*NOTE: The new Discipleship Pathway layout flipped Modules 2 & 5;
Module 5 is now Guidance and Module 2 is now Confession. If you were using the old version and starting Module 5, complete the below module on Confession in its place, and then continue on with Module 6.
Discipleship : Meeting 4
DISCUSS these questions and steps of forgiveness below.
1. How has forgiveness been described to you in the past? How would you define it today?
2. It's important to remember that our freedom and healing are never dependent on what other people do or say. Regardless of what the offending person does in response to our forgiveness, we can be free. Have you ever felt like you needed someone else to “get right” before you could move on?
3. Discuss a time or situation where it is best to forgive someone without letting them know? In your opinion, is there ever a time to resolve things “from a distance”?
4. God is perfect, but sometimes, we even need to forgive burdens we hold against him. Do you agree? Why or why not?
DISCUSS the Forgiveness Incarnated video using the questions below:
5. Why do you think forgiveness is so powerful?
6. Does forgiveness mean that the offending party should get off scot-free?
7. What is the relationship between forgiveness and justice?
8. What significant lessons has this module taught you about forgiveness and confession?
9. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools we have against the enemy. How will you begin to practice a lifestyle of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation on a new level?
Forgiveness Incarnate video, by The Bible Society of Egypt
Does your disciple have any unresolved issues he or she needs to process through? Take some time to do just that. Consider walking through the following steps to forgive “in every direction”:
1. Ask forgiveness for our own sin against God and/or anyone we’ve hurt as God leads. (This could mean committing to having a conversation with the individual(s) in the following week.)
2. Forgive yourself for anything you regret doing. Let yourself off the hook.
3. Forgive others for how they have hurt you, even if the offense was unintentional.
4. Forgive God. Let go of any resentments you’ve held against him. Consider what he wants you to see on the other side of it.
5. Finally, consider this experience. Was this practice of confession a gift? If so, how?
ASSIGNMENT: In preparation for Module 3: Self-Denial, read the “Downward Mobility” essay below and take time for reflective prayer afterwards.
By Megan Koch, Adapted by Jake Thurston, (based off Henri Nouwen’s book, The Selfless Way of Christ)
“The great paradox which Scripture reveals to us is that real and total freedom is only found through downward mobility. The Word of God came down to us and lived among us as a slave. The divine way is indeed the downward way.” — Henri Nouwen, The Selfless Way of Christ
When we come to know Jesus, we approach him with our questions, our expectations, and our needs. But we can’t begin to follow Jesus until we are ready to obey him. In fact, Jesus says our obedience to him is the fruit of our love for him (John 14:23). The obedience Jesus calls for has love at its root. Throughout Scripture, there is an expectation that those who love God do what he says out of devotion, not duty. We can’t walk with Jesus and go our own way. If we follow Jesus, we go where he leads.
On the surface, this can look very positive! After all, God is wise! He loves us! His ways are good for us! Obeying God can make us safer and healthier. Our relationships, finances, and even our bodies benefit from following what God says is good. We want that good stuff. But here is the problem: God achieves these good things in and through us with methods that are often entirely backwards from how the world works. When we give our lives to Jesus, it doesn’t take long before following him means going against the tide of the world, other people’s expectations, and especially our own natural desires.
Jesus says if we want to gain life, we’ll need to lose our life (see Matthew. 16:25). He says the path to freedom is to find the one thing in the world we hold most dear, and let it go (see Luke 18:18-29). The key to tapping in to eternity here and now is to align ourselves with selfless ambition; to lay down our own pursuits and desires and take up the things Jesus says matter most.
Jesus himself perfectly embodies that life. When Paul describes how we should relate to one another and the world, he tells us to think and act like Jesus, who lived out the life of a humble servant, obedient even to death (Phil. 2:5-8). If we are following Jesus closely, humility, sacrifice, and obedience will become a part of our nature, too. We will begin to do things, love things, and create things that will baffle the world, but will reveal the Kingdom of God right here and now. God is at work where you are, and we need to resist the pull of self, the enemy, and the world to join him.
Henri Nouwen often explained that in the world, we seek three things above all else: to be relevant, to be spectacular, and to be powerful. In other words, we want to be essential to the people and things around us. We want to be very relevant; to matter and be missed if we’re gone. We want to be needed and wanted. We want to be spectacular; we want to be incredibly good at many things, and enjoy the spotlight because of it. And we want to be powerful; we want to be the masters of our own universe, to call the shots, to hold things together in the way we want them to be. We want to be in control. None of these pursuits bring us peace, because all three attempt to stand us up in a place that only God can occupy. We strive and strive and cannot ever get enough relevance, ability, or power, because we are not God.
Nouwen calls the drive for these three things “upward mobility.” Look at the culture around you. Voices everywhere say, “Move yourself up, up, up.” Get another degree. Get a better car. Have a better job five years from now than you have today. Have the house you want now, not when you can afford it. Think about how our culture works: success means doing bigger and better things every year, getting more possessions, and securing the right relationships. Be relevant. Be spectacular. Be powerful. If we aren’t moving up in the world, we’re failing.
Jesus, on the other hand, says we’re truly successful when we pursue “downward mobility.” Instead of one-upping our enemies, we actively love our enemies. Instead of getting the bigger house, we share our homes with strangers. Instead of holding grudges, we forgive people who don’t deserve it. We aren’t selfish, but selfless. That’s the good life: a rooted, risky, unglamorous, sacrificial, yet insanely full life.
Life in the Kingdom of God operates downward; we lay down our lives, we surrender and drop our hold on achievement, performance, and control, and we choose to serve without getting credit. We give costly gifts, choose community growth over individual gain, place what others need above what we want right now, and follow God’s will no matter what. We become so secure in Jesus we begin to forget that anyone else’s opinion ever had power over us. In the Kingdom of God, we don’t compete. We rest in our identity in Christ, and out of that identity, we pursue costly obedience in love. The rewards are rich, but mysterious, and often entirely confusing to the world.
May we choose downward mobility over upward mobility.
JOURNAL some thoughts, and come ready to discuss this at your next meeting.
The best time of day for me to participate in focused prayer is:
The best space for me to participate in focused prayer is:
Write down your ideal daily prayer rhythm. What would you like to include in your prayer time?
Example 1: Starting in silence, reading a Scripture passage, and then praying through a list of prayer requests.
Example 2: Do a breathing prayer for 2 minutes in solitude, pray to God for personal requests, then pray for others’ requests. Will also commit to praying while driving in the car by myself.
It is best to have some way of focusing ourselves in prayer, so that we don’t get bored or our minds wander aimlessly. For example, you might use a prayer list each day. You might journal your prayers, or use the Lord’s prayer as a framework. Describe your strategy for focused prayer below: