Grow Deep: Reformation 500 Edition, Week 5
October 29 – November 4
“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” - 1 Corinthians 2:2
October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in Wittenberg, Germany. It was a moment that stirred all of Europe and would lead to the reformation of all the church. At Webster Gardens this October, we have taken refuge in the fact that God is our mighty fortress. We have rejoiced in the grace of God, which we receive by faith, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. This is all realized in Jesus, who is the Christ (Messiah) of God.
All our life is energized as we reaffirm our faith and reform our life’s walk to conform to the life and teaching of Jesus.
As we wrestle with Scriptures this week, we focus on two leading questions whose answers frame our spiritual understanding. The first natural-born man mentioned in the Bible, Cain, killed Abel. When asked about his brother, he replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Much later, in the first century of the Christian era, a Greek jailer seriously raised the second question, “What must I do to be saved?”
Regarding the first question, Cain’s logic missed the mark! However, before Genesis ends, we do find a man who knew that, “Yes, I am my brother’s keeper!” Judah vouched for the safety of brother Benjamin (Genesis 44), offering his own life as security, so that Jacob would allow his youngest son to go along to Egypt on their life preserving mission. Judah became a “type of Christ” as he put his life on the line for his brother. It is no surprise, then, that Judah was blessed to be part of the family tree of Jesus! He was truly a “reformed” man as he kept the law of love, being his brother’s keeper.
But Scripture is about more than just keeping the law. The answer to the second great question, “What must I do to be saved?” points us to the Gospel. Paul answered the terrified Philippian jailer with, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:30-31).
Here we have the key also to our future. We thank God for the gift of the Reformation, a renewed focus on Jesus and the Gospel. We are also indebted to St. Paul, who at another time pledged, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) That is the legacy of the Reformation! It is ours to enjoy and to share.
Sunday, October 29
Read: John 14:1-7
As Jesus was speaking with His disciples in an upper room on Maundy Thursday, He prepared them for the coming days. Soon He would be tried, crucified, dead and buried. While this sounds so sad, Jesus gave a positive interpretation to it all. It was all part of His “journey” back to the Father’s house in heaven. Once there, Jesus would ready the future home for His “disciples.” He would return for them at a later time. Thomas’ question is our question, too: “How can we get there?” The answer is simple, even if hard to comprehend at first: “Hang on to Jesus!” What Jesus was for the disciples, He is for us — a man of His word! He who delivered on His word again and again during His ministry will do so for us also. He will return for all the faithful. Meanwhile, He calls us to live in confident hope and expectation of a glorious future with the Lord.
Reflect: What comfort do you find in Jesus’ promise to come again? Where was Jesus about to go? (See Acts 1:9-11). What is ”the way” we follow to be part of God, the Father’s family? Thank God for His promises.
For the Family: How does it make you feel knowing that God is preparing a place, just for you, in heaven? Jesus tells us there is one way to heaven. What is that one way?
Monday, October 30
Read: Psalm 103:1-5
“God is love” is an apt three-word summary of this reading. It is one of the most beautiful devotional statements of the Old Testament. In its deeply devotional way, it presents the praise of one who has been healed of a deadly disease (rescued “from the pit”), whether that be physical or spiritual. The Psalmist rejoices over being restored to the fullness of life (renewed “like the eagle”). The stain of his sinful past is forgiven; he is filled with the joy that comes from experiencing God’s rich mercy. Jesus is the manifestation of that mercy by His life, death and resurrection for us!
Reflect: What does forgiveness of a weighty sin have in common with healing of a deadly disease? Recall a time when God lifted a severe burden from you or from a close friend or relative. At that time, did you see “the hand of God” at work? List three blessings for which you praise the Lord. Why would receiving the Lord’s Supper bring you joy?
For the Scholar: (optional) How was Jesus’ rescue from the pit (sheol) unique? (See Psalm 16:10-11 and Acts 16:35-39.)
For the Family: How does knowing that God does all of these good things for us help us during the hard times? What are the ways God has helped you today? Take time to bless the Lord for all of the good He has done for you!
Tuesday, October 31
Read: Romans 6:4-11, 22-23
Jesus Christ came to fulfill all righteousness. He submitted Himself fully to the Father’s will that He identify with mankind for the sake of all mankind. Thus, at His baptism, Jesus understood His life’s journey of paying for “the wages of sin” which mankind merited, namely death (v.22). By His perfect obedience to the Father, as man’s representative and “pinch-hitter,” He opened the way for all mankind to be pure and holy, forgiven of sin through the merits of Jesus. His identification with mankind now frees from the slavery of sin those who are “in Christ.” Fortified by Christ and the Holy Spirit, we qualify as slaves to God with all the blessings this status brings.
As Jesus rose from the baptismal waters, so we too can rise from the “drowning” caused by sin as we accept the gift of grace which Jesus provides. No matter what, we will always be “slaves” of one kind or the other. The difference comes in the type of slavery and what each gives as reward. Those who do not renounce the domination of the life of sin reap “the wages of sin,” death. Those who become “slaves of God” are on the path to sanctification and eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (vv. 22-23).
Reflect: Can you ever be truly happy and blessed as a “slave?” Explain your answer. What does “newness of life” look like? (v. 4). Which is the freer way of life, servitude to sin or to Christ? Explain. How could you relate the benefit of baptism to someone who is not baptized but would consider it?
For the Family: How do we know our sins have been forgiven? How have we been made alive in Christ, and what does it mean to live a life that is alive in Him?
Wednesday, November 1
Read: Acts 4:8-13
Peter and John were on trial by the temple leaders in Jerusalem soon after Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost. The issue: after healing a lame man, they had preached the resurrection of the dead in the name of Jesus. That was offensive to the Sadducees, who did not believe in an after-life. Peter boldly replied that it was by the power of the resurrected Lord that the lame man (Acts 3:1-10) had been restored. Peter also reminded the leaders present that they had crucified Jesus, rejecting Him who is the cornerstone of the faith and the only source of salvation. The boldness of Peter and John was most impressive despite their lack of “formal” education. However, they had learned from the greatest-ever teacher, Jesus, for three years! The apostles, inspired and empowered by the mighty works and words of Jesus, would be the primary leaders in bringing the Gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
Reflect: Note the apostles’ boldness in proclaiming Jesus to the hostile authorities despite their overnight “jailing.” Note also the support the apostles got from the Lord, who gave them powers to perform “signs and wonders.” What makes Jesus uniquely the source of salvation? (See Acts 4:12 and John 14:6.) Do you need special training to tell others about how God has enriched and blessed your life? Write a brief statement of what you would tell someone about the peace and joy Jesus has given you.
For the Family: Why did the people believe what Peter and John were saying? How was the crippled man healed, and how did the healing of the crippled man point to Jesus?
Thursday, November 2
Read: Jeremiah 17:5-8
A latter king of Judah mistakenly trusted in alliance with the Egyptians, leading to a Babylonian invasion which, in turn, resulted in Judah’s lengthy captivity. The Babylonian captivity was a judgment on Judah’s long period of national infidelity and idolatry. Far better would the nation have fared if she had heeded the voice of the Lord’s prophets. This concept finds close parallels in Proverbs 9:10 and in Psalm 1, which poetically draws the contrast between the wicked man and the wise man who “meditates on the law of the Lord.”
Reflect: What are some of the corrupt practices of “the culture’ prevalent in our nation that need to be avoided and opposed because they conflict with the Word of God? What societal issues do you pray about? When confronted with difficult moral choices, which Scriptures do you find helpful for guidance? Have you a story to share where the Lord blessed you for standing up for a Christian cause or way of life?
For the Family: When we trust in the Lord, the Word says we will be like "trees planted by the water". What does that mean to you, and how does that give you hope? How does God help you in situations where you need to place your trust in Him?
Friday, November 3
Read: John 6:30-40
After Jesus fed the 5,000, the skeptical crowd challenged Jesus to give a more impressive sign that He was from God. They pointed to Moses as having fed Israel for the wilderness years. Jesus corrected them by noting the bread (the manna) had been sent by the Father in Heaven. He also had sent Jesus as the Bread of Life that gives eternal sustenance. It is the Father’s will that they believe in Him and that He lose none of them. Jesus promised to raise on the last day all those who believe in Him as the Bread of Life.
Reflect: How does the Bread of Life nourish the believer? Explain how hearing God’s Word and receiving the Lord’s Supper are forms of receiving the Bread of Life. Why is it essential that we receive the Bread of Life? After the 5,000 were fed, there were twelve baskets of leftovers (Matthew 14:20). How does that relate to future feedings on the Bread of Life? (Matthew 28:19-20)
For the Family: The people were asking Jesus for a sign so they could believe in Him, and Jesus tells them, "I am the Bread of Life.” What does Jesus mean by that? What does Jesus want us to know about our future in Him?
Saturday, November 4
Read: John 11:25-29
Our brief Scripture text relates Jesus’ meeting with the family of Lazarus at the latter’s resurrection. It contains these four great truths: (1) Whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die. (2) Jesus is the basis for our belief in our resurrection. (3) Martha acknowledges her belief in Jesus as the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. (4) These urgent truths need to be shared with those nearest and dearest to us.
Reflect: How does Jesus’ statement to Martha impact your faith? Compare Martha’s confession of Jesus as the Christ with Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:16). How are they similar? Different? Is there a moment in your life you can identify as a turning point in your faith? If so inclined, share it with someone.
For the Family: Martha said to Mary, “The Teacher is here". In what ways is Jesus your teacher? What does Jesus mean when He says that though a man dies, "yet shall he live?" How does this give you comfort and hope in the resurrection?