New way

Hebrews 10:20 NCV

In the Old Testament there were over six hundred religious laws. And every time someone failed to keep one, they had to offer an animal sacrifice as atonement. This resulted in people trying and failing; feeling guilty and trying harder; failing again and making more sacrifices. It was a never-ending cycle. Then Jesus came and opened up ‘a new and living way…for us’ to have a relationship with God. His way included forgiveness for sin, and the replacement of sacrifices with faith in Him. For many it was just too good to be true, so they kept working and trying to impress God with their goodness. We can find ourselves doing that too. One Christian author writes: ‘I lived that way for years. It meant having to do everything perfectly; otherwise I was in trouble with God. Since this was an impossible standard to keep, it stole all my peace and joy. While I was trying to walk in love, I wasn’t a very loving person. I couldn’t give others what I didn’t know how to receive myself! I wasn’t receiving God’s mercy for my failures; therefore I couldn’t offer it to anybody else. I tried to follow all the rules, many that weren’t even scriptural – just things to feel guilty about. But thank God I don’t have to live that way anymore. Now I’m not working to be saved, I’m working because I am saved! My salvation isn’t based on what I do, but solely on what Jesus has done for me.’ When we understand that we’ve been saved by God’s grace, our relationship with Him is no longer about us being perfect, and instead becomes about His perfect love.

Exo 33-35; Luke 14:25-35; Ps 112; Prov 7:6-9

Grace produces godliness

Romans 6:1 NKJV

How should we answer those who say that talking too much about God’s grace causes people to think they have a license to sin? By pointing them to God’s Word: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (vv. 1-2 NKJV). Note the words “died to sin.” As you feed your new nature and starve your old one, it begins to die. You become less interested in pleasing yourself, and more interested in pleasing God. Paul said, “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV). Paul was not compelled by the fear of losing his salvation, but by the need to respond to God’s grace which he had experienced. He said, “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14 NAS). The Greek word for “world” is kosmos, or “order.” A revelation of God’s grace caused the world order to lose its appeal to Paul, and he to lose his appeal to them. When properly understood, the grace of God does not prevent godliness, but produces more of it. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 NKJV).

Soul food: Ecc 1-4; Luke 6:27-36; Ps 107:1-9; Prov 3:13-18

Simeon and Anna

Luke 2:28; 38 NIV

The story of Simeon and Anna – and ‘the Presentation at the temple’ – is often overlooked. Mary and Joseph take the child to the temple in Jerusalem for Mary’s ritual purification and Jesus’ dedication to God as the firstborn son. At the temple they meet two people. The first is Simeon. He has been told by the Holy Spirit that he will not die without seeing the Messiah and he has been summoned to the temple on this day. Simeon takes the infant Jesus, praises God because of Him and prophetically declares that he has now seen salvation and that the child will be a blessing to Jew and Gentile. But the baby will be a mixed blessing for the people of Israel, causing some to rise and some to fall, and Mary will know bitter pain because of His ministry. The second encounter is with Anna, an aged prophetess who recognises in the baby the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. Simeon highlights Jesus’ significance, declaring, ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation’ (Luke 2:30 NIV). The infant is not going to talk about how people are to be saved but will be the means through which they are saved. Simeon also says that the child is to be ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32 NIV). This means that the good news will go out across the world, to all people. Salvation, light to the world, the glory of Israel, will all be accomplished not through the temple building but through this child. In a world where we can often feel reduced to insignificance, we need to remember the baby in the temple. Sometimes the little things are vastly more significant than the big ones.

Job 21-23; Luke 1:67-80; Ps 128; Ecc 10:5-9

Joseph’s coats (1)

Genesis 37:3 NIV

Let’s look at the three different coats Joseph wore, as they present a picture of our lives as Christians. The first coat is the coat of salvation. It was a ‘gift’ from his father; Joseph never paid a penny for it, or sewed a stitch, or provided an inch of fabric. And that’s sounds a lot like the story of our salvation. The Bible says, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Motivated by jealousy and resentment, Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit and dipped his coat in the blood of a goat in order to convince their father that he had been killed by a wild animal. The Bible says: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7 NKJV). In Old Testament times, when someone sinned they brought a sacrificial lamb to the altar and the priest shed its blood as payment for their sins. But the priest did not examine the person, he examined the lamb. If the lamb was ‘worthy’, the person was accepted and their sins were atoned for. So the moment we acknowledge our sin and pray, ‘Father, I come in the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God,’ we’re totally forgiven and accepted. ‘Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV).

Isa 38-41; John 7:45-53; Ps 9; Prov 28:13-16

Blame (2)

Isaiah 55:8 NIV

Yesterday we thought about the times we blame others. Today we’re focusing on the times we blame God. Maybe we’ve prayed about something, and it feels like God’s not listening or not answering. Maybe we prayed for healing, and the person got worse. Maybe we thought God said He’d do a miracle, and we see nothing. We get disappointed. We get angry. We blame Him for everything that’s going wrong in our lives. It’s not bad to show God our emotions, after all He knows them anyway. In Psalm 13, we see David in a pretty bad place. ‘How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?…How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?’ (vv.1-2 NIV). David felt that he’d been abandoned by God. And we can feel like that too. We feel that He’s let us down by not doing what we wanted Him to do. But He says: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV). We won’t always understand how God works. We won’t always be able to see Him working, or see the bigger picture. That’s where trust and faith come in. David ends Psalm 13 with: ‘But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me’ (vv.5-6 NIV). Will we express our emotions to God and then remember His goodness? Will we be honest with Him and then refuse to let anger, disappointment and blame break down our relationship with God?

Exo 13-15; John 1:43-51; Ps 131; Prov 26:7-9