Wednesday, January 6, 2021

January 6 - Genesis 4/Matthew 4

- Sorry, I am not sure why this did not post yesterday. I saved it Monday night. - 

 Key verse: Genesis 4:10

Big idea: In the beginning, Abel's blood cried out for justice.

While Genesis 3 introduced us to sin against God, it would not be long until humanity began sinning against each other. When we have lost the proper center of our lives, everything else will crumble, but it often seems to begin with the most intimate relationships: families. Cain, the firstborn that Eve seemed to have hoped would fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15, murdered his brother Abel. His jealousy and pride could not accept that Abel's offering of faith was accepted by God while his own self-righteous offering was not. So God announced that, just as they had been exiled from Eden, Cain would be sent further away from the place of God's dwelling and from Adam, Eve, and their next son, Seth. God said that the blood of Abel cried out from the ground; Cain's crime in demolishing an image-bearer of God demanded justice. 

Sin does require justice, and especially the heinous crime of taking another human life. And Cain would not be the last! Herod, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and Attila the Hun (among many others) have committed crimes that spilled innocent blood and leave a need for justice. But all of us have profaned the role God has given us, and our misdeeds cry out for justice. 

Thankfully, that is not the final word. Hebrews 12:24 says we have come "to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." While the blood of Abel cried out for justice, the blood of Jesus cried out for mercy. "Father, forgive them" is the prayer that we can hang all of our hopes on. The vengeance owed for the rebellion in the Garden, for Abel's murder, and every sin since was dealt with when the Son of God took our place on the cross. But His blood did not pass on the guilt to those who killed him but offered forgiveness to them and to us. 

Discussion idea: How does God justify the ungodly while remaining just? Do you know for certain that you have been forgiven?

Prayer focus: Think of some of your specific sins and the justice they would cry out for. Thank God for His mercy in Christ.

Key verse: Matthew 4:19

Big idea: Jesus the King came to build a kingdom out of people, not brick and mortar.

Sometimes, everything changes in an instant. At 7:45 a.m. on December 7, 1941, no one could predict that the lives of every American were about to be forever transformed. September 11, 2001, seemed ordinary, right until the moment it wasn’t. How long ago was it that you learned how to pronounce “COVID”? The routines of societies continue more or less untouched until some invader comes and shakes the foundations.

What is true of nations is also true of our personal lives. Peter and Andrew were throwing their nets like they had countless times, with the familiar sounds and scents of the busy lake all around them. They had been fishermen their entire lives. Their father was a fisherman. Their sons would be fishermen and their sons after them. Lives like that must have seemed so predictable, yet they knew things were changing. After hearing John’s preaching (and submitting to his baptism), they knew that Someone was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Their routines were about to be shattered because the invasion force of the Kingdom of Heaven was arriving. The one that John had preached about and baptized walked up to them and said: “Follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”

But what was sudden for Peter and Andrew is something for which Matthew has been preparing us. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus was tempted for 40 days and was offered all kinds of things: food, pride, and political power. But Jesus’ responses are instructive. He was not building a Kingdom with the traditional materials, but a spiritual kingdom, so He quoted the Bible each time. His Kingdom would consist of men, women, boys, and girls of faith. Its victories would not be won with swords or bows, but with the Word of God and His transforming power. He did not call soldiers, but fishermen who could become fishers of men. His invasion force did not need to demolish castle walls, but the much more insidious strongholds of sickness, sin, and death.

Even though most of us know this intellectually, it is hard for us to deal with the implications. Physical struggles and successes are a lot easier than shaping the hearts of human beings. Winning elections, packing auditoriums, and raising money are all things we can measure. But that kind of victory is always fleeting. The path God lays out is the road to lasting significance.

Discussion idea: The temptation to swap out God’s definition of success with a tangible one is always present. In what way is it the most dangerous for you?

Prayer focus: Whenever Jesus faced temptation, He turned to the Bible. Pray for a commitment to Bible reading and prayer, to keep the tools you truly need close at hand.

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