Journeying Beyond Jealousy

There comes a time when we have to stand up and face the giant, and the strategy may be a painful one: We must renounce our jealousy as sin.

Please don’t deal with jealousy as a personality disorder. Avoid thinking of it as a genetic trait you never chose. Don’t ascribe it to social environment or upbringing. The Bible never points to any of those factors to discuss jealousy. The Scriptures do, however, deal with it as sinful disobedience. Galatians 5:20 includes it in a group including “hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions.” That’s a deadly gang, and jealousy can cause each of the other four sins listed there. Paul included envy as a sign of “the debased mind,” describing those who are “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness” (Romans 1:29). Again, an unpleasant roll call of personality traits.

It’s clear from God’s Word, then, that we need to face the sin of jealousy with deadly seriousness. Peter says we are to lay it aside and leave it—to walk away briskly (1 Peter 2:1). James says we will find envy and self-seeking in the places where confusion and every evil thing lurk (James 3:16). Paul wrote to the Romans about jealousy, and he said, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness [lust] and lewdness, not in strife and envy” (Romans 13:13). According to Matthew, it was envy that delivered Jesus Christ to the cross: “For he knew that because of envy, they had delivered Him” (Matthew 27:18). It’s the ace up the devil’s sleeve, the weapon that never fails.

Jealousy and envy, according to the verses we’ve seen, are right up there with lust, lewdness, drunkenness, murder, and evil-mindedness. We can’t afford to dismiss these as personality disorders. Instead, we need to do four things:

Renounce Jealousy As Sin

Above we have only a sampling of the many scriptural denunciations of this terrible sin. But it’s enough to make us search our hearts, root out any weed of jealousy, and see it for the gross sin that it is. If this is something you struggle with, I recommend that you copy down some of these verses and keep them on note cards beside your bed, on your desk, in your Bible, and everywhere they may remind you of the sin you need to confess and eliminate.

At the very least, envy and jealousy will cause deep pain in your soul and damage to your relationships. At worst, it will consume you and those around you. Begin by calling it sin. Then you can look to the second step.

Remember Your Rival in Prayer

Now it gets interesting. Do you have the discipline to pull this one off? Jesus commanded us more than once to pray for our enemies, for He knew that if we could sincerely do that, the battle would be won. The very second we grab the arm of a rival and walk before the throne of God together, the petty, shameful things quickly dissolve in the radiant light of His grace. You can’t hold on to a jealous grudge with the eyes of heaven upon you.

At the end of the nineteenth century, there were giants on the earth—not the kind we’ve discussed in this book, but giants of the faith and of the pulpit. The city of London had both F. B. Meyer and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, two living legends. London was barely big enough for the two of them. But then in 1904 the great preacher G. Campbell Morgan came to town. Morgan was a world-class Bible expositor, and all of London was buzzing with his arrival.

“It was easy,” said Meyer, “to pray for the success of G. Campbell Morgan when he was in America. But when he came back to England and took a church near to mine, it was something different. The old Adam in me was inclined to jealousy, but I got my heel upon his head, and whether I felt right toward my friend, I determined to act right.” Meyer began to pray for his pulpit rival, day and night, even as he worried about losing members to the hot new preacher in town.

F. B. Meyer later explained, “My church gave a reception for [Morgan], and I acknowledged that if it was not necessary for me to preach Sunday evenings I would dearly love to go and hear him myself. Well, that made me feel right toward him. But just see how the dear Lord helped me out of my difficulty. There was Charles Spurgeon preaching wonderfully on the other side of me. He and Mr. Morgan were so popular, and drew such crowds, that our church caught the overflow, and we had all we could accommodate.”

God not only rewards us when we pray for our enemies and (as Meyer did) act upon the feelings we intend to have, He often brings miracles about in our lives. The weed of jealousy is deep and firmly entrenched, but if you want to drive it out quickly, simply do this: Pray for the person you envy. Pray for him daily. Pray for him even if your teeth and fists are clenched. See if God doesn’t honor your faith and change your heart.

David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 197–199.


This article excerpted from Slaying the Giants in Your Life.

Slaying the Giants in Your Life is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

How to get 100 percent in small groups

I realized the only reason the church had been stuck on that plateau was because of a mental block. It was like back in the 1950s when everyone said no man could ever run a four-minute mile. It was just a dream. Then, on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4 minutes. After that, many runners broke that barrier. Four minutes wasn’t a physical barrier. It was a mental block.

Our church had just broken the four-minute mile. Churches could actually start groups that would involve the majority of the congregation and then reach their communities through community!

This wasn’t about numbers, though. One man named Ken invited his coworkers to join him for a study on The Passion. Two of them accepted Christ.

When one guy named David was asked, “What motivates you to continue your group?” he replied, “My dad showed up.” Because of a painful experience years before, David’s dad had turned his back on church. But though he refused to walk through the church doors, he was willing to attend a small group meeting at his son’s house. That was his first step back toward God.

Our small groups began to reach out beyond the congregation. Groups served hot meals to the homeless every Friday night. One lady took the study to a local women’s shelter.

Groups met in coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, community rooms at apartment complexes, homes, and even on a commuter train. Once we gave our people the freedom to form groups in more flexible ways, they became very creative about the groups they would lead.

Connecting 100 percent of a congregation in groups is far more than a sales pitch. Connecting 100 percent is the first step in reaching beyond the walls of your church and connecting your community. In the pages that follow, you will read about principles that have unlocked amazing growth and community outreach for church after church. It can happen in your church too, if you are willing!

White, Allen. Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church’s Potential (Kindle Locations 223-237). Hendrickson Pub. Kindle Edition.

Cheap Grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack’s wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners ‘even in the best life’ as Luther said. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin. That was the heresy of the enthusiasts, the Anabaptists and their kind. Let the Christian beware of rebelling against the free and boundless grace of God and desecrating it. Let him not attempt to erect a new religion of the letter by endeavouring to live a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ!

The world has been justified by grace. The Christian knows that, and takes it seriously. He knows he must not strive against this indispensable grace. Therefore – let him live like the rest of the world! Of course he would like to go and do something extraordinary, and it does demand a good deal of self-restraint to refrain from the attempt and content himself with living as the world lives. Yet it is imperative for the Christian to achieve renunciation, to practise self-effacement, to distinguish his life from the life of the world. He must let grace be grace indeed, otherwise he will destroy the world’s faith in the free gift of grace.

Let the Christian rest content with his worldliness and with this renunciation of any higher standard than the world. He is doing it for the sake of the world rather than for the sake of grace. Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this grace – for grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of his grace! That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. — The Cost of Discipleship (SCM Classics) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The dream of doubling groups becomes a reality

There were some decisions to make. On the 350-mile drive home, I began to think about what my senior pastor, David Larson, was the most passionate about. At the time, it was the approaching release of The Passion of the Christ, the Mel Gibson movie everyone was buzzing about. Dave had planned a message series and ordered a banner for our church sign on the highway. He was passionate about The Passion.

The light suddenly came on: Why not launch small groups based on The Passion?

And that’s exactly what we did. I asked Dave to invite anyone willing to open their hearts and their homes to a group of people for a six-week study to host a group. In one day, our church of eight hundred adults doubled the number of groups! After Easter, we added 50 percent more new groups in another campaign. Things were getting out of control in a very good way!

When fall hit, we started recruiting for the biggest launch of the year. Pastor Dave aligned his weekly messages with a video-based curriculum we had produced ourselves. We took fifty verses from the Bible and asked fifty members of the church to write a one-page devotional, which we then compiled into a book. When it was all said and done, we had enough groups for 125 percent of our average adult attendance and had given out 1,088 study guides. Well over 100 percent of our average adult attendance was plugged into a group!

We were all in awe. The pipe dream was suddenly a reality.

White, Allen. Exponential Groups: Unleashing Your Church’s Potential (Kindle Locations 211-223). Hendrickson Pub. Kindle Edition.

Lewis poached egg argument

DR. PETERSON RAISED his voice and looked directly at those in the room. “My friends, Jesus Christ claimed to be God, and to Him it is of fundamental importance that men and women believe Him to be who He was. Either don’t. He didn’t leave us any wiggle room for in-between, watered down alternatives. Based on what Jesus claimed about Himself, if His claims were not true, you couldn’t call Him either a good moral man or a great prophet. Those options aren’t open to us, and Jesus never intended them to be.

“Since we have already established the historicity of the gospels in the New Testament, we rule out the possibility of Christ being legend. We now go to the famous words of C. S. Lewis, former professor at Cambridge University, and a former agnostic himself. He wrote:”

I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m reading to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse….

You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. — Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett, Coffee House Chronicles Set (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2011).


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Bonhoeffer, the cross & discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death – we give over our lives to death.

Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.

Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die, and therefore Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life.

The call to discipleship, the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means both death and life. The call of Christ, his baptism, sets the Christian in the middle of the daily arena against sin and the devil. Every day he encounters new temptations, and every day he must suffer anew for Jesus Christ’s sake. The wounds and scars he receives in the fray are living tokens of this participation in the cross of his Lord.

But there is another kind of suffering and shame which the Christian is not spared. While it is true that only the sufferings of Christ are a means of atonement, yet since he has suffered for and borne the sins of the whole world and shares with his disciples the fruits of his passion, the Christian also has to undergo temptation, he too has to bear the sins of others; he too must bear their shame and be driven like a scapegoat from the gate of the city. But he would certainly break down under this burden, but for the support of him who bore the sins of all.

The passion of Christ strengthens him to overcome the sins of others by forgiving them. He becomes the bearer of other men’s burdens – ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal. 6.2). As Christ bears our burdens, so ought we to bear the burdens of our fellow-men.

The law of Christ, which it is our duty to fulfil, is the bearing of the cross. My brother’s burden which I must bear is not only his outward lot, his natural characteristics and gifts, but quite literally his sin. And the only way to bear that sin is by forgiving it in the power of the cross of Christ in which I now share. Thus the call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear. — The Cost of Discipleship (SCM Classics) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

When Quiet Time is Dry

Good quiet times promote spiritual growth. Surprisingly, this deeper growth can lead to unexpected dryness. When we move into a desert quiet time, there is a temptation to think that we have done something wrong. The desert quiet time is not a pleasant experience. It’s like living alone in a desert. There is a sense of empty loneliness. Our quiet times seem to dry up. If we feel anything at all, it is a sense of desolation. God seems absent.

A longing for God accompanied by an aching sense of his absence is common in Scripture. The psalmist writes in Psalm 42, “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ ” (Ps 42:3). David cries out, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps 63:1). In another place he cries, “I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God” (Ps 69:3).

Nothing seems right in our quiet time or any other area of life. Reading or study of Scripture has a sawdust-dry quality. The pleasure in study that we have known before is gone. Now the words on the page are nothing more than words.

Prayer is also flat. Our prayers for others seem to rise no higher than the ceiling. Worship and adoration seem mere formalities; songs that we might sing are heavy and laborious.

Emotionally, there seems to be nothing inside except an aching sense of emptiness. All religious affections seem gone.

Because a desert quiet time requires great effort, I find that it is practiced irregularly. (My eight-month lapse of quiet time referred to at the beginning of this chapter was due to a desert period.) There is a gnawing need to meet with God along with a frustration in his absence. This desire and frustration lead to an on-again/off-again cycle. It seems to make no difference whether we have a quiet time or not. If we don’t have a quiet time, God seems absent. If we do have a quiet time, God still seems absent.

Outwardly the desert quiet time and the occasional quiet time look similar. Both are erratic and inconsistent. But the two are different in nature. The occasional quiet time is erratic because God is not a priority. The desert quiet time is erratic because of an aching thirst for God that we can’t seem to satisfy.

Maintaining a regular meeting with the Lord is important during this time, despite the difficulty. When this phase is over, we will discover wonderful benefits. Many things that I know and teach about the Lord have come from desert times. — Stephen D. Eyre, Drawing close to God: The Essentials of a Dynamic Quiet Time: A Lifeguide Resource (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995).


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

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