Author: Joe Sutton

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:

Jesus was anointed (Matthew 26)

Synopsis:

Pouring the expensive oil on Jesus was not a waste, it was worship. By allowing Mary to anoint Him, Jesus showed that He is more valuable than anything. Jesus knew He would soon die for sinners, be buried, and rise from the dead on the third day.

 

Talking Point:

Three decades had passed since Jesus arrived on earth as a helpless baby. He grew up and began His ministry. People wondered, Could this be the Messiah? From the time sin entered the world through Adam, God was working out His rescue plan. Finally, at just the right time, God sent His Son into the world.

John the Baptist announced Jesus’ purpose: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus called disciples to follow Him, and He spent three years teaching people about God and proclaiming the good news.

People began talking about the possible Messiah. If He really was the “Anointed One”—the promised Deliverer—when would He rise up against the Roman government? As Jesus’ ministry came to a close, He made His way toward Jerusalem. But Jesus wasn’t about to overthrow a government; He was about to die.

Jesus was eating supper at Simon’s house in Bethany when Mary (the sister of Lazarus) poured oil over Jesus. Her act angered the disciples, who thought the oil should have been sold and the money used to help people who were poor. But Jesus affirmed Mary for her actions. Mary did not waste the oil; she used it to worship Jesus. Jesus allowed Mary to anoint Him because He deserved to be anointed. Jesus is more valuable than anything.

What happened in the days leading to Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan. Jesus said that Mary had prepared Him for burial. (Matt. 26:12) Days later, Jesus died on the cross to rescue people from sin. On the third day, He rose from the dead. Jesus is alive!

Jesus is our Lord and Savior. God calls us to treasure Him more than anything or anyone else. We can show our love for Him through the ways we worship. He is worthy of all our praise.

 

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Why do believers share the Lord’s Supper?

A: Believers share the Lord’s Supper to remember Jesus’ life and death and to proclaim Him until He returns.

Discuss: Jesus said Mary anointed Him for burial.

Key Unit Passage:

Luke 4:18

Next Week:

Jesus cleansed the temple (Matthew 21)

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:

Jesus raised Lazarus (Luke 11)

Synopsis:

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He showed that He has power over death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus died on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead. He gives eternal life to those who trust in Him.

 

Talking Point:

Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus was sick. Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. They lived in the town of Bethany, which was about two miles away from Jerusalem. Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus, likely expecting Him to come right away.

Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; yet He stayed where He was, and Lazarus died. Why would Jesus do such a thing? Jesus said that Lazarus’ sickness was “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). He said that He was glad He wasn’t there when Lazarus died so that the disciples may believe. (John 11:15) Jesus’ timing is always perfect, and He acts or doesn’t act so that God will be glorified.

By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Martha went to meet Jesus. She said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Jesus had shown His power to heal people who were sick. Even still, she believed He could do a miracle.

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus is the source of life—eternal life that cannot be destroyed by death. Believers do not need to fear death because physical death is not the end. (See John 11:25-26.) Jesus endured death for us so that when we die and are absent from our physical bodies, our souls are with the Lord. (See 2 Cor. 5:8.)

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. His messiahship was clearly on display, and it was Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God that would lead to His death on the cross. Jesus interrupted Lazarus’s funeral knowing His would soon follow.

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He showed that He has power over death. Jesus died on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead. He gives eternal life to those who trust in Him.

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: What did Jesus heal people from?

A: Jesus healed people from sickness, sin, and death.

Discuss: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Key Unit Passage:

Psalm 103: 2-3

Next Week:

Jesus was anointed (Luke 12)

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:

Jesus raised a woman and healed a girl (Mark 5)

Synopsis:

By healing the woman and raising the little girl from the dead, Jesus showed His power as the Messiah. Jesus died on the cross and rose again to save people from sin and death. When we trust in Jesus, God forgives our sin and changes us to be more like His Son.

 

Talking Point:

Jesus had just returned from the region of the Gerasenes, where He had healed a man with an unclean spirit. He crossed the Sea of Galilee and came on shore, where He was surrounded by a large crowd of people. News of Jesus’ teachings and healings was spreading, and people wanted to see Jesus. They wanted to learn from Him and be healed.

Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, came to Jesus in crisis. His daughter was at the point of death. Without Jesus’ help, she would surely die. Jesus went with Jairus, but as He walked, a woman in the crowd came up behind Him and touched His robes. She too was desperate for healing. The woman believed that Jesus’ power was strong enough to heal her even if all she did was touch His robes. Because she had faith, Jesus healed her.

Imagine Jairus’s devastation when he heard that his daughter had died. The people suggested that Jesus was too late to help her, but Jesus proved them wrong. He went to Jairus’s house and raised the little girl from the dead.

Through His healing miracles, Jesus showed His power as the Messiah. Jesus died on the cross and rose again to save people from sin and death. When we trust in Jesus, God forgives our sin and changes us to be more like His Son.

The woman and the father of the little girl came to Jesus in faith. They needed Jesus’ help, and they trusted in Jesus’ power to heal. After Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, He ascended to heaven. Even though Jesus is not physically on earth today, we can pray and ask God to heal people who are sick. Whether or not God grants physical healing, we can rest knowing that He brings ultimate healing through His Son, Jesus.

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: What did Jesus heal people from?

A: Jesus healed people from sickness, sin, and death.

Discuss: Jesus healed a bleeding woman and raised a girl from the dead.

Key Unit Passage:

Psalm 103: 2-3

Next Week:

Jesus raised Lazarus (Luke 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:

Four friends helped (Luke 5)

Synopsis:

The man who was paralyzed needed to be healed. First, Jesus forgave the man’s sins. Jesus showed that He can forgive sins because He is God. Then Jesus healed the man so he could walk. Jesus has the power to heal and to forgive sins.

 

Talking Point:

Jesus was in Capernaum, a city on the Sea of Galilee. The Pharisees and scribes—teachers of the law—came to listen to Jesus’ teaching. They were curious about His message and wanted to make sure He was teaching things that were true. So many people came that they crowded the house; there was no more room.

That day, four friends came to see Jesus. The four men carried their friend who was paralyzed. Jesus had healed people before—even people who were paralyzed. (See Matt. 4:24; 8:6.) The men believed Jesus came from God, and He could heal people. So their faith led to action. Because the friends could not get through the crowd, they carried their friend to the roof and lowered him down to Jesus.

Jesus’ words to the paralyzed man surprised the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Rather than saying, “Get up and walk,” Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” The religious leaders kept quiet, but Jesus knew their thoughts. They accused Jesus of blasphemy, dishonoring God by claiming to do what only God can do. But Jesus did not blaspheme. He is God, and He has authority to forgive sins.

Jesus asked them, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” Simply saying, “Your sins are forgiven,” seems to be the easier thing, but to actually forgive sins is harder, something only God can do. As God, Jesus has the power and authority to heal and forgive. And Jesus knew He would take the man’s sins upon Himself on the cross—an act of love that would cost Him His life.

Jesus healed the paralyzed man to prove to the religious leaders His power to forgive. Mark 2:12 records the crowd’s reaction: “They were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: What did Jesus heal people from?

A: Jesus healed people from sickness, sin, and death.

Discuss: Jesus healed a man who could not walk.

Key Unit Passage:

Psalm 103: 2-3

Next Week:

Jesus has power over evil (Mark 5)

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:

Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14)

Synopsis:

Jesus proved that He can be trusted. His miracles, teaching, death, and resurrection showed that He is who He says He is. Only Jesus can save us when we look to Him in faith.

 

Talking Point:

Jesus had just fed more than 5,000 people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After sending away the people and directing His disciples to go back across the sea, Jesus went to a mountain to pray. It was late, and He sought to be alone with His Father. Jesus was preparing to fulfill His Father’s plan. Before long, He would die on the cross and rescue people from their sin.

While Jesus prayed, the disciples struggled to cross the sea. A storm came and tossed their boat up and down. They didn’t make any progress against the waves. Then, in the early morning hours, they saw a figure walking toward them on the water. They thought it was a ghost, but it was Jesus!

Peter asked Jesus for permission to come out on the water, and Jesus called to him. Peter walked on the water too—until he remembered the storm. Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and he began to sink. Peter cried out to Jesus, “Save me!”

Jesus took Peter by the hand and got in the boat. The wind and waves calmed. Though Peter had doubted, the disciples worshiped Jesus. Clearly He was no ordinary man; this was the Son of God—the promised Messiah!

Jesus proved that He can be trusted. His miracles, teaching, death, and resurrection showed that He is who He says He is. We can seek Him for our salvation and for help as we live in this world. Even in the midst of fear and doubt, we can hold out our empty hands and cry, “Lord, save me!” He will answer, and we can respond in worship of our Lord and Savior.

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Why did Jesus perform miracles?

A: Jesus performed miracles to glorify God and prove He is God the Son.

Discuss: Jesus walked on the sea.

Key Unit Passage:

John 20:31

Next Week:

Four friends helped (Luke 5)

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:

Jesus turned water into wine (John 2)

Synopsis:

Jesus performed miracles to help people believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus has power over everything, and those who believe in Him will have eternal life.

 

Talking Point:

Jesus’ ministry had begun. He called disciples and traveled to the region of Galilee. Jesus spent His time on earth teaching and performing miracles, preparing for His ultimate mission: to die on the cross for the salvation of sinners. Jesus’ miracles were signs that pointed to greater truths about who Jesus is and why He had come.

John 2 records Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana. Jesus’ mother told Jesus that the wine had run out. Culturally, running out of wine was a big deal. Weddings were important events, and the celebration could last a week. To run out of wine was a social disaster. But Jesus responded in a surprising way: “What has this concern of yours to do with Me, woman? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).

To understand Jesus’ answer, remember that Jesus’ miracles were not an end unto themselves. They were signs, pointing to something greater. When the wine ran out, Jesus turned water to wine to show that He is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus offers us something greater than wine—Himself. Jesus is the true vine. On that day, His hour had not yet come. Jesus knew what lay ahead; to give us Himself, He would shed His own blood by dying on the cross for our sin.

When Jesus’ disciples witnessed His miracle, the jars of wine were not the focus of their awe and wonder. Through the miracle, Jesus displayed His glory and His disciples believed in Him. Jesus was driven by His Father’s plan—not to simply solve the problem of lacking wine, but to solve the deepest problem we face, the problem of sin.

Jesus performed miracles to help people believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus provided what we need most—forgiveness and eternal life.

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Why did Jesus perform miracles?

A: Jesus performed miracles to glorify God and prove He is God the Son.

Discuss: Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine.

Key Unit Passage:

John 20:31

Next Week:

Jesus provided bread from heaven (Matthew 14)

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 wicked tenants (Matthew 21)

Synopsis:

Jesus told this story to teach the religious leaders about Himself. God sent His own Son, Jesus, to earth but the religious leaders rejected Him. Jesus is the cornerstone—the most important One of all. Only He can save us from our sin.

 

Talking Point:

A couple of days after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the day after He cleansed the temple, Jesus returned to the temple complex and began teaching. The chief priests and elders questioned Jesus. “Who gave You this authority?” they asked. These religious leaders did not want to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. So Jesus told them parables to get them thinking and to teach them about Himself.

The parable of the wicked tenants illustrates the story of Israel’s history.  First, the landowner is God the Father. He chose to bless the world through Abraham’s family, the people of Israel. The vineyard is Israel.

The tenants are the leaders of Israel. Throughout history, God sent the Old Testament prophets to speak to God’s people. But they did not listen to the prophets. Like the tenants of the vineyard, Israel’s leaders persecuted the prophets. So God the Father sent His Son, Jesus. Jesus knew that the people were going to kill Him like the tenants killed the landowner’s son.

Jesus led the leaders to conclude themselves what would be fair: that the landowner would punish the tenants and find workers who respect Him. God too is just. God will judge those who reject Jesus. He planned to choose a people who respect and trust Him—those who have faith—and form a community of believers from every nation to live under His righteous leadership.

Those who encounter Jesus can either accept and trust Him or walk away and reject Him. No one who meets Jesus will walk away unchanged.

 

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Why did Jesus tell parables?

A: Jesus told parables to teach people about God and His kingdom.

Discuss: God will judge those who reject Jesus.

Key Unit Passage:

Mark 6:34

Next Week:

Water into wine (John 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:

The Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18)

Synopsis:

The tax collector asked God for forgiveness. Everyone has sinned and needs God’s forgiveness. Jesus came to take the punishment we deserve for our sin by dying on the cross. We can ask God for forgiveness and because of Jesus, God will forgive our sin.

 

Talking Point:

Jesus was making His way to Jerusalem—the place where everything written about the Son of Man would be accomplished. (See Luke 18:31-33.)

Jesus moved between towns and villages, teaching Pharisees and scribes, tax collectors and sinners, and His own disciples along the way. Luke 18:9-14 describes a parable Jesus told to a specific group: “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else” (Luke 18:9).

The parable presents two men who went up to the temple complex to pray. The first, a Pharisee, was proud and believed he was righteous because of his own deeds. He stood up and prayed, thanking God that he was not as sinful as other people.

The second, a tax collector, humbly acknowledged his sin and asked God for mercy. Jesus explained that the tax collector—and not the Pharisee—went home justified.

God rejects the proud but gives grace to the humble. (See Jas. 4:6.) The sin of pride keeps us from Jesus. Pride is thinking we are better than we really are. Someone with the attitude of the Pharisee sees no need for Jesus. The Pharisee focused on sins he had avoided rather than confessing his sin, but the tax collector knew he had no standing before a righteous God. He asked for mercy, and God was merciful to him.

God did not look at the Pharisee—nor does He ever look at us—and say, “Wow, that’s impressive.” God sees us for who we really are: sinners in need of forgiveness. Jesus took the punishment for our sin by dying on the cross. God wants everyone to be saved (see 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9), and we can come to Him with nothing but empty hands of faith. We can cry out to God like the tax collector and because of Jesus, God will forgive us.

Questions to discuss with your child:

Q: Why did Jesus tell parables?

A: Jesus told parables to teach people about God and His kingdom.

Discuss: Jesus taught about being humble.

Key Unit Passage:

Mark 6:34

Next Week:

The wicked tenants (Luke 20)

For Your Connect Groups – 23 July 2017

Today, to conclude our studies in James, we reviewed James 5:13-20Our topic is prayer: faith prays.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

In our text, James is showing us how prayer should be a central part of our lives.  Whether we are suffering, cheerful or sick, there is always abundant reason to pray.

Sin and Prayer

From Isaiah 59:1-2, we discussed how sin is a barrier to prayer.  If you or I have sins we harbour, sins we cherish and from which we refuse to repent, then they are a barrier to effective prayer.  Not that God cannot hear, He does not hear.  He disregards it.

Discuss:

  • Are you conscious of times when your prayers have been hindered by your own sin?  How did you discern it?  What did you do about it?

Prayer in Different Contexts

James talks about prayer in the context of suffering, cheerfulness and sickness.  We looked at Christ in Mark 14:32-38 as an example of prayer in suffering.

  • Have you had experience of prayer in suffering context?  How quickly did you go to prayer?  How did God respond?

In discussing prayer in plenty, we considered sections of Deuteronomy 8.  Here, Moses warns Israel not to forget the God who gives them so many blessings.

  • If we do not naturally go to prayer, how much less when things are going well!  How can you encourage one another in this?

Then in discussing prayer in sickness, we saw how, while God instructs to call for prayer and the anointing of oil, it is the prayer of faith that is efficacious to save.  Someone shared with me after the message a time when a close family member was seriously ill, and in obedience and faith called for brothers and sisters to pray and anoint with oil as instructed, and there was healing.

  • Have you had any experience with healing?

The main purpose and plan of God in answering prayer, whether healing, suffering or anything else, is to work His own perfect will.  Whether that is to bring deliverance today, or strength to endure, He is working out His purpose.  This is what faith knows and believes.

James: Well Done is Better Than Well Said

Think back over the entire study in James.

  • Is there anything particularly memorable and striking for you?
  • What things have you felt conviction over?
  • Any situations that you will now, by God’s grace, approach differently?

Keep Each Other Accountable

Your Connect Groups are intended to be a place where you can talk and share openly and honestly about the areas in which we struggle.  Can you still remember this verse?

1 Corinthians 10:13  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.

We all struggle in many ways, so be encouraged so share together and pray together.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 16 July 2017

This week we considered James 5:7-12, where our primary subject is that of patience.  It’s an area in which many of us struggle, so pray that the Spirit will enable and empower you.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

James commands us to be patient: to endure in hardship, difficulty, or trial.  As you’ll remember, the time-limit for our endurance is not simply “until the end of the trial,” but rather it is until the Lord returns!

Discuss:

  • What areas in your life do you see a call to endure?  Where is there a need for patience?
  • Do you find it comes naturally? (probably not!)  Are there things you have found help or hinder your patience?

After you’ve re-read the text, discuss:

  • How does the example of the farmer aid your understanding of patience?
  • What about the example of the prophets?  How about Job?
  • Remember we looked at Hebrews 11:32-40.  Do the examples here help you?

The Why of Patience

We often want to know the why, don’t we?  If we could see, specifically, how God would ultimately use this situation for good, then it would make endurance in the here and now easier.  However, we must remember that faith and sight are mutually exclusive (see 2 Cor 5:7)

When discussing this, we considered Job, and also looked at both 1 Peter 2:19-21 and 2 Peter 3:9, 12.

  • What general reasons for patience can you see in the text?
  • What people do you know who have not believed in Christ?  How then can you “hasten the coming of the day of God?”

The How of Patience

You’ll recall that we considered the fact that, on the one hand, James exhorts us “endure!  Be patient!  Strengthen and establish your hearts!”  Yet, on the other hand, Paul prays in Colossians 1:9-12 that God would strengthen us for endurance and patience.

  • How do we resolve the tension this brings?
  • What does that practically mean, for you and me today?

Hopefully, you’ll recall this most important point, that our obedience to James’ exhortation is to submit ourselves before God and pray for His power in our lives.  It’s not a matter of us trying harder; it’s a matter of us surrendering more and repenting more deeply.  We allow God’s love to hold more and more influence in our lives.  And then, “Love is patient…” (1 Cor 13:4)

Oaths

The last verse in our section today was on the topic of oaths.  Recall the application of this is that we should have a good testimony, at church and in the world, that we are men and women of our word.  If we have said we will do it, it’s as good as done.

  • Are you aware of how others view you in this regard?
  • Are there commitments you’ve made and then failed to come through?  If so, how did you handle it?

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 9 July 2017

This week we considered James 4:13-5:6.  James isn’t pulling any punches!  We pray the Spirit will use these notes to help you review the text together this week.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

James has those two “come now” phrases.  These mean “let’s take a walk.  Let’s you and me talk about this man to man (or woman to woman!)”  Sometimes we need that, don’t we?  As Proverbs says:

Proverbs 27:5–6 (ESV)

    Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

    Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Again, we pray that your Connect Groups will be a place these “walks” together can happen.

We outlined these two sections thus:

  • 4:13-17 – “the love of the world is thinking that this life is all about me.”
  • 5:1-6 – “the love of the world is thinking that this life is for me.”

Boasting About Tomorrow

Individualism is where we consider the most important thing to be ourselves, and make decisions that are primarily for our benefit.  In the text, James does not condemn working for profit, nor does he condemn planning for success.  What he condemns is making plans without having God front and centre in our thinking.  Every waking moment we have is because God continues to sustain our bodies, therefore all of our planning should be done prayerfully and humbly in submission to God.

Read: Luke 12:16-21 – The Parable of the Rich Fool

This parable is an example of exactly what James is talking about.  The man made a business decision based upon how he could most benefit from his over-abundance.  Rather than seeking to be rich towards God, he sought to bless himself.

  • Are you guilting of making plans without considering your Heavenly Father?
  • Are there any changes you need to make in light of James’ words?
  • How do you think things like home contents insurance, or fully comprehensive car insurance, fit into this?  Do you consider them to be substitutes for trusting God, or sensible, practical and good stewardship?

Remember, Simon gave us practical advice on how we can live this:

  1. Consciously acknowledge your dependence upon God each morning.  How will you remember?  It’s easy: set a reminder!  Use a prayer journal and write that down in advance.
  2. During the day, as Proverbs 3:6 says, seek to acknowledge God in all your ways.  Practising keeping our minds on God during the day is part of the “renewing our minds” in Romans 12:2.  It is a choice to make, and a habit to cultivate!
  3. Consciously recall God’s faithfulness each night, and thank Him for it.

Warning to the Rich

James now speaks to “you rich.”  Again, we must clarify that James is not meaning to condemn the status of being rich.  If he were, then he would be condemning Abraham (Gen 13:2), David (1 Chr 29:28), Hezekiah (2 Chr 32:27), and others.  He would also find himself at odds with Paul, who has specific instructions for the godly rich in 1 Timothy 6:17-21.

What, then?  As we see in our text, James condemns those who evilly profiteer from others (v4-5).  He condemns over-indulgence, which has led to sins of even murder (v6).

Discuss:

  • You don’t need to have 22 Ferraris to be over-indulgent!  We often spend more than we need on, for example, mobile phone contracts, television, even food.  Are you spending more than you need?
  • Speaking of riches, it’s said “you can’t take it with you.”  This is true, but the Scriptures indicate you can send it on ahead!  See Matthew 6:19-21.  Do you truly believe this?  Does your bank statement show this faith in action?  What good is you believing this, if it doesn’t result in action?

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 2 July 2017

Today we continued in James, this time looking at James 3:13-4:10.  May these notes aid your review and sharing together as you connect.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

We covered a good amount of text this morning, so do re-read the text.  James is telling that, rather than merely spouting pithy sayings, true wisdom is displayed in the way we live.

Wisdom

Knowledge is the stuff you know.  Understanding is deeper, learning how things connect together and work.  But wisdom is deeper still, which is applying what you know and understand so that you change how you live.  James indicates there is wisdom from above, but also a false wisdom.

Discuss:

  • How does James describe the false wisdom?
  • How does James describe the wisdom from above?

We looked at a few Biblical texts on the source of wisdom.  Take a look at these verses, and note what you learn:

The Beautiful Life

Recall how we could render the Greek for “good conduct” in v13 as “beautiful way of life.”  James expands on this in v17.

I think we often consider that the Christian life is one of trying to avoid sin and vices.  If we concentrate on not doing various bad things, then we’re doing well.  However, as we heard, the purity spoken of here in v17 speaks to single-minded devotion to God.  The good fruit is the outcome of that, which is a lifelong work; it doesn’t come from simply trying to avoid evil.  N.T. Wright argues that:

virtue … is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right.

Read Psalm 101

Note how active David is to live in a beautiful way of life!  I will ponder the blameless way, I will walk with integrity of heart, etc.

Discuss

  • What things are there that distract you from actively pursuing single-minded devotion?
  • Often the hardest is when “good” things get in the way.  Are there any things like that for you?

Isaiah 32:17      And the effect of righteousness will be peace,

and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Friendship with the World

In chapter 4, James rebukes his readers for their worldliness.  As we heard, this is spiritual adultery: choosing to ally with and live like the world is to be unfaithful to the God Who purchased us out of that world!

Discuss

  • Do you find yourself struggling with friendship with the world?  Perhaps as you try to “fit in” or even “reach” your peers and colleagues?

If you do struggle here, read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:14-19.  How does Jesus’ prayer speak into this?  What is the primary thing given to help you?

It is a heavy text this week.  Refresh yourselves in James 4:6

James 4:6  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 25 June 2017

What a blessed morning we had today!  We pray these notes will help you review and meditate on this important text this week.  Let’s continue to urge and encourage one another on in the faith.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

Continuing our series in James, we looked at James 3:1-12.  Take the time to re-read the text.  What’s striking is the breadth and frequency that God’s Word speaks to the power of words, from the Creation of all things through God’s mighty speech, to our redemption, bought by the Word made Flesh.

There are many proverbs to consider, too.  Read each of:

Taming the Tongue

James’ words are full of vivid imagery to make his points.  These are:

  1. The tongue is disproportionately destructive for its size
  2. No one can, by their own willpower, keep from sinning with the tongue.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there’s “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”  As Jeremiah discovered in Jeremiah 20:8-9, he was unable to hold the Word of God back; he had to speak it forth.  Wisdom knows when to speak, and when to keep silent.

Discuss:

  • Are you conscious of how your own words have had great influence or caused damage?
  • Similarly, have you ever received a “word fitly spoken” (Prov 25:11)?
  • Do you find your words are easily influenced by other people?  Do you spend too much time with those who negatively influence you?

Our Words Reveal Our Hearts

Verses 11 and 12 make it clear: our words are merely the product of our hearts:

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

When we are prayerful and content, worshipful and trusting, it is natural to speak good things.  But what happens when we are fearful?  When we are frustrated or angry?  When we are proud or arrogant?

Ultimately, the solution is that we need a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), which we receive in Christ by faith.  We saw this in Isaiah 6.  However, as long as we remain in the body, we are still influenced by our old nature.

Discuss:

  • Are there situations and contexts that stir up your old nature?  Can you avoid them?
  • Are there situations and contexts that stir up your spirit?  Can you linger longer there?

Remember, James says that “we all stumble in many way.”  Let this not be a time of judgement but of deeper repentance.  We need to continually come to Christ in prayer and through His Word to receive renewal and transformation.  The answer is not to try harder to guard our tongues!  As David prayed:

Psalm 141:3     Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;

keep watch over the door of my lips!

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 18 June 2017

We’re continuing in our study in the Book of James.  We pray these notes will help you review and meditate on our text this week.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

The title for our series in James is “Well Done is Better than Well Said,” and this week we looked at James 2:25-26a short text continuing his argument regarding the interrelationship between faith and works.  He’s still responding to the “someone” of 2:14.  Abraham has been offered as a demonstration that faith is always accompanied by works; this week Rahab is offered as a second example.  You may wish to re-read Joshua 2 to see the story of Rahab.

Gospel Power

This week, we reminded ourselves that the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to all who believe” (Roman 1:16).  As people who have faith in the Gospel, we are transformed– and being transformed– by the Gospel.  James exhorts us to let our faith in the Gospel outwork itself.

Discuss:

  • How do you keep yourself grounded in the gospel?
  • How do you avoid the trap of doing works for other reasons?
  • Do you really believe that you need the radical transformation of the Gospel?  How can you stay focused on God’s sanctifying work?

Faith Risks

As we saw, Rahab had heard that The Lord – Yahweh – is working mighty works on behalf of the people of Israel, and she believed that He is One True God.  This faith led her to receive the spies, welcome them into her accommodation, and then protect them and send them out safely.  As a result, Joshua saved her and her family with her alive at the fall of Jericho.

Discuss:

  • We saw how Rahab eschewed the potential reward for betraying the spies to the authorities of Jericho.  However, this would have been for a fleeting reward indeed!  Do you sometimes feel tempted to favour the riches and recognition of the world, rather than Heavenly riches?  You may wish to read Mark 8:34-38.

Some people are more naturally “risk-takers” than others.  For us to take action we know God’s calling us to do can need courage.  However, what’s really needed is faith in God – to believe that God is more than capable of looking after us!

  • Can you refer to a time where you have taken a risk for God?  What happened?  Do you have any regrets?
  • Can you think of a time when you’ve NOT taken an opportunity that God presented to you?  What happened?  Do you have any regrets?

Hopefully, the discussion around this will be positive and fruitful, leading to encouragement to press on and trust God.  We should not hold onto regrets: by faith they are forgiven in Jesus’ name.  Paul would have us to “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.  To press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 11 June 2017

What a blessed time we had together this week!  We pray these notes will help you review and meditate on our text this week.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

The title for our series in James is “Well Done is Better than Well Said,” and this week we looked at James 2:20-24.  We saw James continue his argument from last week regarding the interrelationship between faith and works.  He’s still responding to the “someone” of 2:14.

Faith & Works Continued

We spend time last week reviewing James’ key point: authentic saving faith necessarily results in good works.  This is because God responds to saving faith by causing us to be born again as a new creation, with a new heart and new desires.  It takes time to grow in this, but transformation and good works will always be the result.  Recall, we considered this verse on Sunday:

Titus 1:16 [The defiled and unbelieving] profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

In our text today, James puts Abraham forward as an example of one who shows that works were active in Abraham’s justification.

Read Genesis 15:1-6

  • Do we see works resulting from faith here?
  • What is the basis for Abraham’s righteousness in v6?

Remember, the word “believed” is the same as “faith”; the former being a verb and the latter a noun.

Read Genesis 22:1-12

  • Do we see works resulting from faith here?
  • Where is faith shown at work?

Recall from our study: Abraham’s response of “here I am” is one of submission and readiness to obey.

James brings it home in verse 22: “You see?”  Faith was active, and faith was completed by works, which fulfilled the Scripture from Genesis 15, where Abraham’s faith is counted as righteousness.  Thus, Abraham was called the “Friend of God”

Discuss

  • Do you think of yourself as a “friend” of God?  How would you describe your relationship with Him?
  • Do you want to cultivate a closer relationship with God?  What things contribute to this?  What things detract?

Relationship is Superior to Rule-keeping

We discussed how we are called not to sterile rule-keeping (dead works) but to a living relationship with God.  That’s why Paul said:

Galatians 5:22–23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

There is no law because the fruit is a by-product of relationship.  As he said further in Galatians 5:6, the only thing that counts towards justification is “faith working through love.”

For Abraham, this meant loving and obeying God over his son Isaac.  The trusting relationship he had with God meant he could unquestioningly obey his God.

Discuss:

  • What do you love above God?  What would you struggle to put to death, should God call you?
  • Are you allowing God’s Spirit to lead and direct you?

As you prayerfully consider these questions together, read John 10:10.

  • Do you really believe (faith!) that Jesus came to give you abundant life?  Is that belief playing out in your actions, or do you look for life’s fulfilment elsewhere?

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

Galatians 6:1–2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 4 June 2017

Here are some study notes and questions for discussion in your Connect groups this week.  We pray they will be beneficial to you.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

The title for our series in James is “Well Done is Better than Well Said,” and this week we looked at James 2:14-19.  What a powerful text we must wrestle with!  And we should wrestle with it: this is evidence we are alive to God.

I’ve outlined below some of the key points this week, with some verses to review and questions to ponder.  Ensure you leave time to share and pray into these topics.  God’s committed Himself to work in our hearts and change us.  So ask Him to do what He’s promised!

Faith & Works

We spent some time talking about how this text stands in sharp contrast to Paul in verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9.  Paul says in Galatians 2:16 that “… we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ … because by works of the law no one will be justified.”  But James says in 2:24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”  No wonder theologians have wrestled for centuries!  Who is right?

As you will recall, and as you would expect as the Bible is the very Word of God, James and Paul are both speaking the same truth, but emphasising two different aspects.

It’s important to ensure we understand this to the greatest extent we can, because as Christians there are various traps we can fall in.  Consider:

  • Have you ever tried to “make amends” when feeling the conviction of sin by “doing good”, reading your Bible or some such thing?
  • Have you felt that God’s love for you must be greater when you’ve done something good, and less when you’ve sinned?
  • Have you talked yourself out of good works because you know they aren’t “necessary for salvation?”

Read Romans 4:1-8

  • What was the basis of Abraham’s righteousness?
  • Compare this to James 2:21-23, which we’ll cover in detail next week.

Read 1 John 2:3-6

  • What does John put forward as the evidence we know Jesus Christ?
  • What does John put forward as the evidence we’re IN Jesus Christ?

Hopefully, where you’ll end up is to see that:

  • Paul is denying the efficacy of dead works to save.  Merely trying to “do good” will never allow us access to God, and doing good does nothing to increase our favour with God, compel Him to answer our prayers, or any such thing.  We have only done our duty (Luke 17:10)
  • James is denying the validity of dead faith.  Claiming to have believed in the Gospel and be “saved” is invalid if life-transformation is not apparent.  Good works are not optional for believers.

The Life of God

The key point we’re making is that good works are a naturally occurring phenomenon for a Christian.

Read Ezekiel 36:26-27

This is written to Israel but clearly referring to spiritual salvation here.

  • What is removed?  What is replaced?
  • What causes us to carry out God’s will?

Read Philippians 2:13

  • Again, what causes our will to be God’s good pleasure?

Read 1 Timothy 6:18-19

  • How will Timothy’s charges “take hold of that which is truly life?”

Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life is to know God, and Jesus Christ.  It’s God’s will and purpose that we abide in Him now, which is the pinnacle of joy and results in good works.

Discuss:

  • Can you testify to the joy of walking with God in obedience?  Any specific examples to share?
  • What other things vie for your attention, claiming to bring joy?  Can you see how they fall short?  What support do you need from your brothers/sisters?

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

Galatians 6:1–2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 28 May 2017

Here are some study notes and questions for discussion in your Connect groups this week.  We pray they will be beneficial to you.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

The text for our study this week is James 1:26 – 2:13.  The title for our series in James is “Well Done is Better than Well Said,” and this week we discussed the subject of “provenance” – the documentation or other proof that shows the true value of something.  What is the provenance of our faith?  What shows its value?  Three things are in our text:

  1. To bridle our tongues
  2. To love as Jesus loved
  3. To remain unstained from the world

The Tongue

We’ve already spoken about the importance of keeping watch over what we say.  If we don’t, here James says all of our sacrifice and service for God is worthless!  We deceive ourselves if we think otherwise.

Discuss:

  • Why do you think God puts such a heavy weight on this?  Read James 3:1-12 if you need insight.
  • Have you been wounded by someone else’s speech?  Did you forgiven them?  Have you resolved the matter?

Love

In 1:27 James reveals the heart of our Father God: He has compassion on the weak and helpless.  See Psalm 68:5 to see this again.  Another provenance for our faith: loving in the same way as Christ.

Discuss:

  • Be honest, how high of a priority is this for you?
  • If this is a priority for God, how can you make it a higher personal priority?

Unstained From the World

By the term “world”, James means the godless world system.  Christ Himself came to this world, spent time with sinners and rebels, yet was without sin.  He was unstained.  We have the same call: to be in this world, but not of it.  We’re residents here, but we are citizens of Heaven.  We are Christ’s ambassadors.

Discuss:

  • How does this work out in your context?  For example, in the workplace it might look like joining your colleagues in conversation and for a meal, but remaining sober while they drink.
  • Do you find this a challenge?  What helps?  What hinders?

Partiality

In the early part of chapter 2, James zooms in on the subject of partiality.  Literally, “judging according to the face.”  It’s where you and I make decisions and show bias based upon what we see.  James covers the more common case, where we might show favouritism to a rich person, but Exodus 23:3 shows that there is potential for the inverse too.

There are other outward reasons we may show favouritism and partiality.  We think a person may be good for our career.  We think a person is attractive.  And so on.  We sinfully relate to people because we perceive we may receive some benefit.

Discuss:

  • Do you recall how Christ’s title “the Lord of glory” speaks into this sin?  It may help to read back in James 1:16-18.

Keep Each Other Accountable

Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.

Galatians 6:1–2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 21 May 2017

We looked at just a few verses today in James, verses 19-25 in chapter one.  But what verses!  Verses that don’t so much required detailed exegesis, but humble submission and self-examination.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

If you want to listen to the sermon again, or if you missed it this week, it’ll be available on our website and our podcast.  The title for our series in James is “Well Done is Better than Well Said.”

Speech and Anger

In v19-21 James exposes the sin in many of us.  How often are we slow to listen and quick to speak?  How often are we quick to anger and frustration when things don’t go how we wanted?

Take the time to review these three proverbs:

Discuss:

Is this a challenge for you?  Can you think of times when you have not held your tongue?  What was the impact?

Are there particular areas in your life that you are prone to anger?  In Galatians 5:19, Paul lists “fits of anger” under the “works of the flesh.”  Note the seriousness in Paul’s warning.  If this is an area you want God to deliver you, then it begins with confession – agreeing with God about its sinfulness – and repentance – changing your mind about it and seeking to go in a different direction.  Be accountable to your Connect group.  Pray for one another.

Hearing and Doing

In our text today, James is exhorting us to take action.  God’s Word has been spoken, therefore, what must we do?

Read John 13:17

  • How does Jesus describe the one who does?

Read James 4:17

  • How does James describe the failure to do what is right?

Again, we can probably all think of times where we have not done the good we knew God was prompting us to do.  James says this is self-deception: we deceive ourselves from the blessing God wants to give us if we persevere in doing good.

Keep Each Other Accountable

Your Connect Groups are intended to be a place where you can talk and share openly and honestly about the areas in which we struggle.  Can you still remember this verse?

1 Corinthians 10:13  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.

We all struggle in many ways, so be encouraged so share together and pray together.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

For Your Connect Groups – 14 May 2017

Continuing in our study through James, we looked at James 1:2-18, focused on the topic of trials.  There was a great deal to challenge us this week, so I’m sure there will be much conversation.

Pray Together

  • What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
  • Who in the church needs your intercession?
  • What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
  • What wider situations can you pray into?

Read Together

If you want to listen to the sermon again, or if you missed it this week, you can listen to it here or via our podcast.  The title for our series in James is “Well Done is Better than Well Said.”

As we zoom in on the subject of faith – the human response of believing and trusting God – we looked at the matter of trials.

Trials

To recap, we looked at five headings this week:

  1. The Certainty of Troubles – it’s not if, but when!
  2. The Benefit of Troubles – they produce steadfastness – hyperstand!
  3. The Power of Troubles – in them, God’s wisdom is there for the asking.  We need to conform our souls to the objective reality of God’s promises, rather than seek to conform reality to our desires.
  4. The Problems of Troubles – two problems related to trials are (1) recognising our need for wisdom, and (2) lacking trials, for “sanctified poverty is far more beneficial than ensnaring prosperity.”
  5. The Promise of Troubles – for the one who hyperstands, there is the crown of life awaiting.  Trials are not given to defeat but to perfect.

Discuss:

  • How did these resonate with you in your life?
  • What trials have you faced in the past?  What wisdom did you learn?
  • Are you facing trials now?  How can you focus on work of God, and keep your joy?

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

Discuss:

  • What is the basis for the authors “not losing heart?”
  • Where do they fix their gaze?
  • Is it reassuring that they “groan” in their earthly homes?  Do you ever feel the same?
  • What keeps them in “good courage?”

Keep Each Other Accountable

Your Connect Groups are intended to be a place where you can talk and share openly and honestly about the areas in which we struggle.  Can you still remember this verse?

1 Corinthians 10:13  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.

We all struggle in many ways, so be encouraged so share together and pray together.

Pray for One Another

Share your prayer needs and requests.  Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.

Entitlement

Having just come back from a week away, it was easy for me to think of it as a “well-deserved” rest.  One works hard, and afterwards I’m due some downtime, right?  I can think of times in the recent past where I feel like I deserve this or that.  It’s my birthday today, so we should do what I want to do.  Or, I’ve worked super-hard over the last few months: I’m owed this rest.  I earned it.  I’m entitled to it.

Do you ever feel like you’re owed something?  After a hard day at work, don’t you just deserve an evening of rest?  Or perhaps you feel owed something else: you’ve tried to do good and obey God, so now you deserve good health.  You’ve been working on personal holiness and obedience, so now you deserve a spouse.  I’ve worked hard at this company for many years, I deserve a promotion.

How does it go when you don’t get what you think you deserved?  Doesn’t feel great, right?  We get angry or resentful, towards the people we think are withholding what we’re due, or – worse still – towards the God Who is saying “no.”

There are many and varies ways in which we can convince ourselves we’re due something.  If this is you, then read this brief excerpt from Paul, and consider the following points.

Ephesians 2:4–10

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Praise God we do not get what we deserve

Romans 6:23a says, very simply, “The wages of sin is death.”  As God said and then demonstrated way back in the Garden of Eden, sinning against God leads to spiritual death.  This is what we deserve.  All of us have spent at least a portion of our lives in rebellion and rejection of God, doing things that ought not to be done.  Paul said, “We know that the judgement of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.” (Romans 2:2)

If we are in Christ, then God has shown mercy, meaning He does not and will not give us what we deserve — that is, eternal judgement in hell.  We see that in v4-5 of Ephesians 2.  Even when we were spiritually dead in the trespasses and sins we’d embraced, children of wrath and due nothing but punishment, God had mercy upon us, choosing not to give us what we deserved.

We already have much more than we deserve

God has shown mercy, but furthermore He has shown grace, meaning He gives us what we do not deserve.  As Paul says here in Ephesians, much more than merely forgiven (if I can use the word merely… it doesn’t feel right!) we are furthermore exalted and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and will richly receive immeasurable riches of grace in kindness.  How many riches will we receive in the coming ages?  Immeasurable.  I mean, mathematicians and physicians can measure pretty big numbers… are we sure it can’t be quantified?  How many zeros are we talking here?

In Christ Jesus, we are possessors of far greater riches, of a far deeper rest, and far greater significance than is available here on Earth.  Greater riches, because the riches in Heaven do not wear out, suffer due to exchange rates, diminish through taxation, or any such thing.  Greater rest, because we have peace with God (Romans 5:1) and have entered into His rest (Hebrews 4:10).  Greater significance, because we’re called to do works that God established in eternity past for us to do: works that will have eternal significance, not merely temporal.  We can see this right here in Ephesians 2:10.

We already have so much more than we deserve.  Hallelujah!

Our obedience is no more than a reasonable response to grace

The Gospel teaches us that God has cancelled the record of debt against us, and furthermore credited our account with all of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.  What is the reasonable response to such an incomprehensible act of mercy and grace?

It is obedience.  As Paul says in Ephesians 4:1, we’re urged to walk in a manner worthy of these things.  Jesus told a parable to this effect in Luke 17:

Luke 17:7–10  “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”

You see, if you or if I indeed work hard for our Lord, or focus on personal holiness and spiritual growth, then “we have only done what was our duty.”  We’re called to this, having already received (or been promised) a far greater reward than anything of which we could conceive.  As yet sinful people, who among us could honestly say “I have done all that I was commanded?”  Not me, that’s for sure.

So then, how should we approach things like rest, and holidays, or any other thing we’re due?  As we prepared to leave, our car wouldn’t start.  All of us were sat there, belted in with suitcases packed.  The engine refused to start.  So we prayed.  We praised God for His grace in allowing us to take a week off, and whether or not we actually got to go, we would be content to receive what He had for us.  When we eventually arrived on holiday, we had a real sense of God’s grace.  We weren’t due a holiday.  We haven’t done anything to merit it; who could?  But God, in His grace, chose to bless us with it.  We received it as a blessing, a token of God’s love and grace.  As such, there was an air of gratitude and joy in the Lord.

I think this is how we should receive all things, whether it’s a job offer or promotion, an exam result, whatever.  You and I, in and of ourselves, do not deserve anything.  If we have worked hard, have we not merely used the ability God sovereignly chose to bestow to us?  James said that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  So there is no basis for boasting, and certainly none for entitlement either.

So what do you feel like you’re owed?  Maybe people have said you deserve this or that, and you’ve started to believe it.  Know that you are loved by God, and if you are in Christ you have something far greater than anything you could possibly feel like you’re due.

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