- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. —Romans 3:23
When you turned on the news this morning, what did you hear? Was the television station broadcasting all fuzzy, feel-good stories, or were there plenty of unpleasant stories, as well? I don't know about you, but every time I turn on the TV, I hear bad news. Headlines scream of murder, war, corrupt politicians, drugs, robbery, child abuse. There is no shortage of bad news. And it's not just on the TV screen, newspaper, talk shows, or published biographies of people who have gone through tough times. We don't have to look far within our own circle of friends to find someone whose life has been touched by bad news. Perhaps it was even our own.
It's not such a stretch to realize that we live in a broken world, and we are all products of its depravity. Each and every one of us has not only dealt with the repercussions of people's bad actions, but if we look inward at ourselves we can see that it's not always other people who are to blame.
Orpah was born to two unmarried teenagers in the poverty-stricken countryside of Kosciusko, Mississippi. Unable to support their daughter, her parents sent her to live with various family members at different times in her younger years. At the age of nine, Orpah was molested by several of her male relatives. Instead of telling anyone, she funneled her hurt and anger into rebellious actions, including drug use and promiscuity. By the time she was fourteen, Orpah gave birth to a premature little boy who died after childbirth.
As she was holding her dead child, fourteen-year-old Orpah decided to turn her life around. She vowed that she would do everything in her power to find freedom from the cycle of sin and destruction that she had been caught in for so long. She excelled at her studies, won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant, and became the first black female news anchor in Nashville, TN. Since then, she has gone on to host her own television show, win Golden Globes and Emmys, launch her own magazine, open several charitable organizations, including a school for girls in South Africa, and be named as one of the world's most influential women. This young woman, born as Orpah, now has one of the most well-known names in the world—Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah has influenced our culture and changed countless lives with her inspirational story and benevolent spirit. Imagine if she had allowed her past—the poverty, the abuse, and her own bad choices—to define what she could do with her life! Not only would she have missed out on all God had planned for her, but so many people would have been left unchanged.
1. Have you ever seen people who let their pasts negatively dictate choices they have made for their future? Explain.
2. As we begin this study, take an assessment of your life. Was there an event in your past that dramatically influenced how you interact with the world? Do you feel broken and needy or restored and complete? Are you ready to find all the good God has in store for your life?
Everyone has a past, a history of sin that has left our lives broken. The truth is, because of Adam and Eve's long-ago choice to defy God, we were born into their sinful legacy. We have all done things that are wrong, and have had wrong things done to us. And the repercussions are not always easy to shrug off. Maybe our past is not biography-worthy like Oprah's, but independent of whether we came from poverty and abuse or privilege and love, we are still sinful humans in need of a Savior.
A Samaritan woman was confronted by her past one day as she went into the city to draw water from a well. As she was drawing her water, a stranger spoke to her and asked her for a drink. Read John's account of this interaction in John 4:4–38.
3. You can picture this woman speaking to the stranger, hoping against hope that He didn't know anything about her circumstances. Little did she know she was speaking with Jesus, who knows every detail about each of our lives. What did Jesus tell this woman about her past? What would He be able to tell you about your past?
4. In verses 28–30, what did the woman say and do? How do her actions indicate that she had finally come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah?
5. Throughout their conversation, the woman insisted on taking everything Jesus said literally, while Jesus tried to help her see His true meaning behind His words. In the space below, list both the literal meanings and the spiritual translations of the things they talked about.
6. Just like the Samaritan woman, have you ever felt so blinded by your circumstances that you have been unable to see God in your life? Explain.
Like the Samaritan woman who had trouble looking past her circumstances to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, sometimes we have trouble seeing God in the midst of our broken world, especially a caring and loving God. But the truth is that God does love us and will restore us if only we trust in Him. The Bible is brimming with stories of redemption. From Mary Magdalene to Paul, we can see how God uses broken sinners from the most unlikely circumstances to bring about changes in their lives and the lives of others.
7. Do you believe God can restore your broken past and make you whole again? Is there anything from your past that you believe is too big for Him to handle? Explain.
8. When you think about your future, what kind of plans do you think God has in store for you? Read Jeremiah 29:11. Whenever you begin to doubt your future, remember this verse.
There is a lot of hurt and brokenness in our world, but it does not always come about in a dramatic form. Sometimes long-lasting hurt can come from something as simple as a parent working all the time instead of spending time with their child, or children teasing each other on the playground. Think about the different forms of brokenness, and how it all relates back to Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Ponder and Pray
Take a moment to think about your life from God's perspective. Do you think He likes the way you see yourself? The way you conduct yourself? The hope you have in your future? Pray through Jeremiah 29:11 and ask God to allow you to start looking at your life from His perspective.
As you begin this study, start keeping a journal of your progress. After each lesson, write a few sentences to help you remember what you've learned and how far you've come. Believe me, we have an exciting road ahead of us, and you're not going to want to miss it!
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12–13
Some friends of ours recently adopted a group of siblings from war-torn Liberia. Given away by their mother who couldn't support them, these children were in need of love, peace, stability—in short, these children needed a home.
"How's it going?" I asked my friend after she had had the children for a few weeks.
"Margie, I could have borne these children. They fit into our family like they have always been here," she replied. Then she laughed gently as she remembered some of their adjustments, and went on to say soberly, "People act like we have done something so wonderful or self-sacrificing to adopt these children, but it's not like that. We are the ones who have been blessed. God gave them to us, and it has been such a gift."
Despite her attempt to downplay her actions, my friend had done something extraordinary. She found three children who had never known love, plucked them out of their broken world, and vowed to love them unconditionally. She didn't need to do this. But she wanted to. And she was blessed by it.
God yearns to adopt each one of us, bringing us out of our broken pasts and showering us with freedom and love. Adoption is the center of God's heart because He knows that each of us needs to be adopted by Him, even if we feel we don't deserve it. No matter how good or bad our childhood family was, we are each like those children from war-torn Liberia whose mother could not support them. There is something missing that needs to be provided. Every human being is born with the need to know and understand God, and like little children, we have to be raised, trained, and taught how to fit into God's family.
But as much as we would like it to be, this is not an automatic occurrence. Jesus explained that being born again means first believing in Him. He says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
There are two very important points in this well-known and well-loved verse: God willingly gave His Son for us, hence we are born again because God wants us to be; and God loves us. It is not just that God loves the rest of the world and He got stuck with you and me along with the rest. He loves each one of us as a person, no matter what we have done or what has happened to us.
He made you, He willingly paid for you through Jesus' death, and He wants to see your face at our family reunion in heaven along with the rest of His adopted children. But first you must believe in Him as your Father.
1. Do you know anyone who has been adopted or who has adopted a child? What was their experience like? How is this experience like what God wants for us?
2. Even though God wants to adopt all of us, the first step is in our hands. Have you ever taken this first step toward becoming a child of God? If not, what is holding you back? If so, what has your experience been?
Read Ephesians 1:3–8. This passage has traditionally been labeled as slightly controversial due to the questions it brings up about predestination, but try to look past this smaller issue in order to grasp the big picture of what Paul is saying: "He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will" (NIV).
3. In your own words, what is the "big picture" of what Paul is saying in this passage?
4. Notice the verb Paul used in verse 4—chose. How does this word underscore God's desire for us to be His children?
5. How does the timing of when He chose us emphasize the plans God has for you?
You are not an afterthought! God has known about you since before the world began, and He takes pleasure in the idea of adopting you as His child!
6. Read Romans 8:12–16. What does verse 14 say about how to recognize a son (and a daughter!) of God?
In Ephesians 5:13–14, Paul tells us that as sons and daughters of God, we have been marked with the Holy Spirit to seal our adoption, so to speak. In Romans 8:15, he goes on to say that this very same Spirit does not make us slaves to fear, but allows us to live freely as children of God.
7. As we are talking about our broken pasts, how does the promise given in Romans 8:15 resonate with you? How does it give you freedom to move on without fear?
We will be exploring this concept of freedom more in the following lesson, but for now just revel in the truth that God loves you as His child, no matter where you came from or what you have done—and He has loved you this way since before the world began!
Read Psalm 139. How does this psalm reinforce the idea that God has been involved in our lives from the very beginning? Reading David's words of praise, is it such a stretch to think that God wants us as His children? That He has been with us through the darker and the lighter times of life? That He has a plan for us?
Ponder and Pray
Read 1 John 4:7. Take a moment to meditate on what it means to be "born of God." Thank God for snatching you away from your broken past and adopting you into His family. If you are in a group, take a moment to share your thoughts on being born of God. Pray, thanking your Father for His never-ending love and mercy.
We have been talking about adoption, and how only by God's grace are we a part of His family. There are millions of adopted children and children needing to be adopted. Think of a way you can touch the life of an orphan. Maybe it's through volunteering at an orphanage, writing a letter, sponsoring a child (there are many different organizations from which you can choose), or even considering adopting a child yourself. Whatever it is, think of a way you can be a blessing to a child who may not have been fortunate enough to have the love of a family.
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." —John 8:34–36, NIV
On an early spring day in 1984, a young man stopped by our house to pick up his mandolin, which my husband had repaired. It wasn't convenient timing. My husband had come home from the hospital that morning following his second cancer surgery, and we were still adjusting not only to the business of pain medication and nursing care, but the cataclysmic impact that cancer has on a young family. But I sensed the Lord nudging me, so we said, "Sure, come on over." He arrived on his bike with a backpack, and while he was stuffing his instrument into the top of his pack, he explained that he had sold all of his stuff and was moving over the mountains to a certain remote area where, as he described it, he hoped to be free.
"Do you want to know how to be really free?" I asked him.
He looked up at me, rather startled. "Yes."
So I told him about Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins, who came to this earth to set us free. When we ask Him to save us, I told the young man, He makes us free to be the person He created us to be.
Still kneeling on the porch where he had been struggling into his pack, Pat prayed for Jesus to forgive him and come into his life. And then he went leaping across the lawn, backpack lurching crazily, shouting, "I'm free, I'm free!" We knew we would probably never see him again, but we would pray for him, and his Savior and ours would never let him out of sight.
There is something so alluring about freedom. It may conjure up images of endless beaches under a sunny sky, tramping the trails in the high country, or just sleeping in. In one way or another, we envision a life without hassles. But the kind of freedom that Christ promises is to be free from the fruits of sin.
It is one thing to understand that God has accepted us, but it's another thing entirely to be set free by this realization. Without our knowledge, we may have one sin acting as the biggest obstacle to freedom, the simplest sin we don't even notice—thinking that our past is too overwhelming for God to do anything about. Without even knowing it, we are cutting ourselves off from God's power, and we are effectively closing the door to healing.
When you are free in Christ, it means that you don't have to dread Mother's Day because you had an abortion when you were young. It means that you can raise your little boys to be godly men even if your husband abandoned you. It means you can look at a bottle of alcohol, a box of cigarettes, or even a plate of cookies and realize those things no longer have any power over you. It means that you can love the unlovely, because Christ first loved you. It means that you are free to be a giver because you are no longer shackled by your past.
The Bible is full of real people who experienced the messiest parts of life, and who also found that in the midst of their turmoil, God cared for them, before they even knew how to cry out. The woman caught in adultery is one of these.
1. Read John 8:1–11. How do you think the woman in this passage felt? Spend some time thinking about how it would feel to be in the middle of a group of accusers, and make a list of emotions she might have had. Look at your list. Have you ever felt this way about your own past?
2. Notice Jesus' first response. Why did He first take a step back from the accusers by kneeling down on the ground?
3. What is the significance of Jesus' comment to the accusers?
4. What did Jesus tell the woman? Does His response mean He thought that adultery didn't matter? What does it tell us about Jesus' attitude toward the woman? Toward her sin?
5. Even though there's no way of knowing, what do you suppose the woman did next?
Excerpted from FINDING FREEDOM FROM A BROKEN PAST by Sheila Walsh Copyright © 2008 by Thomas Nelson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted August 30, 2013
No text was provided for this review.