MODULE 2 RESOURCES
ASSIGNMENT: Before the next meeting, watch the video Vulnerability Works TEDtalk video by Chris Dessi and take any notes of what stands out to you. Come ready to discuss what you learned.
Vulnerability Works video, by Chris Dessi (TEDTalks)
ASSIGNMENT: Before the next meeting, read the essay, “Holy Confrontation” attached below. Take notes, and come ready to discuss at your next meeting.
A Lesson from the Life of David
By Megan Koch
A classic Russian author once wrote, “Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.” He’s right. It seems our ability to deceive ourselves may be one of humanity’s most stunning achievements. There appears to be no limit to the ways we can justify our behavior within our own minds.
The story of David’s “sin spiral” in 2 Samuel 11–12 is a bit like watching a pile-up on the interstate—one disaster leads to another. David digs himself deeper and deeper into the ground with every decision he makes. We’re appalled, maybe even disgusted, at these events in King David’s life—yet we can’t seem to look away.
The narrator gives us a clue early in the story that this isn’t going to go well. It appears David was doing something good kings shouldn’t do: he was enjoying the comforts of home while his men were off fighting his battles:
“In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem,” (2 Sam. 11:1 NLT, emphasis added).
Sin often begins when we convince ourselves that the rules don’t apply to us.
That’s where it started for David. We won’t recount all the ugly details of how he slept with another man’s wife, tried to cover it up, and eventually had the husband killed. When the prophet Nathan comes on the scene and tells David a parable (2 Sam. 12:1–4), we all see what’s coming. David, however, appears clueless, going on a righteous sounding rant about what a horrible thing the person in the parable had done. Then Nathan drops the hammer: “You are that man!” (v. 7).
David’s story is a powerful reminder of how deeply we can deceive ourselves—not only because it happened to David, but also because it acts as a mirror for us. Have you ever sat down to get a haircut and looked in the mirror on the wall, only to notice the reflection of the mirror on the wall behind you, which was in turn reflecting the mirror in front of you, and on and on? That’s what this story does: it lets us look in a mirror by looking at a mirror.
When Nathan tells David the parable, he’s holding up a mirror before David. David doesn’t realize it, which makes the moment the “hammer drops” extra rich. However, we should realize that when we read the story of David, it is acting as a parable for our own behavior, too. It serves as our mirror. We feel anger and resentment toward David for the horrible things he did. But before we walk away, we must also have our own “hammer” moment. This is, at some level, our story as well. We are that man or woman.
Lying to ourselves is deeply ingrained in us, just like it was with David.
This is not to say we’ve all done the exact things that David did. But before we pat ourselves on the back, we would do well to ask ourselves how we’re more like David than we realize. The bottom line is this: we need trustworthy friends to call us out. Already, we’ve talked about the importance of us being vulnerable about how we’re feeling and what we’ve done with a trusted friend. On the flip side, we also need that trusted friend to confront us when we need to be vulnerable about how we’re feeling or what we’ve done.
Until the “Nathans” in our lives take us to task, we’ll continue to deceive ourselves, just like David. We should not only welcome opportunities for this sort of Holy confrontation, but actually invite them as a regular part of our lives.
Who is your “Nathan?” Who can give you the gift of holy confrontation, calling you out when you know you could be doing better? While such a thing may sound uncomfortable, know that few things form a tighter bond than having that level of trust with someone. When someone knows who we are, but loves us anyway? That is a priceless gift.
Speaking of gifts, after Nathan confronted David, David went on to pen one of the most powerful chapters of the Bible: Psalm 51. It may be that few have sinned more flagrantly than David, but it’s also true that few have repented more earnestly. Perhaps this is what the Bible means when it calls David a man after God’s own heart. David wasn’t perfect. He was repentant when he realized he had fallen short.
Take a moment and pray slowly through each line of the Psalm, and learn the art of repentance from a man who knew what it meant to be broken.
For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great
compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
5 For I was born a sinner-- yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than
8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me-- now let me rejoice.
9 Don't keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and
repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit-- with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.
ASSIGNMENT: Read the Forgiveness essay, and watch the Forgiveness Incarnated video by The Bible Society of Egypt in preparation for your next meeting.
By Megan Koch
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” — Lewis Smedes
Forgiveness isn’t just about saying we’re sorry and forgiving someone certainly doesn’t mean what they did doesn’t matter anymore. Forgiveness, at the heart, is about handing over a burden that’s too heavy for us to bear. We can’t hold it and live well, so we turn it over to Jesus instead. He can take it— he’s happy to take it. Burdens are heavy for us because we weren’t born to carry them. The good news is, Jesus was born to carry them. He’s already paid for them, so we can hand them over.
Forgiveness reminds us that we’re secure; God is in control. When we forgive, we choose to surrender our resentments. We give up anything we’re holding against someone and invite God to handle it from here without our interference. Essentially, we surrender our right to judge, and stop trying to do God’s job for him. That’s when we get cut free, and that’s how we can move forward and heal. Forgiveness is about living untangled and untethered.
It’s important to remember that our freedom and healing are never dependent on what other people do or say. So, regardless of what the offending person does in response to our forgiveness, we can be free. In some cases, it might not even be best to tell a person we’ve forgiven them (in some situations, that could make things worse, not better). Or, perhaps that person is no longer living. That’s OK, because again, forgiveness is ultimately about cutting free from burdens with God’s help. He’ll guide you to know how to restore broken relationships. Many times, that will mean coming together to resolve differences, but sometimes it will mean keeping a safe distance.
It’s important to forgive “in every direction”. There are some core ways we might be holding on to grudges and burdens and praying through each one is helpful. Untangling ourselves from unforgiveness can seem overwhelming or complicated, so these steps help us see things in a new light. Here are some ways to unpack a burden and work through forgiveness:
1. If God shows us something we’ve done wrong, we need to ask him for forgiveness for our own sin and seek forgiveness from anyone we’ve sinned against as God leads us.
2. We need to forgive ourselves. Strangely, it can be “easier” to forgive others for what they’ve done, or to receive forgiveness from God for our own sin than it is to let ourselves off the hook. Have you ever done something you really, really regret? Forgive yourself for doing it. Let it go.
3. We need to forgive the things other people have done that have hurt us (whether it was intentional or not). Even if you’re sure they never intended to hurt you, they hurt you nonetheless. It’s a burden, so forgive it and let it go.
4. We need to forgive God. Yes, God. Most of us don’t realize this is even possible, because God is perfect, and doesn’t make mistakes or sin. But again, forgiveness isn’t only about forgiving a way someone has sinned against us. Forgiveness is necessary any time we’re holding a grudge against someone else— and yes, we can hold a grudge against God. If we’re mad that God allowed something happen, and hurt that he didn’t
intervene to stop it, we can surrender even that to him, and let him show us what we need to see so we can heal.
Finally, a note about confession. Have you ever confessed a recurring sin or an area of hurt to God again and again, but it just doesn’t get resolved? That’s probably because you’re confessing privately, but there’s so little risk in that, and very little accountability for real life. When we confess to God, but we’re not being honest about
our struggles with trusted people in our life, we’re “confessing” but we’re still letting shame win. We want the issue resolved, but we also want to protect our image. This is why we’re encouraged to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). Confession is appropriate any time we’re burdened by something we need to get off our chest, and
confessing to God in the presence of trusted brothers and sisters is a way we live well in this family. When you’re trusted with someone else’s confession, take that very seriously. Embrace that person and walk them through the steps of forgiveness they need to take to cut free. Active participation in reconciliation is a privilege and a joy for disciples, so steward that responsibility well.
Confession isn’t about guilt; it’s a gift. It’s a gift to resist shame and lay your burdens out in the open. That’s how we break free and heal. Pause now and ask God to bring one of your own burdens to the surface; a place where forgiveness needs to happen. Journal some notes and return to your next meeting ready for your discipler to walk you through the steps of forgiveness. Yes, you’re going to practice confession together. We often run from our pain and unresolved issues, and that is
understandable—but going there with Jesus changes everything. If God is bringing to mind an issue or wound that contains significant guilt, condemnation, or shame, know that he isn’t showing you this to humiliate or expose you; he’s revealing a place he wants to set you free.
Forgiveness Incarnate video, by The Bible Society of Egypt
Consider the following questions after you’ve watched the video, read the essay, and journaled some notes. You’ll discuss these questions during your next meeting.
1. Why do you think forgiveness is so powerful?
2. Does forgiveness mean that the offending party should get off scot-free? What is the
relationship between forgiveness and justice?
3. What significant lessons has this module taught you about forgiveness and confession?
4. 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? How will this
lead you into more freedom and victory?
ASSIGNMENT: In preparation for Module 3: Self-Denial, read the “Downward Mobility” essay below.
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: