Jesus is _____.
How would you fill in that blank? That question is at the heart of a campaign The City Church launched a couple of years ago with the goal of getting Seattle to think about Jesus. Our purpose wasn’t to tell anyone what to believe. We just wanted people to get Jesus on their minds. We gave them a chance to fill in the blank on our website, jesus-is.org, and thousands of answers came in. Some were profound. Some were hilarious. Some were spiteful. But all of them said something about the spiritual journeys of the people filling in the blank.
Who is Jesus to you? Your answer will affect how you make day-to-day decisions, how you face challenges and failures, how you love people, and how you relate to God.
The goal of this small group study guide is to help you fill in that blank by looking at what the Bible says about who Jesus is. My prayer is that Jesus will become the focus of your spiritual journey. Whether this is the first time you have ever approached this topic or you have known Him for as long as you can remember, Jesus is waiting to show you more about His love, His grace, and His goodness. Jesus is a new way to live, and you are going to love the journey ahead.
By the way, this is not a curriculum about how to fix yourself, either. I’m not going to tell you areas where you need to try harder or work more. I’m just going to remind you how amazing Jesus is. How incredible His grace is. How complete your righteousness is. If I can help you keep looking at Jesus, I will have been successful. Really, it’s not me anyway: pointing people to Jesus is the Holy Spirit’s specialty, and we would do well to look where He’s pointing.
Focusing on Jesus means thinking about who He is and what He does. It means looking at yourself less and at Him more. As you read, discuss, and think about Jesus in the coming weeks, you will discover that when you focus on Jesus, loving God is easier. Loving other people is easier. Overcoming temptation and exercising self-control are easier. Life is richer, fuller, and happier.
Watch the Jesus Is _____. Video
Session 1: Scandalous Grace
Humans are doers by nature. We are constantly going, doing, working, earning, building. We are taught from childhood that if something is to be had, it must be worked for. It must be earned.
Our work ethic is a good thing, but it’s no wonder we struggle to understand and accept the gift of God’s grace. Grace can be defined as God’s unmerited, unearned favor. But we can’t believe something as wonderful as that could be free, so we look everywhere for the strings we are convinced are attached. Surely we did something to earn this. Or maybe it was free to start with, but now God must expect something in return.
In order to benefit from God’s grace the way He intends, we must learn to embrace grace for exactly what it is: free, undeserved, and unconditional.
As you watch the video and listen to the story of the prodigal son, keep something in mind. Often, in a well-meaning attempt at humility, we compare ourselves to the son in regard to our sinfulness, our rebellion, and our desperation. We focus on our waywardness and our need for God.
It’s true that without God, we are lost and desperate. But that’s not the main message of this story. There’s another similarity between the prodigal son and each of us that is harder to spot, yet ultimately more dangerous. It’s the way he related to his father. It’s the tendency he had to measure his worth and his identity by his own good or bad deeds.
This is a story about grace. Scandalous, incredible, ridiculous grace. And it’s a story you and I need to take to heart.
Read the following Scripture passages before continuing on to the questions/discussion:
- Ephesians 2:8–9
- Acts 15:11
- Romans 11:6
Bible Study Questions/ Group Discussion
- In Jesus’ story of the prodigal son, what surprises you most about the father’s reaction to his son’s return?
- Why would the father disregard cultural expectations and run toward a son who had left him as he did?
- Do you find this story to be “scandalous,” as Jesus’ audience did, because someone is rewarded for bad behavior? Or is it comforting and reassuring? What does your answer reveal about your view of God’s love for you?
- How did Jesus’ three stories answer the question why does Jesus hang out with bad people?
- Can a perfect God be wrong for loving you just as you are? What is the hardest thing for you to understand when you consider God’s love and his justice?
- In what ways have you found yourself “putting your ducks in a row” before coming to God?
- How does it feel to hear that Jesus is like a “groupie,” obsessed with you?
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Come join the conversation on our blog and share your answers to the study questions above! We would love to hear from you!