14 May Discussion Guide: The Best Is Yet To Come Week 4
Take the first few minutes of your time together to listen to what God is doing in one another’s lives and pray for any specific needs people in your group may have.
This week we continue our new series titled “The Best Is Yet To Come.” We will be walking through the book of Acts and looking at who Jesus has called us to be and what Jesus has called us to do in light of all that He has already done. As we study the descriptive history of the early church our hope is that these truths will move in our hearts to become a prescriptive call to go into all the world and be witnesses for Christ.
What’s the greatest gift you have ever received? Why do you consider that the greatest gift?
George Eliot, Author
“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.”
What would you say is the greatest longing of the human heart? Why do you think that is?
What happens to people when that longing, or need, is withheld from them?
In what ways have you seen people, or maybe even yourself, seek to obtain love from others? From God?
We have an inherent design to be loved because we are made in the image and likeness of a Triune God, a God whom the Scriptures say is the very source of love. Unconditional love speaks to the human heart and says, “You are enough for me. I delight in you simply because you’re mine.” Love gives us inherent worth, the confidence to believe we are accepted and desires simply for our being. So, when that kind of longing is withheld from the human heart then fear and insecurity take over and we are no longer content with our being so we begin to look outward to our doing in order to determine our worth and acceptance. When love is withheld then our heart begins to tell us that there is not enough in us, in our being, deserving of another’s commitment, attention or sacrifice. Therefore, we have to add to our being in order to try to meet the standard or the quota required to be considered worth of such things. We add money, we add fame, we add sex appeal, we add accomplishments, we add titles, we add pretty much anything we can think of to increase our perceived lovability. And, in doing so we actually rob ourselves of the very thing we are trying to obtain because the moment we feel we have gained a greater level of appreciation or perceived love because of something we have done then we have immediately sabotaged ourselves because we know that in order to maintain, or keep, that feeling of love we have to continue bettering our performance. Eventually, we throw our hands up in hopeless frustration because we can never seem to reach the finish line. It’s a constant striving because in basing our lovability on our performance we are actually carrying out a direct violation of our very design and makeup, and that is why it becomes increasingly difficult to live with ourselves. Even if no one else knows, we know that we are a fraud.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Is it even possible to obtain, or earn, love from someone?
Why do you think it’s so difficult for us to receive love without feeling like we’ve “earned” it?
When it comes to God’s love, how does Christianity differ from every other worldview or belief system?
What does that say about our King and His Kingdom?
First off, no…it is not possible to earn love. Love by definition is a sacrificial commitment made by one on behalf of another. You cannot earn a sacrifice from someone. The moment it is earned, or that you have it coming to you, then it is no longer a sacrifice. It has become a wage at that point. Unconditional love is just that…it is not conditioned or based on anything the object of that love has done in order to warrant such a sacrificial commitment.
This is difficult for us, as Westerners, to comprehend, and yes even apprehend, because we live in a culture that says you get rewarded for good behavior and you get punished for bad behavior. We live in a culture that promotes the winners and shames the losers. So, when we hear of someone loving us, not just because we have not failed, but specifically in the face of our failures, we figure there must be a catch. We also like to have control and predictability in life, and therefore we can handle the idea that we’re lovable when we do X, Y or Z. But, to admit that we can’t do anything to control whether or not someone, in particular God, loves us is a scary thing for us.
This is where Christianity separates itself from every other belief system. Every other system of belief in the world today gives you a bar you have to jump over, some kind of achievement by which you can determine your standing both with God and with the world. Christianity alone says that God loves you and accepts you even while you were still His enemy, when you were powerless to do anything about your being and “object of wrath by your very nature.” (Ephesians 2).
“God’s plan is not to abandon this world, the world which he said was “very good.” Rather, he intends to remake it. And when he does he will raise all his people to new bodily life to live in it. That is the promise of the Christian gospel.
What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
When you think about who our God is, and how the longings of your heart will be ultimately fulfilled when He restores all things to their original design, how does that affect the way you live in the present?
How have you seen glimpses of that future reality demonstrated in the present?
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
What are some ways we can bring that future Kingdom reality into the present lives of others?
How might that affect the longing of their hearts to be loved unconditionally?