Recap: This week’s Summer Playlist song is “Still Rolling Stones” by Lauren Daigle. In this song we are reminded how God is still rolling stones away from the grave in people’s lives and bringing people who are spiritually dead to life. Pastor Josh talked about the moment of life-change that happens in the life of a believer. He asked the question, “Do you remember the moment when you were changed?” How did it mark you? How is that moment still impacting your life? It is easy to become distracted in life and lose our passion for the life-altering reality of the cross.
Scripture: Hebrews 3:14; Acts 9:1-9; Acts 9:18-20; Acts 22:4-8; Acts 26:13-14; Eph. 2:4-6; Matthew 7:21-23
Icebreaker: What was your first record, tape or CD that you ever owned? (Any 8-track owners out there?)
- Have you ever had something that you lost appreciation for? (Clothing, car, shoes, house, job?) Do you still have something that retains your appreciation for it?
- How can having things in abundance lead to a lack of gratitude? For example, estimate how many pairs of shoes you own. How can that lead to an assumption you will always have shoes and therefore a lack of gratitude toward shoes? How does our freedom of religion perhaps impact our lack of gratitude for Christ?
- Do you have a moment in your life that marked you, for good or for bad?
- Have you had a moment with Jesus that marked you? Was it a quiet, humble moment or a road to Damascus moment?
- Your first personal moment with God is meant to become a lifestyle of personal moments. What things in your life changed, or were added or removed, after you were marked by God?
- Who is the person in this world you know the best? Or who knows you the best? What things did you have to do to make that possible? (Spend time together; be honest; be vulnerable; etc.)
- At the end of the day, the most important question is, “Do you personally know Jesus?” He knows you. He knows you inside and out; your innermost thoughts. There is nothing about you He would be surprised by or would cause Him to turn away from you. How well do YOU know Jesus?
Digging Deeper (A Personal Study)
We have countless relationships during our lifetimes. Relationships with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, church members, teachers, authority figures, fellow committee members, teammates, and the list goes on. Usually, when a relationship sours we’re quick to point out what the other person did wrong and how they obviously misunderstood us or treated us poorly. Sometimes relationships just fade with no hard feelings. People mature. They move on. They find a more fulfilling relationship to fill whatever the purpose was of the one that faded.
But what happens when we realize our relationship with Christ has cooled? What happens when we discover that we’ve gone days or even weeks without talking to God and, well, we’re okay with it? What happens when we find ourselves filling our time with earthly relationships that fill us more than the little bit of time we spend with God?
First of all, let’s be honest. This distance we’re experiencing isn’t God’s fault. When we find ourselves far from God, He is never the one to blame. He is absolutely perfect and incapable of sin. “What wrong did you find in me that you went far from me?” (see Jeremiah 2:5) What we really need to do is look at the steps we took that took us further away from Him. We’re always the sinner in this scenario. The good news is, He’s always the Redeemer, and always willing to love on us when we return!
The second thing we need to do is recognize that even if we play the part really well, we’re not fooling God. He knows our heart and He knows where we prioritize Him no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves there is no distance growing.
In Revelation 2, Jesus begins by congratulating the church at Ephesus regarding their patient endurance, intolerance of evil, suffering for Christ’s name, and exposing false apostles. It’s like receiving a perfect report card! “But I have this against you,” Jesus continues, “that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).
Whoa. They did everything right but lost their pure love for their Lord. And that couldn’t be hidden. There is this saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and here we learn that it is also paved with good deeds and theological accuracy, as well.
The good news is Jesus doesn’t stop there. He gives a foolproof formula to finding our way back: Remember, Repent and Return.
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5)
Remember when God awakened your soul. How joyful you were when He picked you up out of the pit and lit up the darkness around you. Remember the time you spent praising Him, praying to Him, singing to Him. Remember how your heart filled with His spirit.
Repent. Cry out for mercy. Confess your coldness to Him. Admit the loves you placed before Him. Ask for grace.
And Return. He asks nothing else. You don’t have to make up lost time, or pull double duty. Just return to Him. He stands ready.
Challenge: Write out, post on social media, record, or tell someone in person about the moment you were marked by God. What happened? Where were you? How did you feel in that moment? How did you feel in the hours, days and weeks after that first moment? Bonus points if you share your story with a nonbeliever.
Challenge: Retrace your steps. If you’ve stopped saying, “I’ve become wiser” it might be time to figure out how you’ve allowed your relationship with Christ to cool. When was the last time you felt that passion for Christ? What has happened since then? Take the time to draw a road map that shows where you’ve gone. Perhaps it was a global pandemic that excused you from church services and you convinced yourself you’re not the “watch-online type.” Maybe it’s a new friendship, or a new habit that you’ve allowed priority. Have you given in to shame and embarrassment? Or perhaps everything is going great and you don’t actually “need” Him right now. Walking away from God is easy. So is walking back toward Him. But we also need to know what tempts us to walk away so we’re aware of it in the future.
Challenge: Rekindle and embrace your moment of relationship with God. Go out on “God Dates” this week! Just the two of you. It takes time to rekindle an intimate relationship with another person and it takes intention to keep it healthy; so it is with your relationship with God. Rekindling relationships involves talking, spending time together, and being intentional. Meet Him for coffee. Just you and Him. Watch a movie together. (He likes Christian ones.) Talk to Him. (Yes, out loud.) Talk about that first moment you met Him and how your relationship with Him grew from that moment. Write Him a love letter. Go for a walk in His world. Read from His Word. Listen when He speaks.
Challenge: Think about what being marked by God actually looks like. Revelation 7:1-8 describes God’s People as being marked with a seal on their foreheads but this isn’t presumably a visible seal, rather a way of indicating that people find their identity in relationship to God and Christ. It shows that God has claimed them and gives them the promise of life everlasting. It’s not a tattoo. It’s not a certain style dress or hairstyle or head covering. Our seal actually comes from within; our heart and our desire to be in a relationship with Christ. I’ve heard this said of Christ Followers, “I want more of what they have.” These aren’t tangible items but rather things that come from having a healthy, active relationship with Christ. Things that come from within and ooze out like peace, joy, love, compassion. How do you most want to be marked? What do you want others to see in you first before anything else (like frustration, tiredness, hunger, irritation)? What steps will you take to increase the mark of Christ on your life?