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You can only give away what you have

Thursday, October 03, 2013

You can only give away what you have. Seems pretty obvious. Seems pretty basic. It is. And there’s very little more foundational for you as a small group leader (or Christian) in thinking about how you point others in your group to Jesus. At one level it’s just another way of saying “Experience and Express Grace,” that we must experience grace ourselves first before we can share it with someone else, but in this context it goes even further.

It’s not just that we need to have experienced grace ONE TIME in the past; rather, it’s the principle that we must be feeding on Christ DAILY right now in order to be able to offer him to others. Let me explain it this way: Have you been on a diet before that really, really worked? You followed the guidelines, ate what you were told, avoided everything you were supposed to, and the pounds fell off. And stayed off (If you’ve never had this experience, just imagine!). Now suppose someone you love is having weight problems and is asking you for help. What will you do? You’ll point them to the diet you’re on, of course!

Now let’s come back to your small group. I’m going to assume that you actually care about the people in your group … you really do love them. When someone starts sharing doubts about God’s goodness, when someone tells the group they’re really struggling in their marriage, when someone confesses an ongoing sin struggle, what will you do? You will point them to whatever is “working” for you in that moment. You will offer them what has most soothed your grieving, struggling, doubting soul.

I know this because of how often I’ve seen it in my own life. When Jesus is actively the balm to my hurting heart, I can’t wait to offer him to others. When I’m in a season of self-reliance, advice on how to try harder and ways to fix the problems comes out quickly. It’s also a biblical principle, though. Recall II Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Why does God comfort us? Why does God show us grace? Why does God bless us with every spiritual blessing in Christ? According to this passage, one reason is so that we can pass along what God has given to us.

So what’s the point? One of our key relationships in small groups is our relationship WITH GOD. In my opinion, nothing (no technique, no curriculum, no plan) apart from God’s Holy Spirit himself will be more helpful for your group members’ relationships with God than for you as the leader to be actively finding Jesus sufficient for your daily needs. That’s where it starts. The same would be true for parents and kids, pastors and parishioners, friends and friends. Ask yourself these questions: What’s currently feeding my soul? Am I being honest about my own spiritual needs in my relationship with God? Am I OK with struggle because I trust God to hold onto me, or am I desperate to figure things out and have answers and plans? Am I finding hope in God’s Word or in my own ideas or solutions? You’ll only give away what you have. I pray God is making evident to you daily your deep need for his grace and his abundant sufficiency so that you point others to the same place.


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Recommended Reading

You'll find most of my recommended books available in the Guest Center at Southwood.

  • You Can Change
    You Can Change
    Tim Chester

    How do we mortify sin? How do we address the sin in our lives that reignite like a trick birthday candle we thought we had already blown out of our lives? This is a careful and thoroughly theological book that is hopeful without avoiding honesty. It is practical without being legalistic. It gets to the root of the sinful areas of our lives without offering a prescriptive regimen to hide behind avoiding the grace that has the only true power to teach “us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14

  • Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
    Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
    Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp

    Small groups would be easy if weren’t for the people in the group! This book will help equip you to see your own sin first and provide the courage and humility to address it in others.

  • The Heart of a Servant Leader

    This is a collection of letters written by Jack Miller to people experiencing real-life concerns and struggles. Through these gracious and honest letters you will learn how to humbly offer to others (and yourself!) hope, repentance, and courage that flows from the truth of the gospel of grace.  Though this isn’t a “how to” book full of nifty steps to Your Best Gospel Life Now. It’s a glimpse into the heart of a person who has found food at the Cross, and you watch (and learn) as he humbly points others to the feast.

  • Comforts From The Cross
    Comforts From The Cross
    Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

    This 31 day devotional will bring you to the foot of the cross to remember and celebrate the truth of the gospel of grace, and develop skills that will help “inform, free, gladden, and enliven your soul every day.” Becoming proficient in applying the Gospel of grace to our own hearts is a key skill that is well worth our effort to develop.

Recommended Listening

  • Christ PCA - Nashville
    Scott Sauls and CPC Staff

    Listen to sermons from Senior Pastor Scott Sauls and other CPC pastors at a sister church.

  • Lookout Mountain PCA
    Joe Novenson and LMPC Staff

    Check out sermons by Senior Pastor Joe Novenson and other LMPC pastors at a sister church.

  • Steve Brown Etc.
    Steve Brown

    Steve Brown’s unique blend of orthodoxy and controversy, humor and profundity, and a refusal to play religious games will give you permission you have needed to stop being so uptight. And even if it’s for 30 minutes, you just might experience radical freedom, infectious joy and maybe even a bit of surprising faithfulness.

Recommended Links

  • Tim Chester: reformed spirituality and missional church
    Tim Chester

    Tim has an incredible way of applying the Gospel of grace that is both practical and honest with a consistent skillful affinity to point us to Jesus. He is director of The Porterbrook Institute; a church planter with The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK; and the author of over a dozen books including Total Church and You Can Change.

  • Of First Importance
    Living Each Day in the Good of The Gospel

    Here you will find a growing collection of gospel-centered quotes to help reorient your thoughts toward the splendor and grandeur of the person and work of Jesus.