Walking Points: Reflection Questions and Next Steps
Coming Home: The Yes of Obedience
Pastor Bruce wrote,
“Mary and Joseph are the very first human beings confronted with the reality of Jesus’ advent into our world. Into their world. Two things stand out in each experience. First, obedience is not just keeping the rules or following a code. It is – in essence – an intentional assent to the will of God. Obedience is saying yes to God’s will for e. Secondly obedience is action. It is something that we do; it is not only an interior disposition, but it leads me to specific steps.
Note: this doesn’t mean we have all the answers. It doesn’t mean we know how it’s going to play out. May and Joseph were going on scant information that seemed impossible and likely made their heads swirl. Instead of certitude, they were left with trust. And trust makes a place for the Savior.”
Below are some “Walking Points,” which are questions for reflection and next steps for you to consider taking during this Advent season and beyond. You can use them for your personal devotional time or with others in a small group.
1. When the angel appeared to Mary to tell her the news that she was chosen of God to be the mother of Jesus, Luke 1:29 says, “…she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”
· What are two or three ways you discern God’s will for your life? Why are those good ways to discern God’s will?
· If you are meeting in a group with others, share with them an experience in your life when you discerned God’s will for your life. Was it hard or easy? How did you go about it?
· Eventually you had to step out in trust. Was that a scary time? Why or why not? What did you learn from the experience?
2. Read Luke 1:30-36. Talk about impossible! Now read verse 37.
· How does knowing who God is enable you to better trust him during tough times.
· What are some ways we can better know God?
· List three attributes or characteristics of God that you cling to during tough decisions in your life. Why did you choose those three?
3. Now read Luke 1:38.
· Spend some time praying privately, or together in your group, for the Lord to fill you with his Spirit to enable you to discern and respond to God’s call in your life, as Mary did.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:1-2)
Knowing God Rightly
“Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.” (A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy)
God really does care that we know him (John 17:3)… and know him rightly. Any old expression of religion won’t do and, in fact, often leads to a dangerous idolatry.
The Apostle Paul, passionately concerned for the salvation of the Israelites, admitted they had a zeal, perhaps even an enviable zeal, for God. Yet he was quick to follow that admission with the sober truth that their zeal for God was not according to knowledge. They were wrong in their understanding of how to obtain righteousness.
The Appearance of Enthusiasm
In our day we give points to folks for the appearance of enthusiasm. Maybe they are very exuberant as they worship God. Perhaps there’s lots of “God-talk” liberally sprinkled throughout their conversations. It may be they actively serve their church. These are all good things to be sure.
However, what they (and we) must watch out for is a zeal that is without a true and proper knowledge of the living God. It’s not that we must first pass a doctoral examination in theology before we go to heaven. The key idea is that a shabby doctrinal or theological foundation can lead one astray. It can cause a well-intentioned person to unwittingly compromise his or her faith and drift to and fro with every new “Christian” book, television program, or religious movement.
In Exodus 34:6-7, God painted a beautiful picture of some of his attributes. He wanted Moses and the rest of his children to know and worship him rightly. He followed up in Exodus 34:14 by saying, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” It’s not a coincidence that the first three commandments focus on this very issue.
It’s frightening how easily we can wander off the straight and narrow path. God provided a warning concerning this very thing in Exodus 34:16, when he told Moses to caution the people about choosing the wrong spouse, one who is described as not knowing and worshiping the one true God. He said that sort of choice would lead God’s people away from God and into idolatry.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
More is needed than zeal and good intentions when it comes to our relationship with God. It is true that knowledge alone can “puff up” the young and immature in the faith. But that’s not the fault of the knowledge. That’s more of a commentary on where a person is in their faith-journey. The solution to this potential problem is not to ignore our call to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Instead, we ought to continue seeking such knowledge, but do so humbly, carefully, and in full dependence on the grace of God. Likewise, the purpose of our pursuit of knowing God should be for God’s glory and the good of others. Psalm 43:3-4a says,
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.
A mentor of mine used to say the better we know God the more we will be able to love, follow, and trust God. It’s awfully difficult to love, follow, and trust someone you don’t know. It’s also hard to love and follow God if you don’t have a growing and maturing knowledge of God - what God has revealed about himself, as well as how to live for him and with him in this world. May Almighty God, give us great and increasing passion and zeal to know him.
Holy, righteous, gracious, and loving God, you are too wonderful to limit with mere words. Yet, I desire to express my love for you by adoring you for who you are. I thank you for revealing yourself in your holy Word. I praise you that all of Scripture is a beautiful testimony to your majesty and grandeur. Fill me with your Spirit, I humbly pray, and let me see your glory. Help me to continuously grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. Cause me to long for you more and more with each and every passing day. I desire, O Lord, to know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly. In Christ I pray. Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Guide
[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]
Petition – prayers for yourself
· Help me to mature in my faith and to increasingly please God by my thoughts, words, and deeds.
· Particular struggles in various relationships
· My activities for this day
· Other needs
Intercession – prayers for others
· My Family
· My local church
· My denomination
· Para-church ministries, particularly Christian education and discipleship
· Evangelistic ministries
· Other needs
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