Several months ago, one of my friends ran across a new small-group study called "The Gospel- Centered Life." It is a nine-week study published by a missions organization named “World Harvest Mission” and written by a couple of pastors, Bob Thune and Will Walker.
This study is great stuff.
The primary idea of the study (as you might expect from the title) is that the Gospel is central to the Christian life.
I grew up in a church that emphasized the gospel on the front-end of the Christian life, but it was only a few years ago that I began to think about how the gospel is essential to the rest of my life as a Christian.
Most of us teeter between legalism and license for the entirety of our Christian life. Legalism says "my behavior defines my identity." License says "my identity shouldn't impact my behavior." Whichever side of the struggle you tend towards, this study reminds us that our focus should be the cross.
For the legalist, the cross is a reminder that God's standard of holiness is too high for our meager attempts at rule-keeping. God is satisfied in the work of His Son; not in our behavior. For the person who struggle with licentiousness, the cross is a reminder of the severity of sin against a holy God. The sacrifice Christ paid was far too severe, and the gifts we have received are far too extravagant for us to disregard what He has done on our behalf.
The problem is, as "The Gospel Centered Life" points out, we have a tendency to "shrink the cross." As we justify our sin as "not that bad," or judge our neighbors as "not as good as us," we betray the fact that the cross is a smaller deal to us than it should be.
If you're a part of a small group, or know the small group pastor at your church, you really ought to check out this study. Right now, you can download a free preview copy of it, which is a bigger bargain than you know.
At the risk of over-selling, this is some of the best material I've ever run across for small groups. It's profound and simple, precise, clear, and provoking. You really should check it out.