Strategies for Seeing Anew #7
…towards celebrating grace
What does this mean?
God loves people as they are but he does not want them to stay as they are. Neither does God just give rules and tell people to get on with it. The Christian life is about the people we become as we are inspired, enabled, and changed by the person of Jesus (1 John 2:6). It is also about becoming part of all that our world could be, inspired by the vision of the new heaven and earth where God’s peace, love and justice reign (Revelation 21:4; Micah 4:3). Our vision of the future can be anticipated in the way we live now.
Truth lies in character. Christ did not simply speak the truth; he was truth; truth, through and through; for truth is a thing not of words, but of life and being. Frederick W. Robertson
Rules have their place; they are like the fence around a playground, they mark the boundaries; but God wants us to play on the swings not hang around the fence. Rules alone will not make people act ethically; rules may curb bad behaviour, but they also uncover our inclination to rebel without necessarily changing our desires. Faith is about so much more than that. Just keeping the rules will not make you a good football player. Similarly, just keeping the rules does not make a person a good Christian.
Grace is the free, undeserved love, goodness, help and favour of God. A champagne bottle being opened is a good image of grace, as is laughter. It is an outpouring of goodness that we did not earn or create. It is God’s measure: full, patted down and running over (Luke 6:38). It creates delight. Grace is living in remembrance that all is gift and that no one is ‘good enough’. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can the Christian life be led and people changed. The Christian life is joyous grateful living – a very different attitude to just ‘keeping the rules’.
Once more, never think that you can live to God by your own power or strength; but always look to and rely on him for assistance, yea, for all strength and grace. David Brainerd
Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God. Karl Barth
This section is about moving towards celebrating grace. You may wish to think about where people move from; is it a move from a contractual view of life and a negative form of the ‘rights’ culture, or is it a movement from a limited understanding of grace?
What does this mean in school?
Teachers can put rules in the proper place in their subject and highlight moments of grace:
- Point out that you can’t produce a masterpiece in art just by following certain rules. The same applies to poetry and design. Sport too is more than rules. Discuss what this ‘more’ might involve.
- Draw attention to lives that capture grace – lives that are overflowing and generous. Consider how people draw upon resources beyond themselves to live well.
- In personal development talk in terms of students’ visions for the future, what informs those visions and whether those sources are helpful. Work backwards – what sort of people would we need to be to live that vision? What can we do now? What help would we need? Can we achieve our visions alone?
- Explore the role of vision and rules in English, history and other subjects. What inspired people?
- Help students to consider how common perceptions of Christianity as being mainly about trying to be good differ from the core Christian emphasis on grace.
- Explore character in English and drama in relation to the question of how people change and when they experience grace.
- Create some moments of grace for students by the way you organise teaching and learning, such as an unexpected gift in terms of learning, fun or time that will fit with the subject you are teaching.
Think of moments of grace in teaching, times when people have done far more than they were required to or maybe than you felt you deserved.
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In this document:
1My children, I am writing this so that you won't sin. But if you do sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us. 2Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world's people. 3When we obey God, we are sure that we know him. 4But if we claim to know him and don't obey him, we are lying and the truth isn't in our hearts. 5We truly love God only when we obey him as we should, and then we know that we belong to him. 6If we say we are his, we must follow the example of Christ. 7My dear friends, I am not writing to give you a new commandment. It is the same one that you were first given, and it is the message you heard. 8But it really is a new commandment, and you know its true meaning, just as Christ does. You can see the darkness fading away and the true light already shining. 9If we claim to be in the light and hate someone, we are still in the dark. 10But if we love others, we are in the light, and we don't cause problems for them. 11If we hate others, we are living and walking in the dark. We don't know where we are going, because we can't see in the dark. 12Children, I am writing to you, because your sins have been forgiven in the name of Christ. 13Parents, I am writing to you, because you have known the one who was there from the beginning. Young people, I am writing to you, because you have defeated the evil one. 14Children, I am writing to you, because you have known the Father. Parents, I am writing to you, because you have known the one who was there from the beginning. Young people, I am writing to you, because you are strong. God's message is firm in your hearts, and you have defeated the evil one. 15Don't love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. 16Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. 17The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live for ever. The enemy of Christ 18Children, this is the last hour. You heard that the enemy of Christ would appear at this time, and many of Christ's enemies have already appeared. So we know that the last hour is here. 19These people came from our own group, yet they were not part of us. If they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us. But they left, which proves that they did not belong to our group. 20Christ, the Holy One, has blessed you, and now all of you understand. 21I did not need to write to you about the truth, since you already know it. You also know that liars do not belong to the truth. 22And a liar is anyone who says that Jesus isn't truly Christ. Anyone who says this is an enemy of Christ and rejects both the Father and the Son. 23If we reject the Son, we reject the Father. But if we say that we accept the Son, we have the Father. 24Keep thinking about the message you first heard, and you will always be one in your heart with the Son and with the Father. 25The Son has promised us eternal life. 26I am writing to warn you about those people who are misleading you. 27But Christ has blessed you with the Holy Spirit. Now the Spirit stays in you, and you don't need any teachers. The Spirit is truthful and teaches you everything. So stay united in your heart with Christ, just as the Spirit has taught you to do. Children of God 28Children, stay united in your hearts with Christ. Then when he returns, we will have confidence and won't have to hide in shame. 29You know that Christ always does right and that everyone who does right is a child of God.
1I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and so had the sea. 2Then I saw New Jerusalem, that holy city, coming down from God in heaven. It was like a bride dressed in her wedding gown and ready to meet her husband. 3I heard a loud voice shout from the throne: God's home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. 4He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone for ever. 5Then the one sitting on the throne said: I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. My words are true and can be trusted. 6Everything is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give water from the life-giving fountain to everyone who is thirsty. 7All who win the victory will be given these blessings. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 8But I will tell you what will happen to cowards and to everyone who is unfaithful or dirty-minded or who murders or is sexually immoral or uses witchcraft or worships idols or tells lies. They will be thrown into that lake of fire and burning sulphur. This is the second death. 9I saw one of the seven angels who had the bowls filled with the seven last terrible troubles. The angel came to me and said, Come on! I will show you the one who will be the bride and wife of the Lamb. 10Then with the help of the Spirit, he took me to the top of a very high mountain. There he showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down from God in heaven. 11The glory of God made the city bright. It was dazzling and crystal clear like a precious jasper stone. 12The city had a high and thick wall with twelve gates, and each one of them was guarded by an angel. On each of the gates was written the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13Three of these gates were on the east, three were on the north, three more were on the south, and the other three were on the west. 14The city was built on twelve foundation stones. On each of the stones was written the name of one of the Lamb's twelve apostles. 15The angel who spoke to me had a gold measuring stick to measure the city and its gates and its walls. 16The city was shaped like a cube, because it was just as high as it was wide. When the angel measured the city, it was about two thousand four hundred kilometres high and two thousand four hundred kilometres wide. 17Then the angel measured the wall, and by our measurements it was about sixty metres high. 18The wall was built of jasper, and the city was made of pure gold, clear as crystal. 19Each of the twelve foundations was a precious stone. The first was jasper, the second was sapphire, the third was agate, the fourth was emerald, 20the fifth was onyx, the sixth was carnelian, the seventh was chrysolite, the eighth was beryl, the ninth was topaz, the tenth was chrysoprase, the eleventh was jacinth, and the twelfth was amethyst. 21Each of the twelve gates was a solid pearl. The streets of the city were made of pure gold, clear as crystal. 22I did not see a temple there. The Lord God All-Powerful and the Lamb were its temple. 23And the city did not need the sun or the moon. The glory of God was shining on it, and the Lamb was its light. 24Nations will walk by the light of that city, and kings will bring their riches there. 25Its gates are always open during the day, and night never comes. 26The glorious treasures of nations will be brought into the city. 27But nothing unworthy will be allowed to enter. No one who is dirty-minded or who tells lies will be there. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be in the city.
1In the future, the mountain with the Lord 's temple will be the highest of all. It will reach above the hills, and every nation will rush to it. 2People of many nations will come and say, Let's go up to the mountain of the Lord God of Jacob and worship in his temple. The Lord will teach us his Law from Jerusalem, and we will obey him. 3He will settle arguments between distant and powerful nations. They will beat their swords and their spears into rakes and shovels; they will never again make war or attack one another. 4Everyone will find rest beneath their own fig trees or grapevines, and they will live in peace. This is a solemn promise of the Lord All-Powerful. 5Others may follow their gods, but we will always follow the Lord our God. The Lord will lead his people home 6The Lord said: At that time I will gather my people the lame and the outcasts, and all into whose lives I have brought sorrow. 7Then the lame and the outcasts will belong to my people and become a strong nation. I, the Lord , will rule them from Mount Zion for ever. 8Mount Zion in Jerusalem, guardian of my people, you will rule again. 9Jerusalem, why are you crying? Don't you have a king? Have your advisers gone? Are you suffering like a woman in childbirth? 10Keep on groaning with pain, you people of Jerusalem! If you escape from your city to the countryside, you will still be taken as prisoners to Babylonia. But later I will rescue you from your enemies. 11Zion, because of your sins you are surrounded by many nations who say, We can hardly wait to see you disgraced. 12But they don't know that I, the Lord , have gathered them here to grind them like grain. 13Smash them to pieces, Zion! I'll let you be like a bull with iron horns and bronze hoofs. Crush those nations and bring their wealth to me, the Lord of the earth. A promised ruler
1One Sabbath when Jesus and his disciples were walking through some wheat fields, the disciples picked some wheat. They rubbed the husks off with their hands and started eating the grain. 2Some Pharisees said, Why are you picking grain on the Sabbath? You're not supposed to do that! 3Jesus answered, Surely you have read what David did when he and his followers were hungry. 4He went into the house of God and took the sacred loaves of bread that only priests were supposed to eat. He not only ate some himself, but even gave some to his followers. 5Jesus finished by saying, The Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath. A man with a crippled hand (Matthew 12.9-14; Mark 3.1-6) 6On another Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, and a man with a crippled right hand was there. 7Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses kept watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man. They did this because they wanted to accuse Jesus of doing something wrong. 8Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he told the man to stand up where everyone could see him. And the man stood up. 9Then Jesus asked, On the Sabbath should we do good deeds or evil deeds? Should we save someone's life or destroy it? 10After he had looked around at everyone, he told the man, Stretch out your hand. He did, and his bad hand became completely well. 11The teachers and the Pharisees were furious and started saying to each other, What can we do about Jesus? Jesus chooses his twelve apostles (Matthew 10.1-4; Mark 3.13-19) 12About that time Jesus went off to a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night there. 13The next morning he called his disciples together and chose twelve of them to be his apostles. 14One was Simon, and Jesus named him Peter. Another was Andrew, Peter's brother. There were also James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus. The rest of the apostles were Simon, known as the Eager One, 16Jude, who was the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus. Jesus teaches, preaches, and heals (Matthew 4.23-25) 17Jesus and his apostles went down from the mountain and came to some flat, level ground. Many other disciples were there to meet him. Large crowds of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon were there too. 18These people had come to listen to Jesus and to be healed of their diseases. All who were troubled by evil spirits were also healed. 19Everyone was trying to touch Jesus, because power was going out from him and healing them all. Blessings and troubles (Matthew 5.1-12) 20Jesus looked at his disciples and said: God will bless you people who are poor. His kingdom belongs to you! 21God will bless you hungry people. You will have plenty to eat! God will bless you people who are crying. You will laugh! 22God will bless you when others hate you and won't have anything to do with you. God will bless you when people insult you and say cruel things about you, all because you are a follower of the Son of Man. 23Long ago your own people did these same things to the prophets. So when this happens to you, be happy and jump for joy! You will have a great reward in heaven. 24But you rich people are in for trouble. You have already had an easy life! 25You well-fed people are in for trouble. You will go hungry! You people who are laughing now are in for trouble. You are going to cry and weep! 26You are in for trouble when everyone says good things about you. That is what your own people said about those prophets who told lies. Love for enemies (Matthew 5.38-48; 7.12a) Jesus continued: 27This is what I say to all who will listen to me: Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. 28Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, don't stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don't try to keep back your shirt. 30Give to everyone who asks and don't ask people to return what they have taken from you. 31Treat others just as you want to be treated. 32If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that? Even sinners love people who love them. 33If you are kind only to someone who is kind to you, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners are kind to people who are kind to them. 34If you lend money only to someone you think will pay you back, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners lend to sinners because they think they will get it all back. 35But love your enemies and be good to them. Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel. 36Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you. Judging others (Matthew 7.1-5) 37Jesus said: Don't judge others, and God won't judge you. Don't be hard on others, and God won't be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you. 38If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated. 39Jesus also used some sayings as he spoke to the people. He said: Can one blind person lead another blind person? Won't they both fall into a ditch? 40Are students better than their teacher? But when they are fully trained, they will be like their teacher. 41You can see the speck in your friend's eye. But you don't notice the log in your own eye. 42How can you say, My friend, let me take the speck out of your eye, when you don't see the log in your own eye? You show-offs! First, get the log out of your own eye. Then you can see how to take the speck out of your friend's eye. A tree and its fruit (Matthew 7.17-20; 12.34b,35) Jesus continued: 43A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 44You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. You cannot pick figs or grapes from thorn bushes. 45Good people do good things because of the good in their hearts. Bad people do bad things because of the evil in their hearts. Your words show what is in your heart. Two builders (Matthew 7.24-27) Jesus continued: 46Why do you keep on saying that I am your Lord, when you refuse to do what I say? 47Anyone who comes and listens to me and obeys me 48is like someone who dug down deep and built a house on solid rock. When the flood came and the river rushed against the house, it was built so well that it didn't even shake. 49But anyone who hears what I say and doesn't obey me is like someone whose house wasn't built on solid rock. As soon as the river rushed against that house, it was smashed to pieces! Jesus heals an army officer's servant (Matthew 8.5-13; John 4.43-54)