Summary of Lessons in Semester One

EGP Lesson 1 - What is Peace?

September 10, 2008
Verna McCrillis, teacher
Notes by Sonya Mounts

Verna welcomed us to session one of semester one, Journey to Intimacy with God, in Establishing God’s Peace (EGP) class.
We discussed three kinds of peace 1) Stoic peace—ignoring unpleasant circumstances 2) Epicurean peace—escaping unpleasant circumstances (such as with fine food and pleasure) and 3) Eirene—God’s peace, being set at one with God, having my thinking like God’s. 
We discussed salvation.  There are three parts:  1) Justification (being declared not guilt, being “saved”)—it is through reconciliation—meaning restoring a relationship in which peace is disturbed.  We are either one with God (justified) or apart (rebelling).  2) Sanctification—the lifelong growth process of becoming like Christ (God is doing the work, not us).  Sanctification is a mind renovation process—where the mind is in agreement with the change that has occurred in one’s heart.  3) Glorification—being united with Christ (at death).  We reviewed scriptures that explain that we receive peace with God through justification and how peace is a fruit of the Spirit, and Jesus gives it to us.  2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to pursue peace.
Beliefs leading to peace
    1)  Knowing God’s word
    2)  Believing God’s Word
    3)  Acting on God’s Word
Verna introduced the belief system and how our peace is directly related to it.  A belief system in line with God’s word results in peace.  Negative thoughts, despair, anxiety, etc. reflect an unbelief about God and one should ask, “What is it I don’t believe about Him or His character?” if peace isn’t present.  We examined the diagram of the belief system which shows two pathways our thoughts can follow when a situation (stress, negative emotion, even something good) occurs.   With humility and by the Spirit we can remember the cross and follow God’s wisdom and God’s thinking for the situation which results in peace/Godly thoughts/Godly behavior OR (with pride and through the flesh) we can try to handle the situation our way and/or use the world’s wisdom.  This may result in ungodly behavior or imitation Godly behavior.  Using self-help type coping mechanisms, one may look holy, but God knows the heart.  Essentially, we can choose to go with the Spirit OR the flesh in every situation. 
Life has its share of unpleasant experiences, and initially feelings of stress and fear hit us, but then we can go to God and seek His wisdom and truth in the situation.
Praise is to boast, to speak the same.  We were encouraged to look at scripture with a focus of getting to know God and His character and to use this to praise God in prayer.  To focus on this, Verna recommends daily writing down one thing learned about God—by recording the essence of that scripture in your journal.  We were also introduced to the practice of identifying references to the Godhead in scripture by putting a triangle over the reference to the Father, a cross over the reference to Jesus, and a dove over a reference to the Holy Spirit.  This helps to focus us on God in the scriptures to reframe our thinking from, “what does scripture say about me” to “what can I learn about my God?”

EGP  Semester One, Lesson 2 - What Are you Seeking?

September 17, 2008
Verna McCrillis, teacher
Notes by Sonya Mounts

We began by listing our praises on the board—scriptures that God has brought to our attention during the week as we have studied His word.  We spent some time turning these scriptures into prayerful praise to God.
We reviewed that peace is when our belief system agrees with what God says.
We were reminded to be aware of negative inner thoughts masked by imitation godly behavior.  Many have constructed coping mechanisms to deal with unpleasant situations, but this is not Eirene—God’s peace.
We discussed dependence on God (choosing to go with the Spirit) versus independence.  Humankind’s natural default is going with the flesh.  One Navy wife compared this to how decisions are easier when her husband is deployed; she can be more independent and not have to ask another opinion.  However, God desires that we commune with Him over everything and that we are in relationship with Him. 
Verna mentioned that belief/faith involves knowing, agreeing, and acting.
We reviewed many scriptures telling us to seek God.  In the Old Testament, the word for seek means to search out.  Its opposite is to forsake.  In the New Testament, seek means to worship and find something hidden, its opposite means to plot against life.  The Bible and prayer are ways we can seek to know God and to worship Him.
God searches our thoughts and hearts to see who is following and seeking Him.  We were asked to reflect on whether we are seeking God and encouraged to get to know God through time in his Word.

EGP Semester One, Lesson 3 - Where is Your Hope?

September 24, 2008
Notes by Sonya Mounts

We began with a review of chapter two on what we seek.  Christ doesn’t seek his own glory.  Glory means a correct estimation.  Christ is not worried about his own reputation.  We’re not to seek signs and wonders (that indicates unbelief).  We should not seek our own good, or the favor of men, or our own interest.
For lesson three, we discussed the definitions of hope.  In the Old Testament, one word was qavah meaning a cord used as an attachment or to bind together (in scripture it is translated meaning to collect, gather, look patiently, tarry, and wait).  Another word was yachal meaning to wait, be patient, and trusting.  The New Testament word for hope is elpis which means desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.  Biblical hope is not wishful and unsure (like the word is often used in English). 
We reviewed several scriptures explaining Biblical hope.  Romans 8:24-25 explains that we have this hope that something good is coming. 
Peace is connected with hope—hope in God brings peace.  Hope in things other than God will not bring peace.  Despair indicates hope is not in God.  Psalm 43:5 says the solution to despair is to Hope in God and to praise him.
We expect to gain something in whatever or whomever we place our hope.  If our hope is in our spouse, our own abilities, our children, etc. these things are like heavy attachments, pulling us down.  We are to hope in God alone—and for God to do the work, not us or others. 
We reviewed many scriptures describing false hope and true hope.  Strength, riches, intelligence and idols will fail us, but true hope is found in God, his plans, his Word, Jesus, and our salvation.  
We spent some time discussing the belief system and practical applications of it.  Wallowing in guilt and shame make us feel like Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough—we’re trying to punish ourselves and help pay.
The question came up of, “what happens when we don’t feel like doing the right thing?”  The gist of the conversation was that God wants us to do the right thing for the right reason—and if we don’t feel like doing the right thing is it pleasing to God to go through the motions even though we have a wrong attitude?  Is there any point in doing the right thing, if our attitude is wrong the entire time?  Is God glorified in that?
In these scenarios, ask God for strength that the result might be Godly behavior and not imitation Godly behavior (going through the motions in one’s own strength to look good).
When you don’t feel like it, and can’t do it in your weakness, but only in God’s strength, then you are walking by faith and His grace is being sufficient for you.

EGP Semester One, Lesson 4 - The Tabernacle

Notes by Sonya Mounts

We reviewed the hope lesson and then went over the definitions of the word tabernacle.
In the Old Testament, tabernacle was two different Hebrew words.  Mishkan from shakan means permanency, to rest or reside, a dwelling.  Another word, ohel, means a tent or covering clearly seen from a distance, and this comes from the word ahal, which means to shine.  The New Testament word is skenes—a booth, hut, tabernacle, or covered place.  Skenoo is the verb form, and skenos is the root form that includes residence as in a human body.
In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle was a visible, physical place where the High Priest could come into God’s presence (in the Holy of Holies) once a year after making many preparations.  The priest could die if he had not perfectly fulfilled his duties.  Later this was replaced by Solomon’s temple where God resided until His presence left that place.  Then God came to earth in the form of Jesus and dwelt (tabernacle) with men.  Still he was limited and just in one place at a time.  After His death, resurrection, and ascension, He sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in all believers.  Through Jesus, we each are now able to access the Father and enter into His presence.  
We reviewed the layout of the Old Testament tabernacle and its furnishings including the bronze altar of sacrifice, laver for washing, table of bread, lamp stand, gold altar of incense, curtain separating the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, and ark with mercy seat.  God established the tabernacle so he could dwell among his people.  Hebrews 8:1-6 explains that the tabernacle is a shadow of heaven.
We next reviewed New Testament scriptures showing that Christ fulfilled the purpose of each element in the Tabernacle.  He is the door, the lamb and the sacrifice, He cleanses/washes us with the word, He is the bread of life, the light of the world, our prayer intercessor.  We reviewed a graphic of the tabernacle with these verses about Jesus corresponding to the elements of the Tabernacle.  Each part represented Christ and he fulfilled it so that we can enter God’s presence unceasingly.  
We were taught and practiced praying through the Tabernacle and thanking Jesus for fulfilling each aspect of the Tabernacle in order to draw us close to God.  “Thank you, Jesus, that you are the only door by which we may reach the Father,” etc.  Now, through Jesus’ sacrifice, we can approach God’s throne with confidence.  Praying through the Tabernacle is a special way to focus and meditate on Christ.  

EGP Semester One, Lesson 5 - Grace, the Great Exchange

Notes by Sonya Mounts

We reviewed the Tabernacle lesson and praying through the Tabernacle to focus on Christ.
We went over the definitions of grace.  In the Old Testament, it was the word chen which means graciousness, kindness, or favor.
In the New Testament, the word for grace is charis.  This word is used almost 150x in the New Testament.  Its definition according to Strong’s is:  God’s divine influence on our heart and its reflection in our lives.  Grace is all encompassing throughout the New Testament.  It is the overlay that permeates all aspects.
The epistles often start and end with mention of grace—and God’s grace comes from Jesus.  It is given to all who believe and received it with humility (in the dirt vs. pride).  Jesus is full of it.  It is realized through Jesus.  Peace is often linked with grace in scripture.  We reviewed many scripture verses about grace.  Grace can be witnessed (Acts 11:23).  We can testify to receiving it from Jesus (Acts 20:24).  It builds up, it is a gift, we are justified by grace, it keeps me from thinking too highly of myself, it is measured out differently between individuals, it labors, it makes me what I am, it spreads, it shouldn’t be taken in vain, it is given to churches, makes us spiritually rich, it is an indescribable gift, it is sufficient, it empowers, we are saved by it through faith, etc.
We also reviewed scriptures showing what grace is not.  It’s not something we deserve or can earn, it is not works, not fleshly wisdom, not of ourselves.
Grace is not a fruit of the Spirit.  We can’t divinely offer it.
We discussed “reflection” items—those that flow out of the lives of believers in response to grace (such as gratitude, patience, and love).  When our focus is on these outputs, but not on God, it is imitation godly behavior.  The concept of a “gratitude journal” came up—with the reminder that gratitude is to be from God for the gifts, not just a focus on the gifts.
Verna brought up that self discipline is actually a form of self provision and independence, me saying, “I can do it!”  In the area of quiet time to meet with God, ask God to cause you to desire to know him each day.  If it’s God who does it, not me, it’s a response instead of a responsibility.  Don’t make yourself do it, let God do it.
Some say that when faced with a dilemma, “God gave me a brain to use.”  However, this is independence vs. reliance on God.  The automatic thought pattern may be to do your best and then when you can’t figure it out, go to God.  However, God desires to be involved in our lives and choices.
We discussed the gospel account of the faith of the centurion.  The centurion totally trusted that Jesus could heal with a word.  Our tendency can be to look at the world down here and worry instead of focusing on God’s world above and around us and how God is in control and is using everything to conform us to the image of his Son.  The bigger truth is that God is at work.
The question was raised whether God listens to unbelievers when they are calling out to him.  Yes, he is drawing all to himself.

EGP Lesson 6 - How are you justified by grace?

Notes by Sonya Mounts

We began a second lesson on grace:  God’s divine influence on our heart and its reflection in our life.  Our response is gratitude/praise to God.
We went over the definitions of justified—to render just or innocent, and justification—acquittal.  Forgiveness means to cause to stand away, to release one’s sins from the sinner.  A timeline was written on the board.  First is justification, being declared not guilty.  Next is sanctification—the ongoing process of being made holy.  Ultimately, we will be glorified, get our new bodies and be able to see God face to face.
The Holy Spirit reveals all truth and convicts the WORLD (not believers) of sin.  To convict means to judge and we have already been justified.  Jesus has already declared believers not guilty.  Guilt is a red flag that we’re entering the flesh zone. God will not give you a sense of guilt (that is self focus).  Recognition of our sin reminds us of our need for the cross and we can thank God for it.  Pride is a focus on self.  Humility recognizes a need for God. 
The bottom line question of our lives:  am I really loved, am I really worthy?  We’re wondering and trying to assess this from everyone else’s perspective (what others think of us) instead of realizing from God’s perspective we are loved unconditionally.   If we think we’re not worthy to be loved, we’re essentially saying that God made junk, our worth is based on our actions and Christ’s work wasn’t enough. 
We reviewed a lot of scriptures regarding grace at the point of justification.  We are saved through grace, as a gift, we are redeemed through his blood, and we are made alive in Christ at justification.  We opened a box of gifts representing different aspects of grace:  imperishable inheritance, eternal life, scripture to equip and correct us, forgiveness, justification, righteousness, love for the Word, fellowship in the body of Christ, redemption, rescue from the domain of darkness, everything we need for life and godliness, new creature, and the Holy Spirit.  We were also provided ATM grace cards to physically remind us that grace is available just from asking.  At salvation, we give our brokenness, our filthy rags, etc. and in exchange he gives us grace and salvation.   
Some think that when you’re mature you need God less, but actually you need God more.
When we say that something is really hard, it implies using our own strength.  Re-frame by saying it’s impossible for me, but possible for God. 


EGP, Semester One, Lesson 7 - “What does Grace for Sanctification Involve?”

10/22/09 and 10/29/09
Notes by Sonya Mounts

After praising God for what we learned about him over the last week and reviewing the meaning of justification (being declared not guilty) we went over definitions.  Sanctification is the process of being set apart, being made holy.  God is doing the work, but we participate.  During the sanctification process, our mind isn’t always thinking like our hearts.  Glorified means to render glorious and glorification occurs when we are ultimately united with Christ. 
We read verses about grace for sanctification.  It is able to build us up and give an inheritance, by grace we are given different gifts, we are given spiritual enablement to be a productive part of the body of Christ, we are made perfect in weakness, we are given everything we need to do His work.  We receive grace:  by acknowledging our weakness, through Christ, by drawing near with confidence because of Christ, in humility, in the knowledge of God.  We can participate in God’s grace by continuing to fear God, by testifying on the grace of God, through speech seasoned with salt, by standing firm, by growing.  Things we should not do with God’s grace:  keep sinning, use it as an excuse, receive it in vain, try to be justified by law, or use it as a license to sin.  Grace and peace are linked at least 17 times in the New Testament.  Grace is given according to the working of His power and it brings peace.  Grace is God’s power, strength, He’s doing the work.
The Christian life is a series of exchanges of our weakness for Christ’s power.  At justification, we give our sin (our garbage), our need, control (our dog collar), and old man in exchange for God’s righteousness, forgiveness, peace, etc.  During sanctification, our will, weakness, rights, needs, etc. are exchanged for God’s will, strength, power, love, etc.  Jesus used the grace exchange, too.  In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed that the cup be taken from him—he told God what he wanted, but said whatever God wanted would prevail.  He was surrendering to God.  God is calling us to be part of every part of our life.  We can’t choose to obey apart from God.  With the ATM grace card, the slot is low—down in the dirt—humility is involved.
We often don’t ask God for his grace until we really feel weak.  He’s growing us into helping us recognize more quickly our need for him.   In the sanctification process, I recognize my need for God sooner vs. needing him less.  I run to him quicker and faster, recognizing it’s Him doing the work, not me. 
Grace is God’s divine influence on our life, funneled through the gospel, administered through the Holy Spirit, and is the power of God at work within us. 
We discussed our human coping mechanisms.  Verna calls them well worn paths—places of comfort that we go to on automatic instead of to God (example—sugar when depressed).  Communing with God brings us out of our ruts. 
The devil’s only tool against us deception.  He’s not omnipresent, but has forces with him.  We spend a lot of time examining the counterfeit, but the only way to know the truth is in the Word.  When we blame ourselves and say it’s our own fault with blame, we try to make it our own problem.  Jesus died for all the sins, even little things. 
Think about your worries—what does that tell you about what you don’t believe about God?  For child raising worries, Philippians 1:6 says that He is faithful to complete what He starts.  For financial concerns, scripture says God provides for all of our needs.  We discussed these areas we do not believe/trust God and the Peace through Grace section of the journal which is a place to record these things and ask God to exchange these lies for His truth.  There are three core unbeliefs:  God’s unconditional love, sovereignty, and forgiveness. 
Guilt can be an old friend—and it can be used as a productive and helpful force.  Instead, guilt should take us to the cross.  A)  Acknowledge need for God.  B)  Ask God to cause you to Believe on God.  C)  Commune with God. 
Verna shared that she has discovered that she sometimes uses disgust or competition to motivate herself—this is a mechanism of the flesh.  Faith looks like asking God.  Forgiveness is the grace and power to walk as he walks.  Peace/grace/power are closely linked in scripture.  Grace is his power at work.  There is no disgust in God’s love.   
How to know what God wants you to do.  1)  Peace that surpasses understanding.  2)  The plan is in concert with the Word of God.  3)  Ask God what verse to record (daily during quiet time)—recognize God’s Spirit and listen.  4) Wait.  God will use the experience to grow you.   

EGP Semester One, Lesson 8 - What does God mean by Faith?   

Led by Allison Stusse & Tori McCrillis

Notes by Sonya Mounts

We began our class by creating a “wall” on the white board.  On the left, fears, unbelief, and struggles were recorded as class members mentioned them.  Across the outline of a cross, a corresponding scripture truth was listed to combat this struggle.  At times, class members were able to respond with a truth God had shown them that fit with unbelief or fear another was facing.  A main theme of the discussion was a sense of world, political, and financial upheaval and fear that God is not in control, or God is not good.  Many, many scriptures were provided to fill truth in place of the fear and doubt.  These included Psalm 47:8; Ephesians 1:21; Jeremiah 27:5-7; Isaiah 55:8-10; Psalm 24:1, 6-8; and I Samuel 3:18.  They were beautiful reminders that God is on his throne and the nations are under his control.

We discussed the definitions of faith which mean to be firmly persuaded, place confidence in, and believe (the verb form).  There are three parts to faith—Know, agree, and action.

We reviewed scriptures about what God says about faith.  God’s righteousness is revealed by faith, the righteous will live by faith, it can be tested, and faith comes from hearing the Word. We walk by faith and not by sight (and this contradicts conventional wisdom that seeing is believing). 

God increases faith in us through hearing the Word, through the gospel, through the body (encouragement), and by the Holy Spirit.

We discussed temptation to sin in various and sometimes subtle ways (for example—telling a meat salesman you’re a vegetarian) and how this is linked to not believing God’s truth and not acting in faith.  We were challenged to scrutinize these struggles and to identify the unbelief at the root.  In not doing devotions—what do I not believe about God?  It could be not believing that God wants an intimate relationship with me.  Pray for a hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Our flesh will not change (the desire to sin/sinaholic nature), but the closer we grow to God the more we will realize our need for him.  Give God our weakness and exchange it for His truth.  

EGP Semester One, Lesson 9 - How Do you Live by Faith?  

November 12, 2008

Notes by Sonya Mounts

Faith is belief with action.  It is being fully persuaded and having follow through. Abraham believed the truth about God and acted accordingly and this was credited as righteousness.  According to Hebrews 11:6, faith pleases God and you must believe that He is and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. 

There are two dimensions in our world.  One is unseen, the higher power, where God is in control and it involves faith.  The other is focusing on what is down below and on problems.  We discussed the faith of the centurion—he had so much faith in Jesus’ power, he only needed Jesus to say the word and his servant would be healed.  He was definitely focused up—on Christ’s power, not down—on his problems.

Everything is for His glory, not for our pleasure.

We discussed problems/obstacles with faith including rejecting it, living it out without family, not providing for family first (1 Tim 5:8—it is denying the faith), the love of money (1 Tim 6:10—it can cause one to wander from the faith), and how words can destroy others’ faith through false teaching.

In prayer, asking God to help me is akin to asking Him to give me a little nudge and do part of the work.  Really, I should ask God to do this in me, fill me, to be my source of power.  A glove analogy was used—we need God’s hand in the glove moving it, versus asking him to push around an empty glove.  We can’t believe in our own strength and need to ask God to cause us to believe.  Verna discussed reframing the thought, “it’s really hard” to “it’s impossible in my own strength.”

Is our focus of studying the Bible for knowledge and to learn facts OR to know God—a relationship that happens through experience?

We reviewed the scriptures 2 Peter 1:5-11 that discusses what happens if we forget we are forgiven.  It’s a focus on self—shame, guilt, pride.  This keeps us from growing in our faith.  Verse nine is key, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

Forgiveness means to release sin from a sinner—to cause it to stand away.  A stick figure person was drawn on the white board and a separate pile of “sin” was drawn beside the person.  That is how our sin is when we are forgiven—it is apart from us and God doesn’t see it attached to us.  We are released and separated from it.  At the cross, every sin on the earth ever committed and ever to be committed was paid for and those sins are forgiven for those who accept Christ’s gift.  They should not still be weighing us down and holding us back in our Christian life. 

One asked what she should be doing now that her sin is forgiven?  The answer had to do with asking God for direction and let Him do the work (this can be done even in little things like asking God whether I should eat a cookie).  Verna mentioned that even the definition of “self-control” is not a works thing, but means to have your will under the influence of the Spirit.  This led to a brief rendition of the children’s Music Machine album song, “Self Control” and discourse on the theological errors with line “self control is just controlling yourself, it’s listening to your heart and doing what is smart.”  Faith is choosing to do what God direct through His Word and His Spirit, and with His strength.    

Semester One, Lesson 10—Are You Forgiven? 

November 19, 2008

Notes by Sonya Mounts

Verna went over the wall section in the journal.  The wall section of our prayer journals has two corresponding pieces of paper where there is space to write a struggle, sin, fear, disbelief about God on the left side and on the right use the matching box to write the scripture truth God provides.  This tool is used during prayer to replace your present thinking with God’s truth. 

We re-visited the question—Did you forget this week that you are forgiven?  How was that manifested?  How did that keep you down? 

It really comes down to how God sees us versus how we see ourselves.  In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, we are made alive with Christ, and we are not guilty.  We are butterflies!  However, our flesh returns us to old patterns of thinking and we can crawl like caterpillars instead of living in freedom.  We discussed our reactions to our sin and our failings.  We think we should feel genuinely sorry for our sin, feel guilty, unworthy, it can cause us to question our salvation, we feel like we deserve what we get, or ignore our sin altogether.  Sometimes this manifests itself in feeling unloved, causes us to try to do extra work, we try to remember never to do it again, and we can re-live our failing and re-emote over it repetitively.

What is the solution to this?  Remember the cross and thank Jesus that he has already paid for it and acknowledge that you were trying to do it in your own strength.   Ask God to cause you to believe His truth.  Believing is knowing, agreeing, and acting on it. 

Sin is to miss the mark.  Sin is also anything we don’t do in faith (Romans 14:23b) and not doing what you ought to do (James 4:17).  In our own strength it is impossible not to sin.  I John 2:12 tells us that if we do sin, Jesus is our advocate before the Father.  Jesus is helping us to hit the target—in His strength.  Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ.     

Forgiveness—one of the definitions is Aphesis meaning to cause to stand away, to release one’s sins from the sinner.  The word purification is also used—and its definition, Katharismos, means to make clean. 

It was mentioned that how we deal with people who sin against us is the same way we think God deals with us. 

Discipline is for setting us apart, growing us in holiness.  It is painful.  God does it because we are sons (daughters).  Discipline is for our future good.  Otherwise, it would be punishment. 

We were asked to ponder whether God is disappointed by our (personal) sin.


EGP Semester One, Chapter 11-  review of Confession of Christ 


Verna leading

Notes by Sonya Mounts

This was the final lesson for the fall semester and Verna decided to review some of the main concepts from recent lessons. 

We discussed the resultant feelings from sin in our lives including disappointment, sadness, regret, unfulfilled expectations, a feeling that something is missing, and frustration.

We discussed the theology that had thus far been taught to us on the subject of sin and its effect on our relationship with God.

Various members volunteered what they’d been taught about sin, including:

    Breaks fellowship with God 
    He no longer hears my prayers 
    Causes separation from God 
    Sickness is deserved if one sins 
    Repentance is required before forgiveness 
    A sense that God has to be appeased for sin to be forgiven 
    If hands get dirty, they need to be washed (forgiveness requested)

We discussed a common interpretation by theologians that there are two types of forgiveness—justification forgiveness that paves the way for heaven, then after that there is a fellowship/relationship forgiveness needed for fellowship with God.

We reviewed 1 John 1:6-10 alongside 1 John 2:1-2.  For the vast majority of the cases in the New Testament, confession is linked with Christ and not with our sin.  Verna has come to see 1 John 1:9 (if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness) as a message to the unsaved.  Those who claimed they have not sinned have not accepted Christ—they don’t see their need.  I John 2:1 says that if we do sin, Jesus speaks to the Father in our defense.(

As Christians, our confession is JESUS, not our sins.  Continuing to confess sins (without the focus of the truth that Christ has already paid for the sins) is a downward focus, a focus on self, not a focus on Christ.  We are not sinless, but we are blameless.  That is how God sees us.  Through this fall course, we have reviewed many, many scriptures about how God sees us forgiven ones—although many of us have struggled to see ourselves in this same light.  He delights in us!

Verna pointed out that if we believe that after justification our sin continues to accumulate and we need to ask for forgiveness every time to wipe it clean, then we are in essence living like other religions, wondering if we are good enough.  Christ paid for all of our sin, past, present, and future.

We discussed how fear and guilt are often used to keep us on the “straight and narrow.”   

Verna reminded us of the definition of grace—the influence of Christ on our hearts and its reflection in our lives. 

Verna referenced her and Beth’s blog on Corinthians and discussed I Corinthians 13 with a God is love perspective.  God is patient, God is kind, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs, etc.  We have trouble believing that God is not disappointed with us when we sin. 

One class member acted out a grace exchange—the old way of handling sin as being angry and trying to punish oneself transitioning to asking God to come alongside as an archer directing us to hit the target.  What do we do with the sin (the arrow that has missed the target and fallen to the ground)?  We thank Jesus that it has been paid for. 

We went through the list at the beginning of the teachings about sin and found verses to accompany them to see the truth about how God sees our sin after we are justified (declared righteous).  He cancelled all debts, nailing them to the cross; we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, etc. 

One class member mentioned that this teaching goes against every prayer she has ever prayed!  She was always taught that she needed to confess every sin before she could be heard by God.  One scripture sometimes quoted for this is Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; --but we often don’t hear the next verses, v.19 but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.  V.20 Praise be to God who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”  Class members have been fearful in the past for having to remember and confess all sins on an ongoing basis to be forgiven and right with God.  We discussed the judgment and that Christians will go to Heaven and there will present their gifts to Christ—laying them at His feet.  He will bring to light the motives of our hearts.  Some of our works will be burned up and some will qualify for a prize/crowns. We also discussed the reality of free will and that some who have accepted Christ later reject Him (and this is a very intentional thing, not something that wavers back and forth). 

One asked if our goal is to try to be like Christ?  No?!  It’s to be in relationship with Christ.  “Trying” is doing something in my own strength.  Pride is self focus.  As soon as I think I can do it, it’s pride.  Ask God.  One mentioned how she was reading John 15 about abiding in Christ in a new light--so that Christ’s joy and our joy may be complete.   Even to lift up prayer requests is being part of the process with God and is for our joy.

As many of us were re-thinking many long-held beliefs, Verna mentioned that to grow, we have to come to grips with our theology.

Toward the end, Verna gave everyone an opportunity to share what God has been teaching them this fall through the course.  One mentioned a change in focus from herself to God.  Another mentioned countering her feeling that she didn’t like God with a desire to understand Him better.  One mentioned re-thinking a pattern passed down to her of punishing herself.  Another mentioned a feeling of thankfulness, gratefulness, and freedom.  One mentioned it had been like pulling a light bulb out of its fixture, examining it, and plugging it back into the source.

Our “homework” over the Christmas break is to get to know God.  Verna encouraged us to read through the Bible in the next year and continue to record one thing daily that we learn about God’s character.

We ended the class praying/praising God.  (As we are encouraged to record a scripture daily of what God is teaching us about himself, we prayed these aloud).

EGP Semester One, Lesson 12 - Saints and Sin

January 14, 2009
Notes by Sonya Mounts

Verna reflected on last week’s review and clarified that the EGP approach is to first get to know God and make that the center of Bible Study. 
The OT definition of sin is chata—to miss or go wrong.
The NT definition of sin is hamartano—to miss the mark, miss the target
We read and discussed several verses that tell Christians how to deal with sin:  sin no more—calling the adulterous woman into holiness; flee sin; encourage others so that you won’t be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; set aside encumbrances/sin that entangles by focusing on Christ.
Christ dealt with sin by “entrusting himself to him who judges righteously.”
Verna talked about the WWJD bracelets popular in the early 90s –the point of which was to remind oneself to ask, “What would Jesus Do?” when confronted with a situation.  The problem was that one would ask themselves, versus Jesus, what to do.  Later, another bracelet with the letters FROG was distributed.  That stood for “Fully Rely on God.”
In John 17:17-19 Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify them in truth, your word is truth—that is being immersed and renewed in truth (God’s Word).
God does the sanctifying—He is doing the work.  We have a choice—to cooperate or not. 
We discussed for a while whether one could live without sin and various theologies in which some of us were raised.  The summary was that those who have been taught that one could live without sin used a different, stricter definition of sin than the Greek definition meaning to miss the mark. 
We reviewed scriptures that our sins are nailed to the cross and He saved us by his mercy.
Verna demonstrated the flesh (the old man) by putting on an intertube ring.  Our flesh wants to fulfill its desires.  Guilt is part of the flesh.  We can feed the flesh by giving in to pride, indulging in self pity, depending on oneself.  By laying aside the flesh, we open our arms to God.  The new man only wants to do what Jesus desires.  Christ died so that we can drop the flesh.  We can do this by taking a wrong thought and exchange it with truth.  There are what Verna calls “well worn paths”—fleshly pattern we fall back into very easily. 
Unfortunately, we won’t be separated from the flesh and its desires until we are glorified (united with Christ at time of death or His return).  We discussed how some think that as they mature, they will not be bothered by the flesh (and in some sense need to rely on God less), however, as we grow closer to God, we will become more conscious of how much we need Him and go to Him more quickly in a situation. 
Verna explained the Peace through Grace section in the Journal.  It is a place to list our struggles and then put in God’s truth (scripture) corresponding to the struggle and use that truth to prayer over the struggle.
Beth Warlick, 6/2/2009 1