Thursday, April 1, 2021

April 1 - Joshua 1, Luke 18

Key verse: Joshua1:8

Big idea: Victory comes from the word of God.

Have you ever been overwhelmed? I know that I have. Too many tasks, too little time. Unending decisions and responsibilities weigh on your mind and leave you sick to your stomach and no closer to your goals. Imagine how Joshua must have felt! Moses, the leader who talked to God face to face and led the people for forty years was dead, and it was now Joshua's job to bring the people into the land to conquer. There were many tasks ahead, great and small. Cities would need to be conquered, land would need to be divided, and ordinary disputes would need to be settled. What did Joshua need for victory? 

God told him directly. Joshua needed to be strong and very courageous, and the key was the Bible. Joshua only had the first five books of the Old Testament (the Law), but it would be the core. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." If Joshua kept the Word of God in his mouth, in his heart, and in his actions, he would have victory. 

What do we need to succeed in life? The Bible! We need to read it, share it, memorize it, and obey it. Then, we will have the path we need for success in God's sight.

Discussion idea: How can you meditate on the Bible this week? When was the last time you memorized a verse of Scripture?

Prayer focus: Lord, help me to hide Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You. 

Key Verse: Luke 18:14

Big Idea: We all come to the Son of Man on equal footing.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a parable of two prayers and the men who prayed them. A Pharisee, faithful and religious, prayed with bold confidence. He waltzed up to the Temple, lifted up his eyes to Heaven (the normal pattern for prayer in the entire Bible) and thanked God that He was not a sinner like other people - including the tax collector he had walked past - and told God about the good works he did. His prayer sounds almost like a campaign ad, explaining to God why he deserves to be blessed. In contrast, the tax collector did not even approach the Temple. He beat his chest as a sign of mourning, simply recognizing his sin and asking for forgiveness. He gave no justification for blessing him, except a plea for God’s mercy. 

The prayer of the one who made a strong case was rejected and the prayer of the one who made no case at all was accepted. God accepted the publican because he trusted in God's mercy - not his own righteousness. The Pharisee was rejected because he believed that he had earned a higher footing with God, not recognizing that as sinners, none of us merit God’s love. We get everything we have by grace alone, not by our merit, but by Christ’s. If we want intimacy and blessing from God, the only path is to recognize that we could never deserve it.

Pride is a particularly dangerous sin for at least two reasons. The first is that its cost is so high: it keeps us from receiving God’s blessing. The second is that pride is always within arm's reach. Even - maybe especially - when we are doing something good, pride is crouching in the shadows, waiting to pounce and consume us. The Pharisee looked at the tax collector and sinned even in his prayer. But let's be careful, lest we read this story and say "I thank You that I'm not like other people - or even like this Pharisee." Self-righteousness is the enemy of self-awareness and pride is the enemy of blessing.

Discussion Idea: How can we follow God without being proud? Why is a comparison with other people always a losing game, whether we think we are doing well or not?

Prayer Focus: Pray for God to break the brokenness in our hearts that leads us to compare ourselves with others, and simply come to Him through the cross.

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