Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Our Identity in Christ: Life on Mission

My Life Group lesson for May 28, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

People around United States speak a lot of different ways.

You could go to another region of the country and barely understand the locals.

We also use different pronunciations and phrases, such as:

--- In the South we say "y'all" instead of "you guys."
--- We call every drink a "Coke" instead of "pop" or "soda."
--- How do you say "pecan" when you order a pecan pie?
--- What you call a water fountain might be called a "drinking fountain out west" or a "bubbler" in Wisconsin and Rhode Island.

(Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/22-maps-that-show-the-deepest-linguistic-conflicts-in-america-2013-6/#lets-ignore-the-east-coastwest-coast-split-and-notice-that-wisconsin-and-rhode-island-call-a-water-fountain-a-bubbler-16)

Now matter how differently we pronounce words and phrases, we should be able to speak to anyone in the country or the world to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** The past six weeks we’ve talked about our identity in Christ, at home, at work, at church, and in the community.

*** In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul encouraged the church to lay aside personal comforts in order to reach people with the gospel. We see Paul reaching out to people where they were, not where he expected them to be

*** Today we’ll see how we can better share the gospel when we step into the shoes of others. If we step into the lives of others, we can lead them to find their identity in Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

*** Master of disguise.

--- In his travels, the apostle Paul saw all kinds of cultures throughout the Roman Empire.

--- All of the people from various backgrounds viewed life differently – and as a result saw the gospel differently.

--- Paul was up to the challenge and made it his goal to share the gospel with everyone regardless of their background.

--- This meant that Paul would have to change his approach to sharing the gospel, to “become all things to all people,” including:

--- The Jews – As a Jew, Paul knew the customs and rituals, and followed their practices to win their trust (see Acts 16:1-3; 21:23-26).

--- Gentiles – Paul wasn’t bound to follow the Jewish rituals when he associated with Gentiles. To do so might have alienated him from sharing Christ with them because he would have insisted on practicing rules and regulations that in their eyes would have had no meaning or purpose.

--- The Weak - Here, Paul was talking about fellow believers who had an immature faith, and the actions of other believers could become a stumbling block.

*** Take a ride into the danger zone.

--- By showing flexibility, Paul stepped out of his comfort zone for the sake of the gospel.

--- He sought to understand their lives, their goals and their dreams, and once they saw his care for them they might be ready to hear about Jesus.

--- He was all about reaching more people, whatever the cost.

--- In this way, Paul followed the model Jesus left us: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

--- That’s critical, because Jesus is our best example for serving others and sharing the gospel.

--- With that, we’ve lost some great voices in our Life Group. We’ve lost their testimonies, their experiences and advice.

--- We all have something to contribute, a different way to share the gospel and our Christian testimony.

*** Question - What are some different approaches Christians use for sharing the gospel?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

*** The race is on.

--- As we see in our Olympic Games, the winner gets to stand on top of the platform and gets a medal and fame.

--- In Paul’s day they had the Isthmian games that were held in Corinth every two years, second only to the ancient version of the Olympic Games, so the people he’s writing to know exactly what he’s talking about.

--- The Isthmian Games didn’t give gold, silver or bronze. It was win or go home. (In other words, If you’re not first, you’re last.)

--- Paul encourages that we won’t be successful every time, but we need to run the race like we expect to win.

--- All great winners in history have understood this principle – almost any situation, good or bad, is affected by the positive attitude we bring to it.

--- The life of modern men and women is often one of busyness. People often talk about a lack of time, but our problem isn’t enough time but a lack of focus and direction.

--- Paul was fully committed to reaching anybody and everybody with the gospel and gave it his all. He was a boxer who punched with purpose.

*** Stay on target.

--- To reach that goal, though, was never easy. Paul saw it as a serious task that required strict discipline and self-control.

--- Just as Olympians do today, the athletes in Corinth abstained from certain foods, sexual relations, and virtually everything else in order to focus on their race.

--- When they win, they get Wheaties covers. If you’re an amateur who runs a marathon you get the joy of putting a “26.2” sticker on your car.

--- In Paul’s day they won a crown that would whither in time.

--- We, however, run our Christian race to get a “crown that will last forever,” an eternity in heavenly glory with Jesus. (Phil. 3:14)

*** Question - What things might we need to set aside and pick up to run the race of faith well?

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

It would be so awesome if we could serve Christ by resting in a hammock all day, reading a book and napping next to a babbling brook.

Paul, however, makes it clear that reaching people with the gospel takes discipline, self-control and work, and it’s worth it.

As we rely on God’s Spirit to work through us, we need to go where people are—and that often means stepping outside our comfort zones.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and look for opportunities to share your faith in Him with others.

How will you step into the shoes of others this week in order to share the gospel? Consider the following suggestions:

*** Pray. Identify someone you know personally who still needs to follow Christ. Pray for this person each day. Ask for guidance and opportunities to be a witness.

*** Learn. Learn what you can about beliefs and customs of other cultures. Pray that the gospel would penetrate their culture. Ask God how you can get involved.

*** Step out. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is harder than we often realize. But it’s a necessary part of sharing the gospel with those who need to hear it. Are you ready?

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