Jani Ortlund: Hello, everyone. I’m glad you’ve joined again for this series on discipleship. I’m hearing from many of you and I so appreciate when you take the time to either email me or send us a message through our website. Thank you. Thank you for letting us know what’s working and also for some of your questions. We’re just always glad to hear from you and try to answer them as best we can.
Starting With Worship, Sharing, and Prayer
Now today, I want you to start your discipleship group in a time of worship and sharing and prayer. We’re going to do sharing of our prayer requests first this week. This is how I want you to do it. I want you to work through our ACTS acrostic. Do you remember that? Leading your group through these four aspects of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and then Supplication. Now, I’m going to read through these, and so get a pencil ready so you can jot down the Bible references and then I’ll read them a second time in case you missed one.
A = Adoration
So what I’d like you to do is start your time together with the time of adoration. Read Exodus 15:2-11. And then offer prayers of adoration together to your God.
C = Confession
Next, I want you to go into a time of confession. Read Psalm 32:1-5 and then offer up prayers of confession both silent and audible if your group feels open enough and comfortable enough with that. But take time to confess your sins to the Lord.
T = Thanksgiving
And then T is for thanksgiving, read Psalm 107:8-9. That’s Psalm 107:8-9 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and give God your thanks.
S = Supplication
Then finally, in our part of supplication, I want you to take time to share your requests with each other. Take 15-20 minutes, whatever you need and share your requests. Read Matthew 7:7-8 and take time to pray for each other.
This time of worship could take a while, maybe 30 or 40 minutes, that’s okay. Don’t rush through it. Relax. Enjoy. Go deeper with the Lord and with each other.
Welcome back. Now we want to go over our accountability, our assignment from last week.
I wonder how you’re doing in your quiet times. Leader at some point in the evening, you’re going to want to check with the ladies in your group to see how they’re doing. Some of them may be falling behind. I encourage you to use Sundays to catch up. Encourage one another.
And then you were to read Bonhoeffer, Chapter 1, so discuss that chapter together. Now, maybe you chose a different book on priority two to read. That’s great. Go ahead and read that. I’ll keep giving these assignments from Life Together by Bonhoeffer, but you tailor them to your own individual group.
Another wonderful book on priority two is Rosaria Butterfield’s The Gospel Comes With a House Key. Oh, she’s one of my favorite authors. That’s a great book on both priority two and priority three, so you might want to read that instead of Life Together. But what I want you to see is, you want to be a reader. Christians are readers. We want to keep reading together and encouraging each other in this way.
Then you were told to memorize Romans 12:9-13. So if you’ve discussed Chapter One of Bonhoeffer (if not turn off the podcast and do it), but if you’ve discussed Chapter One of Bonhoeffer, now I want you to take some time and hold each other accountable for these verses, however you want to say them together. Draw a name of someone who has to say them all by themselves, or go around a circle and each of you say a verse or say it in unison, however you want to do it. Just hold each other accountable.
And then you were to exchange names to pray for each other. Ask your group how they checked in with each other. Did they text or by phone or email? Maybe they met in person, but encourage them to keep praying for each other.
Now, this is probably taken you up to an hour by the time you’ve participated in that worship and as you’ve talked through the chapter in Bonhoeffer and gone through your accountability. So I recommend you pause the podcast again, before we go into teaching and give your group a five minute break. We’ll see you in a few minutes.
Teaching Time: The Gospel Nurtures Humility
Well, now we come to the teaching part of our time together. You might remember our passage for these three weeks is from Romans 12:9-21, and last week, we looked at how gospel culture cultivates sincere love from Romans 12:9-13.
Tonight, we want to look at verses 14-16. How gospel culture nurtures humility. Let’s read those verses together. Listen as I read them, Romans 12. Make sure and have your Bibles open there. Romans 12:14-16.
“Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.”Romans 12:14-16
v.14 – The obvious, but difficult way, to care for each other
Well, let’s look at verse 14. It shows us the obvious, but difficult way to care for each other. Paul tells us to “bless” which means “to ask God to care for, to show mercy to, to guard, to protect” those who persecute you, who hassle you, who persistently annoy you. Our natural reaction is to curse or to wish evil upon anyone who makes life difficult for us. But God tells us instead to wish his blessing on them. Why? Why does he tell us to do this? Because those feelings of “I don’t deserve this,” or even that feeling of “I just don’t need this right now, Lord.” Those feelings are wrong. You see, we are in this together. And whatever hassles, irritations, or frustrations we bring upon each other come with God’s “okay” stamped on them.
You may be thinking, “But Jani, she is sinning against me!” Then fine. Practice Matthew 18 and go to her if you feel constrained to, but it still stands that we are told to bring blessing on those who make life difficult for us. That’s what he’s saying here. “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them.”
v.15 – A curious admonition
Then he goes on to give us this rather curious admonition in verse 15.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.”Romans 12:15
Rejoice (or mourn) with those who rejoice or mourn. Now why would Paul I have to say this? I think it’s because our natural tendency is toward jealousy and envy when someone is particularly blessed.
I can illustrate from my own life. We had just moved back from Scotland, we were so broke. We had no savings, nothing and Ray was planting a church in Eugene, Oregon. And we didn’t have a car, we didn’t have enough money to buy one, and so my parents very kindly gave us one of theirs. It was a Chevy Impala. Kind of a sports sedan. It had three seats in the back with three seat belts and two up front with a little armrest that folded down that someone could sit on. And we were a family of six. Now in those olden days, we didn’t have all the laws about car seats. We didn’t know any better. And that was the car the Lord had given us. So we used it for a while. But oh, were we crowded in there, all six of us.
And my dear friend, Debbie. Debbie, if you’re listening, I think I’ve already told you about this. She was so excited because she and her family got to get a minivan. They were kind of new and a really big deal. Back then in the mid 80s, when we came back from Scotland. And, oh, it was a beautiful minivan. And I loved it(!) and I was happy for her, but truly, in my heart, there was a little jealousy. I said, “Lord, she only has two kids. We have four. Please, Lord, we need a bigger car.” You see, I wanted to rejoice with her. But it was hard for me to.
And sometimes we feel a self-righteousness when someone has hard times. Hmm. I wonder why God is allowing that to happen to them? And we don’t really mourn with those who are mourning. We might think, “Hmm, I wonder, I wonder what God is doing? Why is he allowing that to happen? Could it be his discipline?” You see, we’re so suspicious of others and so sure of ourselves. Paul is showing us here what gospel culture really looks like. Because of Christ’s care for us, we can learn to embrace each other’s joys and sorrows. We can try to know and understand the inner world of another. We get to stop living on the surface with each other and enter into each other’s inner world, bearing with one another. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
v.16 – True Humility
Now look at verse sixteen:
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”Romans 12:16
This shows us what true humility really looks like. This verse is encouraging us to be agreeable, pleasing to each other, to fit in well together. To be harmonious, to not be prickly. Paul is saying be careful about holding too high an opinion of yourself.
One of the youth ministers we worked with in our earliest days of ministry taught us the value of being what he called a “There you are!” person rather than a “Here I am” person.
“There you are! How are you doing? How can I serve you? What are your needs?”
“I sure hope I’m doing okay and that people will notice me and care about me.”
You see, not only do we play the Princess Game, but we also play the Comparison Game. I think this is a particularly hard one for women. As women we’re very conscious of the external, our clothes, our houses, our talents, our intelligence, our energy levels, our physical appearance. And then we think, “Well, if only I had her personality or her brains or her opportunities or her money or her husband,” (whatever) “then I could.”
But the Comparison Game wreaks havoc on any group of women, because everyone loses when we play this game. You see if you compare yourself and you come out on top, well, then you can become proud. And if you compare yourself and your opponent comes out on top, then you will struggle with envy and insecurity. 2 Corinthians 10:17-18 say that we’re not to compare ourselves to anyone but the Lord Jesus. He is the one who gives approval on what is truly valuable.
Never being wise in our own sight
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. That means, give yourself to humble tasks. Never be wise in your own sight. Love must be truly humble. I must never think I’m too good to befriend someone or extend kindness to someone. Authentic humility means not being surprised at anything another would say about me, because if she knew the real me, she’d have so much more to say.
Jonathan Edwards, who lived from 1703 to 1758, wrote this,
“Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most jealous of himself. He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers and to be quick to note their weaknesses. But the humble Christian has so much to do at home, and sees so much evil in his own heart, and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He is apt to esteem others better than himself.”Jonathan Edwards
Ephesians 4:1-3 say this,
“I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:1-3
You see, true humility is gentle, and patient with others. C.S. Lewis, in his book, Letters to an American Lady wrote this,
“May God’s grace give you the necessary humility. Try not to think—much less, speak—of their sins. One’s own are a much more profitable theme! And if on consideration, one can find no faults on one’s own side, then cry for mercy: for this must be a most dangerous delusion.”C.S. Lewis
In each of our lives, there’s a can of worms, a skeleton in our closet hiding somewhere. We’re willing to be known up to a point, That’s safe, but superficial. That’s fragile love, and it’s not worth very much the world can love you that way. But we need to love each other deeply. Right on down to those painful areas right to the end, and we need to keep on loving each other. Even when we get to know everything about each other. We need to refuse to let go of each other. We can’t be loners anymore. Let’s learn to penetrate deeply into the lives of those we touch. I love Sadhu Sundar Singh’s “The Message of a Mystic’s Way” on page 68, he writes this, he’s teaching about Matthew 16:25, which says,
“For whoever would save his life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”Matthew 16:25
And this is in keeping with our verse about living in harmony with one another and not being haughty. But being willing to associate with the lowly. Never being wise in your own sight. Listen to what he wrote.
“Crossing a range of mountain in a heavy snowstorm he was joined by a Tibetan who was afraid of going alone. The cold was so intense that they had already begun to despair of reaching their destination alive, when they saw a man, who had slipped down a slope of snow some thirty feet below the path, lying there unconscious. The Sadhu asked his companion to help him carry the man to the village. The Tibetan, telling him that he was a fool to try to help another when he could barely save himself, left him and hurried on ahead. The Sadhu went down the slope and just managed to get back on to the road again with the man on his shoulders and struggled slowly along. Some distance further on he perceived his former companion sitting by the wayside. He called, but there was no answer—he was frozen dead. The Sadhu himself meanwhile had become thoroughly warmed by his exertions and, as a result of this warmth and of the friction between their bodies, the man he carried also gradually became warmer and came to; and both reached the village alive and full of thankfulness. It is easy to die for Christ. It is hard to live for Him. Dying takes only an hour or two, but to live for Christ means to die daily.”Sadhu Sundar Singh in “The Message of a Mystic’s Way”
Oh, let’s be women, who let gospel culture nurture humility in us. And let’s have that spread in our small groups together. Now, next week, we’ll finish up this passage and talk about how gospel culture generates forgiveness.
Next Week’s Assignment
Here’s your assignment for next week.
- Keep up with your quiet times in your meditation.
- Have an extended quiet time by March 1.
- Memorize Romans 12:14-17.
- Read Bonhoeffer chapter two,
- And pray for each other.
Let me go over those again. Make sure you have your quiet times and work on having an extended quiet time before March 1. Memorize Romans 12:14-17, read Bonhoeffer chapter two, and pray for each other.
Now close your meeting by singing your benediction over each other. And may the Lord, mighty Lord, bless and keep you forever as he restores your soul.