Grow Deep: Reformation 500 Edition, Week 3
Week Three – October 15-21
”For in the Gospel the righteousness of Christ is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith." - Romans 1:17
That’s not fair … it’s not right! How many hundreds, if not thousands, of times have each of us uttered those words? Starting as little kids, we are on the lookout for the inequitable distribution of cookies, toys or TV time. As we get older, our complaints shift, but the root complaint remains the same: I work so much harder than that guy, why does he earn more money/have a bigger house/lose more weight than I do?! It’s not right … it’s not fair. Our complaints go on and on. And who can blame us? All we want is what we think is fair and just. Right?
Well, we may want to rethink our attachment to fairness and justice using our own criteria. In this week’s readings, we focus on the gift of God’s salvation and grace through faith. We study how it is entirely “unjust” and “unfair” of God to save us because we have fallen far below His standard of perfection. As we study these passages, we will look at how absolute justice and fairness would require eternal damnation for each one of us. But based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, absolute “justice” and “fairness” do not prevail. Instead, God grants us His unearned, undeserved, full pardon for our sins. That pardon … that justification … is a gift, received only by faith in Jesus Christ. Even our faith itself is a gift of God!
For many of you, God’s grace that comes through faith in Jesus is not a new idea. Still, I invite you to stop and really, fully comprehend what this means and how it should inform our actions and world views. There are many things in our lives that demand faith. In fact, we all have some measure of faith in ourselves, our spouses, our teachers, our bosses … even the value of our estates. But it is only faith in Jesus that saves us and will never disappoint us!
As you read this week, consider how faith in Jesus is coloring your daily behavior and ideas. How should it be?
Sunday, October 15
Read: Luke 18:2-8
Unlike the unrighteous judge in the text, our God is a merciful and righteous Judge. He wants us to trust Him and to be persistent in prayer. Our persistent prayer is an act of trust and faith; it demonstrates a confidence in the One who has promised to bring about justice for His own.
Reflect: How do the attributes of the judge in the parable compare with those of God? Considering the attributes of God, of what can we be sure?
For the Family: The judge helped the woman because he did not want her to keep coming back to him. Is that a good reason to help someone? Have you ever asked God for help? Thank Him for listening to you.
Monday, October 16
Read: Romans 3:21-28
In this reading, Paul introduces a concept to his Roman audience that is different from anything they have known or believed about the law. He tells them: “But now, a righteousness apart from the law has been made known” … the righteousness of God. Righteousness or justification means to be found not guilty; to be released from any penalty for wrongdoing. This righteousness comes from God, not from man. Martin Luther called it an alien righteousness. It is unearned, undeserved and free to those who, by faith, believe in Jesus Christ.
Reflect: Look at the end of verse 22 and into verse 23: How does the Bible’s truth that there is “no distinction” compare or contrast with our own world views? Why do you think humans are prone to believe we need to “earn” salvation? How should the fact that we are justified by faith and not our actions shape our perspective?
For the Family: God sacrificed His Son Jesus, who died on a cross, so that when we do something wrong, we can be forgiven. What are some rules you have in your classroom or at home? What happens when you break one of these rules? How do you feel when you are forgiven?
Tuesday, October 17
Read: Acts 15:5-14
God desires that all people come to a knowledge of Him and to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, Jew and Gentile alike. His grace and salvation extend to all whose “hearts are purified by faith” in Jesus. Peter argues that if God did not require that believers adhere to the law regarding circumcision, then why should man require it?
Reflect: Why do you think men struggled to understand that circumcision was no longer necessary? Are there any “qualifications” we seek to impose on people to make them “real Christians” in our view? Why do you think we do that?
For the Family: Peter said God chooses to love everyone. How can we show our friends that they are loved by God through our actions? How can we make others feel included in the things that we do? How do your parents show you that you are loved by God?
Wednesday, October 18
Read: Romans 4:1-5, 16-17
In these verses Paul clearly tells his audience that justification comes by faith alone and not by any works or by observing the law. He used Abraham as an example … Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness. Luther called justification by faith the doctrine from which all other doctrine flows.
Reflect: What do you think it means to have your faith counted as righteousness? Is this inability to earn your salvation comforting or disconcerting? Why do you think you feel that way? Thank God for His ongoing work of justification in your lives.
For the Family: We are not guaranteed a place in heaven because of how many things we do right. What did God do to show that we are always forgiven? How do we make it to heaven?
Thursday, October 19
Read: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The City of Corinth was a corrupt city. When the Apostle Paul came, he came for one reason … to preach the Gospel message. He uses himself as an example of weakness. He told his listeners that he may not preach with eloquence but that he preaches with the authority of God and by His power. He preached Christ crucified and the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Reflect: What is the danger of trusting in the wisdom of men? What is the only message that brings us to faith? Thank God for the message!
For the Family: There are times when we are scared and feel helpless. What can we do when we are scared? How do you think Jesus felt when He died for our sins?
Friday, October 20
Read: Romans 5:1-11
God saved us through faith in Jesus when we were still sinners. He justified us by faith, and peace entered into our hearts … a lasting peace that is able to stand against anything that is from the devil. So we rejoice in our salvation and in trials that produce perseverance, which produces character, and finally, hope.
Reflect: Reflect on verses 3 through 5. How have you seen that chain play out in your own life? Paul says that people may be willing to die for a loved one or a “righteous” or “good” person (v. 7). Contrast this with God’s actions in verse 10.
For the Family: We are not perfect. Why did Jesus die for us even though we are not perfect? Our friends are not perfect; how can we treat them like Jesus would?
Saturday, October 21
Read: Romans 10:9-17
Paul tells his Roman listeners that salvation comes by professing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead to save you from your sins and eternal damnation. It is as simple as that! It is the same for Jews and Gentiles alike; God makes no distinction. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and the Word of God is preached by those who are “sent” with the Gospel message.
Reflect: Reread v. 14. Does this message affect your daily life? Should it? If we truly believe these verses, how should our lives look different from the way they do?
For the Family: We know the message of Jesus … maybe because our parents have read the Bible to us or because of Jesus time at school. How can we spread the message to our friends who may not know it? Will we be saved because we know God’s Word? How can we be saved?