Key Verse: Exodus 20:2
Big Idea: God called His people out for a relationship, and then gave them the Law.
What comes first - rules or relationships? In our human relationships, it often seems that rules come first: if we meet the standards, then someone will care about us. But God's system is different. By the time we get to Exodus 20, the ten commandments, God has already rescued His people from Egypt, already provided them food and water in the wilderness, and already called them His children. He did not hear their cry under their Egyptian taskmasters and say, "If you will keep these ten rules, then I will rescue you." Rather, He rescued them first, entered into a love-relationship with them, and then gave them the rules He had designed them to live by.
The point is explicit in the first verses of Exodus 20, immediately before the ten commandments are given: "And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." I am your God already and I have already freed you from slavery in Egypt! They were not saved from Egypt by their works, but by their faith revealed when they put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. Their works were acts of gratitude, living out the responsibilities as the special people which God had freely made them.
In Ephesians 2, Paul makes the same point about us. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." We are not saved by works; our salvation always comes first. We are saved to work. Like the Israelites before us, God frees us from slavery when He hears our cry and then teaches us how to live. In our case, it is even more necessary than it was for the Israelites because our slave master is sin itself. God could not offer to free us from our slave-master, if only we first free ourselves! No, God sets us free and then teaches us how to live as His free people.
Discussion idea: How should "relationship as the foundation for rules" play out in a marriage or between a parent and their children?
Prayer focus: Praise God for His free gift of salvation, and ask Him to touch your heart to be eager to respond in an obedient life.
Key Verse: Hebrews 10:26
Big Idea: If we reject the Son of God, there is no plan B.
Adrian Rogers told a story about a man who got some terrible news from a doctor. He was certain to die unless he had a medication which would cost more than a million dollars, which he did not have and could not hope to get. A single vial was all he needed, but it was so far out of reach. He fell to his knees and sobbed, begging the doctor for mercy, begging the doctor to find some way to get him the medicine. When he left, the doctor sought out to do just that: cashing out retirement, working extra hours, and selling piles of his hard-earned possessions. For the patient, it was unattainable; for the doctor, possible, but painful. A few weeks later, the doctor called the patient to meet him at the office at a certain time. The patient arrived shortly before the doctor did, but when the physician came through the door, his hair was disheveled, his white shirt was splattered with fresh blood, and a single red vial was in his hand.
“I have it. I raised the money, and found out there was only one vial left in the trial. I knew that you would not make it to the next round, so I drove too fast across town and my car was hit. My son died in the accident, but I told the police that I had to get back here or someone else would die too.”’ Exhausted, he handed the vial to the patient and collapsed in the chair.
The patient took the vial, looked at it and poured it on the carpet, where it soaked into the fibers, lost forever. “I don’t want this one. Isn’t there something else you can do for me? Doctor, I don’t want to die. You have to help me.”
If there were another way, would the doctor have given up everything, including his own son? Of course not. And with this sacrifice rejected, there is no other sacrifice to give. The parallel is clear: with the death of Jesus God purchased our deliverance. If we reject that gift we condemn ourselves and mock the price paid so we could receive it. If we reject Jesus there is no plan B, no hope, only “the terrible expectation of God’s judgment.” The price that God paid to rescue us is high and the cure He secured is perfect. But if in pride we refuse to accept it, we have no right to anticipate another option, even if there were one. We must recognize we are sinners and come to the Son of God for forgiveness. There is no plan B.
Discussion Idea: What is the gift you have given someone that you are most proud of? What did it cost you? How would you feel if it was rejected?
Prayer Focus: Ask God to help us realize that goodness, religious rituals, and everything else we can do are no substitute for being born again.