One of the most basic principles in life is cause and effect. When you do X, you get Y. It’s true for bad things: when you commit a crime, you risk going to jail. And for good things: when you maintain your car, it lasts longer.
The same is true in our relationship with God. There are things where God says, “When you do X, then I will do Y.”
He says it to Adam and Eve and says, “When you stay away from this tree, things will go well for you.” He says to Noah and says, “When you build a boat to these specifications, then I will save you.” He says to Abraham, “When you trust me, then I will make you father of many nations.” To Moses, “When you follow me, then I will lead my people out of slavery through you.”
Jesus says, “When you seek me, then you will find me. When you knock, then the door will be open to you. When you ask, then it will be given to you. When you remain in me, then you will look like me.” God seems to operate on this principle: when you do X, I will do Y.
What’s one wise decision you’ve made that has resulted in good things happening?
Most of us tend to fall into one of two camps about the Bible.
It’s my get out of hell free card. I do what it says to do, so I’m all good.
It’s ancient, irrelevant literature. It’s like Shakespeare.
But the Bible is so much more than that. The Bible reveals God’s character to us, and it’s full of statements where God tells us how God will respond to our actions.
It’s not karma or having to earn our relationship with God. It’s partnering with God to accomplish what He wants to do in this world. When we do that, God will do incredible things.
Salvation requires faith, but blessing requires obedience. God gives us unconditional love but conditional blessings.
What do you think about the idea of partnering with God? Have you ever experienced this partnership before? If so, what was the result?
God’s Love and Good Works
Have a volunteer read Romans 8:35-39
Have a volunteer read Ephesians 2:8-10.
God loves you. There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you less, and there’s nothing you can do to make him love you more. God’s love is unconditional.
And while the things we do don’t impact God’s love for us, the fact is that you were created for a purpose: to do the good works that God prepared in advance for you.
How does the idea that there’s nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make Him love you less resonate with you? Is this what you’ve been taught about God before? What impact does this have on your faith?
What good works might God be preparing for you during this season of life? (Don’t forget that good works often require self-sacrifice. They require us to give up our time and our money for the benefit of others.)
All of us have things in our lives that we wish were different.
Sometimes we think, “If God only… then my life would be different.” We place the responsibility for a change in our lives on God.
Other times we think, “If I only… then my life would be different.” We think the onus to change is on us.
Or perhaps most commonly, “If they only… then my life would be different.” We blame others for our problems.
But God says, “It’s a partnership.”
God has all of these things he wants to do in our lives, all of these things he wants to do to make our lives better, but we have to take Him up on it. We as individuals have to partner with Him to change our own lives, and we as the Church have to partner with Him to help change the lives of others.
A better life doesn’t always mean better circumstances. It does sometimes, but a better life is often about us becoming better people, people who have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control no matter our circumstances.
What are one or two areas where you want to partner with God to change your life?
A Solid Foundation
Have a volunteer read Matthew 7:24-28
This story is at the end of Jesus’ longest recorded sermon. And he concludes it by saying that if we trust His teaching, it’s like building our lives on a rock, an unshakeable foundation.
You can affirm Jesus is God or that Jesus died for you or that Jesus is your savior without actually trusting His teachings, without trusting the things that He told us will make our lives better.
Trusting Jesus isn’t always easy. 2000 years ago, they didn’t have heavy construction equipment. Building on rock took more work than building on sand, but Jesus said that the work is worth it because we can have lives that are unshakeable.
Jesus tells us there are a couple of things we need to do:
Hear His words.
Put them into practice.
Many of us tend to really prefer one of these two.
Some of us read books and listen to podcasts and study the Bible. We know more about God than others, but we don’t act on that knowledge. We can quote a passage from the Bible where Jesus says to care for widows and orphans, but we don’t actually care for widows and orphans.
Others of us are all follow through but no foundation. We want to go and change the world, but we have no boundaries and no backing. We don’t really know God or even much about God. God’s power isn’t behind what we’re doing, and we’re not seeking to bring Him glory.
Which of these two sides do you tend more towards: learning without doing or doing without a foundation? What do you need to do in order to make sure that you don’t neglect the other side?
Spiritual Growth and Spiritual Maturity
Sometimes you’ll hear people around church talking about spiritual growth or spiritual maturity.
Spiritual growth is learning and then putting into practice what you know.
Spiritual maturity is directly related to the length of time between hearing the Word of God and doing it.
When you hear about forgiveness you need to offer, how long does it take you to forgive? When you hear about compassion you need to extend, how long does it take you to do extend it? When you hear about honoring God with your finances, how long does it take you to do that?
What is something you’ve learned recently about God or about faith? This could be something that is totally new to you, something that you’ve gained a better understanding of, or something that you already knew but you’ve been reminded of.
What did you or are you going to do about it?
What is one thing about God or about faith you would like to know more about? What can you do to learn?
Read Matthew 5:1-7:23.
Here Jesus gives all manner of instructions for how to live, for building our lives on a solid foundation. What is one thing that Jesus talks about that you need to partner with God to change in your life over the next three weeks?
Pick a time each day to talk to God about it. You can do this any time, but first thing in the morning is often best. Ask for God to help you change this thing in your life. Commit to doing this every day for 21 days.
Part of our role as a community of people who are following or even just wanting to know more about Jesus is to help each other change. Who is one person you can talk with about this once each week for the next three weeks? It might be someone in this group. Send that person a text or an email now to set up a time to talk.
At the end of each day, look back and see if there was a time that this thing you’re partnering with God on came up in your life. If so, just write a brief note about what happened and how you responded. You don’t have to write a novel. 2-3 sentences is plenty. At the end of the three weeks, review those notes and see if your reactions began to change over time.