Since all of Paul’s letters begin with an expression of God’s grace to us, we may be tempted to think that it is simply a customary word of greeting. But in reality, God’s grace is our foundation, our covering, and the sphere in which we live as believers in Christ.
Grace is commonly defined as God’s unmerited and undeserved favor. According to Ephesians 2:8, it’s the means by which we are saved through faith. And Romans 5:2 says that by our faith, we have “obtained our introduction … into this grace in which we stand.” In other words, we are continual recipients of an abundance of grace throughout life and into eternity.
Just as our salvation never ends, so God’s grace never ceases to do its work in our life. That’s why Paul could confidently say, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). We never have to fear that we will lose our salvation, because God is the one who keeps us and promises to complete us when Christ returns. Furthermore, Paul says we have been “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ [and glorifies] God” (v. 11).
Sometimes it’s difficult to see righteousness in ourselves, because we know how weak and flawed we are. But if we’ve been saved, then Christ lives in us and we in Him (John 15:4). He is our righteousness, and He’s actively producing His fruit in our life as we abide in Him. This process, known as sanctification, is God’s grace working to align our behavior with Christ’s righteousness. So let’s stand firm in His grace and trust Him to complete us.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 29-31
Read: Romans 8:18–23; Revelation 21:1–5
Bible in a Year: Psalms 146–147; 1 Corinthians 15:1–28
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”—Revelation 21:5
Gazing out my open study window, I hear birds chirping and hear and see the wind gently blowing in the trees. Bales of hay dot my neighbor’s newly tilled field, and large, white cumulus clouds stand out in contrast to the brilliant blue sky.
I’m enjoying a little bit of paradise—except for the almost incessant noise of the traffic that runs past our property and the slight ache in my back. I use the word paradise lightly because though our world was once completely good, it no longer is. When humanity sinned, we were expelled from the garden of Eden and the ground was “cursed” (see Gen. 3). Since then the Earth and everything in it has been in “bondage to decay.” Suffering, disease, and our deaths are all a result of humankind’s fall into sin (Rom. 8:18–23).
Yet God is making everything new. One day His dwelling place will be among His people in a renewed and restored creation—“a new heaven and a new earth”—where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:1–4). Until that day we can enjoy the bright splashes and sometimes wide expanses of breathtaking beauty we see around us in this world, which is just a small foretaste of the “paradise” that will be. —Alyson Kieda
Dear Lord, thank You that in this world that can seem ugly with sin and decay You allow us to see glimpses of beauty.
Read about the life to come at discoveryseries.org/q1205.
God is making all things new.
INSIGHT: In Revelation 21:1-5, the word new means “of a new kind,” which is different from an updated version of something. The impact of the Revelation 21 kind of new is that when God makes “everything new” (v. 5), it will be unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced! Bill Crowder
For many Jewish people living after the Holocaust, God’s absence is an ever-present reality. It is as tangible as the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, and as haunting as the empty chair at a table once occupied with a loved one long-silenced by the gas chambers. In his tragic account of the horror and loss in the camps at Auschwitz, Elie Wiesel intones the cries of many who likewise experienced God’s absence: “It is the end. God is no longer with us….I know that Man is too small, too humble, and inconsiderable to seek to understand the mysterious ways of God. But what can I do? Where is the divine Mercy? Where is God? How can I believe? How can anyone believe in this merciful God?”(1)
This experience of absence, dramatic in its implications for the victims of the Holocaust, has repeated itself over and over again in the ravaged stories of those who struggle to hold on to faith, or those who have lost faith altogether in the face of personal holocaust. In a world where tragedy and suffering are daily realities seemingly unchecked by divine government, the absence of God seems a cruel abdication.
The words of Job, ancient in origin, speak of this same kind of experience:
Behold, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;
He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.(2)
In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us so [very much], we also ought to love one another.
— 1 John 4:10-11 (AMPC)
Everyone desires to be loved and accepted. But many of us try to find happiness the wrong way. We attempt to find it in getting, but it is found in giving. The love of God is the most wonderful gift we are given. Once it flows to us, it needs to flow from us to others; otherwise, it becomes stagnant.
Love must give because that’s its nature. First John 4:11 highlights how we must give the love we receive: Beloved, if God loved us so [very much], we also ought to love one another.
Living in God’s true love is a process. First, God loves us, and by faith, we receive His love. We then love ourselves in a balanced way, give love back to God, and learn to love other people.
Love must follow this course or it is not complete. Once we have God’s love in us, we can give it away. We can choose to love others lavishly. We can love them as deeply and unconditionally as God has loved us.
“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we must have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16, KJV).
The first thing I do when I awaken each morning is to kneel before my Lord in humility, meditate upon His attributes, and praise, worship and adore Him.
The last thing I do before I go to bed at night is to kneel in prayer, to praise, worship and give thanks to Him. Thus, my first thoughts are automatically of Him when I awaken, because all night long my subconscious mind has been meditating on Him.
Every morning of every day, I acknowledge His lordship. I gladly surrender control of my life to Him acknowledging my dependence upon Him. Then, by faith, I claim His mind and His wisdom for direction in every detail of my life. I trust Him to influence and control my attitudes, my motives, my desires, my thoughts and my actions.
In different words and ways, I remind Him that I am a suit of clothes for Him and that He can do anything He wants in and through me. I invite Him to walk around in my body. I ask Him to think with my mind, to love with my heart, to speak with my lips, to lead me wherever He wants me to go, to seek and save the lost through me.
We should study the Word of God daily and diligently, determining as an act of the will to pattern our lives according to His commands and His example. We begin to experience the reality and the availability of the mind of Christ when we literally saturate our minds with His thoughts and spend much time meditating upon His Word.
Bible Reading: I Corinthians 2:9-15
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Consciously and deliberately I will begin each day by inviting Christ to walk around in my body, think with my mind, love with my heart, speak with my lips and continue to “seek and save the lost” through me.
It is not God’s will that you face every day with dread and trepidation! I have a childhood memory that I cherish. My father loved corn bread and buttermilk. About ten o’clock each night he would meander into the kitchen and crumble a piece of corn bread into a glass of buttermilk, stand at the counter and drink it. Then he would make the rounds to the front and back doors, checking the locks. Once everything was secure, he would step into the bedroom I shared with my brother and say something like “Everything is secure, boys. You can go to sleep now.”
I have no inclination to believe that God loves corn bread and buttermilk, but I do believe he loves his children. He keeps everything secure and oversees your world! By his power you will “be anxious for nothing” and discover the “peace…that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:4-8 RSV).
Read more Anxious for Nothing
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
“Their royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting their third child.” Thus, an unborn baby in Great Britain dominated Labor Day headlines even in America. Carl Sandburg was right: “A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.”
In other headlines, the North Korean crisis seems to be escalating while Florida has declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Irma. As the news reminds us each day, life is both precious and tenuous.
Over the holiday weekend, I witnessed two strange sights that reinforced this balance.
I was driving in the country and came upon a field covered with healthy trees. In their midst stood a tree just like the others except that its leaves were turning brown and falling from their branches. Clearly it was dying while its neighbors were thriving.
Meanwhile, Dallas has been in the throes of an unusual gasoline shortage. Word got out late last week that Hurricane Harvey could cause massive gas shortages. As a result, thousands of people in our area rushed to gas pumps. My wife and I witnessed one such line stretching for hours. They exhausted the local supplies and created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Consider my experiences as parables.