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Week 4 - Wingtips

Week 4 - Wingtips

Note to Leaders:

The summer semester ends Saturday, July 28, so this is the last sermon discussion guide that will be available until the new semester begins on September 23.  If you need something to study in the interim, email wjohnston@eastside.com for an invite to smallgroup.com, where you can choose from a ton of free curriculum.


SERIES INTRODUCTION

As much as we like our shoes, we need to occasionally step into others, or at least try them on. When we walk in each other's shoes and try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands. We become more patient, more kind, gentler, less judgmental, and less cynical. In this series, we're going to be putting ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.

  • Who is the most interesting person you have ever met and what makes them so interesting?


SERMON GUIDE

We’ve all had one of those nights when sleep eludes us and our mind races, full of questions. Nicodemus seemed to be having one of those nights and went to see Jesus. He might have gone at night because he was afraid to be seen with him in broad daylight. Nicodemus was a member of the Pharisees, a devout religious group, and was also part of their inner circle known as the Sanhedrin.  They were 70 of the sharpest Jewish intellectuals who were chosen to rule spiritually, and even to a degree politically, over the entire Jewish nation.  They were among the most powerful and influential leaders of their day.

Have someone read John 3:1-10.

Nicodemus came to Jesus with big questions, but Jesus answers a question Nicodemus didn't ask. Jesus read his heart and got to the very core of his problem. We have that same assurance when we approach Jesus, that he knows our heart, even when we struggle to find the words.

The phrase “born again” that Jesus uses literally translates, “born from above.” It references a heavenly birth or spiritual birth. This concept of re-birth, God's plan to give men and women a new heart, a new life, eternal life, was clearly revealed all throughout the Old Testament.

For instance, when he talks about the water and the Spirit here, Jesus is alluding to a passage in Ezekiel 36 that would have been very familiar to Nicodemus where God promised to wash his people with water, purify them of their cancerous, life-threatening sin condition, and replace their heart of stone with his very own heart.

Have someone read Ezekiel 36:25-27

It’s as if Jesus is lovingly saying to Nicodemus, “You know in your head and heart that there's something more. That's why you're here tonight: because you are sensing life doesn't work the way you’ve been taught.  You know there is this personal, transformational, 'born from above' relationship with God that changes everything. You can sense that in me, but you don't know how to get it.”

All Nicodemus knew to this point was religion filled with rituals, tradition, and rules on top of rules. Life consisted of trying to do enough good stuff to get noticed by God and other people.  Religion is like that today; it can have you running, striving, motivated by guilt, and feeling like you are never going to be good enough.

Jesus didn't only come to pay for the things we’ve done wrong but also to show us what God is really like. Jesus' exchange with Nicodemus shows He is always open to honest dialogue. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey you need to know God wants to hear your questions. He invites us to dig, research and probe.

  • Nicodemus has a limited perception of who Jesus is and what he stands for.  What perceptions might you have that limit your view of God?

Jesus always tried to find connecting points with whomever he was talking with because he recognizes our uniqueness and loves every one of us the same. He is s genuinely trying to reach Nicodemus in a way that he can understand.

  • Share a time Jesus met you right where you were on your faith journey.

Have someone read John 3:11-15 and Numbers 21:4-9.

  • Why do you think Jesus references this story in Numbers? How does it help us understand what Jesus is saying to Nicodemus?

Jesus was lifted up in shame before the world. But while the people of Moses' time only had glimpses of God's future plans to send Jesus to die on the cross, we today are blessed to be able to look back at that extraordinary act of love. Think back to what life was like before Jesus came into your life or during a season when you turned away from Him. We must never lose sight of just how far He has brought us.

Nicodemus was the one who heard Jesus say probably the most famous words in the Bible, John 3:16-17. Sometimes we get numb to these words. We see them on signs and billboards, but that night when Nicodemus sought out Jesus, these are the words he heard.

As a group read this verse aloud – “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Let those words sink in. There are four different books all about Jesus' life in the New Testament called the Gospels, and the word gospel simply means “good news.”  Of those four, only John's gospel mentions Nicodemus, and John mentions him three different times.

Have someone read John 7:48-53 and John 19:37-40.

Out of all the other stories about Jesus that John could have included, the story of Nicodemus’ journey of faith was recorded for us. Through these passages, we see him move from questioning to believing.

In John 19 we see two men meet up who had been hiding their faith in Jesus: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Nicodemus brings 75 pounds of super expensive spices with him to overpower the decaying stench of death. He washed Jesus’ body in spices and wrapped him in linen as an expression of gratitude, love and deep respect.  What a journey he took: Nicodemus, this intellectual who had arranged a secret meeting with Jesus at night, had moved from doubt to defense to devotion.

  • How does Nicodemus's story help us understand the type of real-life change God wants for our lives?

Jesus is always there for us today, just like he was for Nicodemus. In his perfect timing, he will answer our most difficult questions. It doesn’t matter who we are or what our status is, nothing is more important than coming face to face with the real Jesus. Through Nicodemus’ story, we learn that no matter how great our sacrifice, it can never compare to Christ's sacrifice for us.

  • What impact does God's mercy, love, and grace have on your relationship with Him? What impact can it have on your relationship with others?


PRAYER

Share someone in your life that needs to know Jesus. Pray that you would have an impact on their life and help them on their spiritual journey.

Week 3 - Workboots

Week 3 - Workboots

SERIES INTRODUCTION

As much as we like our shoes, we need to occasionally step into the shoes of others, or at least try them on. When we walk in each other's shoes and try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands. We become more patient, more kind, gentler, less judgmental, and less cynical. In this series, we're going to be putting ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.

  • Think of someone you respect and share one reason you value that person.


SERMON GUIDE

Today we're going to walk in the boots of a hard-working, blue-collar kind of guy. He's a tough, military guy who understood real authority. The Bible is clear on the appropriate response we are to have to those in authority over us. Unless it is contrary to how God has told us to live, we are to submit to those in authority.

Have someone read Ephesians 5:21.

The original word for 'submit' came from the military world, and it means to voluntarily place yourself under someone or something.

  • Have you ever been in a situation, either at work or in your personal relationships, where you had to submit, and it was a struggle? How did you overcome it?

Typically, we view authority as something that allows a leader to demand accountability.  The leader then gives affirmation if a job is done well, and ultimately the leader accepts the person based on their performance.

Jesus’ leadership style flips that on its head.  He accepted people because they were children of God, created in His image.  He affirmed them, and then called them to be accountable as a result of their being accepted and affirmed.

Jesus' kingdom is an inside out, upside down, counter-cultural kind of life. He modeled the humility and surrender that go hand in hand with true authority.  Real authority is not so much about your position, as it is your disposition and the way you treat people.

Have someone read Luke 7:1-10

A centurion was a Roman military officer who was responsible for the command of 100 soldiers, someone akin to a captain in the US Army. He would have worked his way up through the ranks of the highly structured Roman world.

Jewish elders came to Jesus asking on behalf of the centurion for Jesus to come and heal the centurion’s servant. This was a bit astonishing because the people of Palestine hated Roman occupation and Roman soldiers were notorious for powering up on people and flaunting their authority.

But this centurion was a good man.  He treated the Jews well—even building a synagogue for them, and he cared for his servant in a culture that viewed servants as slaves a property. He valued his servant as a person when others did not, and he doesn’t let his position go to his head, even telling Jesus that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his house.

 

Even though the centurion says he is not worthy, he still presents his request to Jesus and trusts that Jesus can and will act. We can do the same thing if we are willing to be humble and believe.

  • What is something in your life you need to pray with faith for God to intervene?

It says in verses 9 and 10 that Jesus was amazed. He was amazed at this soldier’s abundance of faith.

Philip Yancey writes in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, “Jesus never met a disease he couldn’t cure, a birth defect he could not reverse, a demon he could not exorcise. But he did meet skeptics he could not convince and sinners he could not convert.”

  • In what areas do you struggle to believe that God can and will act? Why is this area such a struggle for you?

Have someone read 1 Samuel 16:7.

We convince ourselves that we have to do good things to be amazing, but it is our heart that really matters. Jesus is not as impressed with titles, degrees, and achievements as we are. He is impressed with those who humbly trust him.

  • Share a time in your life when have you felt the need to do something to deserve Jesus's attention, instead of relying solely on faith.

Humility and surrender are common threads in each of the stories we have studied in this series. John the Baptist and the Samaritan woman both recognized Jesus real authority. Many people witnessed Jesus performing miracles and still walked away. They wanted to call their own shots and were not willing to humble themselves and surrender to someone else's leadership.

When we focus on ourselves it is impossible to be humble. That focus will only lead to self-destruction and being selfish. The key to a faith filled life and a better story is humility, surrendering to God's authority. Surrender opens our hearts to the work of God in us. It allows Him the freedom to direct and correct our lives.

The greatness of a person is in direct proportion to their measure of surrender.

  • When you consider the realities of your day to day life, rate how surrendered you are to Jesus on a scale from one (not at all surrendered) to five (fully surrendered). What would it take for you to move one step closer to fully surrendered?


Prayer

This week commit to praying the prayer Mike shared each day this week:

Lord, I'm here again, I'll follow you each moment today as You give me grace. I'm not making any big time, dramatic commitments today. I'm just going to surrender my day and trust You with my life every step of the way, today. I will be sensitive to your Holy Spirit as He leads me to do the right thing. I will hide your Word in my heart so that it can speak to me right in the middle of tough decisions. I will listen well. I will rely on your strength, your peace, and your grace and once again, Jesus, I place myself under your loving authority today.

Week 2 - Stilettos

Week 2 - Stilettos

SERIES INTRODUCTION

As much as we like our shoes, we need to occasionally step into others, or at least try them on. When we walk in each other's shoes and try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands. We become more patient, more kind, more gentle, less judgmental, and less cynical. In this series, we're going to be putting ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.


SERMON GUIDE

This week we step into a pair of stilettos. Why stilettos? They represent the sultry past of the woman who we are learning about today. She had a reputation that caused people to gather and whisper about her.

  • Can you recall an experience when you felt or knew others were talking about you negatively? How did you feel?

Have someone read John 4:1-9.

Our story begins with corrupt religious leaders trying to stir up an unhealthy, petty competition between Jesus and the guy we talked about last week, his flip-flop wearing, locust-eating cousin, John the Baptist. When Jesus heard about the controversy, he decided to leave town, because he wasn't going to fuel any of that crazy talk.

We read in verse 4 that Jesus had to go through Samaria. This was very unusual, because Jews would never go to Samaria. These people despised each other. Jews believed that to merely be in the presence of a Samaritan made them unclean. They would automatically go to the Temple to have a priest ceremonially wash them. Jews believed that no Samaritan would ever be allowed into the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this had something to do with why Jesus HAD to go there.

Jesus reached the Samaritan village of Sychar, and being tired from the journey, sat down by the well. It was around noon, which meant the well would have likely been deserted. In that culture, the village women would all go to the well to draw water at dawn or sundown when it was cooler. As our stiletto-representing Samaritan woman approached the well, she probably wasn’t too happy to see Jesus sitting beside it. She had come to the well at noon to avoid encountering anyone else there—the small-town gossip, the whispers, the glares.

  • Have there been moments in your life when you went out of your way to avoid seeing people, to avoid feeling hurt by them?

When the Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"

It seems like a simple question to us, but it was considered outrageous for a Jewish man to ask to drink from a Samaritan vessel, touched by a Samaritan woman.

John 4:9:  "The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?" (NLT)

One of the great things about Jesus is that He is inclusive. He loves to break through barriers. He sees past our flaws, our pasts and all the mistakes we have made. Thankfully, He meets us right where we are now. Jesus went to Samaria because He seeks out all the lost sheep. There are no exclusions; His love is for anyone willing to believe. The woman needed someone who would talk to her and not about her; someone who would see beyond her bad choices.

  • Jesus met this woman right in the midst of her trying to hide from those around her. He approached her anyway. Can you think of a time when God met you right where you were at and helped you in your situation not because you deserved it, but because you needed Him?

Have someone read John 4:10-15.

Jesus engaged with the Samaritan women and spoke of offering her living water. She questioned him, seeing that he didn't have a rope or bucket. They bantered back and forth. She also might have been wondering who is this and what is going on. She was jaded and cynical. She had seen a lot of life and experienced a great deal of pain.

When Jesus was talking about never being thirsty, it was about so much more than water. He knew what she was really thirsty for in life and how she was trying to quench that thirst. Our surface attempts to fill our deepest needs only last a little while, and soon we become thirsty again. For instance, we try to numb our pain with substance abuse. We look at pornography to fill a need for intimacy. We strive and over-perform to fill our need for acceptance. We spend more than we should or have to quench the desire for significance.

Have someone read Jeremiah 2:13.

The cisterns described here were large reservoirs carved out of the solid rock in the ground and used to hold water from rain fall. They could be up to 20 feet deep with a narrower, two- to three-foot opening at the top. They were coated with plaster to keep the water from seeping out, but cracks sometimes developed anyway, causing the water to leak into the surrounding earth, leaving those who relied on the cistern’s supply disappointed and sometimes desperate. Here in Jeremiah, God is being likened to a natural spring or fountain that has a continual (“living”) supply of pure, sparkling, refreshing water. He laments the folly of His people for forsaking this wonderful fountain and instead carving out their own, man-made cisterns that were cracked and ultimately useless. The people referred to in Jeremiah had stopped loving and relying on God, and the choices they were making were ruining them.

  • Have you experienced some broken cisterns in your life?

Jesus knows our deepest desires. He promises that if we come to Him to meet our needs, we will never be thirsty again. He's the spring, the source of living water.

While this woman was wondering how Jesus could get to the deep places of Jacob's well without a rope and bucket, he was reaching deep into the well of her life and saw her desperate thirst to be loved. The love she had experienced had run dry many times. She was longing for more, a richer, purer love only Jesus could offer.

Have someone read John 4:16-26.

As she turned to leave, Jesus told her to go and get her husband. Those words stopped her dead in her tracks, and she replied, "I have no husband." Jesus response went right to the deepest places in her life—the shame, pain, and humiliation she felt.

Imagine how she must have felt to have her past, her most profound shame spoken of out loud. She did what many of us would do—diverting the subject, bringing up issues between the Jews and Samaritans. We do the same thing. It can get too personal and painful to focus on our choices and our life, so we change the subject.

Jesus brought it back around saying God wants worshippers who will worship in spirit and truth. When she responded, saying the Messiah will come and will explain everything to us, Jesus tells her,"I am the Messiah." This is the only time before his trial that Jesus made that admission. And this hurt, stiletto-reputation-wearing, outcast woman is the person he chose to hear it.

Have someone read John 4:28-30, 39-42.

When the woman realized just who it was that had been speaking with her, she left her bucket—kicked off her stilettos, her past—and ran back into town to tell the amazing news to the very people she had been trying to avoid. She was saying, "You gotta to see this, I'm telling you HOPE is sitting by the well!"

Jesus never refuses you. Not only does He know your deepest thirst, but Jesus can redeem any life. The definition of to redeem is to make something acceptable, to restore one’s reputation, atone for human sin, or buy something back. Jesus does all those things. He went to a cross to atone for human sin, to purchase our freedom, to buy back our wasted years. Through his blood, our reputations are restored, and we've been made into something acceptable!

Psalm 130:7:  “…Put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption." (NLT)
Psalm 107:9:  “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (NLT)

When the Samaritan woman ran back to her village, she left behind her water jar. When we have an encounter with Jesus we may leave some things behind. Sometimes we need help and support to move forward and make peace with our past, but it no longer defines us.

She couldn't wait to share about her encounter with Jesus and bring back others to meet him.

  • What changed in your life after you became a follower of Jesus? What did you leave behind that isn’t you anymore?

Jesus is in the business of redeeming us. He recycles mistakes and pain and failure and even uses them for His good purposes.

This woman's story can be your story, too. He will meet you right where you are, as you are and whatever emptiness you're bringing with you. Whatever it is in you that is shattered, He wants to buy it back, atone for it, restore your reputation, and make you live every day in the awareness that you are accepted and dearly loved by a holy God.

Week 1 - Flip Flops

Week 1 - Flip Flops

Series Introduction                    

Jesus came to accept the punishment for the things we’ve done wrong so that we can be forgiven and freed and reconciled to God, but He also came to show us what God is like.  When we begin to study Jesus, we realize that God is not the big guy in the sky waiting for us to slip up so that He can drop the hammer on us, but rather He is a God who loves us, delights in us, includes us.

And we know this because over and over Jesus hung out with all kinds of “undesirables,” showing us that there is no such thing as an undesirable in the eyes of God.  In fact, the people that were least like Jesus, liked Jesus, and Jesus liked them.  And this gives us hope that He likes us too, even when maybe we don’t like ourselves.

There’s a saying that you can’t truly understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  Jesus had an uncanny ability to empathize with people.  So every time we try to walk in each other’s shoes, try to understand and empathize with each other, our capacity to love expands, and we become a little more like Jesus: more patient, more tactful, more gentle, kinder, less judgmental, less cynical.

For the next several weeks we’ll put ourselves in the shoes of different people who encountered Jesus.  We’ll see real people like us: people from different backgrounds, heritages, and family dynamics; people with real issues, real struggles, real questions, real hopes, and real dreams.  And we hope you will be as captivated as we are by the way Jesus meets them right where they are, the way he loves them, encourages them, challenges them; the way He sees deep inside and speaks right into the dark crevices of their soul, and hopefully, each week we will walk away changed, as they were.

  • What is one thing that you find intriguing about the way Jesus lived?


Sermon Guide

Flip-flops represent the type of person who is a simple, creative, outdoor-loving, non-conformist free-spirit.  That would certainly describe a guy known as John the Baptist.  Like Jesus, he died when he was around 30, cruelly executed by a corrupt politician. There’s not much written about him, but prior to the arrival of Jesus, this flip-flop wearing desert-dude may have been the greatest man who ever lived.

His resume may not be as impressive as others.  He never really led anything, never conquered lands or enemy armies, never wrote a best seller, never won an Oscar or Nobel Prize, and he certainly didn’t have the look that typically reflects greatness.

Some folks who’ve read through the Bible might disagree and say, “No way, what about Abraham? Moses? David? Daniel? Elijah?”

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:28.

So, what was there about John that elicited that kind of praise from Jesus? What’s it take to live a stellar life? Who or what measures true success? What defines legacy? How do you become “great” in Jesus’ eyes? Well, let’s slip our toes into John’s flip flops and maybe we’ll learn.

  • How do you define greatness?

John just tried to be who God made him to be. He saw himself as one of a kind, but not in a prideful or rebellious way.  He embraced his originality. He was comfortable in his own skin. John was a very unique character in a lot of ways, starting with his birth.

Have volunteers read Luke 1:5-25, 57-66.

So John had a pretty unique birth, but then again, aren’t they all? Whether you were born in a hospital, at home, in a bathtub, on a boat, or in the back seat of a taxi, your birth was unlike anyone else’s, because YOU are unlike anyone else.

Have volunteers read Psalm 139:13-16.

Here’s the deal, we’re all one-of-a-kind, limited-edition models.  God created you uniquely, and he takes great delight in watching you be you. He loves your noes, your lips, your eyes, your hair (or lack thereof. He loves your acne, your wrinkles, your bulging biceps, your love handles, your voice, your walk, your laugh…. He loves you, the one and only you, His marvelous workmanship, and there’s no one quite like you.

John Ortberg says, “When you allow the Holy Spirit to work inside of you, you don’t just become holier, you become you-ier.”  You become God’s best version of yourself.

  • What are some of the positive things that make you unique?  What are some of the good things people notice in you or notice you for?

Have volunteers read Luke 7:24-26 and Mark 1:6.

John was certainly a unique individual, a non-conformist, and certainly a big contrast to the religious leaders of the day. They were dressed in the finest apparel, and John was dressed in simple thrift store clothes. He was a strong, weathered, outdoor guy who ate a low carb, high protein diet.  He probably had crazy long hair and maybe even a few tattoos. He was counter-cultural and unique in just about every way, and he had a unique calling on his life.

Have a volunteer read Mark 1:1-5.

John was the messenger that had been prophesied. He pointed people back to God and paved the way for Jesus.  We all have different gifts, abilities, personalities, opportunities, and roles to fill.  During this season of your life you might need to be a great mom, dad, son, brother, mentor, neighbor, sister, daughter, husband, wife boss, employee, coworker, entrepreneur, taxi-driver, store clerk, welder, machinist, pilot, teacher, student or CEO.

Wherever you find yourself, God is calling you to use the unique gifts, talents, ability, and personality He has given you to make an impact on the lives of others.

  • What are some ways you can use the unique way God has wired you to serve and love others in the roles, situations, and places you find yourself every day?

Lots of people were curious about this radical dude from the desert. He was saying fresh, eye-opening, challenging, hopeful things that no other religious type was saying.  He was authentic, and people were drawn to that.  When word gets out about him, all these corrupt, power-hungry, hypocritical religious leaders start showing up in the crowds, and when they showed up, John didn’t hold back.

Have a volunteer read Luke 3:7-14.

Sometimes to be truly great you have to courageously say or do things that are not popular. This doesn’t mean doing what some Christians have done and attacking people who don’t know Jesus. (You’ll notice John’s harsh statements were to the religious folk.) You have to speak courageously with wisdom and love, but sometimes you do have to speak up and say things that are unpopular, things that might invoke some pretty harsh criticism, unfounded accusations, and slander, even dangerous opposition.

John not only exposed the religious leaders as phonies, he also spoke God’s truth to a very high ranking political figure, and it ended up costing him his life.

Sometimes truth isn’t easy. It might get you in trouble.  But to run from a difficult conversation that could help somebody, to stay silent when injustice abuses the innocent, is not the way of love, and it’s not the way of greatness.

Have a volunteer read Hebrews 4:12.

Every time we open our mouth, it ought to be filled with grace, knowing that all of us stand in need of it, but every time God’s truth is spoken it does something beyond our control. It lands in different ways on different hearts, and hopefully when we speak God’s truth, it pierces our own hearts as well.

  • When is a time you had to speak a difficult truth to someone else?

  • When is a time you’ve had to be on the receiving end of a difficult truth? What did the other person do to help you receive that difficult message?

John didn’t have an easy life.  He had to deliver a unique message, in his unique way because he was a unique, one-of-a-kind limited-edition, created by God for his good purposes.  And so are you!  When you are the best version of yourself, God smiles as He sees you on the path to greatness.

Have a volunteer read John 3:22-28.

There was something else that made John great in Jesus’ eyes. He didn’t see himself as the greatest in his own eyes.  It’s easy to turn, “You be uniquely you” into a self-centered attitude that says, “Hey, I gotta be me. That’s just the way I am, so deal with it!” There’s no humility—no greatness—in that.

Truly great people are lousy self-promoters.  John’s words are powerful and a model for us, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Right before Jesus would be arrested and crucified, he was hanging out with his closest friends, and they start arguing about who was going to be the greatest when Jesus set up His kingdom.

Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:25-28.

Not so with you. Jesus says, don’t be self-serving, glory-seeking self-promoters like everyone else.  Then He was crucified to show us what it means for the strong to serve the weak, the big to serve the small, the great to serve the lesser.

  • How can you point people to Jesus rather than keeping the spotlight on yourself?

The third thing that made John great, another characteristic of truly great people, is that he lived in such authentic community with God that he could be honest with God.  When John is imprisoned, he just gets real honest with Jesus.

Have a volunteer read Luke 7:19-23.

When you have an ongoing authentic relationship with God, you can ask Him or tell Him anything. You can bring your doubts, your fears, your anxiety, your pain, your frustration, your confusion and just be honest with Him.  In fact, he wants us to do just that.

Doubt and distrust are two different things.  Distrust says, “God, I don’t think you can do it.” Doubt says, “God, I trust you, but I could use a little reassurance right now. I’m scared. The cancer sucks. The job loss frightens me.”   When life gets tough—as it does and will for all of us—you can be honest with God like John was, because truly great people can stand strong knowing eternity is theirs.

  • What can you do to develop a more honest relationship with God?

John was willing to live a life so full of purpose and passion that if he had to die for the kingdom of God, he was okay with that. He reasoned, if Jesus, the Lamb of God, was going die for him, make a way to heaven for him, then there was no way he could hold back the intensity of his love and gratitude. If we could interview John in heaven right now, he would assure us that following Jesus with wholehearted devotion is absolutely worth it and that he’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

The final chapter of John’s life plays out like a lurid soap opera or an episode of Dateline, complete with tangled relationships, lustful passions, political intrigue, drunken decisions, violent murder, and unresolved guilt.

Herod was a Jewish politician who oversaw this particular geographic region in the Roman Empire.  Herod had dumped his own wife and stolen his brother’s wife. John speaks into the moral corruption, calls Herod—the so-called leader of God’s people—out. So to shut him up for a while, Herod throws him in prison.

While Herod didn’t appreciate the hard truth, he was intrigued by John’s deep character and courage.  There was something about this flip-flop wearing desert-dude that Herod kinda admired.  Herodias on the other hand, couldn’t stand him. Her attitude was, “Who does this long-haired, locust eating, camel-skin, hippie freak think he is, telling royalty how to live?”

She wants to kill him, but can’t pull it off without Herod’s approval. Her chance comes on Herod’s birthday. They throw a big party.  The wine was flowing, and his daughter comes in a does some kind of sexy dance that gets Herod and his buddies excited. So when he is turned on and tanked up this creepy man says…

Have a volunteer read Mark 6:23-29.

You say, “What a tragic end.” To be sure, it appears to be, but when John’s disciples came and got his body, John had already slipped out of his flip flops and into eternal life.

When you unconditionally trust God, when you know that the death and resurrection of Jesus have made a way for you to live forever, then you can live like you’ll die tomorrow and die knowing you’ll live forever. When you no longer fear death, you no longer fear life. You’re free to take faith-filled risks, to step out courageously and live with passion and boldness.

  • In what area of your life do you need to take a risk for God?