Spiritual Formation Work Group

(God’s Great Desire for People)


“As leaders of the church, we are in the salvation business. 

The whole of the gospel is intent on deliverance. 

Our opportunity, and our problem, is making sure we understand exactly what salvation means.  All of it.”

                                                                                                    Dallas Willard



The Spiritual Formation Workgroup will begin 23 February 2019 from 10:00 – 11:30 A.M. in the education wing.  All are welcome.  We will be reading “Eternity Is Now in Session, A Radical Rediscovery of What Jesus Really Taught about Salvation, Eternity, and Getting to the Good Place by John Ortberg in 2019.  Bring a friend. 


Something in us is waiting—for what, we don’t know. Something different? Something better? (John Ortberg, page 2).


For Christians, perhaps the deepest expression of what we’re waiting for is found in the phrase “eternal life.” But what is eternal life? Why do we want it? And how do we know if we have it?


In Eternity Is Now in Session, bestselling author John Ortberg dispels the myth that eternal life is something way out in outer space that we can only hope to experience after we die—and that being saved is merely about meeting the minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven. Instead, John unpacks the reality that the moment we trust Christ, we are initiated into “eternal living” with God as a here and now reality, one that will continue beyond our life on this earth.


Jesus defined eternal life just once, in John 17:3: “. . . that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The kind of “knowing God” that is eternal life is an interactive relationship, not just an affirmation of certain facts about God. Once we begin the transformative journey of truly knowing God, we can start to experience His presence, favor, and resurrection power right here on this earth—in the details, tasks, and challenges of daily, ordinary life.


And as we begin to know God this way, we’ll realize each moment of our lives is a vehicle to the eternity we’ve been longing for all along.


Spiritual Formation Work Group

(God’s Great Desire for People)


“As leaders of the church, we are in the salvation business. 

The whole of the gospel is intent on deliverance. 

Our opportunity, and our problem, is making sure we understand exactly what salvation means.  All of it.”

                                                                                                    Dallas Willard


John writes, “God is not waiting for eternity to begin God lives in it right now.  It is the interactive fellowship and joy that exits between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Eternity is rolling right along, and we are invited to be a part of it—now.”  Are you ready to join in?

Eternity is now in session!


Session 1 – Rethinking Salvation

(Introduction, Chapters 1-3, pages 11-63)


And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3 (NRSV)


Are we there yet? 

To know God means to know what Paul called “the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10) in the details and task and challenges of my daily, ordinary life.


God is not waiting for eternity to begin.  God lives in it right now.  Eternity is now in session.


“The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ.”  Dallas Willard.


Discipleship is a journey—a lifelong journey in which we learn to live the life that Jesus offers.  For many centuries, that journey was described using certain stages:

a.     Awakening: I become aware of God’s extraordinary presence in my ordinary days.  I wake up to love, gratitude, wonder, and responsibility


b.    Purgation: I confess my character defects.  I humbly ask God to remove them.  I engage in practices that can help free me from them.


c.     Illumination: I begin to change at the level of my automatic perceptions and beliefs.  My “mental map” of how things are begins to look like Jesus’ mental map.


d.    Union: I begin to experience the life that Jesus invited us into when he said, “Abide in me, and I will abide in you” (John 15:4)



1.    “I believe this is how many people today think about salvation.  When we die, we are either headed for the castle (heaven) or the abyss (hell), and ‘salvation’ is knowing the right answer so that God has to allow us to cross the bridge.”  In John 17:3 Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God.  What does it mean to know God?  How does this differ from knowing about God? (page 4)






2.    John Ortberg speaks about acquaintance and experiencing God, do you know God?  How has your perception of God and your relationship with God changed over time?









3.    “What if we stopped thinking about eternal life as something we can only experience after we die?  What if we stopped thinking of Christians as people who know about God and instead focused on becoming disciples who are learning to know God?  What if salvation isn’t mostly about getting us into heaven but about getting heaven into us?” (page 7).  What is your concept of “eternity” and eternal life?






4.    Page 12, “Here’s the main truth to know about heaven: heaven will be life with God. …Heaven does not contain God; God contains heaven.  So, becoming the kind of person who wants heaven—uninterrupted life with God—is a problem because I often want freedom to do things I don’t want God to see.  Real heaven means life where my every thought, deed, and word lie ceaselessly open to God.  For eternity.”  What in life do you want to keep God from seeing, how successful have you been with that?






5.    What is the significance of eternity being in session right now?






6.    “In light of His Father’s goodness, Jesus advised, ‘Do not worry about tomorrow’ (Matthew 6:34).  Why should you not worry about tomorrow?  How much do you worry now?







7.    Many people look forward to living a long life.  How does this fall in line with what John Ortberg says on page 15?  “Remember, eternal life is qualitative—it makes a difference in the kind of life we live—more than it is quantitative.”






8.    What are any barriers you may have to experiencing Jesus as your “shepherd” or “your very good friend” as you go through each day?  Why are these things in the way?






9.    How would you define discipleship to a friend?






10. Without looking at the notes above, how many movements from John’s description of the journey of discipleship can you name?  Which do you think best characterizes your walk wit Jesus now?  Explain.






11. On page 18, John Ortberg poses a question What is the Gospel according to you?






12. “Welcome to the Kingdom.”  Whose kingdom do you live in?  Explain.  (pages 20-22).






13. “Jesus told us to ask God to bring heaven — ‘your kingdom,’ ‘your will’ — down here to my office, my neighborhood, my small group, my family, my country.  Starting with my life, my body, my little kingdom.”  What have you done, what are you doing to make heaven on earth?  (page 23)






14. “Breaking It Down.”  “Bringing up there down here is God’s project.  “Salvation belongs to our God” (Revelation 7:10). One day He will complete it.”  Read pages 25-26.  How can we help bring up there down here?






15. How would you live differently if it were organized around living in an interactive relationship with the Trinity?  What specifically would change?






16. “Elite Status.”  How true is John Ortberg’s statement “Ironically, people sometimes believe they can trust in the arrangement Jesus made without trusting Jesus Himself—everything He said about money, and sex and anger and prayer and God.  But we are not called to trust an arrangement.”  How have you witnessed this in reality? (page 36).






17. “Marriage as God designed it is not just a legal status.  It is a personal, spiritual, relational reality where the relationship itself is the “perk.”  Are there minimum requirements for remaining married?  (page 37).




18. “Pardon Me.”  Being saved always involves being saved from something and saved for something.  We are saved for shalom—a flourishing life with God.  What are we saved from?  (page 39).






19. (Pages 40-41).  “Israel expected the Messiah to save them from the consequences of their sin—Roman occupation.  Similarly, in our day, salvation is often explained primarily in terms of escaping punishment for our sin.  But the Bible says Jesus came to save us from sin itself.  Being consumed by sin is more to be feared than being punished for it.  William Faulkner wrote, ‘People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.’” 

a.     Have you ever treated sin as just a word? 

b.    How do you relate to those who live their lives acting as sin is just a word? 

c.     What is your concept of salvation?






20. “Salvation doesn’t mean simply being rescued from the consequences of our wrong choices.  It doesn’t mean being delivered into better circumstances.  It means being changed. … It’s about becoming good people.”  (page 41). 

a.     What process do you follow to become that good person? 

b.    What change has taken place in you?






21. How does John Ortberg speak to you on page 43 as he references Isaiah 12:2?

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2 (NRSV)




22. Ortberg writes on pages 44 and 45, “If we view salvation wrongly as ‘making the cut,’ we end up inadvertently violating the great commission.  Jesus told us to make disciples.  But if we essentially reduce salvation to getting into heaven, we are proclaiming a salvation that is disconnected from actually becoming disciples of Jesus.  And the tragic result is millions of people who live needlessly untouched by the presence of God.”  “If the church proclaims, “The gospel is how to get to heaven by doing nothing,” it will tend to produce people who do nothing.” 

a.     How important is it to you to make disciples or do you feel that is the responsibility of the pastor of the church? 

b.    What are you doing to make disciples? 

c.     Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ?






23.           As John Ortberg discusses discipleship in chapter 3, he poises an interesting thought.  “How is a disciple different from a Christian?  Are disciples a subcategory of overachievers?  Are they the dean’s list”?  Is discipleship optional, like white wall tires?  (page 51).  He begins chapter 3 asking one to truly think of the definition of “Christian.”  How do you define Christian?  Do you consider yourself a Christian?  Why?






24. “Those of us who call ourselves “Christians,” who have defined ourselves by affirming right beliefs, often wrestle with having a reputation for exclusivity and judgmentalism, a spirit of us versus them, and a difficulty in embracing the “other.”  (page 52). 

a.     What is your initial reaction to people when the join the church? 

b.    What is your emotional reaction? 

c.     Do you become judgmental?  Why or why not?

d.    How do you define a follower of Jesus Christ?




25. Are you an “Innie” or an “Outie”?  Ortberg speaks of defining the boundaries to determine a group.  As such, he says there are two ways to define groups.  We can define a set of boundaries of we can define a center.  Campbell University Divinity School has as its motto, “Christ Centered, Bible Based, Mission Focused.”  The minimum requirement is “Christ centered.  What is the criteria you impose on people to become a part of your group?






26. If following Jesus is about the center, what should we not orient ourselves toward God and His will and His love?  Why or why not?






27. Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14.  Paul you’re already “in”—why do you keep pressing on?  (page 57).  Once we are in, why should we keep pressing on?






28. On page 61, John Ortberg speaks of the “Inner circle.”  He says that any company, movement, or cause will have three concentric circles.  The outer circle is the “what”—here’s what we make or do.  Inside that is a smaller circle, the “how”—here ‘s how we do it…. But few will know what’s in the third circle, the innermost circle—the golden circle.  That circle contains the “why.”





Belief vs. Knowledge:


Belief and knowledge are two very different words.  We can believe something even if it is false.  We can believe, for example, that the moon is made of cheese or that the universe sprang from nothingness without assistance.  Jesus knew that even the demons in hell believed he was the Son of God.  But, as Dallas Willard has written, “We have knowledge of something when we are representing it (thinking about, speaking of it, treating it) as it actually is, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience.”  Knowledge is truth based on adequate evidence.


So, when John states that “eternal life = knowing God,” he is talking about stepping into belief.  We can believe that a chair can support our bodies.  We know this is true when we trust the chair with our weight.  Eternal living means trusting our lives to what is real, present, and right here.  Knowledge takes belief to a new and experiential level.


1.    If knowing God through living with the Trinity is the key to understanding who we are, and why we are here, what are some practical ways you can live more moments of your life “with” God?






2.    What does it mean to be saved?






3.    If you should die tonight, how do you know you’d go to heaven? (see page 34).  Ortberg poises the question, “have you done enough to push you over the boundary line from hell into heaven?”






Discerning God’s Voice:


As you live in more active conversation with your good friend Jesus, you may want to consider the following questions to help you recognize the voice of God.


a.     Does it sound like God?  Does what you heard sound like something God would say?  Is it consistent with God as you know him through Scripture?


b.    Does it sound like Jesus Christ?  Does it sound like something Jesus would say?  Is it consistent with Jesus as you see him revealed in the pages of the New Testament?


c.     Does it help you be conformed to the image of Christ?  The glory of God is our transformation into Christlikeness (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).


d.    It is consistent with a previous experience you have had that you know was from God?  We can take advantage of the 20/20 vision of hindsight.


e.     Is it consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and does it promote the growth of Christ’s character in us?  The fruit of the Spirit is the character of Christ.


f.      Is it consistent with the witness of what the saints and devotion masters have had to say about God?  Do I get a witness from those who have won the race?


g.    Do my closest friends and spiritual mentors believe it was from God? Do I get witness from those I trust?


h.    Is it consistent with the overarching themes of Scripture?  God’s spoken word will not contradict his written Word.


i.      What questions would you add to this list?







The following passages of Scripture focus on knowing God.


3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3 (NRSV)



1We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.
2This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.
3We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
4We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.
5This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

1 John 1:1-5 (NLT)



3Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments.

1 John 2:3 (NRSV)



7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

1 John 4:7-13 (NRSV)


9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

Philippians 3:9-10 (NRSV)

12and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

2 Timothy 1:12 (NRSV)



3His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
4Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (NRSV)


4.    “Many people who seek God or hunger for the spiritual may find themselves, like Langston, frustrated with what they’ve heard about ‘ow to be saved’  On some traditions people may be told that if they pray a particular ‘salvation prayer,’ it should put their soul concerns at rest, but they are troubled when that doesn’t happen.”  (page 31).


One of the popular misconceptions about salvation is that all you have to do is recite the Sinner’s Prayer and you will be saved.  One problem with this is that the prayer doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible.  Another problem is that many people find that after they pray the magic prayer, they don’t feel the dramatic inner change they expected to experience.


5.    What is the sinner's prayer?

The sinner’s prayer is a Christian term for a prayer that is said when someone wants to repent of their sin, ask God for forgiveness and state belief in the life, death, and saving resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Romans 10:9-10 says that “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” 

Millions have come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ through church services, friends, and family leading them in a salvation prayer.

However, it is not words in a prayer that save.  Jesus Christ alone has the power to save through faith. J.D Greerer explains it this way – “It’s not the prayer that saves; it’s the repentance and faith behind the prayer that lays hold of salvation. My concern is that over-emphasizing the prayer has often (though unintentionally) obscured the primary instruments for laying hold of salvation: repentance and faith.”