August Bible Reading Plan

The Bible reading plan for the month of August is selected Psalms and Proverbs. For this month, we have a daily schedule for you to follow. Each day you will read one chapter from Proverbs and 1-2 chapters from Psalms. 

August 1: Psalm 1 and Proverbs 1

August 2: Psalm 37 and Proverbs 2

August 3:  Psalm 8 and Proverbs 3

August 4:  Psalm 18 and Proverbs 4

August 5:  Psalm 19 and Proverbs 5

August 6:  Psalm 29 and Proverbs 6

August 7: Psalm 30 and Proverbs 7

August 8: Psalm 36 and Proverbs 8

August 9: Psalm 40 and Proverbs 9

August 10: Psalm 66 and Proverbs 10

August 11: Psalm 86 and Proverbs 11

August 12: Psalm 104 and Proverbs 12

August 13: Psalm 136 and Proverbs 13

August 14: Psalms 47&93 and Proverbs 14

August 15: Psalms 96&97 and Proverbs 15

August 16: Psalm 48 and Proverbs 16

August 17: Psalm 76 and Proverbs 17

August 18: Psalm 84 and Proverbs 18

August 19: Psalms 120-121 and Proverbs 19

August 20: Psalms 133-135 and Proverbs 20

August 21: Psalms 2 and Proverbs 21

August 22: Psalm 7 and Proverbs 22

August 23: Psalm 55 and Proverbs 23

August 24: Psalm 109 and Proverbs 24

August 25: Psalm 139 and Proverbs 25

August 26: Psalm 22 and Proverbs 26

August 27: Psalm 51 and Proverbs 27

August 28: Psalm 63 and Proverbs 28

August 29: Psalm 90 and Proverbs 29

August 30: Psalms 120&123 and Proverbs 30

August 31: Psalm 143 and Proverbs 31

Delight

I truly delight in teaching.  The saying goes that the best teachers must be even better students, so perhaps much of the pleasure I derive from teaching comes from learning the content itself.  I enjoy the learning process from start to finish, and love when a student experiences the same joy of learning.  But in teaching, I’ve had students fall asleep in class, neglect homework assignments, and fail seemingly easy tasks.  So the question is, how can there be such a disconnect between a teacher who delights in the content and study at hand and her somewhat disengaged students?  Could it be that at times students don’t derive the same pleasure from learning as does the teacher from teaching?  Why is that?

In an article by Professor Jill Riddell, she writes, “The importance of delight cannot be understated in the process of transformative teaching and learning. . . . We ask one another and ourselves how we know the world and how we can live delightfully, courageously, and responsibly within it.”  

And Yale professor and psychologist Paul Bloom states, “When we get pleasure from something, it's not merely based on what we see or what we hear or what we feel. Rather, it's based on what we believe that thing to be.”

Beliefs and Knowledge Matter

These authors seem to be implying that the missing link between an enthusiastic teacher and a disengaged student is delight.  And not only that what we’re studying makes us feel a certain way, but that we believe a certain way about it!  Therefore, a concerto violinist performing on stage in Carnegie Hall receives roaring applause from adoring fans but goes ignored when he appears in street clothes and plays at the subway (Joshua Bell).   Perceptions and beliefs matter.   If we believe we are the people of God and our identity is in Christ, why is it we so often find ourselves in the seats of the disengaged students?  If we believe God is who he says he is and that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, shouldn’t we find ourselves filled with delight in him?  Though we are called to delight ourselves in him and his word, we often find ourselves lacking joy and gratitude.  Why?

I agree with Bloom’s assertion that the more we know about something the more we value it.  In another interview, he claims the key to living with more pleasure is to study more. . . . the key to enjoying art isn’t to look at or buy a lot of art but to learn about it.  When one understands who created it, how it was created, the time invested, and the value assigned to a work, one treasures that piece much more than if he were to unknowingly stare at it on a museum wall.  So can the same be said about delighting in God and his word?  That by studying God’s word we will come to know he who created, how he has been faithful in his steadfast love to his people, and that he values us so much that he sent his son to die for us?  Can we, by studying, truly derive pleasure from his word, his commands, his decrees?  Do we lack joy and gratitude simply because we do not know well our Maker and his word?

Psalm 119 is exceptional in its praises of God’s word.  All but two of the 176 verses contain some sort of description of God’s word, and at least nine verses mention the psalmist’s delight in it.  

14     In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
15     I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
16     I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

By delighting in God’s word, we begin to delight in him.  We learn who he is as we see his sovereignty, mercy, and steadfast love on display.  Over and over his song of redemption plays out through his word and culminates in the saving acts of his son.  And so, as God’s people, as Restoration women, we move forward into study of his word, we press into knowing him better and delighting in him,  praying together with the psalmist,

33     Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34     Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35     Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
36     Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37     Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Ladies, I hope you will join us in our upcoming study of Colossians, starting on July 19.  Come see how the superiority and sufficiency of Christ changes every aspect of how we live.  Come delight in learning more about our savior and king!

And don’t miss out on an outstanding opportunity this fall as we head to Country Lake Christian Retreat in southern Indiana for our first Restoration Women’s Retreat.   Wife, mom, and speaker Laura White will point us to the word as it reveals the hope God has given his people in the past, present, and future.  This will be a relaxing time to renew your spirit and experience authentic community with your Restoration sisters as we delight ourselves in who he is.  Click here to register today.  

- Morgan Zoeller - 


Click here to watch a brief promo video for the retreat. 

We Are Worshipers

What comes to your mind when you think of worship? I think this is an extremely important question to ponder. If I’m honest, when the word worship comes to my mind, it’s usually followed   by a picture of a “worship band” leading hundreds of people in singing songs about and to Jesus. I’m not sure what comes to your mind when you think of worship, but these are some popular phrases I have heard over the years growing up in the church:

“The worship was great this morning!”

“By the last song, I was really worshiping.”

“Bob sure is a real worshiper.”

With these comments, we live with the mindset that worship is something to be admired as if we are on the outside looking in. Or we assume that worship is generated and sustained by emotion. Or we assume that some people are just simply wired to worship “better” than we can, boiling worship down to external expression during the music portion of the Sunday morning gathering. The popular misconception of worship is what connects all of these ideas: worship happens when the guitars are strummed, the drum beat is loud and the voices rise as the church sings praises to our Savior. Singing and playing instruments in the context of the local church is a necessary part of worship. However, we do well to broaden our idea of worship instead of narrowing it to only music. When we have a narrow idea of worship, limiting it to the music portion of Sunday morning, we limit the God of the universe to one who is only worshiped when our favorite hymn is sung. God is worthy of our affectionate singing on Sunday mornings, yes. He is also worthy of the worship of our lives outside of Sunday mornings. In order for us to worship God well with our lives, we must realize that we are sinful worshippers who are in great need of God’s help to reorient our worship around Him—for His glory and our joy. 

We are worshippers. God created us to worship. Therefore, everything we do is an act of worship. This changes the question from“are you worshiping?” to “what are you worshiping?” So often we are guilty of separating our lives into spiritual activities and secular activities with “worship” being deemed as a spiritual activity. However, if we look through the lens of God’s Word, we see something different and very counter-cultural. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.” If we have been restored by the grace of God through faith, it is our great joy to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. In other words, our lives should be as a continual offering to the One who has redeemed us and made us new. 

We live in a world full of idols that fight for our attention and affection. They fight for our worship—our time, energy, thoughts and longings. If we have been justified, we have One who is more satisfying than anything this world has to offer. He is worthy of our affection, attention and the reorientation of our lives around Him for His glory and our joy. As we look forward to corporately worshiping our Savior on Sundays, may we sing loudly, pray fervently and listen intently as an overflow of our worship of Christ throughout the previous week. May we be careful to not restrict our worship to one day a week. We have the glorious opportunity to joyfully worship Jesus every second of every day as we reorient our lives around Him for His glory and our joy. 

Let me leave you with this insightful definition of worship by William Temple. I hope it is helpful to you as it is to me…

“{Christian} Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin”.

 

Stephen Krumalis

July Bible Reading Plan

Here is the Restoration Church reading plan for July:

Goal for the month: Read and study through both Galatians and Colossians

Week 1: Read Galatians 2-3 times and “An Introduction to Galatians”

Week 2: Slow down and study one chapter of Galatians a day

Week 3: Read Colossians 2-3 times and “An Introduction to Colossians”

Week 4: Slow down and study one chapter of Colossians a day

"An Introduction to Galatians and Colossians" 

Galatians:

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was addressed to a group of churches in Galatia, a region of present-day Turkey. Paul had preached the gospel in these churches. He wrote to counter those who taught that Christians must be circumcised in order to be accepted by God. Paul began with a defense of his apostolic authority (chapters 1-2), then made it clear that all believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, enjoy complete salvation in Christ (chapters 3-4). In chapters 5-6, Paul showed how the gospel of grace leads to true freedom and godly living. Perhaps the central message of Galatians is “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16). Paul wrote this letter sometime between A.D. 48-55. 

Colossians: 

Paul wrote to the church in Colossae to fortify it against false teachers who might try to impose strict rules about eating and drinking and religious festivals. Paul shows the superiority of Christ over all human philosophies and traditions. He writes of Christ’s deity (“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” [1:15]) and of the reconciliation He accomplished with His blood. He explains that the right way of living in this world is to focus on heavenly rather than earthly things. God’s chosen people must leave their sinful lives behind and live in a godly way, looking to Christ as the head of the church (1:18). Paul wrote while in prison, probably about the same time he wrote to the Ephesians. 

 

June Bible Reading Plan: Week 3

Here is the Restoration Church reading plan for the third week of June.... 

Goal for the Month: Read and study through the books of Jonah and Nahum

Goal for Week 3: Read through Nahum 3 times this week. As you read, walk through the "Bible Study Questions for Nahum" listed below. 

*Each week we will be posting a new goal for reading and studying through these two books*

Bible Study Questions for Nahum

Context Questions:

  • Are there any clues about the circumstances in which the prophecy was given or written?
  • Are any people or places mentioned that you aren’t familiar with?
  • Are other bits of the Old Testament mentioned or alluded to in the passage? What part do these ‘memories’ play in the text?

Observation Questions:

  • Paying attention to when the prophet is speaking and when God is speaking, what does the passage tell us about God’s plans? What does it tell us about God’s character?
  • What kind of human behavior, if any, is condemned or rewarded? What response is called for (if any)?
  • What is the main point or points?

Meaning Questions:

  • Are there specific instructions/commands given to the reader? Does this passage mention any consequences for not following God’d commands?
  • Does this text have a sense of expectation about something happening in the future? What is to be expected and when? How should this motivate action in the present?
  • Does this passage point forward to Jesus? Is the gospel anticipated or foreshadowed in some way?

Application Questions:

  • How is your own situation similar to or different from those being addresses?
  • How does this passage lead you to trust God and His promise in Jesus?
  • How does this passage call on you to change the way you live?

*Questions from "One to One Bible Reading" by David Helm

June Bible Reading Plan: Week 2

Here is the Restoration Church reading plan for the second week of June.... 

Goal for the Month: Read and study through the books of Jonah and Nahum

Goal for Week 2: Read through Jonah 3 times this week. As you read, walk through the "Bible Study Questions for Jonah" listed below. 

*Each week we will be posting a new goal for reading and studying through these two books*

Bible Study Questions for Jonah

Context Questions:

  • Are there any clues about the circumstances in which the prophecy was given or written?
  • Are any people or places mentioned that you aren’t familiar with?
  • Are other bits of the Old Testament mentioned or alluded to in the passage? What part do these ‘memories’ play in the text?

Observation Questions:

  • Paying attention to when the prophet is speaking and when God is speaking, what does the passage tell us about God’s plans? What does it tell us about God’s character?
  • What kind of human behavior, if any, is condemned or rewarded? What response is called for (if any)?
  • What is the main point or points?

Meaning Questions:

  • Are there specific instructions/commands given to the reader? Does this passage mention any consequences for not following God’d commands?
  • Does this text have a sense of expectation about something happening in the future? What is to be expected and when? How should this motivate action in the present?
  • Does this passage point forward to Jesus? Is the gospel anticipated or foreshadowed in some way?

Application Questions:

  • How is your own situation similar to or different from those being addresses?
  • How does this passage lead you to trust God and His promise in Jesus?
  • How does this passage call on you to change the way you live?

*Questions from "One to One Bible Reading" by David Helm

June Bible Reading Plan: Week 1

Here is the Restoration Church reading plan for the first week of June.... 

Goal for the Month: Read and study through the books of Jonah and Nahum

Goal for Week 1: Read "An Introduction to Jonah and Nahum" as well as both books in their entirety 

*Each week we will be posting a new goal for reading and studying through these two books*

An Introduction to Jonah and Nahum

Jonah... 

Because it tells of a fish swallowing a man, many have dismissed the book of Jonah as fiction. But 2 Kings 14:25 mentions Jonah as living during the time of Jeroboam II (about 793-753 B.C.), and Jesus referred to Jonah as a historical person (Matthew 12:39-41). Unlike other prophetic books, Jonah focuses on the prophet himself rather than on his message. When God sent Jonah to Nineveh he rebelled, was swallowed by a fish, repented, and fulfilled his mission after all. When Nineveh repented, the reason for Jonah’s rebellion became clear; he had feared that God would forgive the Nineties; and when God did forgive them, Jonah resented it (4:1-3). The book lists no author, but only Jonah himself could have known all the facts it records. 

Nahum...

When Jonah preached repentance on the streets of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, the people responded and were spared. A century later, sometime between 663 and 612 B.C., Nahum preached in a time when Nineveh would not repent. Nineveh, which had destroyed Israel’s northern kingdom in 722, itself fell to Babylon in 612 - just a few years after Nahum’s warning. The Assyrians were notorious for the brutality of their treatment of other nations. Nahum declared, however, that God is sovereign: He punishes whom He will, and they are powerless to stop Him. Much of Nahum’s prophecy was directed to the people of Judah, who could rejoice at the good news (1:15) of Nineveh’s impending fall.

*Both introductions are from the ESV Journaling Bible

 

An Introduction to the Book of Ezekiel

An Introduction to Ezekiel from The Gospel Transformation Bible...

Author & Date: 

The book of Ezekiel records the preaching and message of the sixth century Hebrew prophet of the same name. Ezekiel’s name literally means “God strengthens,” appropriate for a man who’s call was to prophesy to a people who had been carried into exile by a foreign power. 

Ezekiel prophesied in the years following the exile of the Israelite people to Babylon that began in 597B.C. In fact, Ezekiel himself was one of those carried from Jerusalem to Babylon and settled along the Chebar canal. Many of Ezekiel’s prophecies are explicitly dated, with the earliest coming in the summer of 593B.C., about four or five years after the exile, and the latest about 22 years after that.

Audience

Ezekiel prophesied to a people in exile, who were tempted to doubt both the power and the justice of their God. His messages, therefore, stress God’s universal reign and the absolute rightness of His judgement of His own people. Ezekiel’s message is not all about judgement, though. Grace shines through, as he also gives the exiled Israelites a series of beautiful messages about God’s ability and determination to restore them, to bring them out of exile, and to give them life where there has been only death. Most of all, however, He reveals to God’s people that even though they are currently in exile, God has determined that one day He will dwell among them forever. Thus the book ends with a description of God’s city, and the name of it is “The LORD Is There”. 

The Gospel and Ezekiel: 

Many Christians approach the book of Ezekiel and see little more than an obscure mass of judgment oracles, within which are a few random passages that speak of God’s grace. Compared to the other Major Prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel - Ezekiel has probably the fewest obvious messianic passages anticipating Christ, so it is not the first book that comes to mind when one wants to see the gospel expounded in the Old Testament. 

Understood rightly, however, Ezekiel contains and continues a beautiful story of God’s grace to His underserving people. It is a compelling Old Testament witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The whole structure of the book, in fact, points to God’s grace to His people in spite of their sin. In the first 24 chapters, the book contains a succession of oracles that promise judgement against the people of Israel. Jerusalem will be placed under siege and destroyed, Ezekiel warns, and this will happen because of the people’s sin. The exile has not happened by accident, and neither will the destruction of Jerusalem. All of it comes from the hand of God in response to the people’s rebellion against Him. 

In chapters 24-33, the focus changes as God turns His attention to judging the nations around Israel. He is sovereign not only over His people but over all the nations of the world. None of them will be excused for their rebellion. 

In chapter 33, the focus of the book changes again. With God’s judgement against Jerusalem carried out in full, and with judgement pronounced against Israel’s enemies, God now begins to promise His people that they will be restored. Life will reign where there has only been death. God will pour out His Spirit on the people. The destroyed temple, the central symbol of God’s presence among His people, will be restored. God will once again dwell with His people. 

Not only does Ezekiel promise God’s presence, He also indicates over and over again that God will accomplish this restoration of His people through the work of a king of Israel who will sit yet again on David’s throne. This was an extraordinary prophecy, because Jehoiachin - the last of the Davidic line of kings - had himselfbeen carried into exile. The throne, therefore, was empty. God promises through Ezekiel, however, that it will not remain so forever. One day, God will restore His people and a new ruler will sit on David’s throne. This king will not only reign for eternity but will also make atonement for His people’s sins and bring them back into God’s presence. 

In all of this, Ezekiel points powerfully both to the coming of Jesus Christ and to the grace of God in forgiving sinners. All human beings - not just Israel - are sinners who deserve God’s judgement. Therefore the first 32 chapters of the book are not without relevance to us. We learn from them about God’s holiness, the wickedness and consequences of rebellion against Him, and the divine wrath such sin deserves. At the same time, though, we learn also of God’s love for His people despite their rebellion, and of His promise to send a Savior who would restore them, give them life, and bring them to live in His presence forever.

Scripture passages for Good Friday service

Good Friday Service

Since we’ll be running through so many different places in scripture we wanted to compile all of the texts into one spot. This should help keep us all together.

 

Isaiah 53

 Who has believed what he has heard from us? 
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, 
and like a root out of dry ground; 
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, 
and no beauty that we should desire him. 
3 He was despised and rejected by men, 
a man of sorrows  and acquainted with grief
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not
4 Surely he has borne our griefs 
and carried our sorrows
yet we esteemed him stricken
smitten by God, and afflicted
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions
he was crushed for our iniquities
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace
and with his wounds we are healed
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; 
we have turned—every one—to his own way; 
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted
yet he opened not his mouth; 
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, 
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, 
so he opened not his mouth. 
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; 
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living, 
stricken for the transgression of my people? 
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death, 
although he had done no violence, 
and there was no deceit in his mouth. 
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; 
he has put him to grief; 
when his soul makes an offering for guilt, 
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; 
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; 
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, 
make many to be accounted righteous, 
and he shall bear their iniquities. 
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, 
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, 
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors; 
yet he bore the sin of many, 
and makes intercession for the transgressors. 

 

John 16:31-33

31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 

 

 

Romans 5:1

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Ephesians 2:12-18

12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

 

Colossians 1:15-20

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, 
and by night, but I find no rest. 
3 Yet you are holy, 
enthroned on the praises of Israel. 
4 In you our fathers trusted; 
they trusted, and you delivered them. 
5 To you they cried and were rescued; 
in you they trusted and were not put to shame. 
6 But I am a worm and not a man, 
scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 
7 All who see me mock me; 
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; 
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” 
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; 
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 
10 On you was I cast from my birth, 
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 
11 Be not far from me, 
for trouble is near, 
and there is none to help. 
12 Many bulls encompass me; 
strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 
13 they open wide their mouths at me, 
like a ravening and roaring lion. 
14 I am poured out like water, 
and all my bones are out of joint; 
my heart is like wax; 
it is melted within my breast; 
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, 
and my tongue sticks to my jaws; 
you lay me in the dust of death. 
16 For dogs encompass me; 
a company of evildoers encircles me; 
they have pierced my hands and feet— 
17 I can count all my bones— 
they stare and gloat over me; 
18 they divide my garments among them, 
and for my clothing they cast lots. 
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off! 
O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 
20 Deliver my soul from the sword, 
my precious life from the power of the dog! 
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! 
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! 
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; 
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! 
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, 
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted, 
and he has not hidden his face from him, 
but has heard, when he cried to him. 
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; 
my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; 
those who seek him shall praise the Lord! 
May your hearts live forever! 
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. 
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; 
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, 
even the one who could not keep himself alive. 
30 Posterity shall serve him; 
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, 
that he has done it.
 

 

 

 

 

The Final Week...(day seven)

Saturday (Nisan 16): Sunday is Coming

Bible Text: Isaiah 53:5-7
But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned - everyone - to His own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

Devotional:
Its Saturday, and Jesus is in the grave. The very One who declared Himself to be the Son of God is dead. No heartbeat, no pulse, no brain activity. The One who created life, is lying in a tomb lifeless. All Scripture tells us about this very ominous day is that Pilate places guards outside of the tomb. So what can we learn from this day of silence? What truths can we take away from the death of the Son of God?

First, we should be very careful not to gloss over the horrid details of the cross. Listen to the language of Isaiah 53 in regards to Christ’s suffering: He bore our grief and carried our sorrow; smitten by God and afflicted; He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our sin; he was chastised and wounded and oppressed. History tells us that crucifixion was one of the most excruciating forms of death. The Romans wanted to make a punishment so extreme that the victim gladly welcomed death to relieve the torment. And Jesus endured the excruciating, agonizing cross so we didn't have to! When we feel the weight of the crucifixion, when we feel its emotion and horror, it is then that we celebrate the resurrection well!

Second, imagine the feeling of the disciples. Three years ago these guys left everything behind to follow Jesus. Surely they were thinking, “Did I make a mistake?” or “I’ve wasted my life!” or even “Was Jesus crazy?” On Saturday, the disciples had to exercise faith - were they going to trust in what Jesus said He was going to do? Now on the post side of the crucifixion, we must exercise faith, not that Christ will raise from the dead, rather that He will return for His bride. Do we rest in God’s faithfulness and believe that when Jesus said He’s coming back, that He really will?

So, on this Saturday, let’s stop and reflect on the the death of Christ. Our hearts and minds should overflow with gratitude and affection for the King of kings who was brutally murdered on a tree. We have hope on this Saturday, because Sunday is coming!

Questions:
When is that last time you really stopped and thought about the death of Christ?
Do you long for the day when Christ returns for His church?
How can you help your family live with that perspective?

Pray Together:
Heavenly Father, You are the author of our salvation and the One who planned our redemption. Your love for us sent Your only Son to earth. Jesus lived the perfect life we could not live, and He died the criminals death we should have died. Today we celebrate Christ, who bore our sins on His body on the cross so that we might have life! Father, please help us to never get over the cross. We want the reality of Jesus’ death to grip our hearts and change our lives. We can celebrate the death of Jesus because we know the grave could not hold Him! Amen. 

The Final Week...(day six)

Friday (Nisan 15): When Friday got good. 

Bible Text: Luke 22:66 - 23:56; John 18:28 - 19:42 

Friday. It’s been a long night. Jesus has endured being beaten, mocked, spit on, accused, betrayed, denied, abandoned and rejected. The morning brings with it another level of pain and abuse. The Jewish leaders of the day delivered Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. They intended for Pilate to put Jesus to death. After a few questions and political games, Pilate orders that Jesus be scourged. This scourging was a terrible torture that would cause intense agony, pain & shame. After the beating, Jesus is returned to Pilate and brought before the people. They demand to “Crucify him!”. Unwilling to have a riot on his watch, Pilate complies with their demands and has Jesus crucified. The Son of God, sinless & holy, has been beaten mercilessly and is now about to be marched up a hill where He will be nailed to a cross. 

Then, Jesus was stretched out on a rugged cross and nails were driven through his hands and his feet. The cross was stood upright and he was put on display for all to see. Onlookers watched as he suffered. By this point Jesus was a bloody mess. He’s been beaten, stripped, shamed, mocked, crucified. Now he waits to die. Matthew 27:45 tells us that from noon to 3 pm darkness covered the land. Jesus was in agony. 

Here we see a perfect example of steady, faithful obedience in the midst of terrible suffering and pain. Jesus bore in his body the sins of the world. He bore the wrath of God; our due punishment for sin. His quiet obedience would make atonement for us. He was dying...and his death would bring us life. 

About the ninth hour (3 pm) the time had finally come. His work was done. Jesus could feel his heartbeat slowing. He knew that it was over. With one of his last breaths Jesus cries out with a loud voice. With all the strength he can muster he screamed “IT IS FINISHED!!”. And it was finished. His work was done. God answered His cries for help and Jesus, our great rescuer, bowed his head and died. 

On this very same day so many years ago, the nation of Israel walked out of 400 years of bondage in Egypt. This ancient anniversary was made even more significant than it had ever been. What had been remembered as the day that God set his people free from the strong hand of Pharaoh would now forever be called “Good Friday” for on this day Jesus had set his people free from an even deeper bondage to an infinitely better freedom. 

Questions: 

What are some things that we can do to remember the story of Good Friday?
How do we best celebrate such a somber day?
What did Jesus mean when He said “It is finished.”?
{He was declaring that his work was done. Atonement was made and he had been obedient to the very end.} 

Prayer: 

God help us to understand Friday. Until we feel the weight of the suffering, anguish and pain that Jesus experienced we will not appreciate the glory of Sunday. Forgive us for the times that we think we’re the only ones that have ever suffered. Thank you for sending Jesus to endure the stripes that were meant for our backs, the nails that were for our hands, the death that should have engulfed us. Thank you that his blood covers my sins. That by His wounds we are healed. Help us to stare directly into His suffering rather than sanitize it to ease the sting. Make the darkness of Friday make Sunday gloriously bright. Amen. 
 

The Final Week...(day five)

Thursday (Nisan 14): The time has come!

Bible Text: Matthew 26:17-46;  John 13-17

Devotional thought:
It’s Thursday. Jesus has spent the week back and forth between Jerusalem and Bethany but the time has come. This is it. Jesus sends a couple of his disciples to prepare the passover meal. He will eat his last supper with them tonight. This sacred meal that they’re eating together is in remembrance of a night long ago. On that night in Egypt the blood of a spotless lamb would save God’s people from death. Now, a few thousand years later, the perfect lamb of God was preparing to make his way to the cross. Jesus was the master of seizing teachable moments and he certainly took advantage of some tonight. After the meal he got up, removed his outer garments and broke with the normal tradition of the night. He took some water and a towel and washed the feet of his disciples. He was teaching them was leadership looked like. Some time after washing their feet, they began to sing. The last song of the night was Psalm 118. Imagine the moment……it’s late, they just ate the passover meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper, washed their feet & told them to love one another. Now, as a culmination of the evening, they sing this song together. One of the lines in this ancient song is “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

Now Jesus makes his way towards the garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. John chapters 15, 16 & 17 give us a glimpse into what Jesus taught his disciples on the way to the garden. Stop for a couple of minutes and read these three chapters together. What an incredible glimpse into an intimate moment between Jesus and those closest to him! 

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”   John 15:7 - 11

Jesus would continue on into the garden. He would spend some time praying there. Then, in the dark of the night, Judas showed up with the soldiers. He had been betrayed. Jesus went quietly with the mob. He didn’t run, didn’t panic, didn’t argue. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to finish what he had come to do. This would prove to be a terrible night. The disciples were scattered. Jesus was beaten, shamed, mocked, denied, put on trial, falsely accused and ultimately rejected by the Jews. 

As we remember the story, it is good for us to learn from what we recount. Spend a few minutes discussing some of the things that Jesus tells his disciples on this night…

{Take this cup, Eat this bread….all in remembrance of me.
Love one another. 
Abide in me
I am the Vine, you are the branches}

 Other Questions:
Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches.” What did he mean?
{we can only live and bear fruit when we are attached to him….apart from him, on our own we can do nothing}

What does abide mean? How can we abide in His love?
{Abide means to live or dwell somewhere….to make a home there. John 15:10-11 tells us how to abide in His love.}

Prayer:
Father help us to remember these stories well. We confess that it is easy to forget or grow insensitive the the things we find in your word. Help us to love each other and to abide in your love. Thank you for providing an account of the events of this special night. Thank you for sending Jesus to die so that we might live. Amen.

The Final Week...(day four)

Wednesday (Nisan 13): Praise the LORD!

Bible Text: Psalm 117; Psalm 118:22

Psalm 117: Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol Him, all peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 118:22: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Additional Readings: Mark 14:26, Psalm 113-118, Revelation 5

Devotional:
It’s Wednesday and the final pieces are coming together. Even though the gospels have no record of Wednesday before the Passover, we know that Jesus spends the day in Bethany preparing for the last supper with His disciples. The Sanhedrin are plotting Jesus’ demise. Judas is planning his betrayal. Other than that, not much is know about “Silent Wednesday,” so what truths can we walk away with?

Let’s set the stage for Thursday. Right now it’s Wednesday and tomorrow at twilight the passover lambs are going to be slaughtered. Mark 14:26 gives us a little insight into the passover dinner. After Jesus and the disciples had eaten Mark says, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Tradition holds that the song the Jews sang after the passover dinner was called the ‘Egyptian Hallel.’ Psalm 113-118 comprised these songs of praise. So during the passover dinner, Jewish families, Jesus, and His disciples are singing these songs. Why does this matter? Well look at some of the lines of this psalm: “Praise the LORD, all nations!” and “Extol Him, all peoples!” Even though those singing these praises might of not fully realized it, they were proclaiming Christ’s redemption of the nations. The very one who was about to be crucified on a tree would be the perfect lamb of God slaughtered to redeem the nations!

Not only are the Jews singing about Christ’s redemption of the nations, but that also proclaim His victory over sin and His headship of the church. Psalm 118:22 says, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” That rejected stone is Jesus - soon to be handed over and killed - only to raise back to life victorious over sin and triumphant as the cornerstone of the church!

On this silent Wednesday, we, like the Psalmist, can praise God and celebrate His faithfulness. We worship because Christ overcame the grave, died for the nations, and it the very foundation of our faith!

Question/Discussion
Read a chapter or two of the Egyptian Hallel (Psalm 113-118). What do these songs of praise teach us about God?

Pray Together:
Heavenly Father, your steadfast love and faithfulness have no end! We thank you for Jesus, who was sent to die so that we might live. Even though Jesus was rejected by men and killed on the cross, we celebrate His victory over sin and His position as cornerstone of the church. We are grateful to read your word and view it in light of the cross. Father, there is no one greater than you and there is no greater love than your’s for us. And for that we praise your name! Amen. 

The Final Week...(day three)

Tuesday (Nisan 12): Watch, Wait, and Obey the King

Bible Text: Matthew 24:32-35

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Additional Readings: Psalm 119:89, Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23-25

Devotional:
It’s Tuesday, three days before the crucifixion, and Jesus is taking time to teach His disciples. Jesus shows us the importance of discipleship and reveals that He is not downtrodden over the fact that in three days His earthly body was going to die. Instead He was urging His beloved disciples to watch and wait eagerly for His return. In Matthew 24 Jesus uses the lesson of the withered fig tree to explain His second coming. He says “as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near,” so when the signs of the tribulation occur you know that Christ is near. The compassion of the Lord is evident in the fact that He didn't leave his disciples without instruction for the future. He gave them hope. Hope that He knew they would need when He was no longer on earth to instruct them. 

But not only did Jesus offer His guys hope, but He also declared His authority. Verse 35 states, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Jesus declared to His disciples that He was Sovereign and His Word would never pass away. His Word is our ultimate authority and should be read, followed, and obeyed. How encouraging that in a moment where Jesus knew it would seem desperate and hopeless for his disciples at the time of His crucifixion, He reassured them that He would prevail and His Word was their ultimate authority. 

Just like John declared in Revelation 22, “Come Lord Jesus!”, let us eagerly await the return of Christ. As exiles looking forward to a better Kingdom, we can have hope that whatever God says will come to fruition. His Word never fails; His promises are always upheld! Also, let us imitate Christ, who instead of reveling in His imminent death, saw the greater picture of God’s kingdom, and He poured into the men that would soon be caring the gospel across the globe. May our churches and families do the same - willing and passionate to pour into others and make disciples.

So beloved child of God, watch, wait, and obey the King!

Questions
Jesus poured into His disciples, how are you doing investing into those God has placed in your life?

How can we eagerly wait for the Lord?

What are some ways we can encourage each other as we wait?

 

Pray Together:
Heavenly Father, we are thankful that a simple lesson about a fig tree can show us something so great about your Kingdom! We long for the day when Christ returns for His church. We base that truth not upon myth or tradition, rather our hope is in your unchanging, never failing Word! We praise our good Father who is above all rulers, authorities, and powers. We exalt your name and trust in your Word - knowing that it is our ultimate authority. Help us sharpen and disciple one another as we look forward to our coming King. Amen.

The Final Week....(day two)

Monday (Nisan 11): The Cleansing of the Temple

Bible Text: Matthew 21:12-13

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

Additional Reading: Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11, Mark 11:15-19

Devotional:
While we often focus on Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem before moving to the Last Supper and Good Friday later in the week, the first part of the week was not an idle time during the Passover. This was still a time when ritual cleansing was being done in each one’s household, to ensure that each place in turn was ready for the important feast. The city was absolutely full of individuals in town for the event, and we can only imagine the bustle of all those people trying to get arrangements made, details seen to, and preparing their households for what was to come.

We come, then, to the account above in Scripture, detailing Christ’s cleansing of the temple from the moneylenders and merchants. Why did he do this? Since many Jews came from distant lands to Jerusalem for the Passover, they often bought their animal sacrifices once they arrived in the city. However, an entire industry had sprung up within the temple that was anything but pleasing to God. These were individuals involved in price-gouging, exploitation of the poor, and simply setting up their shops in a place (the Court of the Gentiles) that should have been a place of reverence and prayer. Imagine attempting to pray to God at the temple while someone is loudly haggling over the price of a sacrificial animal next to a large pen of doves and pigeons!

Jesus was cleansing His Father’s house, driving out the self-centered transactions, pagan coinage, and robbers of the poor. He showed not only his authority as Messiah in his purifying and cleansing of the temple, but he was underlining the importance of showing reverence and devotion to the one true God. Remarkably, this was actually the second cleansing of the temple we see by Jesus in the Gospels. The first, recorded in John 2, actually takes place at the start of his ministry. Yet, three years later, again the people have returned to disgracing God’s house with unholy, unjust acts of gouging the poor and showing an utter disregard for the sanctity of God’s house. Even with the Messiah in their midst, they sought material gain and ease over a proper worship of God. The Passover, a remembrance of God’s miraculous deliverance for His people, had become more about commercial opportunity and external displays than it had giving glory to their sovereign God who had done so much for them.

Today, we are in a culture that relentlessly commercializes everything. The church is certainly not immune to this, and it is easy to make Easter an event that has more to do with baskets full of plastic grass and chocolate, or showing up for one of our two Sundays a year than about praising God for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross for our sins. In any age, treating the holiness and worship of God with casualness or apathy is a serious matter. When we think of those last, incredible days of Jesus’ walk before he obediently took the full wrath of God in the place of sinners who had nothing for Him but hate and mockery, where is our focus? Do we seek to purify our hearts and minds, to prepare our homes and families with thoughts of how much has been given? Or has the message of Christ’s Holy Week somehow become muted, casual, secondary? In our own preparations this week, let us come before God with an intentional focus in our hearts and minds on praising and thanking God for the Good News of our Savior!

Prayer: 
Lord, we come before you knowing that we have too often put the things of the world over the things of eternal importance. Forgive us, and let us come before You, praising Your justice, mercy, love, and sovereign holiness. You are the God of all, so holy, hating sin, and yet you chose a people comprised of rebellious sinners, gave them a new heart, that they might repent and put their faith in Christ, who suffered on the Cross for all the sins of those He would save. Let our prayers and worship be not mindless or merely displays, but informed and focused on the accomplished work of Jesus Christ and Your remarkable, endless loving kindness and grace. Let this week be the start of a lifetime where give these matters the full weight they deserve in the scope of eternity, and let us praise the God who has given us infinite riches as heirs with Christ. Amen.

The Final Week...(day one)

Sunday (Nisan 10): The Beginning of the End

Bible Text: Luke 19:10 and Matthew 21:1-11

Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Matthew 21:9, “And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Devotional:
It’s the beginning of the end! Jesus’ last week on earth. The gospels give us a solid account of Jesus’ life and ministry. He preached to the masses and taught His disciples. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He calmed the storm and He prayed to the Father. But Jesus’ time on earth is coming to a close, so let’s take a look at His last week on earth. 

Jesus is making His way to the city of Jerusalem, and on the way, He has an interaction with a man named Zacchaeus.  You know Zacchaeus, “the wee little man who climbed into a sycamore tree to see Jesus.” More than being a children’s song we sing, this story reveals to us an important aspect of Jesus’ mission on this earth. Luke 19:10 tells us that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus, the Son of Man, did not come to earth to be a political figure, a popular prophet, or even a great preacher; He came to earth to find and save sinners!

So keep that truth in mind as we fast forward to Sunday, the 10th of Nisan. In the Old Testament, today was the day when Jewish families selected a lamb to be sacrificed for the Passover. Once these lambs were selected they were led into the city to be inspected. Little did the people in Jerusalem know that the man humbly entering the city on a donkey would be the true and final sacrificial lamb! As He is riding on a donkey, entering the city, the crowds of people exclaim, “Hosanna to the Son of David…. Hosanna in the Highest!” The word Hosanna means, “save us please.” The people thought Jesus was an earthly king entering the city to deliver the nation of Israel from the Romans. But as we know from the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus came to deliver people from the curse of sin!

The crowds of people in the city were correct in saying that Jesus would save them, but their hearts were far from the truth of His deliverance. This week, let us remember that Jesus is the true sacrificial lamb who saves, not a nation from bondage, but His people from the curse of sin! 

Questions:
Why did Christ come to earth?
{To seek and to save the lost.}

What does “Hosanna” mean and why is that important for us?
{Hosanna means “Save us please” and Jesus is the one who saves us from the curse of sin.}

Pray Together:
Heavenly Father, we come before you with thankful hearts! Thankful that you sent Jesus to earth to seek and to save sinners. We are thankful that You sent Jesus to earth to be the true and final sacrificial Lamb. Above all, we are thankful for Jesus, the only One who can truly bring people to God.  We celebrate His humility in entering the city on a donkey and we long for the day He returns in triumph and power!

February Book Review

Looking to become a better reader or for a few resources that can be formative in your walk with Christ? Join Restoration Church, as each month in 2017, we read a different book. These books range from topics on spiritual formation, to theology, to history, to biographies. February's reading was The Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson. In this blog post, Zack Houghton gives us a look into and a review of Ferguson's work. If you want to participate with us in reading March's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, click here... https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Disciplines-Christian-Donald-Whitney/dp/1615216170/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488395197&sr=1-1&keywords=spiritual+disciplines+for+the+christian+life

The Christian Life: The Grand Design

When I was young, I loved when my dad would build things. At one point, I remember him building me a fortress castle for some A-Team toy I had, complete with a drawbridge (No, I don’t know why I thought the A-Team lived in a castle). There seemed to be nothing he could not sturdily fashion out of some scraps of wood—shelves, toolboxes, benches—whatever was needed or desired. Sadly, I inherited none of his skill, and soon understood that for all I had admired those things in passing, there was another level of detail, of planning, of time and investment, that had gone into even the most seemingly straightforward of designs. There was so much for the would-be worker to take in and consider!

We certainly could say there was also much to take in when it came to February’s book, Sinclair Ferguson’s The Christian Life. Ferguson very deliberately worked his way through the life of a Christian, from the old broken, sinful nature, to God’s calling of sinners, to the beautiful themes of repentance, faith, justification, sanctification, and all the way to the great future state of glorification. Here, too, we find a deeper level of care and design—but infinitely grander and more profound than anything of this earth!

Many of us grew up in churches where God’s great plan of salvation was never really studied. We knew we were supposed to “ask Jesus into our heart”, knew He did a good thing on the Cross, but honestly, much of the details (including the why and how of it all, or what really happened on the Cross) stayed fuzzy. For many, even those who have attended church for years, they still are. 

I believe what I enjoyed most about Ferguson’s book is how he continually goes back to Scripture to bring light to the “order of salvation”, sometimes called the ordo salutis. This isn’t just some hastily thrown-together plan God assembled after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden; the Christian may rest in the fact that God ordained the circumstances of their election, calling, and belief from before the foundations of the world! God is present in all this—none of it is our doing (Ephesians 2:8-10), but that every step, we may not look to ourselves, but to the infinite mercies of God the Father, who calls sinners; Christ the Son who entered into the Covenant of Grace with the Father to save His lost sheep by his own atoning sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit, who regenerates and changes hearts so that they may turn to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance.

When we study how God works in every step of the Christian life, the miraculous love with which our Triune God calls and saves a people who were far from him becomes even bigger and more overwhelming than we could have ever imagined. Now, when you understand, as a Christian, that you were absolutely dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), and could do nothing to save yourself, how does that change things? How do we live in the light of the gratitude that should inspire?

We pursue what we love, what intrigues us. No man or woman will ever fully understand the depths of God’s love, but when we study these things, we are studying matters into which the Bible says “angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12)! These are matters worth studying. We have been called “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 1:4). Now that is worth a full-hearted pursuit!

Towards the end of The Christian Life, Ferguson writes the following: “No man can believe he has such a glorious destiny when he will be changed into the perfect likeness of Christ, without living a life that is already changed by that prospect”.  Perhaps the biggest question I have to ask myself after reading this book is, “How do I live? What do I treat as the most important thing in existence? What do I pursue in this life? What is core to my identity, and what is, by my priorities and behavior, just an add-on?”

As Christians, let us understand what we have been called from, and what we have been called to. Let us pray, study, and learn well, that by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, we may joyously live rightly and well to the glory our Savior and our King. 

-Zachary Houghton

Battling Sin: A Lost Art

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” —John Owen

We don’t like to talk about sin. It’s not a topic of conversation that enters very many Christian circles. It makes us uncomfortable and vulnerable—two things that we often loathe. In order to escape truly dealing with sin, our tendency is to put on a smiling face, rehearse some “churchy” response in our minds as we shake hands with a fellow believer, and force out a prayer during small group as the claws of sin dig deeper into our hearts. We say that we follow Jesus and seek His Kingdom but we so often live as if we are debtors to our flesh yielding to its every craving. Now, we all know intellectually that the Christian life is much more than putting on a show all while our souls are weary and riddled with sin. Much, much more. There is much more joy to be had, more satisfaction to be found, more glory to be seen. And all of these are experienced as we treasure Jesus—in whom there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). 

Why should we battle against sin?

This might seem like a silly question, but I believe we have to answer it. I would assume that if soldiers were not convinced as to why they were fighting an enemy, they would run at first sign of trouble. We will always give into the pressure of sin (greed, lust, fear, gossip, worry, you name it) if we don’t know why we’re fighting against it.

1. Because the Holy and Righteous God no longer condemns us. How is this even possible? We who wanted nothing less than to spit in the face of God and defame Him, for that is what our sin does, now are able to be called His sons and daughters! The only way that rotten, wicked sinners like me and you could be a part of His kingdom is if there was bloodshed. It would make logical sense if it was ours—if we could somehow atone for our wrongdoings. No. His Son, Jesus, in his perfection, became our substitute taking on our every sin to free us from what we most deserved! Not only did he take on our sin, but as our high priest, he intercedes for us to God presenting us blameless. Absolutely innocent. As if we had done nothing wrong. Let that sink in for a minute. Not only THAT, but He is now our Father who loves us, cares for us and sees us. He is with usin every painful moment, every suffering season, in victory, defeat, chaos, and calm. And one day we will literally see our Savior face to face spending eternity with Him. Our response to God is to fight sin. Our identity was once wicked sinner. Now we are children of the King. 

2. Because it blinds us to our mission. Now that we are children of God, our mission is to proclaim His glory and make disciples of all nations. How humbling is it to know that God allows us to be on mission with Him? Even in our sin, He is gracious to use us to bring glory to Himself. When we think of what God has done for us in Jesus, we should be motivated to share this amazing news with our family, neighbors, and co-workers. However, we allow our hearts to be captivated by worldly pleasures because we have become disenchanted with the glory of God and the beauty of Jesus. We drink from broken cisterns when Jesus is the well that never runs dry. When we live in sin, our mission becomes to make ourselves comfortable instead of being intentional to share the gospel. The souls of men, women, boys and girls are at stake. We must be killing sin so that we can see the mission ahead of us and be prepared to act.

How do we battle against sin?

This is where the rubber meets the road—where faith is put into action. This is also where we get shy. We don’t want to be accused of being a legalist or a goodie-two-shoes. Satan would love for “fighting sin” to simply be a philosophical idea rather than a consistent practice. So, how do we aim to kill sin consistently?

Fight from, not for. It’s essential to understand that we fight from a position of grace versus fighting for grace. Through the death of Jesus, we have been justified—made right with God. He has shown us grace upon grace by making His children; therefore, we run from sin to treasure Jesus. It’s not that we battle sin in order for God to show us grace. We speak truth instead of lies, we seek contentment rather than greed, we seek purity rather than indulge in lust as we live in awe of the grace God has shown us.

Read the Word. God’s primary way of making us more like Jesus is through reading and knowing God’s Word. Before Jesus gave himself up in the garden to be taken away to die, he prayed to the Father to “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Set aside time every day to read. Have a plan as to what and when you are going to read. Whether the plan is to read a chapter before you go to work, to read while the kids are down for a nap or read as you are about to go to bed. As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the truths that you’re reading and to see the beauty of the gospel. 

Pray. This is another practical way to battle sin. Sin is a matter of the heart and mind. It’s not merely something we do; it’s engrained in us. Therefore, we cannot wage war against sin in our own strength. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to align our hearts with the truth of God’s Word. Prayer is not merely asking God for things. It’s simply delighting in Jesus. In his book entitled “Prayer”, Tim Keller says, “[Paul] does not see prayer as merely a way to get things from God but as a way to get more of God himself.” May we truly treasure the fact that we can have communion with God knowing that fellowship with Him is better than the temporal pleasures that sin has to offer.

Talk to yourself. One of the most powerful ways to steer your heart away from sin is to remind yourself of the gospel. Remind your soul that you are God’s and He is yours. David does this often especially in Psalm 42. 

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.”

Talk to believers. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” God made us to live in community with other believers. And we’re all in the same boat. Satan wants us to think we’re all alone in our battle with sin. You are not alone and I am not alone. We need each other. We need to hear truth from each other. We need to be lovingly rebuked by each other. We need to bear each other’s burdens.

Thank God for His grace. You and I will fail. At times, we will neglect the beauty of the gospel to treasure something else. In those times, call the sin for what it is, repent from it, and thank god for his mercy grace that he continually shows. Praise God we are not saved by doing the right thing or refusing to do the wrong thing. We are saved by grace through faith alone. We are saved by Christ’s merit. May we battle sin tenaciously knowing that we are no longer condemned and our mission is urgent!

 

Stephen Krumalis