Key verse: Deuteronomy 9:5
Big idea: God's covenant is all of grace.
Some people imagine a sharp line two-thirds of the way through the Bible. On one side of the line is grace: people are saved by faith because of God's unstoppable love. On the other side is Law: people had to behave to earn God's favor. The problem is that this theory is entirely wrong. There is one message in the Bible from cover to cover: the Law could never save anyone because humanity was too weak to carry out its demands and the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. The only way that anyone could ever be who God intended them to be was through His unmerited favor. Everything has always been brought about by grace.
This is not just supposition. It is God's explicit declaration in Deuteronomy 9:4-5: "Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." He warns the Israelites against taking credit for His blessings. It is not because of their righteousness that He blessed them; they did not have any righteousness! The Canaanites were being expelled from the land for their wickedness and the Israelites were receiving it because of God's gracious faithfulness to Abraham. The father of the nation had received promises when he was still in Ur of the Chaldees and all he had to do was start walking and claim them.
What was true about the promises of land and material possessions is so much more true of our inheritance. We cannot do anything to deserve to be adopted as God's children, and certainly do not deserve a place in His eternal Kingdom. But - by grace and grace alone - He invites us to it anyway. Let us never be arrogant enough to try and take the credit, like it were our righteousness or the uprightness of our hearts that earned God's favor. It is, and has always been, His love.
Discussion idea: What would happen if the Israelites believed that their blessings were earned instead of given? What are the consequences of that error in our lives?
Prayer focus: Lord, help me to remember that I am not saved by my works, but for works. Keep me from looking down on others or elevating myself, and teach me to serve you in gratitude for your free gift of love.
Key Verse: Luke 12:37
Big Idea: We ought to live with priorities that reflect the Son of Man is coming.
Luke 12, like Luke 11, is a chapter rich in warnings against anxiety. The birds are fed by their Maker, but He is your Father; don't you realize He will care for you? The sharpest warnings against worry in this chapter seem to be rooted in the fact that the most important things are the ones we could not stockpile anyway. How many smiles can you deposit in the bank? How many hugs from someone you love can you put off today so you can have them tomorrow instead? The things that we can pile up are the very things that we cannot keep anyway. Either they will rot, moths will eat them, or we will die. All the things we can worry about we are going to lose.
When a child is playing hide and seek, how high do they normally count? How would you play differently if you did not know how high the person was counting? Obviously there would be no delaying. Your time could end at any moment! So you would have to be ready all the time. My wife and Charles Stanley share a birthday. She is 28 and he is 88, but God only knows which of His great servants will face Him first! Whether He returns or we stand before Him in death, we need to be ready.
If we realize that Jesus is coming again to set up His Kingdom visibly, we will live with a sense of urgency and purpose. If He finds we have been serving faithfully, then He will come to serve us, giving us rewards which we could never dream of. But if when He returns, we have wasted our time on games, we will lose everything we thought we had. Jesus left us when He died on the cross and took the punishment for our sins, then He rose again on the third day and ascended up to Heaven. He has told us He will return, although we don't know when, and told us to be about the business of making disciples in the meantime. If we are fishers of men, then we will have nothing to worry about, because the things we love will be the things we can never lose.
Discussion Idea: Why do you think that people who believe in God are still tempted to live for the physical stuff of this world like money, prestige, and power?
Prayer Focus: Pray that Jesus would let us live with the joy of security in Him and the passion of expecting Him to return at any moment.
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