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Jesus Is Participant's Guide: Find a New Way to Be Human

Jesus Is Participant's Guide: Find a New Way to Be Human

by Judah Smith


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Judah Smith digs deep to answer the most common and the most difficult questions about Jesus, a man so few understand and so many desperately need. In Jesus Is, Judah Smith explores a number of topics that reveal Jesus’ purpose for coming, what He accomplished while He was here, and what that means for us.

Jesus is greatly revered, harshly criticized, and sorely misunderstood. Judah breaks down who Jesus is and explains to readers how understanding Jesus more fully will not only enrich their lives, but also give them meaning, as well as save them.

The 8-week Jesus Is Participant's Guide, intended for use with the DVD-based study of the same title, will help participants discover how to have a deeper, lasting relationship with Jesus, and to commune with and grow in Him. Judah will show you that Jesus is more than a good teacher, more than an inspiring leader. He is the point of all life.

Perfect for evangelism, the video sessions will help new Christians understand the person of Jesus, as well as help small group participants connect with one another.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401678074
Publisher: HarperChristian Resources
Publication date: 02/25/2013
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Judah Smith is the lead pastor of Churchome, formerly named the City Church. Churchome is a thriving multisite church noted for its cultural relevance, commitment to biblical integrity and faith, and love for Jesus. Judah is known around the United States and the world for his preaching ministry. His fresh, practical, humorous messages demystify the Bible and make Christianity real. Judah is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book Jesus Is _____ and coauthor of I Will Follow Jesus Bible Storybook.

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JESUS IS ______.


Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 Judah Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-7807-4

Chapter One


Humans are doers by nature. We are constantly going, doing, working, earning, building. We are taught from childhood that if something is to be had, it must be worked for. It must be earned.

Our work ethic is a good thing, but it's no wonder we struggle to understand and accept the gift of God's grace.

Grace can be defined as God's unmerited, unearned favor. But we can't believe something as wonderful as that could be free, so we look everywhere for the strings we are convinced are attached. Surely we did something to earn this. Or maybe it was free to start with, but now God must expect something in return.

In order to benefit from God's grace the way he intends, we must learn to embrace grace for exactly what it is: free, undeserved, and unconditional.

As you watch the video and listen to the story of the prodigal son, keep something in mind. Often, in a well-meaning attempt at humility, we compare ourselves to the son in regard to our sinfulness, our rebellion, and our desperation. We focus on our waywardness and our need for God.

It's true that without God, we are lost and desperate. But that's not the main message of this story. There's another similarity between the prodigal son and each of us that is harder to spot, yet ultimately more dangerous. It's the way he related to his father. It's the tendency he had to measure his worth and his identity by his own good or bad deeds.

This is a story about grace. Scandalous, incredible, ridiculous grace. And it's a story you and I need to take to heart.


Play Session 1: Scandalous Grace

Read aloud as a group the following Scripture passages before continuing on to discussion:

* Ephesians 2:8–9

* Acts 15:11

* Romans 11:6


1. In Jesus' story of the prodigal son, what surprises you most about the father's reaction to his son's return?

2. Why would the father disregard cultural expectations and run toward a son who had left him as he did?

3. Do you find this story to be "scandalous," as Jesus' audience did, because someone is rewarded for bad behavior? Or is it comforting and reassuring? What does your answer reveal about your view of God's love for you?

4. How did Jesus' three stories answer the question, why does Jesus hang out with bad people?

5. Can a perfect God be wrong for loving you just as you are? What is the hardest thing for you to understand when you consider God's love and his justice?

6. In what ways have you found yourself "putting your ducks in a row" before coming to God?

7. How does it feel to hear that Jesus is like a "groupie," obsessed with you?


* DAY 1

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* Why do we typically feel the need to earn someone's gift to us, or at least pay him or her back for it somehow?

In his letter to the Romans, Paul used the word "gift" to describe what has been given to us through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. If something has been given to us as a gift, then it is free. There is no charge, no obligation, and no debt.

A gift is a simple concept. I've never had to explain what it means to my kids. They just get it. On Christmas and birthdays, not once have they offered to reimburse me for their Lego set or football. Not once have they set the toys down, gone into the kitchen, and washed dishes until they paid off their presents.

It's grown-ups, us "mature" people, that need to be constantly reminded of the true definition of grace. It's free. It's a gift. And it's ours to keep.

* Have you ever received a valuable gift with no strings attached? Did you feel uncomfortable accepting it? If so, why?

* How would the person who gave you the gift feel if you didn't accept it unconditionally as he or she had intended?

* Have you believed any wrong concepts about God's gift of grace, forgiveness, and eternal life?

* DAY 2

Where sin increased, grace increased all the more. (Romans 5:20 NIV)

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* According to this verse, what specific sin or amount of sin cannot be covered by grace?

This verse in Romans 5 is what some might call a dangerous verse. People might get crazy with this verse. Paul says that no matter how much our sin increases, God's grace increases even more. If our hole gets deeper, then God's shovel gets bigger. There's nothing we can do that can't be made up for by God's grace.

See what I mean? Dangerous. What's to stop me from going out and doing whatever I want? If God's grace covers it all, I can do whatever I want, right?

Actually it's more awesome than dangerous.

Grace isn't about what we can get away with. It's about a person. It's about a relationship with Jesus that doesn't depend on how well we've behaved today. When we see Jesus for who he really is, we won't abuse him: we'll embrace him.

God's grace is awesome because no matter how hard we try, we will still fall short of perfection. But every time we mess up, God's grace picks us back up and says, "You're still within my reach."

* How have you seen God's grace continue to pick you up off the ground?

* Is it possible to try too hard to be perfect? Is perfection the main thing God wants you to seek in life?

* Do you believe that God has enough grace for all your sin for your entire life? How does your answer affect the way you live?

* DAY 3

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:9)

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* Is it difficult for you to hear that you do not deserve something—in this case, God's grace? Why or why not?

At no point during his journey did the prodigal cease being the object of his father's love. No matter how far he strayed and no matter what he did, he couldn't make his father stop loving him or looking for him.

The same goes for us with our heavenly Father. "Before the beginning of time" God planned out how he was going to show us grace. Grace always has been and always will be his intent for us. His mercies and grace "never cease" (Lamentations 3:22).

Like the prodigal son, at times we may try to distance ourselves. We may put up a fight. We may try to live independently of God. But God's love for us is based on who he is, not on who we are or how we behave. His love is relentless. His grace is compelling. His goodness breaks down our defenses.

We did nothing to deserve his love, and we can do nothing to preserve it. We simply respond to it through Jesus.

* Paul wrote that "God saved us." From what did he save you? What did you do to deserve salvation?

* What does it mean to be holy? Should that calling be intimidating for you? How does knowing we have God's grace affect your call to a holy life?

* Why do you think grace was God's plan from the beginning?

* DAY 4

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* How does Jesus' gift of grace "make you rich"?

Jesus is God, and he existed well before the day he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb. He was in heaven before time began. He was there at creation, he was worshipped and praised by angels, and he had all of heaven's riches and glories at his throne.

And he gave it all up for us. He became poor by the world's standards so that we could become rich by heaven's standards. Remember, "rich" doesn't just mean having money in the bank or a convertible in the garage. It means rich in grace. Rich in righteousness. Rich in God's favor.

When Jesus died on the cross, he took the punishment for our sins so that we wouldn't have to. He took our sin upon himself, so much, in fact, that his Father had to look away. But he did it so the Father would never have to look away from us.

That is Jesus' generous grace in a nutshell.

* Just as the prodigal's father didn't consider it beneath him to lift up his robe and run, Jesus did not consider that a life and death on earth were unfit for royalty like him. Is this easy or hard for you to comprehend? Why?

* Does being a recipient of God's grace make you feel rich? Why or why not?

* Why do you think Jesus did all that he did, giving up all that he gave up, for your sake?

* DAY 5

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* How would you describe the way you approach God and his grace? Is it with confidence?

When children have done something they know is wrong, parents can usually tell just by their demeanor. If you are a parent, you know this is true. You don't even have to see the thing that was broken or lost or spilled. You know something is up because suddenly, your kids are unable to approach you with confidence. Normally they ask you to buy them things constantly. They climb all over you and want to wrestle. They want to tell you every detail about their day. But now, they won't make eye contact, they won't talk to you, and they avoid you.

Why? Because they know they are guilty. Their normal boldness and expectation of favor have been replaced by a sense of impending doom.

Here's the crazy part. You probably aren't nearly as upset as they think you are. But their false perception creates a very real separation.

In today's passage, the writer of Hebrews calls us to "approach God's throne of grace with confidence." Don't run farther away. Don't settle for feeding pigs. And certainly don't stoop to eating the pigs' food. Instead, return to the Father with confidence that his grace continues to increase and that he never stopped loving us or looking out for us. There is nothing he cannot and will not forgive.

* Have you ever been hesitant to come to God and confess your sin? Why were you slow to approach him?

* What would it look like for someone to approach God's throne without confidence? Does that person have a correct understanding of grace?

* What does it say about the relationship between two people when the wrongdoer can approach the other with confidence and confess? Do you have that relationship with God?

Chapter Two


When the people who hated Jesus wanted to accuse him of something, the best they could come up with was that he was a friend of sinners. Think about what that says to us.

First, this accusation tells us that Jesus had an amazingly holy lifestyle. Critics couldn't accuse him for his own sins, so they had to turn to the sins of those with whom he had spent time.

That's amazing. It's inspiring. And for some of us, it's a little bit depressing.

Why? Because obviously, it's too late for any of us to live a perfect life: we blew any chance we had at that shortly after we started sucking oxygen on this planet. So how can we hope to influence others?

Let me encourage you.

We can't.

Do you feel encouraged now? I'm serious, though. While we do our best to live in holiness, and while we recognize that our sin and failures have serious consequences, we can't hold ourselves up as the paradigm of righteousness. We don't tell people, "If I can do it, so can you." That only works until we fail.

Instead, we point them to Jesus. He did it, and so can we. Do you see the difference? I'm not excusing sin or encouraging complacency. I'm putting the emphasis where Jesus put it: on himself. On his holiness, his work on the cross, his gift of grace.

But that's not my main point here—that was bonus material.

The main thing the accusation against Jesus tells us is that he spent a lot of time with sinners. And he enjoyed it. He thrived on it. He looked for it.

Sure, there were times he preached from a boat to crowds on the shore. But more often than not, he was right in the middle of the crowd. People surrounded him, hugged him, touched him, tugged at his cloak, and begged him for help.

But it didn't stop there. He went to the homes of the most notorious sinners and spent the afternoon with them. That was unheard-of for any upstanding Jew, let alone for a spiritual teacher like Jesus.

As you watch the video and consider the story of Zacchaeus, ask yourself something. Would you have been Jesus' friend?

At first glance, that appears to be an absurd question. Of course we would have been his friends. Of course we would have followed him and hung on his every word. Of course we would have soaked up every minute with him. Right?

But when we take a look at who was a friend of Jesus—and who was not—the answer may not be so cut-and-dried.

Jesus was a friend of sinners—prostitutes, adulteresses, tax collectors, liars, cheaters. And they were his friends in return. They loved him. They followed him. Not because he approved of their sinful lifestyles. But because he loved them first, just as they were, and invited himself into their lives.

Do we pay more attention to the sin than we do to the sinner? Could we be accused of being a friend of sinners, as Jesus was? Do we recognize that we, too, are sinners?


Play Session 2: Friend of Sinners

Read aloud as a group the following Scripture passages before continuing on to discussion:

* Romans 5:6–8

* Romans 3:9–12

* John 7:3–38


1. Who do you think was more surprised to hear Jesus invite himself over to Zacchaeus' house for dinner—Zacchaeus or the crowd? Why?

2. What do you think must have affected Zacchaeus more at dinner: whatever Jesus' topic of discussion was or simply the love Jesus showed for him? Why?

3. What ultimately changed Zacchaeus's life?

4. What makes us acceptable and right before God?

5. What "trees" have you climbed in your life in an attempt to get God's attention or impress him?

6. What are you tempted to put your trust in besides Jesus?

7. What can you do this week to turn more of your attention to Jesus?


* DAY 1

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10)

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* What extreme lengths have you gone to in order to seek something that was lost?

If you have ever lost a child (or "temporarily misplaced"—that sounds better), you know what panic is. You forget everything else and start searching desperately for the missing person. You do whatever it takes. You go to any extreme.

One thing you don't do is sit down and wait for him or her to find you. That's what we teach our kids, right? "If you get lost, just stay where you are, and Daddy and Mommy will find you."

When it comes to our spiritual condition, we were lost. And while we tend to say things like "I found God," that's not how it happened.

God found us. He didn't stay in heaven, waiting for a lost humanity to find him. Jesus left heaven to seek and save us. He went to extreme measures—he even gave his life for us.

* How would you describe your condition when Jesus found you? Would you have said at the time that you were lost?

* Why is it hard for people—including Christians—to recognize their need to be found or rescued?

* Is if difficult for you to relate to spiritually lost people? Why or why not?

* How can you "save" people who are lost? Is it really your responsibility?

* DAY 2

But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, "Why does he eat with such scum? When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." (Mark 2:16–17)

Read the scripture for today and consider:

* Do you think Jesus considered those he ate with to be "scum"? How do you think he saw them?

One of our greatest challenges is to look at others through God's eyes. God doesn't see ethnicity. He doesn't see rich or poor. He doesn't see political affiliation. He doesn't care whether you wear a suit and tie or flip-flops and jeans. He's not impressed by your résumé, your SAT score, or how well your fantasy football league performed. And he's not shocked by your scandalous past or your hidden sins.

We tend to be much quicker to judge than God is because we judge based on the wrong criteria. We look on the outside—at addictions, at clothing, at tattoos, at actions—but God looks beyond all that. He just sees someone he made in his image who needs his grace and forgiveness.

That's good news for everyone—starting with us.

* On what do you tend to base your opinions of others? Do you hold yourself to the same standards you hold other people?

* Are those who "think they are righteous" still sinners? What makes someone truly righteous?

* Do you judge others too quickly? Why or why not?


Excerpted from JESUS IS ______. by JUDAH SMITH Copyright © 2013 by Judah Smith. 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.

Table of Contents


SESSION 1: SCANDALOUS GRACE....................9
SESSION 2: FRIEND OF SINNERS....................23
SESSION 3: WITH YOU ALWAYS....................39
SESSION 4: ALIVE TOGETHER....................55
SESSION 5: ACCUSERS & ADVOCATES....................71
SESSION 6: COUNT THE WAYS....................87
SESSION 7: WITH US AND FOR US....................101
SESSION 8: LIVE LIKE YOU'RE RIGHTEOUS....................115

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