Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Victory Over Fear

My Life Group lesson for April 2, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum, as well as help from Bible Gateway, Lynn Pryor and Adrian Rogers.

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever “lost” your child in public? Describe that fear.

Just as parents fear losing their children, every child has a primal fear of being abandoned —that their parents will put them down one day and never come back.

Have you ever seen a child cry when his parent walks into another room? The child doesn’t understand his dad is just around the corner.

We may never get over the fear of being alone in our lives. We’ll put up with a lot of things —including bad friends and even difficult marriages— to avoid being alone.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

*** Many fear abandonment as followers of Christ.

*** The first seven chapters of Romans show how sin is universal in the world, why that sin is so devastating to our lives, and the futility of our efforts to remove our sin on our own.

*** In Romans chapter 8 Paul wrote with assurance that nothing will keep Jesus from being with us.

Romans 8:31-34

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

*** “Jesus Christ is on your side.”

--- The Nationwide insurance jingle that Peyton Manning sings is so catchy, and made to get you to buy insurance for unforeseen problems in your life.

--- Romans chapter 8 is Paul’s insurance policy for Christians.

--- As Paul moved through Romans 8, he laid down one truth on top of another regarding the great benefits we receive because of Christ’s saving work for us:

We have received His Holy Spirit (v. 9).
We are made fully alive in Christ (v. 11).
We are adopted into His family (v. 15).
We are co-heirs with Christ (v. 17).
We have a glorious future ahead of us (vv. 18-23).
We have the Holy Spirit interceding for us before the Father (v. 26).

--- As Paul reached the climactic moment in verse 31, he simply asked: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

--- We can’t look at the gospel—any aspect of the gospel—and not see that “God is for us.” And when we understand that God is for us, it doesn’t matter who’s against us.

--- Christians in Rome were facing serious persecution in the first century. They knew what it was like to feel as if everyone was against them.

--- How wonderful, then, to be reminded that God will never abandon His church or leave them defeated.

--- Paul knew what he was talking about. Although he didn’t write this particular letter while in prison, Paul had his share of jail time. He knew difficulty. He knew opposition. But he also knew God was with him.

--- Everything Paul wrote about in Romans 8, he had experienced first-hand. The joys that erupt from these verses are based on realities Paul had experienced himself. From his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-6) to an earthshaking worship service in the Philippian jail (see Acts 16:25-26), Paul had found Christ to be faithful and present through it all.

--- In verses 34 and 35, Paul answers his questions in verses 31-33: God, the only one who can condemn us, does not. On top of that, He gave his Son for our salvation, who intercedes and prays for us.

--- Now that’s good news!

*** Question – How have your fears changed over the past 10-15 years? What helps you feel safe when you feel afraid?

Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

*** Inseparable.

--- Some things just always seem so to go together: PB & jelly, cute animals, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Beauty and the Beast, etc.

--- In times of fear and sorrow, there’s not much better than companionship with those you love to make you feel better.

--- In those times it’s important to remember that nothing, no way, zilch, nada, could pulls us away from the embrace of Christ, not even:

Persecution – The political powers can’t put you in a place where Jesus can’t get to you.
Illness - Pain or suffering can’t blind you to the reality of Christ in your life.
Death – We will die physically, but we have life beyond the grave. Jesus is victorious over death!
Life – That is, the circumstances of daily living.
Angels – Paul was speaking hypothetically. Angels have great power, but even they cannot separate us from Christ.

--- What about your own stupidity? Can you do something so utterly wrong that you become too gross for Jesus to hold? No. The truth remains the same: nothing can separate you from Christ’s love.

*** When Satan reminds you of what you’ve done, you remind him of his future.

--- In times of fear you might think, “Woe is me. You don’t know what I’ve done.”

--- No one wants to minimize your pain. It’s real. But know this: nothing you have done – nothing – can undo what Jesus did for us on the cross.

--- Nothing is more powerful than Christ.

--- What made Paul so confident to write this? Let’s just say he found out the hard way.

--- For example, he knew the hardship of unjust imprisonment. Paul also had been whipped five times with 39 lashes. The Romans had beaten him three times. His enemies had stoned him and left him for dead. He faced various dangers from Jews, Gentiles, robbers, and false teachers. He knew hunger, thirst, and inadequate clothing (see 2 Cor. 11:24-27).

--- Yet in all that he endured, Paul had never been separated from Christ’s love.

REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Have you played the game called "Who Would Win?"

Two names are matched against each other in a fictitious fight, and you have to explain why you think one would win.

--- Batman v. Superman
--- Sylvester Stallone v. Arnold Schwarzenegger
--- Godzilla v. King Kong
--- George Washington v. Abraham Lincoln
--- A kitten v. a baby polar bear

In our own heads we’ve all played a version of this game for years:

--- Me v. Unemployment
--- Me v. Cancer
--- Me v. Fear of _______

We might lie in bed at night, letting one of these scenarios play out in our heads and keep us awake. Even if it hasn't actually happened to us, we know others who've battled unemployment, loss of health, or loss of supportive friends. What if that happens to me?

Since we are in Christ we should look at life this way:

• Jesus v. Unemployment
• Jesus v. Cancer
• Jesus v. Fear of ______________

When I do a search on Bible Gateway for “do not be afraid” there are 70 results. It’s one of the most common things that God says, because we are a fearful people.

Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God at this very moment, interceding on your behalf. And His prayers are always answered.

*** Live truth. You may have been abandoned or neglected as a child, but you will never be separated from your Father as a child of God. Let that truth give you confidence as you live for Him this week.

*** Open up. We often allow fear or shame to close our hearts when it comes to difficult circumstances. Instead, be intentional about sharing your experiences with someone this week. Confess your struggles and actively seek God’s love.

*** Be bold. Our fears also have a way of preventing us from taking action for Christ. This week, take a bold step to show your faith in the fact that you cannot be separated from God’s love. Speak to someone about the gospel, make a commitment to a ministry, give up your resources.

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