In belonging to and serving God, there is no substitute for faith. Faith in God is not to be assumed. People come to God because they place confidence in God. Their confidence in God is not placed in a procedure, or in a religious system, or in human acts. The man or woman's confidence is placed in the God who acted in Jesus' death and resurrection. In any obedient act a person performs, the act has meaning because (and only because) God acted in Jesus' death and resurrection. Any religious system or religious movement is significant to the degree that the person places his or her confidence (trust, faith) in the God Who sacrificed Jesus' human life and raised him to eternal life to function right now as our Lord (see 1 Corinthians 15:25-28).
Two things are basic to that confidence in God. (1) First is the understanding that God intended to send Jesus to be the Savior of humanity before sin became a reality in human existence. Read the last part of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 and couple that statement with Paul's declaration in Galatians 3:23-29 [especially take note of verse 29]. Add that to Paul's statement to the Ephesians in Ephesians 1:3,4 and to the Philippians in Philippians 1:6. Also carefully consider Peter's statement in 1 Peter 1:17-21 [especially note verses 20, 21).
(2) Second is the realization God patiently worked to rescue you (and all others) from evil's destructiveness for thousands of years. Consider Romans 3:21-30. Note that sin [rebellion against God and His holy nature] is a problem for all adult humans. What God did for us in Jesus' death and resurrection allowed God to freely express the ultimate divine kindness in His grace. It is through God's gift of grace every person (a) has access to the redemption available in Jesus Christ, and (b) Jesus' blood can be a substitute for our punishment [the concept of propitiation]. It is what God did in Jesus' death and resurrection that demonstrates God's righteousness and patience. God's action in Jesus permitted God to be both just and justifier.
What God did for us in Jesus' death and resurrection does not eliminate our need for obedience. It transforms the motive for obedience. (1) We obey God because (a) we have confidence in what He did in Jesus, and (b) we show our deep appreciation for what He did in Jesus. (2) We do not obey to demonstrate that we deserve God's grace. (a) No man or woman can ever deserve God's grace; we only can appreciate God's grace. (b) We serve God's purposes/ways in the genuine gratitude of love; not in the foolish arrogance that we deserve His forgiveness.
We will do more for God in loving appreciation than we would ever do out of any sense of obligation. We do not repay God; we appreciate God.
Consider the statements made in some of today's texts:
John 3:16-21. (1) The speaker is Jesus. (2) He likely is speaking to Nicodemus. (3) God sent Jesus as an enormous expression of His love for sinful people. (4) God sent Jesus to save people from their faults, not to judge their faults. (5) The means of escaping divine judgment is to place confidence in God's work in Jesus. (6) There are some who value and are devoted to rebellion to God. Such people will not redirect their lives. The result of a love of evil is a rejection of God's revealing Himself in Jesus Christ. (7) The person who comes to God (a) must want to see self for "who I am" and (b) learn from God "who I can be" by the power of His transformation in Christ.
John 6:35-40. (1) Jesus is the speaker. (2) He spoke to Jewish people who placed their confidence in their religious system. (3) "You must place your confidence in what God is doing in me. I am God's objective in the origins of your religious system. (4) Just as manna sustained your forefathers physically as they crossed their desert, I sustain you spiritually now as you cross your dessert. (5) Confidence in me is the difference between life and death.
John 11:17-27. (1) Jesus is the speaker. (2) The occasion is Lazarus' death. Jesus is speaking to Martha, the dead man's sister. (3) Lazarus was in the tomb [unenbalmed] for four days. (4) Martha had confidence in Jesus as effective in the final resurrection. (5) Jesus' power to resurrect was current. (6) Here, the key was Martha's confidence in Jesus and his current power.
Hebrews 11:6. Confidence in God is essential to belonging to God. To come to God a person must (a) believe God exists and (b) God rewards those who seek Him.
The issues for each of us, regardless of our backgrounds and pasts, are these: (1) Do I have confidence in God's commitment to deliver me? (2) Do I trust Jesus to sustain me as I cross my dessert? (3) Do I see Jesus as larger than death? (4) Do I earnestly seek God in the conviction that He will reward me even if I die?
Remember, no one can come to God without placing his or her confidence in God.
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 1
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