Our stories create a picture for others to see how God enters our lives and brings healing, meaning, and connection, rather than the rules and condemnation we sometimes associate with Him. But how do we face down our fears of others’ reactions and explain how God has freed and empowered us?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Message Video from Gateway in North Austin:
Message Notes from John Burke:
We’re wrapping up this Love Everyone Life by Life series today, I want to recap.
Jesus said the greatest Commandment is to Love God first—which means living to please God more than living to please ourselves or even others. He wants our love, not just our obedience, so He waits for our willingness. If we become willing, He will teach us how to love our Neighbors as much as we do ourselves.
God’s plan to change the world is really simple—connect to the Source of Love, let God love you, heal you, and teach you to love the 20 or so family members, neighbors, coworkers, or students around you with His love. Do that, and He changes the world, Life by Life. So simple…yet the most difficult thing to consistently do.
First week I challenged you—to Care. Love Cares—and the best way to care is to Begin praying for people around you. There’s an acronym we use—BLESS the people around you.
- Begin to pray for people around you.
- Listen to their story, find out about them and value them.
- Engage with them—eat together, throw parties, ride bikes, watch games, play sports (and this is not linear—you may have to engage before you can listen.
- Or you may Serve people first because you see an opportunity—you Serve them, or you may invite them to serve others with you—these are all things Jesus did regularly.
- Today we’re going to talk about Share your Story and particularly where it intersects God’s Story. That’s the Most Loving thing you can do for another human.
Ever thought about that: What’s THE Most Loving thing you can do for someone? Isn’t it to connect them to the very Source of all Love, joy, peace, life?
You and I can only give finite little expressions of love, kindness—but God is the Source—an overflowing supply of what every soul craves. So isn’t the most loving thing you could do to help someone know how to connect to the Source of all they truly desire?
Just like when you really love anything you want to share it—whether love for a football team (not singling out any particular football team Horns Up), a person, a child, a hobby—you want to share it with others—right?. When you know God’s love, you want others to have it too.
Have you ever realized that God’s at work behind the scenes, drawing people to Himself? Jesus said:
When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. John 12:32
God’s all over the world—drawing people (do you know where the church has grown fastest?). In China, Africa, South America. God’s in India, drawing people to himself.
Paul realized that God’s already at work, behind the scenes, with all people of all cultures. Maybe you’ve never thought about this. Paul goes into Lystra, a pagan, idol-worshipping city, and look what he says
“We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17 but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” Acts 14:15-17
Paul sees that God doesn’t love one culture more than another—even though he gives people free wills and lets us go our own way if we want—he is always doing things, sending signs, good gifts—provision, putting joy in people’s hearts, wooing people in those thoughts that fly through their minds. Maybe you’ve never considered this—that God’s already at work in your neighbors and coworker’s lives—wooing them to himself. Because He loves them—He created them for a love relationship with the Source of Love. And if you’re willing, he will use your story to share His story.
To follow Jesus—means we do what He did as we’ve been studying. It also says:
Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about [God’s] Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease. John 4:23
Jesus brought hope, healing, and God’s help to a struggling world. He demonstrated and told people about Good News–God is for you, He’s not against you. You don’t have to run from God or fear God’s condemnation—he will forgive, he will adopt any person who wants in His family, then He will guide you to become all He created you to be. It’s not burdensome—it’s life, abundant.
Ambassadors for Jesus
So our job is to bring Good News about God’s heart for all people. The word Gospel, Eu-Angellion, Eu in Greek means “good”, Angellion (angel means message) so Gospel is Good News or Good Message of God’s story.
If your story has intersected God’s story—somewhere along the way of being a Blessing to people around you, you need to SHARE Your Story intersecting God’s story:
God was in Christ [Messiah], reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20.
God wants all people to know how He feels about them—but he uses willing people to put SKIN on His message. He’s teaching us to love by entrusting us with His Message of Love. You are meant to be God’s Ambassador to the 20 or so people around you.
An Ambassador lives in a foreign country temporarily. An ambassador is there to represent the Country she actually belongs to. His or her job as an ambassador is simply to speak for the Government or Kingdom they represent. To convey that Kingdom’s Message. If you have come to faith in Jesus—realized God has forgiven you, adopted you as His son or daughter, then your country and Kingdom are not America or Mexico, or India, or China—you’re first a Citizen of Heaven –that’s your Homeland—and you’re here as God’s Ambassador for His Kingdom. It’s not a question of “Am I God’s ambassador?” You are—the question is just how well do you represent God’s Kingdom and Good News to all people around you? That’s why we are told:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….” 1 Peter 3:15
You do it with gentleness and respect, but you have to be ready too. Are you? One of our Life Group Outcomes helps you be ready—the Next Steps can too. You never know what’s going on inside a person, and how God may want to use your story to help them see how much He loves and cares about them.
God truly loves all people He created. But He doesn’t force himself on us—he draws people to himself. Some people will respond with open hears, others will stay close minded in fear of letting go and letting God—but we can’t change people and that’s not your job—your job is to simply share God’s love for people.
Jesus said “Love your neighbor.” When He prompts, will you care more about that person, or will you care more about yourself or your reputation?
Love requires risk. Love means we care more about them than ourselves.
Two Verses to Share
Sometimes we are afraid we won’t say the right things, so we say nothing. But the Gospel, Good Message, of God’s Kingdom is really simple—you can say it many different ways—but I want to give you the simplest. Write down these 2 verses:
- John 3:16-18
- Ephesians 2:8-10
I just take people to these to explain what I found out. Here’s how I do it.
- Somewhere in the conversation, I may ask, “Can I show you what Jesus said about how much God loves you and me?”
- I see if they’re open—if they say “sure” I open YouVersion Bible app to John 3:16
God so loved the world [you, me, every person he created] that he gave [sent] his one and only Son [Jesus], that whoever believes [trusts] in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save [set right with God] the world through him. John 3:16-17
I reiterate the main thing and ask questions:
“Jesus came to show us that God loves you and me so much, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you. If God was a human, he’d died for you. God’s for you, he’s not against you. God’s not standing there ready to condemn you or me for the wrongs we’ve done. Jesus died on the cross to pay for all our wrongs so God could freely forgive and take back anyone who wants His love, and still be Just.
Have you thought about God that way? That he loves you and just wants relationship with you?”
We may talk for a while about that—I’ll point back to the next verse—it’s helpful letting people see Jesus’ words.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already. John 3:18
The problem with this world is that all people, me, you, everyone has turned away from God—that’s why we feel condemned already. We all know we’re guilty. Proof? Ever said “I’ll never…but you did?” We can’t even keep our own moral code, much less God’s. That’s because we play God—we all spend more time thinking about My Will be done than God’s will be done—so the world is a war of wills. The Bible calls this sin—seeking my will instead of God’s will. So universally, people feel guilty, condemned. But notice what Jesus said, “God’s not wanting to condemn, but forgive and remove all fear of condemnation. He’s made it so simple, all God requires is a heart turning to God wanting his forgiveness and love. Which is why Jesus said, “Whoever believes (or Trusts what God did to forgive us in Jesus) and turns back to God—that’s all God needs. Your faith, or trust, your heart wanting God’s forgiveness and leadership.
I may ask:
- “Is there anything that would keep you from receiving God’s forgiveness and love offered in Christ?”
- Some say “Well…what about…” And that’s fine—you’re entering a dialogue—you don’t have to know every answer, just say “I don’t know, but if you’re open, we can explore those questions together—I will look for resources.”
- But some say, “No—nothing’s keeping me from God.” I’ll say, “Do you want to pray and open your heart to him? You can do that right now because a heart turning to God is all he needs.”
- Then we’ll pray and I’ll say simply “Tell God, ‘I want what Jesus did to count for me God, I want your forgiveness and your leadership.”
- It’s that simple telling God “I want your forgiveness and leadership freely offered through Jesus.”
Paula Black is a friend of ours, diagnosed with cancer all over her body, the doctors said it’s untreatable and gave her 3-4 months to live…17 years ago! She feels like she found the answer to cancer’s death sentence—so she tells everyone, wrote a book, she wants others to know. If she held back for fear people would reject her message—what would you think of her–that would be selfish, right?
Well we all have a cancer of the soul—but God’s offering a cure—He already paid the hefty price for the medicine we all need.
Here’s where the second verse comes in:
God saved you [set you right with Himself] by his grace [unmerited favor] when you believed [trusted]. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10
I’ll point out—saved means “set in rightstanding /relationship” with God is a gift.
“If someone gives you a gift—what do you have to do?” Nothing—either accept it or reject it, you can reject a gift. But if it’s a gift, you don’t have to earn it or work for it. God’s love and forgives are gifts. You are His work of art—his masterpiece. If you accept His gift of restored relationship with your Creator, he’s going to help you become the beautiful work of art He created you to be as you do life with Him.
Then I explain—God promises that nothing can separate you from His love—you belong to God now and for all eternity. But Just like any relationship—he wants you to grow to love and trust him more and more. I’ll suggest they read John in the Bible—about Jesus’ life and teachings.
Maybe you’re hearing this and realizing—I never knew that—I never realized I can be confident of relationship with God, of forgiveness and love and guidance, and all I have to do is receive it—like a gift. If so, let me lead you in a prayer today at the end of the service—turn back to God today—leave here knowing you will never be condemned and nothing can ever separate you from God’s love.
When you’re sharing God’s Story, you’re not trying to convert someone—you’re not trying to force something on them. As one guy said, “I’m like one beggar telling another begger where to find food. If they want it, they’ll come and take it—if not, I was simply trying to share a great thing I found.” That’s what you’re doing.
When I Share God’s Story, it’s most often in the context of my story. Your Story is powerful – people won’t be offended or argue with your story—It’s your story. That’s a great way to share God’s story. In Acts Paul tells his story to king Agrippa and others…it gives a great outline to think about telling your story. I want to encourage you to try an exercise to help you write your story in a way to tell God’s story too.
Sharing Our Story:
1). What was your life like apart from God?
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Acts 26:9-10
For me, I thought I was God—I’d never admit that, but I thought Life was supposed to obey my commands—go according to my will. And as long as it was working, I ignored God. Then I watched my father die of Cancer, and I realized I was not in charge—it caused me to question everything. Unfortunately, it’s usually only when things get painful that we realize we’re not God. God brought Randy along. Randy started telling me his story of discovering Life with God—he kept encouraging me to be open and to explore faith. I was a jerk to him honestly—but I was secretly hurting, questioning, curious about God but also afraid God would ruin my life.
What made you decide to follow Christ and how did you do that?
“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus…a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions… and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’ “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” Acts 26:12-15
When it happened, Acts 9 records that Jesus then said “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:6
This is fascinating! Jesus didn’t lead Paul to faith. He sent him to Ananias who explained the Good News and baptized Paul. God chooses to use people—like you and me—to convey his message.
God won’t force us into relationship. We must invite him.
What’s life been like with God?
Paul goes on to explain:
“What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that! … I started [telling others about] this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life—right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and to the whole world. Acts 26:19-20
A relationship with God is like any relationship. When 2 people get married, they’re pledging faith. They’re entering a life-long relationship that grows by trusting one another.
That’s what it’s been like—knowing God does not condemn, but is like a Good Parent that wants to help me grow up spiritually has been amazing–the more I’ve trusted him, the more I’ve seen a love, joy, and peace grow within me. My friend who led me to faith was right: I could always go back to my old ways at any time, but I don’t want to! This is much much better!
So as we wrap up this series—what’s Your Story?
- Have you received God’s love and forgiveness?
- If so, Will you love those around you—even more than you love what they may say about you?
- Will you love God and love people enough to Share Your Story and God’s Story?
There’s no greater privilege in life—and there’s no greater love than to introduce someone to Love Himself.