Author: Joe Sutton

On the Romans Road – July

Wasn’t it just awesome to finally arrive at Romans chapter 8?  Chapters 1-7 are, of course, an indispensable foundation, showing how mankind is completely without hope apart from Christ.  Even just in the preceding few verses, Paul spoke of his continuing wrestling match with his flesh: yes, in Christ he has peace with God (Romans 5), dead to sin and is released from the law.  And yet, at the same time, the old man of the flesh is still around, tempting us to do the things we don’t want to do in our new spirits.  Who will deliver us – at last! – from these bodies?  God Himself, through Jesus Christ.

Condemnation and Conviction

As we launch into Romans 8, we are immediately confronted with this word: condemnation.  It means the judgement due to sin.  It’s not the same thing as conviction, which is the awareness and understanding of sin.  The law brings about conviction as it shows sin for what it is.  In Life Group, we discussed how, following conviction, we can choose to confess (an interesting word in Greek, literally meaning “to say the same”, i.e. to agree with God) and thereby find grace.  Or, in the case of the unrepentant, we can choose to suppress the truth which, ultimately, will lead to a judgement – condemnation.

It’s key for us, as Christians, to understand the difference here:

There IS conviction, and conviction is a good thing.

It means the Holy Spirit is working to show us where we need to repent, change and grow.  Hebrews 12 even speaks of God’s discipline as proof that we are His children.  Greater awareness of our sin is a good thing: it’s evidence of God’s work in our lives, which is evidence of our salvation!

There IS NO condemnation.

When we sin, the enemy is so often there to rail on us, and tell us whatever egregious thing we’ve done is proof we are unregenerate, and/or that God is done with us.  These are absolute lies!  There is a judgement for our sins, but thanks be to God that it fell upon Christ, and not upon us!

When the Lord makes us aware of sin, confess it.  Agree with God.  Remember the gospel, and that it means there is no condemnation.  And then pray: pray that God will continue your sanctification, that He would help you practice repentance through making changes.  Pray that He would help you walk away from temptation.

No condemnation for whom?

When we read “there is therefore now no condemnation for whose who are in Christ Jesus,” whose name do we substitute in there?  If you’re like me, don’t we sometimes see our own name there, praise God for His mercy, but then fail to acknowledge it applies to others, too?  Aren’t we so often quick to condemn others?  When our brothers and sisters sin, they may need our help to see it so that conviction can take place.  But there is no condemnation: not from God, and there should not be from us, either.  Instead, there is grace from God and there should be grace from us, too.

This verse means that we are all freed from pretence that we are fine.  God’s intention and heart for the church is that deep and trusting relationships arise, in which iron can sharpen iron, and we can be part of one another’s sanctification journey.

Debtors and Heirs

It’s a strange pairing, isn’t it?  In Romans 8:12, Paul declares that we are debtors.  It means that we have obligations – there are things we ought to do (or not do).  Paul says our obligations are not to the flesh, but leaves it to us to fill in the blank: we’re indebted to live according to the Spirit.  Why is that, Paul?  Because, he says, we received the Spirit of adoption, and became heirs!  We don’t normally associate heirdom with the burden of debt, which is why I think the work “obliged” probably works better.  An heir does have obligations to conduct him or herself in a befitting way.

Whatever our experiences of earthly fathers, we have a Perfect Father in Heaven now.  The Holy Spirit says He will help us to acknowledge that, and to call on Him.  Our Heavenly Father is worthy of our worship – not just meaning our singing, but worship through conduct.  By living for Him.  That’s the obligation we have.  As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.”

That’s our challenge and our privilege as His heirs!

On the Romans Road – June

The psalmists spoke much about the joy of God’s law, and how obedience to it leads to blessedness (read: happiness).  And that’s all fine in theory, but that reality is not actualised for us.  Why?  Because, as James says:

James 2:10 (ESV)
10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

Our consciences are sufficient for us to discern that we’ve not kept the whole law.  If, for some reason, our conscience isn’t enough, then we have the first three chapters of Romans to show us.  “All have sinned” to some degree or another.  Therefore, no matter how diligently we might obey God, our past disobedience means we remain guilty, and any minor infraction today or tomorrow would nullify all obedience.  Reliance upon law is HARD!

This is precisely why God’s plan and purpose has always been to save mankind by grace through faith, not obedience to law.

Believers and Sin

In our studies in Romans, Paul has been discussing two question that arise concerning how believers relate to sin and law.  If we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and not by rote obedience, then what place does obedience have?  What is the impact of disobedience?

Paul first draws out two questions in chapter 6.  The first asks: if grace is greater than sin, and it abounds to cover all sin, then we could deliberately sin now to increase grace!  If grace covers sin, then more sin means more grace, and more grace is a good thing!  Well, Paul shows that this argument fails.  Salvation is all about resurrection; sin is all about death.  They are opposites.  It’s never going to be a good thing to increase that which brings death!

Rather, Christ solves death problem: He died, having never sinned.  Then God resurrected Him, never to die again.  Believers are brought into that death-to-life, so that we receive the hope of the same resurrection.  Correspondingly, a key aspect of salvation is our death, that is, dying to sin.  Therefore, if we continue to sin, it’s simply inconsistent with this new identity of ours.

Does Sin Matter?

The second question Paul considers is: if we’re no longer under the law, then does sin matter?  If I’m not under the law, does it matter if I break it?  Paul shows that yes, it absolutely matters.  Why?  Well, beyond what we’ve just said about sin leading to death, sin is a slave-master.  When you or I disobey God, we are obeying sin.  We can either serve God, the outcome of which is joy and life and peace, or we can serve sin.  You gotta serve somebody.  Either sin, which leads to slavery and death, or God, which leads to sanctification (greater holiness) and eternal life.

So yes, it matters for us to eschew sin and choose to obey God.

Believers and Law

Now Paul turns his attention to law.  What is its relationship with sin?  Is law the cause of sin?  What purpose does the law have, if God saves through grace and promise?  Romans 7 answers these questions.  The first part speaks to the legalists: those of us who overemphasise law-keeping today, thinking they can enhance their relationship to God.  The second speaks to libertines: those inclined to overemphasise our freedom in Christ, disregarding holiness, discipline and godly living.

Unbound from Law

First, Paul uses the law itself to show that death frees us from law.  This is why it’s so important that death is central to salvation.  In Christ’s death, we also die, and that death releases us from the law.  Paul refers to the law as the “old way” of serving God, which was through all the do’s and don’ts.

This point is critical for those of us who feel the weight of legalism.  If we are in Christ, united with Him in His death, then the old law is not binding on us anymore.  What a relief!  No longer are we living in fear of the gavel of God the Judge coming down.

However, we still serve God.  Paul says that the mode of service has changed.  Previously it was “in the old way of the written code.”  Now, we serve “in the new way of the Spirit.”  There is still service!  What’s changed is the heart and reason behind it.  Simply put, in changes from “I have to, I must, I’ve got to” and into “I get to, I’m able to, I’d love to.”

Law’s Purpose

So what is the purpose of the written code?  Well, as we saw in chapter 7, the law does three things: it exposes sin, it provokes sin, and it condemns sin.  You can see this with young children.  Tell them not to do something, and what do they immediately want to do?  As Paul said, he wouldn’t have coveted without the law saying “don’t covet.”

Paul’s snapshot of his current life can be hard reading.  Why such struggle for the Christian?  Because, as he says elsewhere:

Galatians 5:16–18  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The struggle remains because we have to make a continual and active choice to “walk by the Spirit.”  There is an ongoing inner struggle between the “old man” of sin and the “new man” of the Spirit.  There is the part of us that delights in God and says “amen!” to His commands to do right, and there is the part of us that clings to selfishness and sin.

The Law’s purpose for a believer, then, seems to be complete.  It served as a “schoolmaster” (see Galatians 3) to show us the impossibility of salvation through obedience.  Now we’ve come to Christ, the law of God is fulfilled in us by Christ.  Paul urges us to “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”

On the Romans Road – May

The Book of Romans is super-concentrated, isn’t it?  It’s so valuable for us to step back and reflect on what’s come before.  I pray this will be a useful meditation as we continue through the series.

Recap

In the early chapters, Paul has taken pains to ensure it’s clear that everybody needs saving from the consequence of their sins, and there’s only one provision for this: grace.  God always intended to found the outcome of Heaven upon grace, rather than performance.  God has always wanted to bring people in to His eternal Kingdom, but He doesn’t want anybody to think they earned it!

All the Benefits!

In chapter 5 of Romans, Paul outlines for us many of the benefits we have.  We’ve been justified — that means “declared to be righteous”.  That’s awesome!  So what?  Glad you asked, says Paul!  Well, you have peace with God.  The shalom peace that means more than just cessation of conflict.  It’s that, plus heart and soul rest.  Plus the seeking of our welfare.  Plus provision.  We know that the fullness of this is yet future, but Paul’s putting it in the present tense for us.  We have peace with God now.

We’ve also obtained access to God.  I think this is something to reflect on.  Think about Isaiah, when he was granted to see the Lord’s throne room.  You recall there in Isaiah chapter 6: Isaiah saw the Lord upon His throne, the heavenly temple shaking because of the worship taking place there.  What was Isaiah’s reaction?

Isaiah 6:5 (ESV) And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

I wonder what Isaiah would have thought if, perhaps towards the end of his life, he heard this teaching.  I really think he would have short-circuited.  Access by faith into God’s favour?  You can come into His presence, just like that?

Let’s reminder ourselves of just one more benefit.  This one from Romans 6:9, where Paul says that we’ve been justified by Christ’s blood, and much more shall we be saved by His life.  It’s such a comfort to me that we’ve not arrived yet.  To know that God’s only really just gotten started with me is such a wonderful thought.  Yes, I’m work in progress.  But God’s begun a good work.  And He has much more yet to do.

A Tale of Two Men

There’s a part of me that’s still taken aback by Paul comparing Adam with Jesus Christ.  He even says that Adam is a type of Christ, the One to come!  Surely, a creature and his Creator cannot be compared in any comprehensible way!  But there is a clear point of comparison: Adam and Jesus Christ both committed a single act that had eternal ramifications.  Adam’s choice to disobey God’s direct command did several things:

  • It introduced sin, and sin introduced death.
  • Death effectively became “king” — it began its reign, and death continues with us to this day (in case you hadn’t noticed!)
  • It lead to condemnation for all (v18)
  • It rendered us all sinners (v19)

It’s shocking stuff, isn’t it?  But there’s a great phrase Paul uses twice: “much more.”  Yes, sin did and does so much damage, but much more does God’s grace, and God’s free gift of salvation abound.  Yes, death reigned through that one man, but much more will believers reign in life through Jesus Christ.

The king is dead; long live the King!

Choices and Consequences

Choices have consequences, don’t they?  Nothing we do is done in isolation.  I don’t imagine that Adam quite knew the full extent of his choice that day he ate the fruit.  But certainly Jesus Christ knew the extent of His act of obedience.  It made justification and life available to all men!  Many will be made righteous!  But there is still a choice to make for this to be effective.  As Paul already took great pains to articulate earlier in the book, it’s the choice of faith.  The choice to pledge our allegiance to Christ Jesus, instead of ourselves or whatever other thing.

As we move into Romans 6, we’re challenged to consider that the old way of life is dead.  The idea of incorporating Christianity into our lives is totally foreign to Paul.  You’re buried with Him if you’ve believed in Christ.  The old you is in the ground, six feet under.

Paul couldn’t use stronger terms than “dead” and “alive.”  But these statements don’t remove our need to act.  Paul says “you must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.”  The fact that it’s absolutely true doesn’t negate our need to consider this actively in our day-to-day lives.  We had those four imperatives there in Romans 6 that we considered last week.

I wonder how you put this into practice?  I was reminded of a verse we memorised a long time ago now:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

There is no temptation to sin that is too strong for you.  One of the tools we have when facing temptation is to remind yourself — preach to yourself –– that you are dead to sin.  Consider it so.  Recall that what is theologically true provides a practical tool to resist the enemy’s lies.

How do you work these things into your daily lives?

On the Romans Road – April

Paul has constructed his argument over the opening chapters of Romans: while it may appear that there is a marked difference between “saint” and “sinner,” the truth is, all have sinned.  Whether a little or a lot, we all have disobeyed and stand condemned before God.

Total Inability

Paul’s quoted the Psalms for his theological crescendo.  He says that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God … no one does good, not even one.”  You have to pause and ask – “is that really true Paul?”  Not a single person does moral good deeds?  We observe every day, don’t we, people doing good.  Right now, we rightly celebrate the sacrificial good work done by keyworkers.  The NHS staff are daily putting themselves at risk, while the rest of us are hunkered down at home.  At the same time, we have Biblical examples of individuals like Joseph and Daniel who seem to live holy lives.  And then you have passages like Matthew 1:19, where Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus Christ, is described as “a just man.”  The word for “just” there is more typically translated as righteous.

What are we saying, Paul?  We’re saying that no person consistently and earnestly seeks God.  Nobody always, every day, lives well enough.  Nobody meets the standard.  And whether we fall short by a million miles or by a few centimetres, we fall short.  As David said in Psalm 51:5, sin is with us from the moment of birth.  Job agrees in Job 14, saying of mankind “who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?  There is not one.”  James argues that if we bread the law in one point only, we are guilty of it all.  The law is broken, and it can’t be unbroken.

That’s what we mean by Total Inability.  We are unable to save ourselves because it only takes one act of disobedience, one moment of self-seeking rather than God-seeking, and it’s over.

Called Right!

After that devastating conclusion, Paul is keen to move us forward into hope!  Having shown there is no distinction amongst us in terms of sin, there is also no distinction regarding salvation.  Paul writes “[as] all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and [so all]:

  • are justified – meaning, they’re declared to be right.  Not made right, but called right by God Himself.  How?
  • by His grace as a gift – it couldn’t be by any other method.  We were totally unable to earn it, so therefore it has to be a gift of grace.  But how can it be offered?
  • through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus – Paul uses the metaphor of the slave market.  Redemption means that a transaction has occurred: one party has paid a sum to another, that a third party may go free.
  • Whom God put forward as a propitiation – this technical term refers to the act of paying a satisfactory sum.  In this case, it’s the sum to cover the penalty of sin.  What was the sum paid?
  • by His blood – there it is: the Law of Moses always declared that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (see Hebrews 9:22).  The eternal blood of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, is the only sufficient sum.
  • to be received by faith – and here at last is the differentiator.  All have sinned, but are all justified?  Clearly, not: we do not hold to universalism, which is the view that everybody goes to Heaven.  The differentiator is faith.  God holds out a free gift.  He says “I HAVE MADE A WAY THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTLY DECLARED RIGHTEOUS.”  We who have gone astray – some a little, some a lot – have an equal offer of a free gift.  It’s there for the taking.  How do we take it?  By believing all these things: that I need it, that I don’t deserve it, that God is able to offer it.  And that belief, or faith, leads to faithfully living for Him.

Abraham the Example

Paul then wants to illustrate the point for us.  To do this, he refers us to the highly revered figure of Abraham.  Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, the first to receive circumcision, the one who received the promise of the Land, etc.

Paul shows that, while the Law of Moses does indeed give hundreds of rules for living and good conduct, it came after a more fundamental teaching.  As such, it is subordinate to that teaching.  What teaching?  That righteousness comes through believing God.  Paul argues: yes, Abraham received circumcision and is the father of the circumcised people, but that came after.  After both the promise, and the faith in that promise.  Yes, Abraham obeyed (Hebrews 11:8ff makes the point), but obedience came after and because of faith.

In the same way, for you and for me, we should walk in obedience.  We ought to do works of faith.  James argues this in James 2:22 – again using Abraham as his example – “faith was completed by his works.”  We ought to aim to live holy lives.  But we ought not to think this leads to more favour before God.  It doesn’t purchase good will or God’s blessing.  It doesn’t mean God will preserve our jobs or any such thing.

No, they are simple tokens that our allegiance has shifted.  We once were dead in our selfish ways; we are now alive and free, and able to live as we were made to live.

What are you learning from this series?  How is it impacting your lives?

Reflections on The Cross

It is always good for us to take time to reflect on the Cross.  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not merely a key doctrine to our faith.  Rather, it is absolutely central and of primary importance.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is vain. … If in Christ, we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Christianity without the death and resurrection in empty, vain and futile.  It would have nothing to offer.  But Christ HAS died, and he HAS been raised.  Let us pause and reflect on a few thoughts:

The Cross is Historical

The death of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the best attested historical events.  Plenty of books and articles do a far better job that I could of articulating this.  Lee Strobel’s book “The Case For Christ” is noteworthy here.  Even the Wikipedia article, which is hardly sympathetic to Christianity, agrees that the Crucifixion is one of “two historically certain facts about Jesus.”

The Cross was Brutal

Most of us will have seen Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”  I found it very difficult to watch, and that’s intentional.  Crucifixion was utterly brutal and repugnant, specifically designed to provoke a visceral reaction and hopefully dissuade others from crime.  It was an extremely painful way to perish – so much so that the word “excruciating” was invented to describe it.  But more than that, it was shameful.  It shamed the victim to hang there, totally exposed and open to insult and ridicule.

In connection with this, let’s consider two things:

First, Jesus did not deserve this brutality.  He was declared innocent at least three times by the presiding judge (John 18:38, 19:4, 6), and the trial was an illegal sham anyway.  His execution is probably the greatest miscarriage of justice the world has ever seen.

Second, Jesus Christ could have easily avoided it.  Remember how easily He slipped away from His would-be murderers in Luke 4:30?  Or how he refused to give any defence against the (false) charges against Him (see e.g. Matthew 27:13-14, John 19:9)?  He rebuked Peter when he tried to fight back, saying (Matthew 26:53):

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

Amazing, isn’t it?  He could have avoided the horrors and the shame, but He didn’t.  These two together leads to a third point:

The Cross was Purposeful

The Cross was not an accident, a tragedy or a defeat.  To meditate on this point, and how seriously Jesus took it, look at how He answered Peter.  Peter, in his characteristically misplaced zeal, rebuked Jesus when He started speaking of His imminent death.  The response:

Matthew 16:23 (ESV)
23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

This is a stinging rebuke!  To Peter, the idea of a crucified saviour was a nonsense, but Jesus knew the Cross was integral to His being the Saviour.

Not a tragedy, but an accomplishment (see Luke 1:1).  How is it an accomplishment?  In that it fulfilled many specific prophesies, and is the antitype to many types, in the Old Testament.  Again, many more learned than I am have undertaken to catalogue these.  my purpose for this meditation is only to remember that those bloody events of Good Friday were foreseen and predicted centuries beforehand.

The Cross was NOT Christ’s Fear

I think any mere mortal who faced a Roman cross would be afraid.  Christ, indeed, just before His arrest, prayed in agony such that His sweat mingled with blood (Luke 22:44).  But I submit He was not afraid of the nails.  When you read the accounts of the Passion, in contrast to Mel Gibson’s view, Jesus never cries out in pain.  After the flogging, as He makes His way to Golgotha, He ministers to the women there with Him (see Luke 23:26ff).

At what point did Jesus Christ cry out?  What was it that finally caused Him to cry “My God, My God!  Why have you forsaken me?”  It was when the darkness had come, and when that Temple veil was torn in two, top to bottom.  It was when, as Peter says, He “bore our sins in His body on the tree.”  It was when He was “put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith,” as Paul says in Romans 3:25.

That was Christ’s fear.  The only moment in eternity when the fellowship He enjoyed with God the Father was severed, and He experienced separation.  This was the fearful thing He anticipate in Gethsemane.  Not the nails.

Christ was Victorious

We cannot ponder the Cross without recalling the glorious Resurrection that we celebrate tomorrow, on Easter Sunday.  We remember, paraphrasing Peter  in Acts 2:24, that it was impossible for death to hold Him.  He rose triumphantly.  So let’s conclude by finishing Paul’s thoughts from 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:20–22 (ESV)
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

There is our hope!  The Cross speaks of death, yes, but defeated death.  Through faith in Jesus Christ’s death, that it was for you, you can find forgiveness and hope.

I pray that you know this hope!

On the Romans Road – March

As we continue through Paul’s letter to the Romans, it’s good for us to reflect on what we’ve seen so far.  Again, much of the value of Bible study comes from the time taken to meditate – to ruminate – on it.  That’s the best way to allow it to bring transformation.

Who Needs the Gospel?

Paul has already outlined the gospel for us: it’s the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  But who needs that salvation?  Paul’s spent a good deal of time discussing “those guys” in chapter one.  The ones who suppress the knowledge of God, choosing to be ignorant.  Those ones filled with envy, murder; the foolish, faithless, heartless and ruthless ones.  That’s not you and me, though, is it?

Chapter 2 has blown all that nonsense away.  We saw how he now takes aim at those good-enough religious types: those who try to appease God through repeatedly doing things they think God likes.  And, so often, they then look down on those ne’er-do-wells in condemnation.  Chapter 1 called out gossip and slander, but how frequently do we see that in the Christian community?  How frequently am I guilty of gossip and slander?  The thought that we often pass judgement (in our minds, if nowhere else) on people based on what they do, but we’ll always judge ourselves on our motivations…  Ouch! I know that’s me right there.

What Paul’s showing us – showing me – is that we all need the gospel.  We never get past it.  All have sinned and fall short of the standard.

Credits and Debits

Paul zooms in specifically to talk to his Jewish kinsmen there towards the end of chapter 2.  He says to them: we have the Law – the very word of God!  We have the right lineage, we rightly boast in having the true God, and we have the right mission.  But that doesn’t mean we are favoured on that basis.  Those are all good things, but it’s not enough to render us perfect.  We have the Law, but are we keeping it?  Really?

You recall how we looked at that Rich Young Ruler from Mark 10.  He thought he was doing great.  Yes, Lord, I’ve kept the Law!  Yet he knew he had a lack (commendable!) and, as Jesus showed him, he failed at the very first commandment.  The young man had another god whom he worshipped: his wealth.  On the outside, he looked like he had, along with this physical assets, a great deal of credit with God.  Highly favoured, and highly blessed.  But, as Paul says in Romans 2:28 “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  Let’s edit that a little to make the point.

No one is a Christian who is merely one outwardly, nor is salvation outward and physical.

What makes you, or me, a Christian?  Is it the attending church and life group?  Is it the vocabulary?  Or is it the reading and the prayers?  Paul would say:

But a Christian is one inwardly, and salvation is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.

There is a great debt we all have accrued through sin, and no amount of doing the right things will erase it.  What is needed is the infinite credit of Jesus Christ the righteous!  Paul says in 1 Timothy that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”  That I speaks to me, just as much as it did to Paul.

The Romans Road

As we continue on our journey through Romans, we’ll soon see Paul’s climactic statement: “None is righteous, no not one.”  Paul’s leading us to the conclusion we’ve been ensuring is clear upfront in our series: the righteousness of God is what we need, and praise God indeed that He has revealed in to us in Jesus Christ.

On the Romans Road – February

After five studies so far in the Book of Romans, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what we’ve seen thus far.  I really hope everybody is taking notes as we go, and is taking time to go back and review them!  The exhortation we have from 1 Thessalonians 5:21 is to “test everything; hold fast what is good.”  That testing is done by checking against the canon of Scripture.

Here are some of my personal reflections from the road so far.

Laying a Foundation

Whenever I start reading a new book, I’ll typically skip over the dedication, the preface and the introduction, and go straight to chapter one.  Similarly, it can be tempting to looking only cursorily at Paul’s introduction, but this is a mistake.  In it, he lays the foundation for who God is, who Christ is, who he is, and who the Romans are.  That is, the principle characters for the following 400+ verses.  Why is Paul’s letter authoritative, for the Romans and for us today?  Why is Jesus rightful king?  All established for us in those first seven verses.

Paul’s Purpose and Prayer

Reading Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer for the Romans – a people whom he had yet even to meet – is a tender thing.  His model is that pray is first and it is frequent.  Looking ahead to 15:30, Paul encourages the Romans to “strive together with [him] in their prayers to God.”  Do you strive in prayer?  Is it something you work at, something that costs?  His whole ministry was fully submitted to the will of God — which is precisely why he’d not yet been able to go to Rome.  The will of God, the purpose and heart of God, came above all else for Paul, even his own plans.  Therefore, everything was covered in fervent prayer.  This is a great model for the wider church!

The Power of God

Verses 16 and 17 are foundational to the rest of the book.  What is the gospel?  Why, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes!  But what does it really mean to believe?  The concept is deep, comprising belief, agreement, faithfulness, trustworthiness, reliability and genuineness.  We considered three aspects, which were:

  • Surrender to God: in believing in God we aim to fully align ourselves with our new king.  We have a new allegiance.
  • Intellectual assent: of course we must agree with the tenets of the gospel
  • Commitment of the will: one of the most fundamental aspects of faith is that commitment to follow our Saviour.

I found this challenging, and we had good discussion on this in our life group.  To what extent do we really believe the gospel?  We could empathise with the heart cry of the father in Mark 9:24, where he declares “I believe, help my unbelief!”  For me, it isn’t difficult to agree with the gospel because there’s excellent evidence.  The challenge is to allow it to permeate every aspect of my life, and let surrender to God and commitment of the will become more and more foundational.  Does my work ethic reflect the gospel?  Does my marriage reflect the gospel?  What about my heart when things go wrong?  The storms that blew through recently caused my roof to leak.  It’s not nice, seeing water streaming in through your kitchen ceiling!  What does surrender to God look like now?  If God is trustworthy and reliable, how should I respond to this new challenge?

The Romans Road

We’ve many more miles to cover on our journey through Romans.  We’re praying – striving together in prayer – that the word of God would have its full effect, and stir up greater faith: greater surrender to God, greater agreement with Him, and greater commitment to follow His will.

Things That Refresh Your Soul

Psalm 23 is familiar to most Christians.  I encourage you to read it anew, and perhaps this rendering from the New Living Translation may help you look at it with fresh eyes:

Psalm 23:title–6 (NLT)
A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name.
4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Did you read it?  Or did you quickly skim through, confident you know what it says, and wanting to see if this post anything useful to say to you before you rush on with whatever is next for you?

While it’s not known precisely when he wrote this, we know David’s life was consistently one of significant difficulty and challenge.  In his youth, he spent his days defending sheep from lions and bears (see 1 Samuel 17:34-36), during his middle years he was on the run from Saul (see 1 Samuel 19ff), and in his later life he had significant family conflict (2 Samuel 15), the death of a young son (directly due to his own sin, see 2 Samuel 12:15ff), and the constant threat of war.

How could a man like David pen Psalm 23?  Being so acquainted with difficulty, how could he write this sweet psalm?

In the midst of the challenges, struggles and stresses in your life, are you able to reflect on God’s grace and blessing in a similar way?  I want to share a few thoughts on how we can seek to refresh our souls.

Receiving

One thing that strikes me is that David is comfortable receiving the good things God gives.  When God leads David beside peaceful streams, or lets him rest in green meadows, David receives that grace.  He isn’t worrying about the things not getting done right now; he simply receives and enjoys God’s blessing.  It reminds me of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  There was physical work that needed doing, sure.  But Jesus Christ was there, right now!  Sitting at His feet and receiving the blessings from Him is “the good portion” Mary chose.

What about you?  God intends for everyone to have a day of rest every week.  Do you receive that?  Or the blessings of family and fellowship, the blessings of His Word and reflection upon it.  What about the blessings of exercise and sleep?  On a weekday night, we Britons average just 6.5 hours sleep according to one survey.  Are you choosing lesser things over the good gift of sleep that God gives us?

I will also add that I think God intends us to have a hobby or two.  David was a musician, and while he surely used his talents to worship his God, no doubt it was also a simple, enjoyable activity for him.  God created mankind to tend the garden, and I’m sure Adam and Eve derived great pleasure from their gardening hobby!  There are plenty of godly activities a Christian can do with thankfulness in his or her heart.  These are graces we receive to refresh the soul.

Laying Aside

On the opposite side of the coin, there are things we sometimes need to let go and lay aside.  The writer to the Hebrews says as much in 12:1-2, where he urges us to lay “aside every weight and sin” in our walk.  There are sins from which each of us should repent and depart, but there are also “weights,” aren’t there?  Things that hinder us physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.  Or things that simply aren’t for now.

Consider David again.  He was anointed king in 1 Samuel 16, but it was not until many years later, in 2 Samuel 2, that he finally took the throne.  David did not strive for what was rightfully his; to the contrary, he actively chose not to eliminate Saul, the reigning king.  He laid aside his rights, trusting God to fulfil the promise at the right time.

What do you need to lay aside?  Maybe it is the unreasonable pursuit of perfection.  Perfection is a “not yet” thing: we yearn for the perfect because God is perfect and things will be perfect in eternity.  But right now, we are to trust the perfect God to make up what we still lack.

Maybe it is the illusion of control you need to lay aside.  You need to choose to trust God’s leadership and provision.  Perhaps it is a yearning for justice over some wrong.  God loves justice – in fact it is the foundation of His throne in Psalm 89:14, and a desire for justice now is a good thing.  However, it is another “not yet” thing, coming to fulfilment only in eternity.  Asaph had to learn about this in Psalm 73.

I think for some of us, the need to lay aside is much simpler.  It’s the overemphasis we can put on hobbies which crowd out time for the better blessings God has for us.  Perhaps we just need to lay aside the TV and get a proper night’s sleep!

Switch Off

Extending the topic of laying aside, I want to focus on one particular modern issue: that of data overload.  Consider this quote from Richard Swenson’s book Margin:

“No one in the history of mankind has ever had to live with the number and intensity of stressors we have acting upon us today. They are unprecedented. The human spirit is called upon to withstand rapid changes and pressures never before encountered.”

We have more (bad) news to read, more data to process and more things beeping and buzzing for our attention than ever before.  We have multiple tabs open and multiple tasks underway at a time.  Resting in “green meadows” or being led by “peaceful streams” is something we cannot make time for, because think of all the things I could miss!

If you want to refresh your soul, consider some “unplugged” time.

God’s Desire

Let us finally consider this.  Do you believe that God wants you to have His peace?  Of course, the spiritual peace with God the Father following the atoning death of Christ Jesus.  Yes, that is true and wonderful.  But what about the peace David had in his heart as he penned this psalm?  Do you believe that you can have that kind of soul peace today?  I am confident that God calls to all of us to come aside and rest in Him way more often than we actually do.

I’m asking God to help me make time to refresh myself in Him.  To receive the good blessings He has for me, and to lay aside the lesser things that encumber my walk.

As the wise father counselled his son:

Proverbs 3:7–8 (ESV)
7  Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
8  It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

The Big Ten: Honour for the Honourable

The Big TenYesterday we continued our mini-series on the Ten Commandments.  If you couldn’t join us then you can catch up here.  We looked at the 5th Commandment, which in the ESV reads:

“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Honour For Parents

We noted how Paul applies this Commandment to the gentiles in Ephesus when he says:

Ephesians 6 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honour your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

So for Paul, the most straightforward understanding is obedience. Thus, the first and primary meaning is that children are commanded to honour their parents. This means, literally, consider them to be “weighty,” significant, and of great importance. This would work out in many different ways, for example:

  • Obedience to their instructions and wishes
  • Heeding their wisdom and advice
  • Deference to them
  • Honouring by enacting deeds of blessing for them
  • Doing nothing that could lead to their shame or disgrace
  • Provision for them in old age

Neither Moses nor Paul put limits on this: it doesn’t expire with age and it isn’t invalidated if parents are not honourable. The Pharisees tried to find ways around this command, and you can read Jesus’ thoughts on the matter in Mark 7:9-13.

Great examples of honouring parents can be found in the lives of Noah’s sons Shem and Japheth in Genesis 9, in Isaac and in Joseph in particular with his wonderful provision for his family who left him for dead. Ruth is a remarkable example of loyalty to her mother-in-law, and through her loyalty great blessing for her – and the entire world! – came to pass.

Honour From Parents

We discussed how a natural extension of this Commandment is that parents should therefore be honourable. This means, for example:

  • Educating our children – we may entrust this to schools but the parents remain ultimately responsible
  • Providing consistent, appropriate and proportionate discipline
  • Providing consistent and reasonable boundaries that are reviewed as the child matures

But perhaps the greatest and most honourable thing a parent can do is model the Christian walk.  It doesn’t mean being perfect; it means giving an example of prayer and trust, of forgiveness and repentance, of worship and fellowship.  If, for example, we are putting our own priorities and agenda ahead of God’s, we are teaching our children to be selfish!

Parents, to young children, are like God to them.  They are their source of life, they provide their needs, they teach them and protect them.  In many other ways, too.  As such, we parents – and perhaps especially fathers – have the awesome responsibility of depicting the heart of The Father to them.  A high calling, and we do well to seek God for assistance!

Dishonourable Parents

We touched on the difficult topic of how to handle dishonourable or even abusive parents.  Sadly, mankind’s brokenness is such that many thousands of children are abused.  The National Association of People Abused in Childhood publish some alarming statistics here.

The will of the LORD for us is that, as followers and believers in the Lord Jesus, our calling is one of forgiveness, even as we have been forgiven.  We looked at David and Saul in 1 Samuel 24 as an example of showing honour even to a wicked, abusive king.

Showing honour might look like:

  • Praying for the salvation of our parents
  • Not speaking ill of them
  • Not blaming them for our own sins
  • Forgiveness and responding to change, should their be any

However, it is not honourable to tolerate abuse of any kind.  Just as David did, and as the Lord enables, you leave.

Honour Our Father

Jesus said many incredible things during His ministry on Earth.  One, in particular, was revealing God as “The Father.”  This concept is almost entirely absent from the Old Testament, and only hinted at in a couple of prophetic passages about the Coming Messiah.  One of the central tenets of the Christian faith is that, when we come to saving knowledge and believe the message, we are adopted by God the Father.  We enter into an intimate Father/child relationship with Him, something all throughout the Old Testament no one could boast.

All praise, honour and glory is due to Him.  It’s Him whom we ultimately revere and obey.  Our relationship with Him supersedes all others (see Luke 14:26-27).  So, while we are charged to obey and honour our parents, it would never be in violation to the Word of God.

Just as our earthly fathers discipline us, so too does our Heavenly Father.  The difference is, He does it perfectly.  Our challenge is to humbly submit to God’s discipline, knowing that ultimately it works for our good and His glory.

The Big Ten

The Big Ten: No Other Name

The Big TenThis morning we continued our series-within-a-series, pausing on the Ten Commandments to really drill down into each one.  As always, the sermon is available in the media section of the website.

Today we tackled the Third Commandment:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

The text of the verse can be taken in multiple ways.  Three possible re-phrasings of the prohibitions would be:

  • Don’t receive to yourself the Name of the Lord in a way empty of meaning.
  • Don’t bear the name of God in futility.
  • Don’t use God’s name in an empty, trivial or worthless way.

The Name of the LORD is something we’ve discussed much in our time in Exodus.  What’s clear from the Scriptures is that the Name of God is inseparable from God Himself.  In the Psalms we frquently read of, for example, giving thanks to God’s Name (54:6), singing praises to it (92:1), and blessing it (96:2).  So, what we do with God’s Name is what we do with God Himself.

Jesus, The Name of God

We reviewed the text of Matthew 1:20-25 and made some discoveries:

Matthew 1:20–25 (ESV)

20 … an angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

We notice how the Son to be born will bear two names:

  • Jesus, which derives from the Hebrew name Jehoshua (Joshua) and means “The LORD’s Salvation”
  • Immanuel, which means “God with us”

Jesus is “The LORD’s Salvation”, and He is God incarnate.  In John 17:6 He declares that He has manifested God’s name – meaning, He has made it visible.  We can’t escape the reality that Jesus Christ was declared to be – and claimed to be – God Himself.

Needless to say, this has implications!  There are two key ones for us:

Trust in the Name of Jesus for Salvation

Peter declared in Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  There is no other foundation.  Jesus’ very name means that He is The LORD’s Salvation, and if we don’t have Him, we don’t have salvation.  We can’t clean ourselves up or make ourselves fit; we come to The LORD’s Salvation as we are, and receive the free gift He freely offers.

Reflect the Name you bear

Because God’s Name represents Him, He is zealous to protect His Holy Name.  He is not prepared to be made a mockery for long!  Just as Jesus Himself cleansed the Temple in John 2:15ff, He wants to cleanse His Temple today (see 1 Cor 3:16) of unrighteousness.  In 1 Timothy 6:1, Paul comments how our good conduct ensures “that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.”  How we act as Christians, bearers of the name of Christ, matters.  Either it brings God glory and honour, or it brings disrepute and shame.

Paul has a phrase he’s fond of, using it three times in his epistles.  It’s “walk in a manner worthy.”  Worthy of our calling in Ephesians 4:1, worthy of God in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, and worthy of the Lord in Colossians 1:10.  So we need to pause and consider:

  • Does my manner of life and conduct properly reflect my God?
  • Does my worship reflect the joy of one destined for eternal bliss and contentment?
  • Does my work represent one who is rendering service to the Lord Christ?

Let us not bear the Name of Christ in vain!  Let us trust Him fully for our salvation, and let us seek to conduct ourselves as He would have us to, fully reliant upon His Holy Spirit to do so.

This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15 and 17)

Synopsis:

God promised to bless all the world through Abraham. God sent Jesus from His home in heaven to be born on earth into Abraham’s family. Through Jesus, all the nations of the earth are blessed because Jesus saves people from their sins.

Talking Point:

Since the beginning, God wanted to bless and provide for His people. Genesis 11 records the generations between Noah and Abram. Noah’s son Shem had a family. Through Shem’s line, God would keep His promise to send a Savior. Shem’s seventh-great grandson was named Abram. Abram was born in Ur of the Chaldeans.

Abram was in his homeland when God spoke to him. God told Abram: “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:1-3).

By faith, Abram obeyed God. He traveled toward the land of Canaan with his wife, Sarai; his father, Terah; and his nephew, Lot. They settled in Haran, about 600 miles from their home. When Abram was 75 years old, he left Haran with his wife, his nephew, and all their possessions.

Genesis 15 records the Abrahamic covenant. The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. God made a covenant with Abram and promised to give him offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and to give his family the land of Canaan. At 99 years old, Abram was still childless. How would God keep His promise if Abram didn’t have any children? But God was serious about the covenant; He always keeps His promises. God even changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “Father of a Multitude.”

God promised to bless all the earth through Abraham. At just the right time, Jesus was born into Abraham’s family. (Gal. 4:4-5) Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham. (See Gal. 3:8.) Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Through Him, all the nations of the earth are blessed.

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Why can we trust God?

A: We can trust God because He is faithful and does everything for His glory and our good.

Discuss: God made a covenant to bless all the world through Abraham.

Key Unit Passage:

Galatians 3:29

Next Week:

Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22)

This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

The suffering of Job (Job)

Synopsis:

Job learned that God is all-powerful, sovereign, and good. When we face suffering, we can hope in God. God sent Jesus, the only truly innocent One, to suffer and die so that everyone who trusts in Him can have forgiveness and eternal life.

Talking Point

Why would we hear the story of Job while studying stories from Genesis? Most biblical authorities believe, based on subject matter and language, that Job was a contemporary to the patriarchs. Job fits chronologically into this period in history.

Job was a wealthy man who loved God. At the beginning of the book, God allows Satan to test Job’s faithfulness. Job lost everything, and he asked God why these things were happening. God answered Job, and His response reveals that God alone is all-powerful, sovereign, and good.

“Have you ever in your life commanded the morning or assigned the dawn its place?” (Job 38:12). God has. He is all-powerful. “Does the eagle soar at your command?” (Job 39:27). It does at God’s. He is sovereign. “Who provides the raven’s food when its young cry out to God?” (Job 38:41). God provides. He is good.

While the Book of Job speaks volumes to the problem of human suffering, it is also an important picture of how a suffering person should relate to God. Throughout all of Job’s suffering, Job never turned away from God. Job didn’t understand his suffering, but he understood who God is. Job’s suffering ultimately brought him closer to God.

Job reminds us that following Jesus is worth it. God is good, present, and in control. We can trust Him when we don’t understand the pain we have to endure. At the cross, God used the ultimate pain to bring about the ultimate good: our future and final salvation from sin.

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who is God?

A: God is our Creator and King.

Discuss: Job learned that God is good, even in suffering.

Key Unit Passage:

Colossians 1:16-17

Next Week:

God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15 and 17)

This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)

Synopsis:

People chose to give glory to themselves instead of God. They ignored God’s plan, so God confused their language and scattered the people all over the earth. One day, Jesus will gather together all of God’s people—people from every tribe and people who speak all kinds of languages—and they will worship Him together. (Revelation 7:9-10)

Talking Point

Following the flood, God commanded Noah in Genesis 9:1 to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” This command echoes the one given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28. God intended the paradise of the garden to spread into the whole world, but sinful people had other desires.

Genesis 10 accounts for the nations that spread out in the land after the flood (Gen. 10:32). The people moved east and settled in a valley. This story continues the cycle of distrust and disobedience to God. In Genesis 11:2, Scripture indicates that instead of filling the earth as God commanded, the people devised a plan to settle in one place and build a city and a large tower into the sky.

Read Genesis 11:4. The people’s motive was clear: “Let us make a name for ourselves.” The people didn’t want to be scattered. They didn’t believe God would give them what was good if they obeyed Him. They sought to obtain for themselves what they believed was good.

The people tried to build a monument with its top in the sky, but they succeeded only in separating themselves from God and from each other. God confused their language and scattered them over the earth. They were unable to finish building the city, so the city was called Babel—which sounds like the Hebrew word for “confused”—because there the Lord confused the people’s language.

Through Jesus, God brings together people of every tongue, tribe, and nation; we are all one in Christ. That is the gospel. Pray that the kids you teach would have open hearts to receive it.

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who is God?

A: God is our Creator and King.

Discuss: People tried to build a tower to glorify themselves instead of God.

Key Unit Passage:

Colossians 1:16-17

Next Week:

The suffering of Job (Job)

This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

Noah and the ark (Genesis 6-9)

Synopsis:

God rescued Noah and his family from the flood. The story of Noah points ahead to a greater rescue. God’s Son, Jesus—the only perfectly righteous One—came to take the punishment for our sin. By trusting in Him, we are saved from the punishment our sin deserves.

Talking Point

Adam and Eve left the garden to start a life out in the world. Despite the grief of their sins, imagine their joy as their family grew. With each birth, maybe Eve hoped this son would be the one to end the curse of sin, to crush the head of the snake. (Gen. 3:15) But Adam and Eve witnessed sin’s effects on their own children: Cain murdered Abel. Cain was not the Promised One, and neither was Abel.

Some time later, Eve gave birth to another son, Seth. Seth lived 912 years. He saw the earth’s population grow as God sustained generation after generation. Less than 20 years after his death, Seth’s sixth-great-grandson, Noah was born.

By this time—10 generations after Adam—people had stopped following God. Scripture describes a deplorable situation: “Human wickedness was widespread on the earth … every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5).

God decided to send a flood to cleanse the earth. He was right to punish this sin. The waters would cover the earth and destroy everything. God graciously chose to save one man and his family, so He warned Noah about the flood and told him to build an ark.

Noah believed God’s warning about the coming judgment. He obediently worked to build the ark. But the work took years, and Noah likely faced ridicule from his friends and neighbors. Was Noah crazy, building a boat where there was no water?

Finally, God’s judgment came. Floodwaters covered the earth. Every living thing was destroyed, but Noah and his family were safe inside the ark. God rescued Noah’s family—the family His own Son would be born into. Jesus would warn of God’s coming judgment too, but instead of condemning the world, Jesus would give up His life to rescue sinners.

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who is God?

A: God is our Creator and King.

Discuss: God punished sin but chose to rescue Noah and his family.

Key Unit Passage:

Colossians 1:16-17

Next Week:

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)



This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

Sin entered the world (Genesis 3)

Synopsis:

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, all people have been sinners. Our sin separates us from God, but God still loves us. God promised a Rescuer would come from Eve’s family. God sent His Son, Jesus, to rescue people from sin and bring them back to God.

Talking Point:

Adam and Eve enjoyed all that was good in the garden of Eden. The Lord gave them only one restriction: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and the punishment for disobeying was severe: “You will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17).

Before the fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed a loving, two-way relationship with God. The garden was a true paradise. God filled the garden with good gifts so that they might enjoy them and give thanks to God. This glorifies God. All of that changed when Adam and Eve gave in to the serpent’s temptation. Eve believed the lie that leads many of us to sin: Maybe God is holding out on me.

Adam and Eve desired something more: the wisdom the fruit offered. But when their eyes were opened, they were aware of their nakedness and they felt ashamed. Surely the Lord’s heart broke at their act of disobedience and rebellion. Because of their sin, He cast them out of the garden. Though they did not die right away, sin’s effect was immediate and thorough. Their lives and their children’s lives—and the lives of all of mankind—would be forever affected by their choice.

God did not leave Adam and Eve without hope. He promised that one of Eve’s descendants would strike the head of the serpent. (Gen. 3:15) Each generation after Eve hoped that one of their children would be the promised One—the One who would crush the head of the snake and put an end to the curse over creation.

Sin is a big problem that needs a big solution. At just the right time, God sent His Son into the world, born as a baby. Matthew 1:21 says, “You are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who is God?

A: God is our Creator and King.

Discuss: Adam and Eve broke God’s law, and their sin separated them from God.

Key Unit Passage:

Colossians 1:16-17

Next Week:

Noah and the ark (Genesis 6-9)



This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

God created people (Genesis 1-2)

Synopsis:

God created people in His own image and provides for everything He made. People are special because God made people to live forever in a relationship with Him. Through His Son, Jesus, we can have eternal life with God just as He planned.

Talking Point:

On the sixth day of creation, God created man in His own image. God formed the man out of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:7) Man was set apart as different from the rest of God’s creation. God skillfully formed man out of dust as a potter forms a pot out of clay. (See Isa. 64:8.) He put His own breath into man.

God sustained and provided for the man. He planted a garden in Eden and put the man there to work it and keep it. (Gen. 2:8,15) Then God gave the man a command. God told the man, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Then God explained the consequences, “For on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17).

Then God made woman from the man’s rib. She was a suitable helper for him. Both man and woman were created in God’s image. The first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, lived in the garden and enjoyed God’s friendship.

Being made in the image of God means we are made like Him, or patterned after Him. God does not have a physical body; He is Spirit, and He has given each of us a spirit. God gives people the ability to think and to feel emotions and to make choices. He gives us the ability to understand right and wrong.

God created people to know and love Him. We know that Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought sin into the world. For that reason, God sent His Son, Jesus—“the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) and “the exact expression of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). God the Son became fully man, acting as the second Adam, to bring life to those who are in Him. (See 1 Cor. 15:45-49.)

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who is God?

A: God is our Creator and King.

Discuss: God created people in His own image, and He loves us.

Key Unit Passage:

Colossians 1:16-17

Next Week:

Sin entered the world (Genesis 3)

This Week in Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

God created the world (Genesis 1)

Synopsis:

Jesus is Lord over all of creation. The Son has always existed. The Bible says everything was created by Him and for Him, and He holds everything together. All of creation exists to bring God glory.

Talking Point:

In the beginning, God created everything. God created the universe ex nihilo, or “out of nothing.” All of creation began with a word. When God spoke, it happened: light, land, sky, stars, plants, and animals. God made them all, and they were good. Creation was perfect, just as God intended.

The first story—in fact, every story in the Bible—is a small piece of a much bigger story: God’s redemptive story. Sin would enter the world and affect everything, but God already knew. He already had a plan to show His grace to people through His Son (2 Tim. 1:9), to rescue and restore.

The Bible says that God’s plan existed before He created the world. (Eph. 1:4-6) The Bible tells the story of how a great God redeemed rebellious people by sending His Son, Jesus, to be the perfect sacrifice for sin.

The story of Jesus does not begin in a manger. God the Son has always existed, and He was present at creation. He is the Word through whom all things were created. (John 1:1-3) Colossians 1:16-17 says that everything was created by Him and for Him, and He holds everything together. Through creation, we see and understand God’s eternal power and divine nature. (Rom. 1:20)

God created everything with a purpose: to bring Him glory. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.”

The Book of Genesis is the beginning of the greatest story ever told. It is a true story, and at the center of it all is the true hero: our Savior, Jesus Christ. This story changes everything.

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who is God?

A: God is our Creator and King.

Discuss: God created everything, and everything He created was good.

Key Unit Passage:

Colossians 1:16-17

Next Week:

God created people (Genesis 1-2)

This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

Remember God’s word (Jude)

Synopsis:

Jude warned the early Christians that some people would try to divide them by sinning and by teaching things that weren’t true. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life—the One who protects His people from sin. Because of Jesus, we will be able to stand before God with joy.

 

Talking Point:

Jude, along with James, was a younger half-brother of Jesus. And like James, it wasn’t until Jesus rose from the dead that Jude believed Jesus was the Son of God. Sometime between AD 65 and AD 80, Jude wrote a short letter to warn believers about false teachers. False teachers had secretly made their way into the church, and Jude urged his readers not to abandon their beliefs but to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3).

Jude warned the early Christians that some people would try to divide them by sinning and by teaching things that weren’t true. Jude wanted them to not only defend the true teachings but also to actively share the gospel. He told his friends to show mercy to those who doubt, to lead others to Jesus, and to hate sin.

There are still false teachers today, and some of them still try to sneak into the church itself. God loves us, and He warns us through Scripture to be on guard. We can study His Word to know what is true, and we can rely on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment.

Such a strong warning about false teachers might be reason for panic among believers, but Jude ended his letter reminding them of God’s promise. Ultimately, Jesus is the One who protects His people from sin. Throughout history, God has been working out His plan to bring a people to Himself. God will keep us, and He calls us to not only remember His truth but to encourage other believers to defend the faith.

Because of Jesus, we will be able to stand before God with great joy. In the words of Jude, “to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen” (Jude 25).

 

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: How do we live while waiting for Jesus to return?

A: We remember God’s truth, grow in godliness, and spread the gospel.

Discuss: Jude encouraged Christians to stand strong in the faith.

Key Unit Passage:

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

Next week’s lesson:

While we wait (2 Peter 3)

This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

A cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 8)

Synopsis:

God has been merciful and generous to us. He gave us the greatest gift—His own Son. Jesus showed us what generosity looks like when He gave up His life to save us from sin. Because of Jesus, we can be merciful and generous to others.

 

Talking Point:

 

Paul had written a letter (1 Corinthians) addressing several sins that were being tolerated in the church at Corinth. The letter had been a risk. The Corinthians may have rejected Paul, but they did not.

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to celebrate what God had done in the church and to call on them for help. The church in Jerusalem was in desperate need of help, so Paul was collecting money from the other churches on their behalf.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to be generous. He told them about the churches in Macedonia. Macedonia was an area north of Corinth. The Christians there were suffering, and they did not have a lot of wealth. Nevertheless, they had joy and gave as much as they could to help others.

Paul encouraged the believers at Corinth to give too. Giving is one way we can show we love God. God is generous to us, so we can be generous to others. Jesus was rich; He had glory and honor in heaven. But He gave that up and became poor by coming to earth to help sinners.

Jesus did this so that we, who had nothing, could become rich. Now we have salvation and eternal life in Jesus. As a result, Paul wanted the Corinthians to give generously and joyfully, out of gratitude for what God has done.

We may feel like the churches in Macedonia who had little to give, but encourage them the same way Paul encouraged the church in Corinth. It is not the amount that we give that glorifies God—it is our level of generosity and joy when we give.

Do not give out of duty but out of gratitude. God loves a cheerful giver. There are many ways to give—whether time or money or talents—to advance the work of the gospel in your city, your nation, and the world.

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who changes us?

A: The Holy Spirit changes us to be like Jesus for God’s glory.

Discuss: God is generous to us, so we can be generous to others.

Key Unit Passage:

2 Corinthians 5:17

This Week at Calvary Family Ministry

For you to discuss and engage in the spiritual life of your children here is what we looked at this week at Calvary Family Ministry.

Topic:

The armour of God (Ephesians 6)

Synopsis:

Paul told believers to be ready to fight a spiritual battle each and every day. People and powers who are against God will be against us too. But Jesus died and rose from the dead. He had victory over evil. We can fight the battle against evil, knowing Jesus already won the war.

 

Talking Point:

Paul knew that following Jesus is difficult. After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life was turned upside down and he was never the same. Paul spent the rest of his life struggling and suffering to advance the very gospel that he had denied and fought against before his conversion.

Paul was in prison when he wrote his letter to the believers at the church in Ephesus. Paul knew firsthand that the life of a believer is a battle—an ongoing fight. But Paul didn’t see life as a fight against the Romans, those who had thrown him in prison, or those who opposed the gospel. The battle is against evil.

At the conclusion of his letter, Paul used a Roman soldier’s armor as a picture of how we are to prepare ourselves to fight the battle against evil. Believers are to carry God’s truth, righteousness, and peace wherever we go. Likewise, we are to hold fast to our faith, salvation, and the Word of God. When we are fully protected by this armor of God, we are ready for any battle.

In addition to wearing the armor of God, Paul called on believers to pray at all times. Paul wanted to remind believers that even with the armor of God, we still need to rely on God to protect us and to win the fight against evil. God never intends for us to fight in our own power. We are to rely on His power.

Be sure to also explain that while life can be difficult and we are to be ready to fight against evil, we can have complete confidence that we will be victorious because, by His death and resurrection, Jesus has already won the war.

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Who changes us?

A: The Holy Spirit changes us to be like Jesus for God’s glory.

Discuss: God gives us what we need to stand strong against evil.

Key Unit Passage:

2 Corinthians 5:17

Next Week:

A cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 8)

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