Grace: An Invitation to a Way of Life

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Overview

Many Christians have an easier time being saved by grace than they do living in grace every day. But grace is at the center of the life God calls us to--and reflects the heart of the One who calls.

These studies in Grace will help you make the connection between grace as a remote biblical concept and grace as a lifestyle--a reality you experience day in, day out. Through an unfolding study of Psalm 23, you'll learn how God--our Good Shepherd--is for you, how he longs to walk ...

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Grace: An Invitation to a Way of Life

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Overview

Many Christians have an easier time being saved by grace than they do living in grace every day. But grace is at the center of the life God calls us to--and reflects the heart of the One who calls.

These studies in Grace will help you make the connection between grace as a remote biblical concept and grace as a lifestyle--a reality you experience day in, day out. Through an unfolding study of Psalm 23, you'll learn how God--our Good Shepherd--is for you, how he longs to walk with you through temptation, sorrow, and even deep regret. You'll discover God's desire to make his joy your joy. Throughout, you'll learn how enduring, powerful, and life-affirming God's work in your life can be---and rediscover why it's called amazing grace.

Leader's guide included!
Grace group sessions are:
Living in Grace
Grace for Regrets
Sustaining Grace
Delighting in Grace
A Legacy of Grace
Grace Forever
Grace to Share

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Product Details

Meet the Author

John Ortberg is senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is the bestselling author of Who is this Man, The Life You've Always Wanted and If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. John and his wife, Nancy, have three grown children. SPANISH BIO: John Ortberg es el Pastor principal de la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Menlo Park, en Menlo Park, California, con dependencias en Menlo Park, Mountain View y San Mateo. Ha escrito numerosas obras que han tenido una gran aceptacion, como La fe y la duda; El ser que quiero ser; Un amor mas alla de la razon; Cuando el juego termina, todo regresa a la caja; La mision fantasma; Dios esta mas cerca de lo que crees; Todos somos normales hasta que nos conocen; La vida que siempre has querido; Si quieres caminar sobre las aguas, tienes que salir de la barca; Vivamos divinamente la vida, y el plan de estudios multimedia Old Testament Challenge (con la colaboracion de Kevin Harney). John y su esposa Nancy tienen tres hijos.

Judson Poling is coauthor of the Walking with God series and general editor of The Journey: A Study Bible for Spiritual Seekers. SPANISH BIO: Judson Poling trabaja con el ministerios de grupos pequenos en Willow Creek Community Church en South Barrington, Illinois. Es coautor de la serie Walking with God y editor general de El Camino: Una Biblia para los curiosos espirituales.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

What Is True Spirituality?

Reading by John Ortberg

Let's call him Hank. He had attended church since he was a boy, and now he was in his sixties. He was known by everyone--but no one really knew him. He had difficulty loving his wife. His children could not speak freely with him and felt no affection from him. He was not concerned for the poor, had little tolerance for those outside the church, and tended to judge harshly those who were inside.

One day an elder in the church asked him, "Hank, are you happy?"

Without smiling, he responded, "Yes."

"Well, then," replied the elder, "tell your face."

Hank's outside demeanor mirrored a deeper and much more tragic reality: Hank was not changing. He was not being transformed. But here's what is most remarkable: Nobody in the church was surprised by this. No one called an emergency meeting of the board of elders to consider this strange case of a person who wasn't changing. No one really expected Hank to change, so no one was surprised when it didn't happen.

There were other expectations in the church. People expected that Hank would attend services, would read the Bible, would affirm the right beliefs, would give money and do church work.

But people did not expect that day by day, month by month, decade by decade, Hank would be more transformed into the likeness of Jesus. People did not expect he would become a progressively more loving, joyful, winsome person. So they were not shocked when it did not happen.

How Is Spirituality Wrongly Understood?

Think of the irony: spiritual life leading to lifelessness. Spiritual growth producing misery. A life supposedly yielded to God rebelling against him! Obviously it's not supposed to be this way, yet for many, it's the sad truth.

When people are not being authentically transformed--when they are not becoming more loving, joyful, Christlike persons--they often settle for what might be called "pseudo-transformation."

We know that somehow we are supposed to be different than those outside the church. But if our heart isn't changing, we will look for more superficial and visible ways of demonstrating that we are "spiritual." We might:

We need only to hear Jesus' words to the religious leaders of his day to know that pseudo-spirituality is a deadly disease--and a common and contagious one at that.

What Is a Right Understanding of Spiritual Life?

When someone asks you, "How is your spiritual life going?" what comes to mind? How do you define spirituality? How do you assess spiritual progress?

Amidst all the confusing and distorted notions, Scripture speaks with brilliant clarity. "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2: 6). To pursue spiritual life means simply this: To know Jesus more intimately and to live as if he were in your place. It is to order your life in such a way that you stay connected to Christ, thinking as he thought, speaking as he spoke, and walking as he walked.

Certainly, this imitation of Christ will look different for each person, expressing itself through that person's unique temperament, abilities, and circumstances. But there is a common denominator. At the core of Jesus' teaching is the command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love other people as you love yourself (Mark 12: 30-31).

When someone asks you how your spiritual life is going, the real question is, "Are you becoming more loving toward God and people?" Regardless of anything else you measure, how you stand up against that statement will reveal your true spiritual stature. This measurement is the supreme spiritual diagnostic for Christ-followers who want to please him.

Doing Life in Jesus' Name

What would this kind of life look like if you actually lived it out? Let's face it--you could chalk up this concept as another idea that sounds good but isn't really practical. Yet God is inviting you to make each moment of every day a chance to learn from him how to master the art of life.

Your spiritual life is simply your whole life--every minute and detail of it--from God's perspective. In other words, God isn't interested in your spiritual life. God is simply interested in your life. And every moment is an opportunity to do life in Jesus' name.

Spiritual Exercise

Here is an experiment for putting Colossians 3: 17 into practice. This week: Memorize Paul's words in Colossians 3: 17: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Think about what it would mean for you to live the ordinary moments of your life as if Jesus were in your place. How would you do each of the following activities in Jesus' name?

• Waking up

• Greeting those you see first in the morning

• Eating

• Driving

• Working outside the home or caring for children while at home

• Shopping

• Watching TV

• Doing household tasks

• Reading the paper

• Going to sleep

Bible Study

1. Describe the picture Jesus paints in John 10: 10 of what should happen in the life of all who follow him.

2. Read Matthew 23: 1-28. In this passage, Jesus has some harsh words for the religious leaders of his day. These scribes and Pharisees were well versed in Scripture and considered to be spiritually "in the know." If anyone understood what it meant to be spiritually mature, it was them--or so they (and those around them) thought. Yet Jesus was extremely frustrated by their spiritual shallowness and obsession with externals.

What specific behaviors does Jesus confront?

v. 4

vv. 6-7

3. What heart attitude(s) do you think all these behaviors have in common?

4. As you read through this passage, was there any point at which you said, "Ouch--I have a tendency in that direction"? How do you think such distorted views of spirituality have crept into your life?

5. In your opinion, why is it easy for people to think that acquiring knowledge, following formulas, and obeying rules will automatically lead to true spiritual maturity?

6. According to the following words of Jesus, what must be at the heart of any concept of spirituality?

Matthew 23: 11-12

Mark 12: 28-34

John 15: 4-17 (hint: look for repeated words or phrases)

7. Being as candid as possible, how would you assess the state of your spiritual life right now?

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Table of Contents

Pursuing Spiritual Transformation
Ten Core Values for Spiritual Formation
Grace: An Invitation to a Way of Life session one
Living in Grace session two
Grace for Regrets session three
Sustaining Grace session four
Delighting in Grace session five
A Legacy of Grace session six
Grace Forever session seven
Grace to Share
Leader's Guide
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First Chapter

Session One
Living in Grace
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
---Psalm 23:1--3a
Living in grace requires new eyes. We must learn to see God's everyday grace at work all around us.
Jesus was the master of this. For him, it was simply apparent that we live in a God-bathed world. He saw that we are surrounded by evidences of God's gracious shepherding. 'Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly
Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?' (Matt. 6:26).
Some time ago, my wife and I were watching two geese and their goslings eat. One adult and nine little goslings were devouring the grass, while the other adult stood watch. 'Look at that mother goose watch over her family,'
Nancy said.
'How do you know it's the mother?' I asked. 'Maybe it's the father goose.'
'No, it's always the mother who sacrifices herself for the family. It's the same in every species.'
Just then, the two adults traded off. The eater started watching and the watcher started eating. I was so grateful.
Jesus said that anytime you see a bird nibble some seeds, you are watching the grace of God at work. It's such an ordinary event that most of the time we fail to even notice it. But it is not a random accident that food is available. It is the Good Shepherd at work. Every time you wake up, think a thought, or enjoy a meal, these are not random occurrences; they are gracious gifts from the hand of the Good Shepherd.
How many 'ordinary' examples of God's grace do we experience every day and fail to even notice? In the rush of our days, in the preoccupation of our agendas, how many provisions of the Shepherd do we race past altogether?
The Discipline of Noticing
If we want to live in grace, we must develop eyes that see. We must learn what might be called the discipline of noticing.
To notice something---to truly pay attention---is a powerful thing. Children demand it. Spouses feel hurt without it. If you have ever been so caught up in watching a basketball game on TV or reading a great book that you didn't notice how much time had passed, you've known what it is to pay deep attention to something. You became absorbed in it.
The practice of noticing is a skill. It involves learning to pay attention to gifts that we otherwise take for granted. Stop for a moment and try it. The breath you just took, the way your eyes are reading these words, the working of your mind to understand and learn---notice them. They are not accidents. Nor are they entitlements.
They are gracious gifts. And what's even more amazing is that their Giver is lovingly present with you even as you are experiencing them.
The sight of a garden blooming in a riot of color, a cold glass of water on a hot afternoon, an encouraging word from a coworker, a warm blanket on a chilly night,
the taste of your favorite food, a long conversation with a good friend. All ordinary, but all grace nonetheless.
Train yourself to notice, to pay attention, to become absorbed in the grace of your Shepherd.
Seizing Ordinary Moments
Just as we must learn to see Jesus' ordinary gifts of grace, we must learn to seize his ordinary moments of grace---moments that the Shepherd would like to use to replenish and refuel us.
A lunchtime walk, a moment of solitude in the car or on the train, the still of the house when the baby is napping,
sitting with a glass of iced tea in the backyard. Each can be transformed into a personal and private time of 'green pastures and still waters'---if you have eyes to see and the willpower to slow down. Your Shepherd has provided everything necessary to transform your rushed soul into a restored one. But he won't force you to turn aside. He won't tackle you to get you to lie down. The choice is yours.
I Shall Not Want
When our spiritual eyes begin to work, we become aware of his grace all through our days. Our lives become filled with genuine gratitude instead of with ceaseless discontentment. 'The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want'---I lack nothing, the psalmist says.
Phillip Keller, a twentieth-century shepherd, writes about his experiences on his sheep ranch. He describes one sheep who had the fatal flaw of discontentment:
She was one of the most attractive sheep that ever belonged to me. Her body was beautifully proportioned.
She had a strong constitution and an excellent coat of wool. . . . But in spite of all these attractive attributes she had one pronounced fault. She was restless---
discontented---a fence crawler. . . .
No matter what field or pasture the sheep were in, she would search all along the fences . . . looking for a loophole she could crawl through and start to feed on the other side. It was not that she lacked pasturage.
My fields were my joy and delight. . . . It was an ingrained habit. She was simply never contented with things as they were. Often when she had forced her way through some such spot in a fence . . . she would end up feeding on bare, brown, burned-up pasturage of a most inferior sort...
...She was a sheep, who in spite of all that I had done to give her the very best care---still wanted something else. She was not like the one who said,
'The Lord is my Shepherd---I shall not want.'
---A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
To say 'I shall not be in want' doesn't mean we have no significant requests or needs. It certainly does not mean we should be passive in the face of injustice or poverty. Not wanting means being settled. Settled that the Shepherd knows our real needs. Settled that his pastures really are more lush than the burned-up ones we habitually pursue. Settled that he can be trusted to provide the best gifts.
In his grace, he does so all the time.
Spiritual Exercise
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
---Psalm 23:1--3a
Read these words each day this week. Let them sink in. Consider writing them out, paraphrasing them, or committing them to memory. Your challenge is to live with those words today. Specifically, experiment with the following:
Today I Will Notice
I will try to have eyes that see God's gracious daily provisions,
even in the ordinary---a warm bed, a closet full of clothes, a comfortable pair of shoes, a hot shower, the ability to see, hear, walk,
think, feel.
I will look for examples of God's grace around me---in scenes of natural beauty, in the face of a friend, in wholesome pleasures that bring me joy, in my church body gathered in worship.
Today I Will Give God the Opportunity to Restore My Soul
I will be open to ways, large or small, that God wants to lead me to green pastures or quiet waters, and I will consciously try to be with my Shepherd there.
As you go through the week (and throughout this whole study),
consider keeping a journal of your experiences with this exercise.
How were you stretched to do life differently? Did you find yourself becoming more aware of God's ordinary acts of grace in your life? How were you nurtured and restored? What effects did you notice on your level of contentment? What aspects came easily?
What was frustrating?
NOTE: Whatever impression you might have from your reading of Psalm 23, David's life was anything but smooth and serene.
After killing Goliath, David's rise to prominence enraged the insecure and arguably insane King Saul. David was literally stalked by Saul. Forced to live as a fugitive, David narrowly escaped multiple assassination attempts.
David was also no stranger to crushing grief. Jonathan, his most trusted friend---one who 'became one in spirit with
David' (1 Sam. 18:1)---was killed along with Saul in battle.
David also lost an infant son and a grown son to death.
David knew shame and regret.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Grace

    I really enjoy John Ortberg's teaching style.

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    Posted September 13, 2011

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