The primary idea you need to keep revisiting during this Following Jesus Pathway is that we are following and being formed by Jesus. This pathway can be learned simply or in great depth. We trust that you as a leader know your people and the dynamics of your group well enough to adapt and impart this topic with grace and wisdom.
This guide is designed to help you and others follow and be formed by Jesus. Remember to keep it Jesus-Centered.
We pray that you will be Spirit-Led and Spirit- Empowered as you lead and learn together.
Brief Commentary and Context
(Answer this question here: What did this mean in the original context and how is it set in the larger story of the Bible?)
The Gift- ‘The Gift’ is a shorthand description used in the apostles' letters to the churches describing the lavish grace of God given to all who repent and place their trust in Jesus as Lord, believing the gospel. The gospel is who Jesus is and what he has done. ‘The Gift’ is what we freely receive in Christ and continually experience through the Holy Spirit!
Biblical Freedom Defined- In Christ we are free from the power of sin, death and self, and free to desire and do God’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has set us free and we are learning to live in his freedom in our everyday lives.
Brief Commentary for John 8:30-38- Jesus’ Exchange with the Pharisees
As thousands of Jewish pilgrims crowded Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles (an 8 day celebration reminding the Jews of their years in the wilderness and anticipated hope for Messiah) the Pharisees aggressively questioned Jesus. At one point in the vehement dialogue after some Jews had believed in him, Jesus said,
“‘The truth will set you free’. Verse 32 rings like a bell through so much Christian language: free from sin, free from slavery, free from the law, free from death, free from injustice, free from debt, free from tyranny…It’s needed today as much as ever, in all these senses and more. The way to freedom is through truth. Tyranny and slavery of every sort thrive on lies, half-truths, evasions and cover-ups. Freedom and truth go hand in hand.
So Jesus is offering - we might have thought- what everybody in Israel was longing for! Freedom at last! And at an even deeper level than they had imagined. Surely this will catch people’s attention, especially with those who , as John says, have now come to believe that he really is the Messiah (verse 30)?
Surprisingly, no. They hear straight away that he is offering a freedom which goes far beyond the national hope of freedom from Rome, and they react against the idea. ‘How can you say such a thing? We are Abraham’s children, and we’ve always been free!’
Jesus doesn’t point out , as he might have done, that the foundation of their national life and faith was not just Abraham, but the Exodus which had taken place after their slavery in Egypt. He goes straight to the heart of what he means. There is a worse slavery than that which they had suffered in Egypt, or the semi-slavery they were suffering under the rule of Rome. It is the slavery that grips not only individuals but also groups, nations and families of nations. It is the slavery we know as ‘sin’.
The trouble with saying that out loud is that many people in the Western world are bored of hearing about sin. They think it just means offenses against someone else’s old-fashioned morality, often in matters to do with sex…But there is more to sin than sex, and sin as a whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. When people rebel against God in whatever way, new fields of force are called into being, a cumulative effect builds up, and individuals and societies alike become enslaved just as surely as if every single one of them wore chains and was hounded to work every day by a strong man with a whip. So what is the truth and how can it set people free, then and now?
Throughout John’s gospel, with 1.14, 18 and 14.6 as particular high points, the answer is clear: Jesus himself is the truth. But we mustn’t forget that the Jesus who is described as the truth is the Jesus of the whole story John is telling, and above all the Jesus who dies on the cross as the supreme act of love, that act in which the father’s glory is finally revealed.
Jesus doesn’t here explain how it is that his death - the truth within the truth, if you like - brings about freedom from sin. To understand this promise you have to read the whole gospel. But he does point out in verses 35-36, the contrast between the slave and the son - and between the slave and the ex-slave, the one whom the son sets free. It forms a solemn warning. Slaves have no assurance for the future; only true members of the family have that. Jesus, as the father’s only, special son (1.18), is in the position not only to set people free but to share with them his status as children of the father (see 20.17).
The charge Jesus is putting to his contemporaries, then, is that they are confusing two sorts of family membership: being children of Abraham and being children of God. They have been assuming that being children of Abraham means automatically being children of God, but John the Baptist, Jesus and the early Christians, especially writers like John and Paul, insisted that this wasn't so. In fact, they insisted that the children of Abraham had been deeply and seriously infected by the disease of sin, the disease of which the rest of the human race was already suffering. The people called to being God’s light to the world were instead sharing in the darkness. But there was still a chance. If only they would hear and receive Jesus’ words, they could themselves be set free from the slavery they didn’t even know they were in.” (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone p.121-124)
Summary Scripture: Galatian 5:1- “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rom. 6:18)
"For one who has died has been set free from sin." (Romans 6:7)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor. 3:17)
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:16-17)
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as his is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. Galatians 2:20
Learn the Tool: The Gospel and the Gift
Extra Resources to help you Prepare
Live No Lies: https://a.co/d/2RryguO
Refer to Pastoral Elders if needed for extra help or if you need access to more specific freedom resources/ministries.
Anyone new in your home church?
Things to Consider:
Is the new individual, or family organically connecting with anyone in your home church? Suggest a coffee hang to begin a deeper connection, or consider having the individual/family over for an easy dinner to get to know them better.
Is the new individual, or family interested in receiving communication via text, or email? If so, have them email email@example.com with their name and phone number.
Do they plan to attend All Navah Gatherings? If yes and it is a new family, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, their children(s) name, DOB and grade to make for a smooth kids ministry check-in process.