"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20
Every chapter in this book of 7 hard things has culminated in the final chapter--God asks women to die; God asks women to live. The chapter was lengthy and involved; I had a hard time condensing all the topics into our handout of questions. And there was much we didn't, or couldn't, get into. But I believe we were all convicted, moved, and encouraged by wrestling with the paradoxical idea that we are both dead and alive, that we are called to die continuously and live actively. (And once again, our study and discussion dovetailed nicely into this morning's sermon from Colossians 3:1-4--even with a guest preacher!)
We considered how we know something is physically, literally alive. I loved the responses! We see breath, growth, a desire for nourishment, fruit, bleeding, and reproduction (both inwardly with old cells replaced with new cells and outwardly in the making of reproductions or copies). A plant that is alive will stretch, grow, fill. And, if you've seen my black-thumb garden, you'll know that things that are alive look different, look better that those that are dead. The proof of spiritual life is much the same: there must be growth, change, fruit (of the Spirit), we seek nourishment if we are truly alive (not waiting for it to be dropped into our mouths). We bleed and hurt for the lost and for our world. We are able to heal from wounds (amazing thought that those that are alive in Christ are not slain by wounds of the world but find healing through Christ). There is joy and peace in the appearance of those alive in Christ--we look different, look better than those who are dead or not really living.
And we begin to fail to live fully alive by focusing on our selves, instead of Christ. By settling for the world instead of oneness with God. We don't live out of the reality that we have been raised up with Christ and sit together in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
We then considered the four "selfless snapshots," metaphors of living and sacrificing--the dual crucifixion, the living garden, living sacrifices, and the free slave. The concept that Christ really lives through us, when we get our self completely out of the way came out to us in a new way. The life of small, daily incremental sacrifices of self--not one large donation of "whew, got that over with, now I'm done--is the call to be a living sacrifice, to see first his kingdom and not mine. And amazingly, we can be free slaves. Employing the picture of the free slave who willingly chooses to remain with his master, piercing his ear to show his commitment resonated with us. This is who we are. We have a transformation that others can see (our piereced ear) that signifies who we belong to. We know that life with the Master is better than any life away from him. That service to Him is sweet and rewarding. That He is benevolent and generous. We are no longer enslaved to sin but to Christ. And we choose to remain a slave to him by the choices we make every day. Though we are prone to wander, prone to leave, being a slave to Christ, resting in his care, becomes sweeter and sweeter.
Our closing time was spent sharing which pair we were called to the most right now--either by the season of life we are in or by what God has laid on our hearts that we need to address. I loved hearing more about what God is doing in your lives. And I especially loved praying for you and hearing your prayers for each other (and for me).
Thank you to all the ladies who joined in this study. I was blessed by your presence, encouraged by your words, convicted by your exhortations, and reassured of God's love and strength. We can do all things through Christ who strengths us. Let us not grow weary of doing the hard things he has called us to.