Come (as you are) … and see
Often we feel like we have to act a certain way or believe certain things before we can follow Jesus and start a relationship with Him. That feeling might come from your friends, church leaders or even yourself, but it definitely doesn’t come from Jesus. He invites us to come and follow Him, just as we are – our brokenness and doubts aren’t barriers that keep us from Him.
When I was at university I had two good friends who were lived in one of the residences with me. We’d lived in the same flat for about two years so we knew each other pretty well. They knew I was a Christian but they didn’t really have a working faith in God. I remember having a conversation over dinner with them with one of my other Christian friends. After debating some theological point one of them said to me: ‘this Christian stuff sounds good, I can see why you believe it. But to be honest, I’m not prepared to give up the fun I’m having now.
That pretty much ended the conversation. I wish they could have seen what really was on offer.
One Bible story I wish my friends could have read (and understood) is in John 1v35-42. John gives us this really cool picture of what it’s like to follow Jesus.
Jesus has just begun to go public. John the Baptist has been pointing him out ‘Look! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ People are getting interested – there’s something different about this guy. Then one day John is hanging out with some of his followers. Jesus comes by and John doesn’t miss an opportunity to make his point. ‘There’s the Lamb of God!’
John’s two disciples are curious. What does the ‘Lamb of God’ do? What is he like? They follow behind at a distance – a bit shy and nervous. Jesus senses he’s being followed and, turning around, sees them and says ‘what do you guys want?’
Now, imagine Jesus was in the flesh in front of you and asked you that question. Seriously, the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things is asking you what you want …
Where do you start! A girlfriend, a nicer nose, good marks this term, a bit of cash, a new phone … Or maybe, if this was back then you’d be asking for a goat that behaved itself, a fishing boat that didn’t leak, or a new pair of sandals or something …
That’s not what the disciples asked for. In fact they didn’t ask for anything. They just wanted to know where Jesus was staying …
John loves to pack in deeper levels to his stories – kinda like an ancient Christopher Nolan. At one level these guys are asking where Jesus lives: ‘Let’s go there and hang out with the Lamb of God! That would be pretty cool.’ But there’s another level to this story… Later on (in chapter 15) Jesus tells his disciples they must become like branches attached to a vine and stay attached to him. ‘Remain in me’ Jesus says.
Other Bible translations use the word ‘abide’. Attach, remain, abide are all ‘connection’ words – words that speak about relationship. Jesus’ most important relationship was with his Father. For Jesus, knowing the Father was the ultimate experience. Just knowing the Father was the essence of eternal life. We know that because Jesus said so in John 17v3:
‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’
For Jesus it all came down to staying attached, connected, abiding. Now here’s the thing: the word John uses in the original Greek for ‘abiding’ is exactly the same word the disciples use when they ask Jesus where he’s staying.
John does that to make sure we see the connections and get the point. Sure, they’re asking where his house is located but John is hinting at a much deeper question: ‘Where are you connected? Who are you connected to? What is your life all about?’
‘What do you want?’
‘I want to know the secret to the best kind of life possible’
Yeah, that makes more sense.
I think Jesus had been secretly hoping they would ask that question. He spent the rest of his earthly life showing as many people as he could who his Father was (he’s still doing it now). It’s interesting then that Jesus doesn’t launch into a sermon about who God is and how to have a relationship with the Father. He says just five words:
‘come, and you will see.’
That’s always the way in. We’re invited to enter right into the middle of the relationship Jesus has with his Father. There are no third wheels with Jesus and the Father. We are included and welcomed into a friendship where we discover just how much we are loved. In that place all the things we’re afraid of become really small in the presence of this love.
Jesus was always inviting people to come and check it out. And like most relationships, the presence of God is there to be experienced before it’s fully understood. If we wait to have it all worked out in our head we’ll never enter in. When we encounter God everything is transformed – including the way we think and reason.
I suspect that many of us have a secret, inner conversation with ourselves that goes something like this: ‘There’s too much stuff I’ve done, or thought, or said for God to really want to have anything to do with me. I don’t deserve to be tight with God.’
Jesus interrupts that false conversation: ‘Come! As you are. Just like that. Experience the love I and my Father have for you.
Seriously, it will change everything.
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.
Download a PDF version of this session here
If God were to ask you: ‘what do you want for your life?’ How would you answer?
How well do you relate to this thought: ‘There’s too much stuff I’ve done, or thought, or said for God to really want to have anything to do with me. I don’t deserve to be tight with God.’
What would you say the most essential part of following Jesus would be?
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o Are there any feelings you’re aware of after having heard some of the stuff in this session?
o Did anything seem like particularly good news? Anything that was not so great news for you, or hard to understand?
o Do you ever feel like you’re not worthy of following Jesus or knowing God? What are some of the things in your life that make you feel that way – thoughts, actions, experiences that you feel like put a barrier between you and God?
o If you got the chance to follow Jesus (to see where He was abiding), what would you like to see? What answers or new ideas would you hope to get out of it?
Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Christians (just like everyone else) can sometimes seem quite judgemental, and that can lead us to think of Jesus the same way. Are there any ways you’ve felt ‘judged’ by Jesus?
What do you think the “come as you are, and see” Jesus would say about those things?
Has what you’ve encountered in this session changed or challenged your idea of what Jesus is like?
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?
In Romans 12v2 Paul says:
‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’
For this one, repentance might look slightly different to how we usually imagine it. Repentance can seem like something you do to say sorry for the sin you’ve done and promise not to do it again – but here it’s not about trying not to do bad stuff any more. Repentance here means recognising what in your life made you feel like you weren’t worthy of God, and resolving to stop thinking that way.
Some questions to help you remix your story:
o How can you stop yourself from getting into the patterns of thought that keep you from God? What are the areas of your life that you feel guilty about – that make you feel unworthy? And next time you start feeling unworthy of coming to God because of it, what are you going to say to remind yourself that Jesus invites you to join Him – not matter where you are?
o Where do you think you need Jesus’ help at following Him? Instead of focusing on trying to follow Him better, why not focus on asking Jesus to show you what that might look like for you, and to help you do it better?
o Can you think of one way in which you could spend time hanging out with Jesus this week?
From the WordSpace
Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
Is there something in your life you feel would make God want to keep his distance from you? Maybe you’ve been rejected by someone, or there’s something that makes you feel kinda dirty…
There was a woman in Jesus’ time whose bleeding problem made her untouchable for religious reasons. She hears that Jesus is in town and desperately sneaks a quick touch of Jesus’ coat.
Jesus is awesome. Instead of stepping away he says this:
‘Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed.’
(Read the story in Mark 5v21-34 here: http://bit.ly/1nEXXNx )
Do you need to take a risk of faith and approach Jesus with the thing that makes you feel dirty?
Bruce Almighty was a pretty cool movie – watching Jim Carrie have God-powers was a bit weird but it made me think about what it would be like to be God and know, like, EVERYthing. Would you want that?
The Bible is full of people who fell flat on their faces when they encountered God. Some even said: ‘I am unworthy, go away please!’ (Luke 5v1-11 http://bit.ly/1j7KqOn )
God knows everything about you – better than you know yourself. It’s a scary thought but there’s no hiding from God. What would you say to someone you knew that well?
Here’s what Jesus says to you:
‘Come! Just as you are’
Isn’t that amazing? How do you respond to that?
‘Come to me, just as you are ‘
‘But Jesus, I’ve sinned so many times. I’m – like – addicted to such ugly stuff’
‘I know – and I knew that when I said ‘just as you are”
‘but I’ve asked for forgiveness so many times – I’m never going to change’
‘you’re never going to change if we – me, my Father, my Spirit – are not present in your life. It’s our presence that brings ‘goodness’ – not the other way round.
‘I just feel so ashamed – I’m not sure I want you to see what’s going on’
‘I’ve already seen it – I got covered in all your stuff on that cross.
Just come ‘
Read Colossians 2v13-15 here: http://bit.ly/1lyi9SQ
It hurts when you get left out of a party. It sucks when it feels like no one wants to be your friend. It’s horrible when people who call themselves your friends gang up on you. Seems it’s ok in this world to hurt someone so you get to fit in.
These lyrics we sing at youth really help in times like this:
‘with a broken heart, I come to you / In my loneliness, I call out to you / From my emptiness, I turn to you / Even in this mess, I worship you /… Come now risen one and rise in me’
Laura, 17, Cape Town
Tired of doing the right thing? Wish you could escape where people don’t expect you to behave like a Jesus-follower a place where you can do what you want?
Sometimes I wish I could do what I want Sometimes I get tired of saying, no! to temptation.
But Jesus knows that about me and loves me anyway: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with mewatch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.’ Matthew 11:28-29 http://bit.ly/13pYZBA