Jesus in us. Because Jesus loves the Father with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength, only He can help us love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Is it possible to love God wholeheartedly without the life of Jesus in you? Is there any other way?

No! It is impossible to love God wholeheartedly without Jesus because He is the Way!

Into Him

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The word “in” used in this verse is translated from the Greek word “eis” which literally means “into”. Just as a river flows into a sea and the waters become one, the word “eis” conveys an active movement into unity.

How would believing “in” Jesus and believing “into” Jesus be different?

Believing “in” something can simply be a theory. Believing “into” something involves not just theory, but experience. For example, a person can believe in marriage (as a concept) but to believe into marriage implies that they are experiencing it.

How does believing “into” Jesus create unity with Him?

As we move beyond simply believing that Jesus is real to experiencing Him in our lives, our unity or oneness with Him grows.

God’s call to love Him and love others was never intended to be possible outside a relationship with Him. Jesus calls us into a relationship of unity with Him where He can keep the greatest command through us.

Take My Yoke

When Jesus came to the earth, He challenged the religious leaders who were teaching people that they had to constantly strive in their own strength to obey the commands of Scripture. They weighed the people down with endless rules and principles to govern every area of life, believing that righteousness was only found through perfect behaviour. Instead of bringing people into the freedom of love and unity with God, their teaching left the people exhausted, condemned, broken and empty. Look up these words of Jesus to the people:

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What is a yoke and what is its purpose?

It is a wooden crosspiece that unites two animals and allows them to work together as one.

What is Jesus really offering us in this verse? What is His yoke and what is it like?

To be yoked with Jesus is to both work with Him and find rest at the same time. It means that we no longer have to strive in our own strength to obey God because Jesus is bearing the burden of our obedience.

Why is His yoke easy and His burden light?

Because Jesus carries it all.

What is it like to be yoked to anything other than Jesus?

Explore ideas and examples.

When Jesus calls us to come and take His yoke upon us, He is calling us into a life of unity with Him. His yoke is easy and light because He is able to obey every command and fulfil every promise of Scripture. Nothing is too difficult for Him! And only in this place will we find true rest for our souls.

The gospel of salvation is therefore not a religious philosophy about what Jesus can do for us. It is an invitation into an actual, real relationship where the living God comes to live in each one of us. It is a call to a life of shared love, unity, and joy with Jesus!

Summary

Apart from Jesus, it is impossible for us to love God or love others with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our obedience to the first and greatest command is only possible through our unity with the God who lives in us and who is Love!

Questions for Further Discussion

You may like to read aloud the modern parable at the beginning of chapter 4 of First Love. Can you relate this parable to your own life in any way?

Do you believe that God is good and that everything He does is good?

Have you had an experience in your life where something that was impossible for man was possible for God?


 

3       It’s Possible!—Homework

 

Summary

Apart from Jesus, it is impossible for us to love God or love others with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our obedience to the first and greatest command is only possible through our unity with the God who lives in us and who is Love!

Reflect

Are you believing “in” Jesus or “into” Jesus (John 3:16)?

Read these verses again.

Read Matthew 11:28-30
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What does it mean for you to hear Jesus say to you “Take my yoke upon you”?

Pray

Ask Jesus this question and write down any thoughts or impressions that you have:

“Lord, are there any areas in my life where I am striving to carry my own yoke?”

Imagination

Take some time to sit with Jesus and imagine Him offering you His yoke. Let Him remove your heavy yoke and replace it with His yoke which is easy and light. What thoughts and feelings do you experience as this happens?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4        Growing Up

Facilitator notes:            Background reading chapters 4-5 of First Love

Goals:                               To explore the connection between unity and spiritual growth

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Introduction

Discuss homework.

Recap the last study – what do you remember from our last study?

It is impossible for us to love God or love others with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength by ourselves.

As we believe “into” Jesus, we experience more unity in our relationship with Him.

That unity is being yoked to Jesus. As we take His yoke, we work with Him to fulfil the greatest command. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light because God is love and He can love through us.

In this study we are going to explore the connection between unity and spiritual growth.

Infancy to maturity

Hebrews 5:12-14
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

What does it mean to be an infant in Christ?

Infants are only just beginning life and can only handle milk. They are unskilled and need basic principles in order to grow.

How are our expectations of physical babies different from our expectations of mature adults?

Gather thoughts. There is a simplicity to life as a baby. Babies cannot function as adults because they have not matured yet. We do not condemn a baby for being a baby. Babies are perfect just as they are.

What does spiritual maturity look like?

Gather thoughts. Hebrews 5:14 tells us that the mature “have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice…” Spiritual maturity therefore happens through an active investment. It cannot be assumed because of physical age, a position in the church or the length of time a person has been a believer.

In Hebrews 6, we are exhorted to leave behind the elementary teachings about Christ and press on to maturity. To find out more about spiritual maturity, we need to look to God to define it for us.

Growing Up into Christ

Ephesians 4:15-16
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

What does it mean to grow up into Jesus?

To “grow up” means to mature. “Into Jesus” speaks of unity with Him. Therefore, maturity is about developing a greater unity or oneness with Him through personal experience.

In our last study we looked at how the word “into” is the Greek word “eis” which means a movement into union, like a river flowing into a sea so the waters become one. So spiritual maturity is not about trying to copy Jesus in our lives, like two separate rivers flowing side by side but about becoming one river, sharing one life.

Our unity with Jesus is built upon relationship and relationships are developed over time. We can see this in our earthly friendships.

How do earthly friendships begin and grow?

Share thoughts.

A friendship usually begins with an introduction and then grows over time as two people get to know one another. As trust grows, the friendship slowly deepens and matures. In the same way, as we develop a personal relationship with Jesus, we begin to know Him in different and deeper ways, and this brings us into greater unity with Him.

Knowing God

When you first met Jesus, who was He to you?

Share thoughts. Most of us first experience Jesus as Saviour or Redeemer which is like an introduction or the beginning of a relationship.

Growing to know God is like encountering a multi-faceted diamond with an infinite number of brilliant colours, shades, and depths to enjoy. We experience more of His beauty and love as we explore all the different dimensions of relationship that we can have with Him.

What are some of the different ways that we can know God beyond Saviour?

We can come to know Him as our Lord, King, Father, Mother, Brother, Provider, Protector, Counsellor, Comforter, Judge, Shepherd, Master, Healer, Deliverer, Helper and many more.

Why do we not know God in all these ways when we first begin a relationship with Him?

As a born-again baby, we are an infant in Christ. Babies can do nothing for themselves so as a spiritual baby, we simply receive what Jesus offers us which is the free gift of salvation. We do not have the capacity to relate to Him in many other ways as we barely know Him yet!

As spiritual infants, we do not experience a great depth of unity with Jesus because we are just beginning our relationship with Him. As we get to know God in different ways, we grow up and mature because we experience more of His love and love always leads to unity.

Is spiritual maturity a journey or a destination?

It is a journey! Within each relationship that we can have with God, there are limitless depths of love and unity to explore.

What could hinder us from growing up in our relationship with God?

Lack of desire? Lack of faith? Distraction? Fear? Lack of priorities? Maybe we are happy enough with the relationship we have. Maybe we do not want greater intimacy and unity.

His Work, Our Participation

In our natural life, can a baby stay a baby? Why not?

No, babies grow by design. They eat food and grow up. If they did not grow, they would die.

Our physical design shows us that while we are born as babies, we grow over time to become a mature adult. In a healthy person, this process happens naturally. We do not need to strive to become physically mature.

What about spiritual babies? Can a spiritual baby stay a baby?

Yes! Unlike physical maturity, if we do not actively choose to grow in our personal relationship with God, we can remain a spiritual infant for our entire lifetime. It is possible to experience Jesus as Saviour but never grow beyond that point.

Physical babies have an instinct to eat and sleep and live and grow. Because it is an instinct, they do not need to make a choice. But spiritual growth does not happen by instinct. It requires a conscious decision on our part. This is because the journey to spiritual maturity is through a relationship of love and unity. And love cannot be forced, it must be chosen, or it is not love. So, while God will work in us to bring us into spiritual maturity, He requires our active participation the whole way. We must choose to mature.

Honesty

There are some practical ways that we can grow in our unity with Jesus. In these bible studies we will explore three important keys: honesty, hunger, and humility. Today we will focus on the first, honesty.

1 John 1:5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Why is honesty important in our relationship with God?

We read earlier in Ephesians 4:15 that we are to speak the truth in love and grow up into Christ. Honesty is firstly about speaking the truth to God in love. Being honest frees us to receive God’s love as we truly are without pretending that we are someone different.

If God already knows everything about us, what is the value in being honest with Him?

Honesty creates intimacy. It also forces us to be honest with ourselves. We stop living in denial and start dealing with the things that hinder our relationship with God.

What might prevent us from being honest with God?

Gather thoughts. Examples may be pride, shame, insecurity, fear of rejection, fear of failure etc.

How can honesty create greater unity in our relationship with Jesus?

When we are honest, we can live in the truth and in the light about our lives. This frees us to have a genuine unity with Jesus. Any lies that we believe about ourselves or about God or anything that we hide in the dark from God will bring division rather than unity into our relationship with Him. Like the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, when we honestly see the state of our heart and learn what we truly need, then we can begin to change and grow.

Summary

We are all born again as infants in Christ with a call to grow up into Jesus. Spiritual maturity comes as we grow in our unity with Jesus through all the different depths and dimensions of relationship with Him. A key to growing spiritually is being truly honest with God about our lives. Jesus is the Truth and the Light so the more honest we are with Him, the more we can know Him and grow in our unity with Him.

Questions for Further Discussion

How can we nurture spiritual babies towards spiritual maturity?

Share a personal experience of how you have come to know God in an area of relationship. For example, as Friend, Father, Shepherd etc.

What is your prayer life like? Do you talk to God about what is really on your heart? Or do you pray what you think He wants to hear?

Give an example of how you practice honesty in your relationship with God.


 

4       Growing Up—Homework

Summary

We are all born again as infants in Christ with a call to grow up into Jesus. Spiritual maturity comes as we grow in our unity with Jesus through all the different depths and dimensions of relationship with Him. A key to growing spiritually is being truly honest with God about our lives. Jesus is the Truth and the Light so the more honest we are with Him, the more we can know Him and grow in our unity with Him.

Reflect

Read this verse again and reflect on the questions below.

2 Corinthians 13:5
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Is Jesus Christ alive within you? Are you living in unity with Jesus? How can you know for sure?

Is your unity with Jesus growing? What does this look like?

Are you able to be completely honest with God about your life? Why or why not?

Since growth always brings change, how have you been changing spiritually over the last few months?

Have you grown past spiritual infancy? Are you on the road to maturity?

Pray

Express your heart to God about the level of honesty that you have in your relationship with Him and what this looks like for you. If this is an area that you struggle with, consider inviting the Holy Spirit to help you grow in this area. Ask Him to show you a next step you can take.


 

5        Our Inheritance

Facilitator notes:            Background reading chapters 1-3 and chapter 5 of Bride Arise

Goals:                               To see that we have a spiritual inheritance to possess as we grow up into Christ

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Introduction

Discuss homework.

Recap the last study – what do you remember from our last study?

We begin our spiritual life as a born again baby but we are called to grow up into Jesus.

Spiritual maturity comes as we grow in our unity with Jesus through all the different depths and dimensions of relationship that we can have with Him.

A key ingredient for spiritual growth is being honest with God about our lives.

 

In this study we are going to see that we have a spiritual inheritance to possess as we grow up into Christ.

Spiritual Blessings

As we grow up into Christ, we are given amazing promises like this one in Ephesians 1:3-4:

Ephesians 1:3-4, 11-12
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Has God blessed every believer with every spiritual blessing in Christ?

Yes!

Do all believers experience every spiritual blessing in Christ?

No. Why not?

God has not withheld anything from us, rather He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. However, all these blessings are stored up for us as an inheritance. As God takes us into our inheritance, we experience the reality of these spiritual blessings in our lives. For example, God has blessed us with the fullness of joy in Christ. But we can’t talk ourselves into the fullness of joy or generate true joy by ourselves. In order to know joy, we need the Spirit of God to make the gift of joy real in our lives.

Jesus our Inheritance

Colossians 1:9-12
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

We are all qualified to share in our inheritance in Christ. But what is an inheritance?

In the natural realm, an inheritance is a gift you receive when someone has died.

How have we received a spiritual inheritance?

When Jesus died, He left His entire estate to His children.

Read these verses that describe some of the blessings of our spiritual inheritance:

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Corinthians 1:30-31
10 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

How have you experienced some of these spiritual blessings in your own life?

Share short testimonies.

When Jesus died, He gave us an awesome spiritual inheritance. All the blessings of our inheritance such as love, joy, peace, righteousness, wisdom, redemption, and sanctification—none of these can be separated from Jesus. They are the fruits or blessings that come from His Spirit within us. Therefore, we do not receive the gift of righteousness, we receive the Spirit of Jesus Christ who is righteousness. In this sense, Jesus is our inheritance. Because He lives within us, we have every spiritual blessing within us. We simply need to learn how to experience our inheritance.

A Journey of Relationship

There is often a journey to take in order to experience our inheritance. This journey begins with the promise of an inheritance and ends with the possession of that inheritance—when the promise becomes our personal reality. This is a journey of growing in our unity with Jesus through relationship.

In our last study, what did we identify as some of the different ways that we can know Jesus?

We can know Him as our Lord, King, Father, Mother, Brother, Provider, Protector, Counsellor, Comforter, Judge, Shepherd, Master, Healer, Deliverer, Helper and many more.

All these relationships have their own unique blessings and through each one, we can experience a different kind of unity with Jesus. Every relationship also has endless depths to explore. For the rest of our lives, we will be growing in our relationship with Jesus.

Is anything required of us on this journey to know Jesus?

Yes, each relationship requires our active participation.

We cannot have a relationship without participation. Both naturally and spiritually every relationship requires something of us. Let us take friendship as an example.

What does it take to know someone as a friend?

Sharing common interests, time spent getting to know each other, building trust etc.

We understand that within our earthly friendships we need to invest something of ourselves in order to participate in the friendship. A true friendship involves both people contributing to the relationship. The Bible gives us much insight into how we can experience different dimensions of relationship with God and what is required of us to actively participate in that relationship. What does Jesus say about experiencing the gift of His friendship?

Jesus as Friend

John 15:12-15
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

What is required of us to experience Jesus as a friend?

Jesus says: “you are my friend if you do what I command you.” The command is to love others selflessly, like Jesus loves. True friendship is revealed in sacrificial love.

What kind of friend is Jesus?

The very best kind!

Jesus loves us selflessly and unconditionally and lays down His life for us. He shares the Father’s heart with us so that we can know Him, not just as a servant but as an intimate friend.

Jesus as Lord

Jesus also invites us to know Him as Lord. What does He say about how we can experience Him as Lord?

Matthew 7:21
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

What does it really mean to know Jesus as Lord?

Choosing to obey God’s will, specifically His highest will for us that we would love Him and love others.

Can we truly know Jesus as Lord if we are still in control of our own lives?

We will only know Jesus as Lord if we are willing to fully surrender control of every area of our lives to Him.

Calling Jesus “Lord” by name only does not mean that He is actually our Lord. To truly know Jesus as Lord means that we no longer live for ourselves. We live to do the will of God, constantly choosing His will over our own.

Active Participation

In all the different ways that we can know Jesus, something is always required of us, even if it is simply to believe and agree with Him. As we experience the different kinds of relationship that we can have with Jesus, we also experience the blessings that flow from that relationship. Through each relationship we increase our unity with Jesus and grow up more and more into Him.

Now that we know that all these different types of relationship are available to us, our next question is:

How do we actually experience our inheritance of relationship that Jesus has given us? How does our inheritance become real in our lives? What are your thoughts?

Share ideas. We will return to this subject.

Summary

God has not only given us spiritual blessings but the gift of Jesus Himself as our inheritance. All our blessings are found in Him. We experience Jesus as our inheritance as we go on a journey of relationship where we get to know Him in many different ways. Each relationship requires our active participation and leads to a deeper unity with Him.

Questions for Further Discussion

What are some spiritual blessings that you have experienced so far in your relationship with God?

Share how you have come to know Jesus as your Friend or Lord.

What are some reasons why people struggle to fully surrender their life to Jesus?

What does it mean to you that Jesus is your inheritance?


 

5       Our Inheritance—Homework

Summary

God has not only given us spiritual blessings but the gift of Jesus Himself as our inheritance. All our blessings are found in Him. We experience Jesus as our inheritance as we go on a journey of relationship where we get to know Him in many different ways. Each relationship requires our active participation and leads to a deeper unity with Him.

Reflect

In what ways do you primarily like to relate to God?

Are there any dimensions of relationship with God that you are actively avoiding?

What is one type of relationship with Jesus that you would really like to grow in?

Ask Jesus “what is my next step towards knowing you in this way?”

Read Psalm 16. Take your time. You may want to read it aloud.

What does it mean for you to have a “beautiful inheritance” (verse 6)?

What other words in this psalm encourage or inspire you? Why?

Pray

Express your thoughts about this psalm to God in a prayer.

 

 


 

6        The Word

Facilitator notes:            Background reading chapter 4-5 of First Love

Goals:                               To look at the role of the Word of God in our lives as part of our spiritual growth.

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Introduction

Discuss homework.

Recap the last study – what do you remember from our last study?

God has given us the gift of Jesus as our inheritance and all our blessings are found in Him.

We experience Jesus as our inheritance through a journey of relationship with Him.

Every type of relationship that we have with Jesus requires our active participation and leads to deeper unity.

In this study we are going to look at the role of the Word of God in our lives as part of our spiritual growth.

The Living Word

In your opinion, is there any value in reading the Bible?

Gather thoughts. Some believers can find reading the Bible difficult to read or hard to understand. Some may think that the Bible is just a list of rules to obey or is irrelevant to their day-to-day life etc.

What does the word of God say about itself?

Share ideas.

Invite three different people to look up one of these verses to read aloud:

John 8:31-32
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 17:17
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

What do you think it means to “know the truth”?

Gather thoughts.

The word translated as “know” in this verse is the Greek word ginosko which means “to know, especially through personal experience.” The word translated as “truth” is the Greek word aletheia which means “true to fact or reality.” If we were to re-read John 8:32 in light of these meanings, it could sound like this: “and you shall personally experience the reality of the truth and that reality will set you free.”

How can the word of God be living and active? What does this mean?

Share thoughts. The Word of God is not just a book that we use to inform our minds. The Word of God is alive!

When we read the Bible, we are connecting with God! No other book on earth is this powerful. There is a living connection between the God of the Word and you, the hearer. All of God’s words are infused with the power to lead us into reality!

The Word as Seed

How does the living and active word of God get inside us?

Gather thoughts.

Luke 8:4-15
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

In the natural realm, what is a seed?

A seed is a unit of reproduction. Within every seed is the capacity to bring forth mature life. The Greek word used for “seed” in the Bible is “sperma.” This is where the word sperm comes from in the English language.

In the parable, the seed is the word of God. Where is the seed sown?

The seed is sown into the heart.

What can happen to the seed? And what does that reveal about that person’s heart?

The seed can be stolen by the enemy (a heart that does not believe), fall on rocky ground (a heart that is hard), be sown among thorns (a heart that is distracted) or land in good soil (a good and honest heart).

When we hear the word of God, it is sown into our heart like a seed. If we have good hearts, the seed will be conceived in our hearts and begin to grow. How that seed is nurtured will determine whether it brings us into reality and produces mature fruit or not.

Power in Words

How did God bring creation into being?

The heavens and earth were created when God spoke.

Genesis 1:1-3
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Psalm 33:6-9
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
 and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
 he puts the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
 let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
 he commanded, and it stood firm.

When God speaks, His words carry the power not only to communicate but to create new things. This didn’t just happen once at creation. Jesus, as the Sower, is constantly sowing the seed of His words into our hearts. Within His words is His creative power to bring forth life. For example, when Jesus speaks to us about joy, it is not to give us an intellectual understanding of joy, but to sow a seed of joy so that He can make joy a reality in our life. If nurtured well, a seed of joy will become a harvest of joy!

What would you ask God to create in you?

Share thoughts.

Is it just God’s words that can create things, or can our words create things too?

Gather thoughts.

Proverbs 18:21
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

How can our words create life or death in another person?

Share ideas. The words that we speak to others have the power to build up or tear down. Words of life are encouraging, edifying, truthful, hopeful, positive, etc. Words of death are discouraging, hopeless, unloving, critical, condemning, accusing, negative, etc.

Can you share an experience of how words or life or death have affected you?

Share short testimonies.

As human beings created in the image of God, the words that we speak carry the power to create life or death in the lives of others. This does not mean we have the power to cause a person to live or die physically. But our words are powerful in the spiritual realm to bring curse or blessing. If you were to imagine your heart like a garden, then the words that are sown in your heart can take root and will either spring up as flowers or prickles.

Take a moment to think about your heart as a garden. What has been sown in your heart through God’s words and the words of others? What is your garden like?

Spend a few minutes in quiet reflection and then invite group members to briefly share.

How can you deal with prickles or words of death that others have sown in your heart?

Through forgiveness.

How can you cultivate a beautiful garden?

Share ideas. Build relationships with people who speak words of life and encourage you, do not come into agreement with words of death that are spoken to you, spend time in the truth of the Word of God and listen to His voice.

Spirit and Life

What did Jesus say about His words?

Gather thoughts. Jesus says that He speaks the words of His Father and that His words will never pass away. Jesus tells us that He is the Word.

Jesus also makes this statement about His words in John 6:63:

John 6:63
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

If the words that Jesus speaks are spirit and life, how will they sound to you?

His words are truth, so they will impart faith, hope and love. His words will encourage, uplift and spur us on. Even in correction or conviction, they will be lifegiving and inspiring.

Every word that Jesus speaks is spirit and life, whether in written form in the Bible or through His spoken word to us. Whoever receives His words, receives the spiritual power of those words to bring forth spiritual life within them. And God always keeps His word, His promises never fail. Listen to this verse in Numbers 23:19 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

In our next study we will look at how the seed that Jesus sows in our heart is nurtured to maturity in our lives.

Summary

The word of God is living and active, and it is truth. The truth of God’s word is more than fact, it is something that we can personally experience as we enter into the reality of the truth. We receive the word of God as a seed that is sown into our hearts. When God speaks, His words both communicate and create. His words are spirit and life and carry the power to bring what God says into reality.

Questions for Further Discussion

What has been your experience of the Bible during your life?

Is the enemy also sowing seed into your heart?

How is the seedbank of your heart?

 

 

6       The Word—Homework

Summary

The word of God is living and active, and it is truth. The truth of God’s word is more than fact, it is something that we can personally experience as we enter into the reality of the truth. We receive the word of God as a seed that is sown into our hearts. When God speaks, His words both communicate and create. His words are spirit and life and carry the power to bring what God says into reality.

Reflect

Read these Scriptures and reflect on the questions below:

1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
1 Peter 1:22-25
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Do you believe that the word of God performs its work in you? How would you explain this to someone who has not experienced it?

What encourages you about the truth that the seed of the word of God is imperishable?

Read the parable of the Sower again in Luke 8:4-15. How is the soil of your heart?

Imagine

Imagine Jesus as the Sower wanting to sow the seed of His living word into your heart. Do you want to receive His word of truth and for it to become your reality? Invite Him to sow a promise or truth from His word into your heart today. What is it?

 

 

 

 

 


 

7        The Spirit

Facilitator notes:            Background reading chapters 4-5 of First Love and chapter 11 of Bride Arise

Goals:                               To focus on the role of the Holy Spirit to nurture the seed which Jesus sows in our heart to maturity.

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Introduction

Discuss homework.

Recap the last study – what do you remember from our last study?

The Word of God is living and active, and it is truth.

We receive the word of God as a seed that is sown in our hearts.

God’s words both communicate and create and so within His seed is the creative power to bring that word to reality.

In this study we are going to focus on the role of the Holy Spirit to nurture and mature the seed of the Word which Jesus sows in our heart.

Growing the Seed

What do natural seeds need to grow?

Fertile soil, light and water.

Just like a natural seed requires certain conditions for growth, the seed of the word of God sown in the fertile soil of our heart needs to be nurtured so that it can grow to maturity.

John 6:63
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

What do we learn about the role of the Holy Spirit in these verses?

The Spirit is the giver of life and the Spirit of truth guides us into all the truth.

In your own words, what does it mean for the Spirit to guide you into all the truth?

Share thoughts.

All life flows from the Spirit. Our physical and spiritual life is sourced in and sustained by the Spirit of God. It is the Holy Spirit that nurtures the seed of the word in our hearts and brings it to pass in our lives. As we learned in our last study, the Greek word for truth also means reality. The Holy Spirit brings us into the full reality of the word of God in our lives. He makes the truth real for us!

Why is it not enough just to receive the seed of the word?

Gather thoughts. A natural seed will not grow simply because it is planted in fertile soil, it needs light and water to mature. In the same way, if the seed of the word is not united with the life of the Spirit, it will simply remain dormant in our heart.

Light and Revelation

The work of the Holy Spirit to bring us into all truth is illustrated beautifully in Psalm 119.

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

In bible times, what did a lamp need to become a light?

Oil! The parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25 speaks of the necessity of having both a lamp and a supply of oil.

The psalm tells us that the Word is a lamp. What does the oil represent?

In the Scriptures, oil is often used to represent the Holy Spirit. When David was anointed with oil, the Holy Spirit came upon him. The holy anointing oil was used by the priests in the tabernacle.

When the Word and Spirt come together, light is produced. What does the light do for us?

Gather thoughts. The light reveals the path ahead and shows us the way into all truth.

The lamp of the Word can only produce light if it has the oil of the Holy Spirit. As we bring the Word and the Spirit together, the path ahead is revealed to us.

In Scripture light is a symbol of revelation. In Daniel 2, we read how light dwells with God and reveals deep and hidden things. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus is described as a light of revelation to the Gentiles. In terms of our spiritual growth, revelation comes when Jesus makes something real for us. This is what the Holy Spirit does to the seed of the word in our heart. He turns head-knowledge into heart-knowledge and theory into reality!

What happens if we only have a lamp, or only have oil?

We will not have light!

The Word of God defines the truth, but by itself it cannot bring us into the reality of that truth. For example, the Bible talks about forgiveness, but it is only the Holy Spirit that can enable us to experience the awesome reality of forgiveness. So if we want to experience the reality of the truth, we need to abound in both the Word and the Spirit. To separate the Spirit and the Word, or value one over the other, is to undermine the purpose of both.

Word and Spirit

How can we tell if the Word and the Spirit are united together in our life?

Share thoughts.

Every believer in Christ is given the Holy Spirit as a deposit in their heart. But just how the Holy Spirit brings us into the reality of the truth is a uniquely individual experience. Here are a few common ways that you might recognize the Holy Spirt growing the seed of the word in your heart:

·       A burning within the heart when hearing the Word (like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24),

·       A feeling of excitement that occurs when reading or hearing the Word,

·       A quiet peace or a sense of the presence of God on a particular truth,

·       A feeling of freedom that comes as a particular truth becomes more real to you,

·       A strong sense that something in the Word was written just for you!

 

Invite the group to share any experiences of the above in their own lives.

What kind of fruit will we see in our lives as the Word and Spirit work together?

Share thoughts. We will be able to see where we have grown in truth. We will have a personal experience of the truth and it will be real for us. We will be drawn deeper into God’s love. And we will NOT have made it happen in our own strength!

What can you do if you have never experienced the Word becoming a reality in your life?

Invite the Holy Spirit to become your Helper in this area! Spend time in the Word of God, asking the Holy Spirit to show you what seed is being sown into your heart and how He wants to make that real to you. Talk to Him and listen to Him and watch Him work!

Meditating on the Word

Throughout the Scriptures, we are encouraged to meditate on the Word. What does this mean to you?

Gather thoughts. Meditation in the New Age or in Eastern religions involves emptying the mind or trying to attain a state of inner calm or self-awareness. This is not the same as meditating on the Word of God. Biblical meditation is about being filled with the truth of God, not being emptied!

When we meditate on the Word of God, we are impressing His truth on our heart, mind, and soul. We do not empty our mind or focus our attention on ourselves. Instead, we focus on the Scripture that God has highlighted for us. We dwell on it, ponder it, linger in it, imagine it, and let it soak into our hearts.

What would meditating on the Word do for the seed in our heart?

Share thoughts. Meditating on the Word helps to impress the Word on our heart. It is possible to read large portions of the Bible without it ever truly penetrating our heart. When we slow down and take time to meditate on the Word, we allow the seed of that Word to take root in the soil of our heart!

Imagination

What is the imagination? Is it good or bad? Why did God create us with the ability to imagine?

Gather thoughts.

When children imagine, the impossible becomes possible! A stick can become a sword, or a shell can turn into a precious jewel. Often, we think of imagination purely in terms of childlike fantasy, but our imagination is incredibly powerful when we focus it on the truth of God. When we use our imagination as we meditate on the Scripture, the Spirit can take our head-knowledge and make it heart-knowledge. As He inspires our imagination, the Spirit can help us to see past our physical senses and give us a spiritual vision for our lives.

Ephesians 3:20
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

What does this verse tell us about our imagination?

Share ideas. God can do immeasurably more than anything we can imagine. This verse gives us permission to activate our imagination, because no matter how far we can stretch our imagination, God can go much further!

Do you often take time to imagine? Or is your life defined more by logic and reason?

Share.

As we enter adulthood, we learn to function more in the cognitive part of our brains. We are trained to focus on the world around us (what we see), rather than a world we can imagine (what we cannot see). We can be fearful that our imagination could lead us astray into fantasies or spiritually dark places. But when it is renewed and made holy, our imagination is a powerful way of connecting with God.

Practice!

To finish this study, we are going to do an exercise and practice using our imaginations as we meditate on the word of God.

Find Psalm 23. Read the whole psalm through silently and pick out one word or phrase that seems to stand out to you. Spend the next five minutes meditating on those words. Memorise them and repeat them slowly in your mind. Let the words soak into your heart; imagine them being your reality and ask the Holy Spirit to show you more.

At the end of five minutes, invite the group to share anything that was impressed on their heart during that exercise.

Summary

Like a natural seed, the seed of the word of God sown in the fertile soil of our heart needs to be nurtured to maturity. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. He makes the word real for us. Meditating on the word and using our imagination gives the Holy Spirit room to impress the word on our heart and mature the seed of His word within us.

Questions for Further Discussion

How did you first come to know the Holy Spirit in your life? How real is He to you now?

Do you have a healthy imagination? If not, how could this change?

What fruit could come from meditating on the Word of God?


 

7       The Spirit—Homework

Summary

Like a natural seed, the seed of the word of God sown in the fertile soil of our heart needs to be nurtured to maturity. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. He makes the word real for us. Meditating on the word and using our imagination gives the Holy Spirit room to impress the word on our heart and mature the seed of His word within us.

Reflect

Do you value the Word and the Spirit equally in your life? Like the wise virgins, do you have a lamp and oil?

Think about your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Who is He to you?

How would you like to know the Holy Spirit more?

Imagine

Return to the parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15 that we read in the last study. Spend some time meditating on this passage. That could mean reading it over slowly several times, reading it aloud or pausing when a word or phrase catches your attention. Engage your imagination in this process. You might imagine a seed being planted in your heart. What is the soil like? What is the seed? How does it grow? What does it look like as it matures? Allow the Holy Spirit to share His thoughts with you and to bring this process to life so that it becomes real for you.

 

 

 


 

Notes for People Praying for Aotearoa/New Zealand

Aotearoa/New Zealand has a calling on a world stage to be like Esther: a nation that is unsurpassed in beauty, humble in heart, selfless, fearless, and uncompromising in character. We are to be a vanguard nation that stands against the forces of darkness that are arrayed against the people of God. Like Esther, we were born for such a time as this, but like Esther, if we do not take a stand and actively do the will of God now, then God will raise up another nation to take our role along with all its blessings and privileges, and we will suffer loss. We must lay everything on the line at this time, both personally and corporately.

Scripture says that “God frustrates the plans of the wicked” and brings them to nothing. As it was in the time of Esther, we are now in a time when God is orchestrating His people to frustrate the plans of the enemy. We must not fall into fear or self-protection, but rather seek the Lord through prayer, fasting, repentance, intercession, and then we must act with costly obedience to the voice of God.

To help us understand how we can participate in this current move, the Spirit of God is using different metaphors to guide people in prayer. Understanding these metaphors is essential if we are going to pray effectively and act confidently in this critical time.

 

The Army

In this season, God is calling His people to embrace their calling as an army of light. Scripture is clear that we are to fight the fight of faith, and that our enemy is not people (flesh and blood), but the powers and principalities of darkness (spiritual forces).

Every army is built upon a chain of command that requires obedience. No one is called to fight alone, and in fact, the only way we will overcome is together. Just as a body has different parts, so an army has different units that operate in different ways. Some people may battle in prayer and intercession, others by moving in wisdom in their workplace, others by meeting needs in their community, others by standing firm in places of government. We cannot make a formula for the battle, rather, each person needs to be led by the Holy Spirit and obey His voice with radical obedience. 

As an army we must understand how the enemy targets us for defeat. A common strategy is this: isolation, followed by discouragement, followed by temptation. We start by feeling isolated from God and distant from other believers. We think it is our fault and so we try harder to draw close to God. But then we encounter discouraging thoughts. We start to feel hopeless and disoriented then a temptation comes—usually an old but familiar temptation that we have succumbed to in the past. In the spiritual realm, this process strips us of the armour of God. In order to become discouraged, we must first lay down our shield of faith and take off the helmet of hope. We then discard the breastplate of righteousness (which is faith and love), and proceed to take off the belt of truth (reality) and lay down the sword of the Spirit (the word of God) and so on. Finally, when we are naked and defenseless on the battlefield, then the real temptation comes. The key to overcoming this warfare is to recognize that both isolation (a rejection of love and unity) and discouragement (faithlessness) are not emotions to work through, but sins to repent from. If we wait until the actual temptation comes, we will find ourselves too weak to overcome. If we are quick to detect isolation and immediately reunite with our spiritual family, we will find ourselves instantly encouraged and equipped to overcome.

Pray:

  • That people understand how they are to wage war in this season
  • That the body of Christ comes into alignment and obedience to the will of God
  • That people are equipped to overcome attacks by preserving love and unity within the army
  • That soldiers in the army would hear the voice of God with clarity, receive His vision, act in His faith, and respond with fearless obedience

Read more about the army |  overcoming personal attacks

 

The Bride

This is the season for believers to enter their inheritance as the Bride of Christ. If we are praying for the Bride to arise, we must understand what it means for a child of the Father to become a bride of the Son. In the natural realm, a young woman only becomes a bride when she makes an exclusive covenant of love, to give her entire life to one man. The same is true spiritually. The only way to enter into and experience our identity as the bride of Christ is to make a covenant of love with Him. This covenant is expressed in the greatest command: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

Because we are born again as spiritual infants, few people devote their lives to loving God when they first follow Jesus. They are brides in potential but not yet in experience. As it is in the natural, so there is a process of maturity that we go through until we reach the place where we can truly devote our lives to loving Jesus with our entire being (see Ezekiel 16:1-14). Only once we have consciously and completely committed ourselves to keeping the greatest command can we truly call ourselves the bride of Christ.

Pray:

  • That believers would hear and respond to the call of wholehearted love
  • That believers would find their identity as a beloved bride as they covenant to love Jesus with their entire being
  • That believers would pursue love and intimacy with Jesus above all else

Read more about the Bride of Christ 

 

Elders in the Gates

In ancient times, cities were governed by elders who met in the gates. Together they decided what would enter in and out of the city, and they resolved issues of governance. God is now calling His people to become like elders in the gates of their spiritual community. In order to operate in governing authority, we must realise that spiritual authority stems from obedience. Therefore, to become an elder, we must be living in obedience to God and His design for our lives. This corporate design is best summed up in the new command: to love one another with the love of Christ. If we are not actively loving a number of other believers in word (heart-to-heart communication) and in action (sacrificially giving to meet need) then we are living in spiritual disobedience. This disobedience keeps us in infancy and prevents us from operating as elders in the gates.

In this spiritual warfare, God is calling us to win Aotearoa/NZ town by town, city by city. It is not enough to drive the enemy out of the gates, we must be prepared to then possess those gates. This will require many groups of elders to regularly come together to govern within their sphere of authority and release the love of Christ into their communities. As we take all the regions of the land, the enemy will be driven out, and this will allow people to come to Christ in great numbers.

Pray:

  • That God’s people would act to fulfill their call of love
  • That elders would arise all through NZ and begin to displace the enemy and possess the gates
  • That broken relationships within the Body of Christ would be restored, so people can govern in love together
  • That God’s people would discern with clarity and know how to bind the enemy and release God’s reign of love

Read more about becoming elders in the gates

The Net

A friend once shared a dream that she saw herself as a bride casting a net over the islands of Polynesia. This dream is being fulfilled right now! At this time, God is casting a net over NZ and the islands of Polynesia.This net is made up of thousands of small groups that will gather together to keep Christ’s new command: to love one another. These believers will be alive with the love of God and interwoven heart-to-heart by the flow of God’s love.

Unlike the Welsh revival, where masses of people encountered God but then fell away because of a lack of nurturing, this net will hold a great harvest of new believers. As these groups invite non-believers into their homes and share the love and gospel of God with them, non-believers will not only come into relationship with God, but they will also be interwoven in their relationships with others.

The greatest and most important commands in Scripture are to love God and love one another. Because love flows strongest in small numbers, these small groups will become the primary expression of Christianity in NZ/Aotearoa. The larger gatherings (such as Sunday services) will become secondary to the smaller. As the small groups grow with new believers, new groups will be formed and the net will increase its spread.  This net will cross denominational, cultural, and socio-economic barriers. Needs will be shared across the whole net so that every single person in the net will have all their needs met and will be actively seeking to meet the needs of others.

Pray:

  • That people would make love their overarching priority in life
  • That God’s love would help people to bridge cultural divides
  • That believers would truly seek to gather with the primary goal of sharing God’s love with one another

Read more about the net

The River

This move of God is like a river of consuming fire. It is the love of God poured out through His people. The only way to become a part of this move is by embracing God’s call of love. When we get a vision for our lives of wholehearted love and take hold of God’s promise to make it a reality, then the fire is ignited. This fire consumes all that is not love, especially our selfishness, our sin, and our brokenness.

Our call is to let the river of God’s love flow through us. We can no longer seek to be just recipients of His love and blessing, but rather we need to seek to become channels of His consuming love. 

This river has also been called a tsunami of the Spirit. It is not so much an unexpected wave that destroys everything, but a slowly rising tide that does not retreat until it has covered the whole land with the love of God. 

Pray:

  • That the river of fire would consume every obstacle to love
  • That there would be a grace over believers to abandon their idols (especially wealth and comfort) and instead seek a life of selfless love
  • The believers would embrace their calling to be channels of God’s love and blessing, not simply receivers

Read more about the river of fire

The Earthquakes

A man had a dream of a great earthquake that shook the land. He did not feel the earthquake, but he watched as a lighthouse toppled on its side and the foundation was exposed. The shaking has begun, but those who are living in the kingdom (loving God and one another) are not feeling it. They can see God at work and they trust Him. They are not swayed by conspiracy but are confident in the victory of Christ and are given to doing His will. They smile at the future for they know that after the earthquakes will come great waves of God’s love!

The earthquakes (there are more than one) are exposing the foundations of the church. Every church fellowship that is not built upon the actual, experiential love of Christ (through one another) will suffer loss in this time. We must inspect the foundations of our fellowships quickly: why do we do what we do in the way we do it? If the answer is not, “because the love of Christ compels us” then we need to repent. 

Pray:

  • Pray for people to repent from loveless traditions and embrace God’s call of love
  • Pray for the hold of religion over the bride of Christ to be broken
  • Pray that people would not be swamped by conspiracy, but inspired by the voice of God

 

Praying for those in Government

Scripture says that the people rejoice when the righteous are in government and mourn when the wicked are in authority. Through love, Esther turned the heart of the king to not only secure a place for her people, but to give them an incredible, unexpected victory. Having righteous people in government is an essential part of our call as a nation on the world stage. Knowing this, we need to be relentless in both prayer and action to support righteous people to take up their call to govern in this nation. 

In terms of our existing government, we cannot expect people who are not following Jesus to make decisions that are righteous, selfless, truly wise, or loving for our nation. Without Christ, our representatives are powerless to overcome the forces of darkness that currently possess the gates of our Parliament. Regardless of their political party and their good intentions, without a strong relationship with Jesus, our MPs fall under their influence. However, because the Body of Christ has the power and corporate authority to overcome the forces of darkness, we must be willing to fight for those in government, that they may be set free from the influence of corrupting spirits. This is a spiritual battle against spiritual forces for the people of the world, which includes every MP. Our vision must be to extend the love, grace and mercy of God to every person in Parliament, knowing they are loved by God and able to be beautifully redeemed. We must therefore pray for our MPs as potential brothers and sisters in Christ.

In terms of the upcoming election, we need to appreciate that people usually vote for parties that have policies that are personally advantageous to the voter (students vote for free education etc). Some people cast their vote based on a candidate’s perceived personality. However, it is the ideology of candidates that shapes both their personalities and their policies, and these ideologies are almost always attached to a spiritual force. We can pray that the nature of the ideologies competing for power in our Parliament are exposed, and that the Holy Spirit would lead people to vote for righteous representatives in this election.  

It may be worth noting that much of the anti-Christian sentiment in Parliament is anti-religious/legalistic Christianity. People are led by media (and sadly sometimes experience) to believe that Christianity is a strict, judgmental, exploitive, money-hungry, science-denying, conspiracy-prone, controlling system of belief that arrogantly believes in its own moral superiority. They use the Ten Commandments to frame Christianity as an archaic system of moral control, completely ignoring the two greatest Commandments (loving God and loving each other), which of course are at the very foundation of our faith and are the very definition of God’s design for humanity. We can act and pray for those in media that they would have a personal encounter with God and that the true heart of Christ would be revealed through His people–that of extravagant love, deep compassion, quiet humility, infinite goodness, and boundless joy.

Pray: 

  • That people in this country look beyond their own selfish interests and instead vote for righteous candidates
  • That the spiritual forces that are influencing your local MP and candidates would be bound
  • If you feel led, pray that the spiritual forces over each person in our current government would be bound
  • Pray for dreams, visions, revelations, and encounters with Jesus for all our MPs and governance staff
  • That God would raise up righteousness within our legislature
  • That God’s love (and His design of love) would become known to those in government 

Combining the Metaphors

All these metaphors interweave to produce a beautiful picture of God’s will for the people of Aotearoa/NZ.  God’s ultimate desire for each one of us is that we love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is what it means to become the bride, to fight in the front lines of His army, to be a part of His net, to sit as elders in the gates, and to have His river of fire flow through us.

Our call is therefore to love Jesus as He wants to be loved: through His people. We see this in the parable of the sheep and goats—Christ shares our need so that we may love Him through His people. The only way to do this is to love each other, both in word and action. And we can only do this in small groups where people are free to speak honestly and to share their needs. We therefore must pray that believers take hold of the vision to love Jesus through one another and interweave in God’s great net for this last, great harvest!

Prayer to Faith to Action

Rees Howells once described three things that separated intercessors from prayer warriors:

  1. Intercessors do not give up until they hear God speak “it is done.”
  2. Intercessors identify/connect with the people they are praying for
  3. Intercessors seek to become the first answer to their prayers

If God puts a particular focus for prayer on your heart, please be encouraged to persevere until you hear Him say “it is done.” If you are praying for a particular group or community of people, ask Him how you can identity with those people. When you feel a connection with that group, pray for them with passion. Prayer without faith is dead and faith without works is also dead, so ask the Lord to show you what actions you can take to answer your own prayer. Action is a key measure of the faith behind the prayer. 

For example, if you are praying for God’s net to be interwoven in your area, ask the Lord about who He would like you to connect with to start meeting in small groups. Share the vision with others. If God leads you to pray for a specific MP then consider connecting with them and building a supportive, loving relationship. If you are praying for the bride, then seek to become His bride first by devoting your own life to loving Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then ask Him to lead you to people who will respond to this call of love. 

Tracking

Be specific with your prayers and expect your prayers to be fulfilled. Look for answers to prayer and continue to get more specific in both prayer and action. Ask other believers, “Have noticed any change in …? Because I’ve been praying about it.” Expect results. 

Repentance

Repentance is a key of prayer in this season. Like Daniel, God may lead us to repent on behalf of the people for neglecting the greatest commands of love, for tolerating selfishness, for agreeing with spirits of religion and division, for pursuing wealth rather than a life of selfless love and joy. We can first repent personally for these things, and then repent on behalf of those in our communities and in our nation. We can then act on our repentance by actively embracing our call to be channels of God’s love and giving to those in need.

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Thanks for your willingness to pray and act in this crucial time! If we can help in any way or if you have any questions, please feel free to fire them through!

More Reading

If you would like to learn more about this current move of God, please visit oneanother.net or go here and download the PDF called One Another: Rediscovering our Design of Love.

For more reading on the greatest command, get a copy of First Love, and for more on the call of the Bride, get Bride Arise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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