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living so that
MAKING FAITH FILLED CHOICES IN THE MIDST OF A MESSY LIFE
By WENDY BLIGHT
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Wendy Blight
All rights reserved.
Jesus Came So That ...
MEMORY VERSE: MEMORY VERSE: FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, [SO] THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.
—John 3:16 (NIV; emphasis added)
MESSAGE FROM MY HEART
God's Word is my most cherished possession, and each book I write emerges from the fruit of God's work in and through my time with Him in His Word. My deepest desire as you journey through this book is for you to gain great confidence in your ability to read, understand, and practically apply God's Word.
Every time I open my Bible to write a new book, I invite God to do a "new thing." He is always faithful, and this book is no different. As God birthed Living So That, He worked each and every lesson in my own heart before I crafted a single page.
Be encouraged as we begin, my friend. Whether it is your first time studying the Bible or your tenth, God will be at work in our midst. Why? Because His Word is living and active, sent to transform us from the inside out. The Bible is not just a history book. It's not just a biography. It's not a "how to" book. It is a living book from our Father in heaven, filled with truths and promises intended to speak not only to its original audience but to us today.
But for His Word to work from the inside out in our lives, we must first take it into our hearts. Listen to the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
When I discovered Your words, I ate them up: they were my great joy and my heart's delight. I am Yours, and I bear the name of the Eternal God. (Jeremiah 15:16)
Allowing God's Word to work in us requires digesting His Word. But digestion can only occur by first ingesting God's Word. Yes, we must read God's Word. But more than that, we must study it and allow it to permeate our hearts and minds. Sometimes it's hard to discipline ourselves to do this. We struggle to remember items on our grocery lists, friends' cell phone numbers, and activities on our "to do" lists, so we think, How could I ever memorize God's Word? To help us in this endeavor, I included a memory verse in each chapter. My prayer is that you will make every effort to prayerfully commit these verses to memory and hide them in your heart.
When I began writing this book, I invited my family to participate in the scripture memory portions. They moaned and groaned. Their excuse: "I can't memorize scripture." I quickly pointed out how they constantly belt out lyrics to their favorite songs, entertain me with lines from their favorite movies, and recite hilarious skits from their favorite YouTube videos.
Really, these are things we all do. I share with you what I shared with my family: If we can so easily remember catchy lyrics and memorable movie lines, how much more should we seek to remember the precious words of our Lord and Savior?
So, as a family, we committed to memory the verses in this book. Each week I wrote the verse on a plate in our kitchen. We divided the verse into sections to make it easier to memorize and repeated each section to one another, adding a new part each day. At the end of the week, we recited the full verse and celebrated together the promise we now had hidden in our hearts. (Okay, my fifteen-year-old son did not necessarily celebrate, but I did!)
Will you join us in doing the same? If you don't have a plate like ours, post the verse in places around your house where you spend the most time. Then, using the same tactic we did, memorize a few sections at a time. We have friends who painted a door in their kitchen with chalk paint and posted their weekly verses on the door. Another friend bought an index card notebook for each family member. They wrote each week's verse in their binders and kept them in the kitchen. Find the way that works best for you. Invite a friend, family member, roommate, spouse, or another Bible study member to join you. This is not a requirement, my friend. But if you decide to say yes, I promise that God will richly bless you as you hide His Word in your heart.
Father, today begins a new day in my spiritual journey with You. Thank You for bringing me to this book ... for setting apart this time and place for me to be in Your Word. As I begin my first chapter, I come boldly before Your throne, asking to be filled with the full, deep, and clear knowledge of Your will for me in this season of my life. Please use my time here to invigorate, refresh, strengthen, and renew me. Father, speak truth into my life ... even hard truth. Your Word calls me to action. You call me to a life that will make a difference for You and Your kingdom. Open my eyes to see that life. Give me a heart that desires that life above all else.
If I am not living in a way that pleases You or loving others in a way that honors You or studying Your Word in a way that changes me, convict my heart by speaking truth in love. Make my heart tender to receive Your rebuke and discipline. You have drawn me here, and I want to receive ALL You have for me!
Father, bring Your living and active Word alive in my heart. Invade every part of my being. Transform me from the inside out! Amen.
PART ONE: Introduction
As I sought direction for my next Bible study, God began to impress two words on my heart: "so that." Sounds strange, doesn't it? I thought so, too, because in response to past prayers for direction on study topics, God had always led me to a book of the Bible. It was clear. But not this time. This time it was just two simple words. "So that." I hesitated. Lord, how can I write an entire book based on only two words?
The words were not random. A few years ago, my church began a campaign to raise money to plant two new churches. The project's name was "So That." The goal, and the message that accompanied it, was not only to raise funds, but to challenge our church body to live a "so that" life rather than a "so what?" life. Meaning: our lives should not be self-centered and static; rather, they should be others-centered and active, making a difference for the kingdom of God.
At the time, I listened to the sermons, faithfully wore my "So That" bracelet, and gave financially. When the campaign was over, those two little words never left me. The question lingered. What does it really mean to live a "so that" life? Was it simply a catchy campaign slogan, or was it something to which God truly calls us?
The question led me to research, as it often does. My educational background is in law, and I worked as a lawyer for about four years, so researching comes naturally to me. I dug into God's Word, searching for as many "so that" verses as I could find. It became a monumental task, so I quickly limited my research to the New Testament. And it was there that God began a most amazing and life-changing journey.
"So that" verses came alive to me as never before. In fact, the number of verses I found in the book of John alone blew me away! Though I had read this gospel through many times, and had even taught it, never before had I noticed these particular verses. When I began intentionally searching, they appeared everywhere. What I found was that Hebrews 4:12 is absolutely true: God's Word is "living and active" (NIV)! Friend, this is what is so powerful about the Word of God. No matter how often we read it, we receive something fresh and new each time.
I delved deeper, extending my research beyond Scripture. Several theologians had pursued this same path. In Greek grammar, a "so that" statement is known as a hina clause. It is a purpose clause used in conjunction with a subjunctive participle. Before you close your book and sprint in the other direction, please indulge my inner geek. There is an important point here.
A subjunctive participle sets the mood of a sentence. It generally indicates possibility or probability that something might happen. Often-used subjunctive participles in Scripture are "may" and "might." A modern example of this would be, "I might eat dinner with you, if I feel like it." Whether I eat dinner with you depends on how I feel, so I may or may not eat with you.
But when an author uses a hina clause ("so that") in conjunction with a subjunctive participle, it changes the mood of the sentence from one of possibility or probability to one of purpose or result. Consequently, if I change the sentence above to read, "I brought dinner so that we might eat together," the second statement contains a purpose. I brought dinner, so you know with certainty that we will have dinner together. It's a promise.
The authors of Scripture knew this distinction and, led by the Spirit, intentionally chose to use these two words to connect a truth of Scripture to a practical application of that truth. They used them to bring truth alive and make it relevant and applicable to our everyday lives.
Life is messy, and God knows that. One of the reasons He gave us the Bible is to equip us to live out our faith in the midst of our messy lives. Each new day can bring with it a myriad of issues and problems. And each one requires us to make a choice. We can choose to make "faith-filled" choices, or we can choose to make "faith-less" choices. The faith-less choices tend to come easier for most of us. They occur when we react quickly out of our emotions and basically "do what comes naturally." And more often than not, those choices have negative consequences that hurt not only us but also everyone with whom we come in contact.
Faith-filled choices are harder to make. They occur when we react not out of our emotions but out of a Spirit-led heart and mind. And faith-filled choices have good consequences that bless not only us but also those around us.
Each day we make choices. Through the next several chapters, we will study a multitude of "so that" verses that will provide guidance on how to make those choices. The Scriptures and many personal stories will equip us with tools so that by the end of this book, we will know how to make more faith-filled choices and fewer faith-less choices.
Because these verses cover a wide variety of topics, too many to cover in one book, we will focus on the following themes:
1. Jesus came so that ...
2. God spoke so that ...
3. Pray so that ...
4. Trials come so that ...
5. Let your light shine so that ...
When we see phrases such as "so that" repeated in Scripture, it's significant. In fact, anything our Father in heaven sees fit to repeat hundreds of times throughout His Word is something to which we should pay great attention.
Proverbs 4:1 says, "Gather, children, to hear your father's instruction. Pay close attention so you will understand."
Anticipate all that God wants to teach you through your time in this book! Pay attention to what you read. Invite God to give you a fresh understanding of His timeless Word ... especially those verses and passages you may already know and love. Pray and prepare your heart to receive the "new thing" He wants to do in your heart!
In the next section we will begin with our first "so that": "Jesus came so that ..." Before you turn the page,
Share your thoughts as to why Jesus came to earth.
PART TWO: The Law
MEMORY VERSE: FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, [SO] THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.
—John 3:16 (NIV; emphasis added)
Why did Jesus so willingly leave the splendor of heaven to enter the squalor of earth? Our journey begins by answering this very question as we examine God's plan behind sending Jesus to earth.
Read Romans 5:20–21:
When the law came into the picture, sin grew and grew; but wherever sin grew and spread, God's grace was there in fuller, greater measure. No matter how much sin crept in, there was always more grace. In the same way that sin reigned in the sphere of death, now grace reigns through God's restorative justice, eclipsing death and leading to eternal life through the Anointed One, Jesus our Lord, the Liberating King.
In Scripture, when we see the words "the law," they refer to God's law for His people.
The best-known laws of God are the _____________________ _________________________ . (Hint: Exodus 34:28 NIV.)
God used His commandments (the law) as an instrument to teach His people in very specific ways about sin. The law pointed out people's sin, thereby making them aware of it. Romans 7:7 says:
So what is the story? Is the law itself sin? Absolutely not! It is the exact opposite. I would never have known what sin is if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known that desiring something that belongs to my neighbor is sin if the law had not said, "You are not to covet."
The law reveals the presence and fact of sin, but what happens next is frightening. Paul wrote, "Sin took advantage of the commandment to create a constant stream of greed and desire within me; I began to want everything. You see, apart from the law, sin lies dormant" (Romans 7:8).
Paul tells us in Romans 7:8 that sin takes advantage of or "seiz[es] the opportunity" (NIV) found in the law. The word for opportunity here is aphorme. This word denotes a starting point, often referred to as a base of operations in war. By choosing this word, God was warning us that the law provides sin with a base of operations for its attack upon the soul. Dr. David Jeremiah says that sin uses the commandment, or the law, as a beachhead from which to launch its evil work. Consequently, because of our sinful nature, when something is forbidden, the law makes us aware of it and we desire to do it all the more.
Let me make this a bit more real. I experienced this firsthand as a young mother. When my daughter was little, every time she accompanied me on a shopping trip, I sternly warned, "Lauren, do not touch. You may look with your eyes, but do not touch." Sound familiar? I repeated this phrase many times.
On one particular trip, I knew the temptation to touch would be overwhelming. We were going to the Christmas store, packed with hundreds of shelves filled with glittery ornaments and glistening decorations that little girls cannot resist. Thus, I gave extra warnings.
We oohed and aahed over all the baubles. Then, after I chose and paid for my gifts, Lauren and I headed to the car.
As I lifted her out of her stroller, something shiny caught my eye. It was an ornament ... one I had neither chosen nor paid for. My sweet little girl had stolen it. A thief at age three! I informed her we had to return the ornament and that she would have to apologize. Tears flooded her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She begged, "You say it, Mommy ... pweeese." I stood my ground, explaining that when we break a rule and take what is not ours, there are consequences. We walked back into the store and found the clerk, and Lauren, with head bowed and shoulders slumped, handed her loot to the clerk and whispered, "I'm sorry."
My instructions forbidding her to touch the beautiful items in the store made her want to touch them all the more. That is how it is with the law, Paul said. In order to understand the goodness of the law, we need a maturity that often takes time to develop. God didn't give us the law to set us up for failure; rather, He gave us the law to protect us from failure. God's standards would exist whether or not we ever knew about them. But in His mercy God informed us of His law and has shown us the only way to fulfill it—through faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, let's dig a bit deeper into the passage in Romans. Romans 8:1–2 says:
Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death.
In this verse, we find two governing principles that work within the law of God.
Romans 8:2 speaks first of the law of the _________ _________ ___________ .
The law of the Spirit of life operates through God's Holy Spirit (our new nature). His spirit is a life-giving Spirit.
Romans 8:2 also speaks of the law of ____________ _______ _____________ .
The law of sin and death operates through the flesh (our sin nature). It ultimately produces death.
Sin operates in our flesh and causes us to succumb to temptation and disobey the commands of God. The Holy Spirit, who is stronger and mightier than the flesh, enables us to fully overcome that temptation and obey the commands of God. Said another way, the Spirit of life frees us from being held captive by the law of sin and death.
As always, God's Word speaks consistent truths throughout its pages.
Read Galatians 3:10–14, 23–25. What happens to those who refuse God's offer of grace and insist on being made right with God through obeying the law? (v. 10)
According to this passage, how can we be made right with God (be made righteous)? (v. 11) made righteous)? (v. 11)
How have we been redeemed? (v. 13; see also Deuteronomy 21:22–23)
Jesus died on the cross so that what? (v. 14)
Summarize the truths in Galatians 3:23–25 in your own words. What does this mean for your life?
IF YOU WANT TO GO DEEPER:
Read the verses that follow and take notes on what each verse speaks to you about
1. the purpose of the law
2. how it relates to sin
3. Jesus' role as it relates to the law and sin
Don't be concerned about getting the "right" answer. Just invite the Holy Spirit to open your heart to receive and understand the spiritual truths in these verses. Write what you hear.
Moreover the law entered [so] that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20–21 5:20–21 NKJV; emphasis added)
Excerpted from living so that by WENDY BLIGHT. Copyright © 2014 Wendy Blight. 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.
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