14 Jul Discussion Guide: The Gospel Is For Everyone Week 12
Community Groups Vision
If you have time and feel this would help the new people in your community group better understand what you are trying to accomplish as a group then take 2 minutes to show this video.
This week we continue our series The Gospel is for Everyone. There are many things in our world that look and feel like they are only for the select few, the wealthy, the powerful, the privileged. In a world that seems so unfair at times, we are going to take a look at something that knows no prejudice and shows no favoritism, and yet it is the most powerful thing the world has ever seen. We are going to take a look at the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that is for everyone who believes.
As a kid, what is something you really, really wanted or desired? Why?
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
What is desire? How would you define it?
Where do our desires come from? What motivates them?
Webster’s Dictionary defines desire as a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment. Desire is the longing in our hearts to take possession of something that we feel will bring us happiness, joy, pleasure, love, healing or relief.
Our desires come from our perceptions of what we believe will help us accomplish those things listed above.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
What do you think Paul means when he says, “Live according to the flesh?”
What do you think Paul means when he says, “Live according to the Spirit?”
What would you say is the connection between living “According to the flesh,” and having wrongly motivated desires?
Desire is neither good nor evil, it simply is the longing for something that we feel will bring good into our lives. The problem isn’t the desire in, and of, itself, the problem is what motivates the desires we pursue. The motivation of our desire is to experience some kind of “freedom.” We seek freedom from pain, freedom from loneliness, or freedom from boredom among other things. So, the issue with desire comes when our eyes are fixed on the wrong ‘saviors’ to rescue us from those fears.
You see, we all have a ‘functional hell’ that exists in our minds. For some loneliness and isolation is their idea of hell in their lives. For some, poverty and the inability to have the material possessions they think will provide them with happiness is their idea of hell. For some, not having a physical form that is desired by others, being unattractive, is their idea of hell. The list goes on and on. And, what we tend to do is to chase after, or desire, the thing that promises to rescue us from that functional hell. We seek a ‘functional savior.’ If loneliness is my version of hell then a relationship with that special somebody becomes my savior. If poverty is my version of hell then money becomes my savior. If being unattractive is my version of hell then the diet, gym, or surgery becomes my savior. When that happens, then my desires are wrongly motivated and will always lead to “death” in some form.
Why do I say my desires are wrongly motivated? Because in every single ‘functional hell’ and ‘functional savior’ scenario my motivation is fear. It is the fear of not being loved, the fear of insignificance, the fear of rejection, that drives my desires and passions in those situations. And, any desire that is fueled by fear will always come from a place self-preservation and self-centeredness because as long as my eyes are fixed on the thing I don’t want to happen to me they will never be able to focus on the things I should be doing for others. This is what Paul is referring to when he says we, “Live according to the flesh.”
The word Flesh (sarkos) in Paul’s vocabulary denotes the human nature void of the divine influence of God, the reasoning, longing, and motivation of men and women apart from the influence of God’s Spirit. And, since Paul tells us that what the Spirit of God reveals to our hearts is the love of God that has been poured out for us through Christ Jesus, then he is saying the flesh is that desire that is motivated, not by unconditional love, but by fear and self-preservation. To “live according to the flesh” is to live life from the motivation to prove you are significant, valuable, and worthy of love. To “live according to the Spirit” is to live life from the understanding that you are significant, valued, and loved by God because of what Jesus has done and to be motivated by that love to go into the world and love others unconditionally as a reflection of God and His Kingdom.
Simply put, when we doubt God’s love for us fear and insecurity become the motivation of our desires and then the things we desire are those things that promise to “make us like God,” rather than help us experience and reflect the love of God to others. This is precisely what happened in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve, and it’s what happens to every human being who has every lived. However, when we trust in, and find security in, the unconditional love of God then we no longer feel the need to grasp for control, or for something to elevate ourselves above others, and we live in the freedom of love. This is what Paul refers to in Phillipians 2 when says Jesus, “Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” Adam, in his desire to be like God that was motivated by fear grasped for the fruit. Jesus, in the security of God’s love which fueled His desire to glorify God, willingly gave up control in His vocation to serve others.
St. Augustine, The City of God
“All of our problems come from disordered loves. So you say a man has murdered someone. Well, what was his motive? Either he wanted something the man had, or had lost something to the man and wanted vengeance. Every man commits murder because he loves something, he loves something too much, and that is the motive of his crime. There is a splendor in all bodies that are beautiful to the eye. The sense of touch and taste have their own power to please. The power to see has its own glory, as does the power to command. The bond of human friendship has a sweetness of its own, binding many souls together as one. Yet because of these values, sin is committed, because we have an inordinate preference for these goods of a lower order and neglect the better and the higher good, neglecting thee, O our Lord God, and thy truth and thy law. When we inquire why a sin was committed we can be assured it is because one has loved that which is inferior to that which is superior. Your loving something as if it were 1st or 2nd when it should be 3rd or 4th, it is sin. All disordered loves lead to brokenness and pain because it violates the very reality of the purpose of creation.”
How have you seen wrongly motivated desires negatively affect our world?
How have you seen wrongly motivated desires negatively affect your own life?
Romans 8:1-2, 15-16
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…”
When you hear that Truth, and when you know what Jesus went through to make that Truth true for you, how might that, “Set you free from the slavery of fear (Law of Sin and Death) and empower you to, “Walk according to the Spirit?”