By Cameron Silsbee
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other. Have one person read Matthew 11v6 over the group and then pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the teaching:
- What do you think about the Biblical paradigm of “the gods”?
- Do you tend to soften the exclusivity of Jesus in the name of kindness, militarize it in the name of doctrine, or avoid the topic altogether? Why?
Read this overview
Following Jesus is not simple. Holiness, love for neighbors and enemies and God, generosity, sharing the gospel, the list goes on. The way of Jesus does not come naturally to humans.
But it’s more challenging than just living a difficult way of life. It’s also challenging to be in a relationship with God – a God who is invisible and very different from us. The way of Jesus is more than following his commands and lifestyle (but certainly not less than that); it is an ongoing, life-long relationship with him.
It’s not a foreign concept to the Scriptures or the experience of Christians for the last two thousand years that other things can hook into our hearts and minds and draw our attention and allegiance away from King Jesus; whether it’s relationships, life pursuits, hedonism, or other gods in the form of religions and ideologies. There can be a powerful pull away from God that we choose to grasp on to, allowing ourselves to drift away from obedience and relationship to Jesus.
It’s no wonder that rhythms of choosing to relinquish and purge influences that may draw our allegiance away from God are necessary for the follower of Jesus, not just when they come to faith but throughout their lifetime. And yet, approaching the idea of relinquishing something in our lives may reveal that we assume our Father does not want us to enjoy anything other than him. We sometimes assume that God would prefer we put aside anything we may enjoy a bit too much. This leads a person to either avoid the subject altogether or dishonor God’s goodness by refusing to delight in things that would draw us into wonder, awe, and gratitude toward him.
This task is best not attempted in isolation – the way of Jesus is intentionally communal.
Talk through the following discussion questions:
As you talk through these questions, we can demonstrate respect and care for each other by listening to one another well. It’s usually best to avoid correcting, “teaching,” or attempting to fix a person’s problems unless they invite the group to respond in any of those ways.
- In your life, how can you tell when something (e.g. a relationship, an ideology, a habit, or an item you own, etc.) is drawing you away from God? How can you tell when something is drawing you closer to God?
- In the past, how have you been able to relinquish or purge something that was drawing you away from God? What sort of things did you do, what kind of help did you have, and what attitudes were helpful? (If you can’t recall a time, feel free to say so, or something along the lines of, “You know, I don’t think I’ve done that in my life yet.”)
- In what ways have you or can you use something in which you delight (friends, food, art, sports, etc.) as a way to connect with God’s goodness and presence in your life?
Do this Practice right now:
If possible, break into gender-specific groups.
When you are settled and ready, spend some time in listening prayer together. Have one person pray and invite God’s Spirit to speak over all over during this time. Ask the Spirit to reveal anything in each person’s life that he wants to be relinquished and/or anything that the person delights in that can draw them closer to God. Spend about five minutes in silent listening prayer.
Once the time of prayer is done, spend some time sharing what came to mind. Share what you think Jesus may be saying with an open hand (“I could be wrong, but I think Jesus is saying…” or, “let me know if you have any thoughts about this, but I think Jesus was saying to me…”). If what came to mind is inappropriate to share, commit to calling someone appropriate to talk about it this week.
The goal of this exercise is not to commit to making changes tonight but to take one step in the process of growing in faithfulness to Jesus.
Read over this coming week’s Practice:
This week’s Practice is a continuation of tonight’s. Spends at least two times this week in prayer and reflection about what Jesus may be leading you to relinquish and/or things you delight in that can draw you closer to Jesus. The goal is to develop some concrete steps in order to follow Jesus faithfully as he leads you. Feel free to reach out to someone in your Community if you could use some help praying or brainstorming concrete steps.
Next week, be ready to debrief what you feel Jesus is leading you to do and the concrete steps that the group can encourage and support you in.
Close in prayer
End in prayer be having one person read the Nicene Creed over the group.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.