Grow Deep: Reformation 500 Edition, Week 2
Week Two: October 8-14
“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” - Romans 6:14
There are no words … . In Greek, the apostles called it “charis,” or “grace” to mean undeserved favor. Later, Luther coined a catchy Reformation brand — “Grace Alone” because Scripture testifies we are saved by God’s work of grace through faith and not by works. Yet, I’m challenged to grasp the fullness of grace. I’m tongue-tied and convicted of how little I am and apprehend. To borrow some hymn writers’ phrases, God’s grace is “amazing,” but from my lips, “ineffably sublime.” There are no words.
But, providentially, grace defined doesn’t depend on me. Or you. Or a thesaurus.
God’s defining words in Scripture always point precisely to the Word made flesh. Jesus is God’s grace revelation. Humans reason that God’s favor is earned. We contrive the economics of our own salvation. But God’s law shows us clearly, as sinners, we are hopeless and helpless to do so. Only in Jesus does God reveal His answer of salvation for us. Sacrificially stretching His body out on a cross, God’s eternally-separating wrath for my lawlessness is quenched by Jesus’ death. My sin was thrust on Him; His priestly and kingly righteousness is credited to me. He is wrapped with my filthy funeral rags; I am robed with Christ Himself. This is no wardrobe swap with the Son of God for thrift’s sake! Thus, grace: God, to whom we owe everything, doesn’t just erase the score as if we owed Him nothing, but pays it lavishly in full Himself, adopts us into His family at Baptism as beloved children, and showers on us still more exquisite gifts.
God’s Word of grace meets me in another place — the place to which I can return when my old Adam rears up, and I’ve fallen short again, and again, and (Dear Lord, have mercy!) again. In the Lord’s Supper — the Eucharist — “charis” interjects itself smack into the middle of my self-made mess and resurrects me into Christ’s new creation. Grace isn’t economical, but a priceless gift I could never earn.
There are no words … Only God’s Word. Only Faith. Only Grace. Only my Savior, Jesus.
Sunday, October 8
Read: Matthew 20:1-16
In this text, Jesus doesn’t simply give a dictionary definition of grace for His audience. He paints a picture of what grace looks like when it is applied in our daily lives. In Jesus’ day, there were those who believed you must “earn” your way into heaven by observing the law. Today, in our culture, there are those who believe you must “earn” your way into heaven by doing good works. The truth is that no one can observe the law well enough or do enough good works to earn eternal life. Eternal life is a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Reflect: Have you ever had difficulty wrapping your human reasoning around the idea of God’s grace? How do we make demands of Jesus based on fairness? In the parable, the Master pays everyone the same amount even though they have not worked the same amount. Is it reasonable that the workers didn’t understand this and grumbled about it? How might this be a stumbling block for non-Christians today? How is this comforting to you?
For the Family: God is the owner of the vineyard. How does God show His grace through generosity to the workers hired later in the day? How can you show grace through generosity today to someone in your family or to a neighbor?
Monday, October 9
Read: Galatians 4:1-7
If we back up a bit to the end of Galatians 3, Paul says that we were under a kind of guardianship of God’s Law. There were laws that clearly laid out the process by which a child could become an heir of his father’s estate. But we have been made heirs and sons of God through adoption into God’s family. We don’t deserve to be heirs but have been made heirs by His grace through Jesus Christ.
Reflect: What were the benefits of the guardianship of the law? What were the limitations of the law that Paul called us slaves to it? What’s your personal slavery that you are struggling with right now? How can being an adopted son/daughter and heir change that situation? What are the “elementary principles” of enslavement in our culture today? What part of your inheritance in Christ can you cling to today?
For the Family: Adopted is another word for chosen. How does God show us we have been chosen to belong to Him in His family? Say a prayer thanking God for adopting you as His child.
Tuesday, October 10
Read: Romans 3:9-24
In today’s text, Paul quotes a long laundry list of Old Testament writings from the Psalms and Isaiah, etc. that validate the fact that we are all under the bondage of sin … Jew and Gentile alike. There is no one who can be declared righteous by observing the law. Paul explains in verse 20 that the true purpose of the law is to make us conscious of our sin. We are made righteous (justified) only by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Reflect: How do these words “silence” you as you apply them to yourself? Is there anything for which you should give an accounting to God today? If there are no distinctions between various people groups before God, how are we the same before Him? How are we made righteous?
For the Family: God teaches us about sin through the law given in the Ten Commandments; He teaches us about grace by forgiving our sins through Jesus’ death on a cross. Tell Jesus how you have sinned today and ask Him to forgive you.
Wednesday, October 11
Read: Romans 8:1-17
No one likes condemnation. No, not one of us. In this letter to the Romans, Paul assures us that everything for which we could be found “guilty” was nailed to the cross with Jesus. His blood paid for our transgressions. It is only because of His grace and mercy that we have been set free from the condemnation and penalty that our sin deserves.
Reflect: Is there a time in your life where you were the object of someone’s severe condemnation? Who or what is our true condemner? In verse 3, what was the law powerless to do? How are the righteous requirements that the law demands met in us who are in Christ? Are you struggling with life in the flesh? What evidence marks that you are living in the Spirit as a beloved child of God?
For the Family: When Jesus went back to heaven after the Resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit. Where can we find the Holy Spirit? What is the job of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer like you or me?
Thursday, October 12
Read: Ephesians 2:4-10
Even when we were already dead, Christ made us alive. It is God’s grace …. His declaration and expression of love for us that sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross in order to save us. Salvation is not the result of our own effort; no amount of good works is enough to save us. Only the blood of Jesus is enough to pay that penalty.
Reflect: According to verse 4, what makes us dead? Why did Christ make us alive? What does it mean that we were raised with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms? If we cannot boast that our good works save us, then why should we do them? What are the gifts Christ has given you? How does this change how you live out your day today?
For the Family: God’s Word is clear: we are saved by grace through faith. We bring only sin to our relationship with God. Salvation is God’s gift to us. In return for this gift, we do good works to show our love to God. Can you name a good work or an act of kindness and service that God prepared in advance for you to do?
Friday, October 13
Read: Ephesians 1:3-10
In Chapter 1 of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us the beginning of a doxology — reciting what God has done that makes Him worthy of our praise. Paul wants us to know and understand the richness of God’s grace and favor. He has poured out His grace on us; He chose us and made us His own; He forgives our sins; Christ’s blood bought our redemption.
Reflect: What are the blessings we receive through the Father? Through the Son? This text also describes the ultimate purpose and motives of God. What are they? What is your role in all of this? How might “chosen by God” apply to your circumstances today as “His?”
For the Family: How long ago did God choose us to be part of His family? He tells us that we are holy (set apart for God) and blameless (free of sin). How is that possible? Who does God see when He looks at us?
Saturday, October 14
Read: Titus 3:3-8
In the closing verse of today’s reading, Paul says, “This is a trustworthy saying.” In our culture today, it’s difficult to find a trustworthy source. It was difficult in Paul’s time as well. He is encouraging his readers to stay away from false teaching by telling them again that they once were sinners but have been saved by God’s grace. He reminds them that they were slaves to sin, but Jesus set them free from the penalty of sin through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Reflect: Who are some people around you who are giving you trustworthy sayings? What is Paul’s “trustworthy saying?” What makes it trustworthy? Do you have any trust issues with God or others that need God’s help to restore? How does Paul give us God’s assurance of His grace even though we, too, were once foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved? What are the core pictures of grace that God has given you this week through His Word? Is there someone who needs to hear God’s Word of grace from you today?
For the Family: How does Jesus change hate into hope? What hope does He promise us through His mercy and grace and His suffering and death on the cross?