As Christians, we have a life long goal: to become more like Christ. This involves change, and change isn’t always easy. But the more you know of God’s gracious salvation, His wisdom for living, and His purposes for you, the more you can experience His joy, hope and love. That’s the whole purpose of the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan, to know more about God and His son Jesus Christ and to reflect Their glory in this sin filled world. We’re now a quarter of the way through 2019 and our reading plan. It’s my prayer that the Lord is blessing you in your efforts.
I apologize for being late getting the questions completed. My family and I spent a lot of time last week traveling to Middle Tennessee State University to watch our Columbia Academy Bulldogs compete in and win the TSSAA Class A Boy’s basketball title. We couldn’t be prouder of our boys. With apologizes offered, here are the questions for this week’s reading.
Monday, Mar. 18 – Romans 3; Psalm 32
Like prisoners on death row, people are guilty, condemned and awaiting execution of God’s wrath. They sit silently in the miserable darkness of their cell, all hope extinguished. Then abruptly, the door swings open and darkness becomes light, death becomes life, and bondage becomes freedom. That’s what God has done for us. In the vv. 21-31 Paul describes how righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ upholds both God’s justice and His grace. In your own words, explain how Jesus has enables believers to become righteous if they put their faith in Him. How does this way of righteousness make it impossible for anyone to boast about his or her own actions? In what way(s) might you feel or act differently if you more fully grasped what Jesus has done for you?
Psalm 32 is often classified as one of the seven penitential psalms (also: Psalms 6; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). Among these Psalms 32 and 51 stand out as confessional giants. The overall thrust, intent and development of Psalm 32 may be summarized as follows: We must not forget the lessons learned through sin, confession, and forgiveness. And we must relay these lessons to others. From your perspective, is it possible to have a sense of well-being when you’re aware of unconfessed sin in your life? Why is it important to be specific about what one has done that was wrong and about the damage it caused to yourself and others? How can telling others your sin, confession, and forgiveness story help them and you avoid the same pitfalls and heartache?
Tuesday, Mar. 19 – Romans 4; Proverbs 8:32-36
Paul’s readers could have understood faith as being a new method of salvation since he contrasted faith with the Law. Yet, justification by faith was not a uniquely Christian revelation contrasted with Jewish doctrine. In Romans 4 the apostle shows his readers that God has always justified people by faith. In particular, he emphasizes that God declared Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, righteous because of his faith, not ritual. What themes do you see running through this passage? God’s promise is worthless if the only people who can inherit it are those who live up to it by perfect obedience. Why would this requirement make the promise worthless? It’s easy to feel that God fully accepts us only when we’re good and perfect. When you feel this way, how can the examples of Abraham and David give you hope?
As previously stated, we have four readings from Proverbs 8. This chapter is an apology, or defense, of wisdom. We’ve seen that wisdom would be every person’s guide (vv. 1-11), that it is the key success (vv. 12-21) and we’ve noted its role in the creation (vv. 22-31). Finally, let’s consider that wisdom is the one essential necessity of life (vv. 32-36). On the basis of all that has been said in this chapter, Wisdom exhorts us to live by her words, and thereby “find life and obtains favor from the Lord” (v. 35). However, the one who spurns her “injures himself” and he who hates her “loves death” (v. 36). Write down the name of a person who you know loves wisdom, then someone who hates wisdom. Describe how these two people illustrate the truths of vv. 35 and 36. Look at the trajectory of your life, which of these two people are you most like? Why? What will you need to do make wisdom the one necessity of your life’s journey?
Wednesday, Mar. 20 – Romans 5; Psalm 33
We now have reached a bridge chapter in Paul’s letter. Some commentators group chapter 5 with 1:18-4:25 because it summarizes justification by faith. Other people group chapter 5 with 6:1-8:39 because it begins to describe the life that justified people live by faith. Personally, I prefer the latter. From vv. 1-11, list as many benefits as you can find of justification by faith and its corresponding peace. How does Paul’s comparison of Jesus and Adam in vv. 12-21 give you another reason to rejoice because of the power of God’s grace toward you through Jesus? We all long to live with a sense of peaceful joy. Yet it can, at times, seem so elusive. What keeps you from letting the Lord’s grace fill your heart with joy of salvation by faith? Pray about this.
Psalm 33 is a general hymn of praise. It is one of fifty psalms that is not attributed to an author. Its two primary themes are: 1) God is the Lord of nature, and 2) He is Lord of the nations. These two realms are always related; the Creator sovereignly rules over the totality of His creation. What is the relationship between hope in God, trust in Him, and His love in Psalm 33? What is it about God’s love that you can count on, no matter how you’re feeling? How do see God’s love for His creation expanding your hope and trust in Him?
Thursday, Mar. 21 – Romans 6; Proverbs 9:1-6
Paul has shown that all of us are guilty before God. All of us – even Abraham – are acquitted of guilt and reconciled with God by the gracious gift of Jesus. This free gift of grace, received by faith, unearned by any obedience to the law, raises serious questions which Paul answers through the diatribe format of his letter. We’ve all been there, the subtle allure, the persistent urges, and the passionate desires; sin entices us in many ways. Then a thought enters our mind which we dare not acknowledge: “If I give in, I can always be forgiven.” Sound familiar? According to Paul, how does this way of thinking betray a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s grace in our lives? In your own words, explain how Paul illustrates the differences between our old life and new life using baptism, slavery, and marriage. In what ways do these three illustrations assure and encourage you in your struggle against sin?
An invitation to dinner is always welcomed in our house, until we get invitations to two different dinners, held at the same time. Then we have to decide which one to accept and which one to decline. With four kids, several factors influence our decision. Proverbs 9 presents the dilemma of deciding between two dinner invitations. But these are no ordinary dinners, nor ordinary hostesses. Which one you attend will largely determine your health, your wealth, and your happiness for the rest of your life. With the next three readings from Proverbs we’ll examine Lady Wisdom’s feast (vv. 1-6), along with the dinner conversation (vv. 7-12), then we’ll contrast this with Lady Folly’s feast (vv. 13-18). Briefly describe Lady Wisdom’s feast, invitation, guest, and benefits for sitting at her table. Do you think you’re among those specifically invited to Lady Wisdom’s dinner? Explain. Reflect on v. 6, what attitudes or habits do you have that might be classified as “simple”? Make this a matter of prayer and reflection, asking God to reveal godly wisdom to you that you might leave your simple ways.
Friday, Mar. 22 – Romans 7; Psalm 34
Romans 7 is an eye opening, behind the scenes exploration of Paul’s inner struggles to do good and avoid evil. For dramatic effect let’s repeat that; in vv. 14-25 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit in ways that only you and I could imagine, chronicles his inner conflict with sin. There is some debate about whether or not Paul is describing his life before becoming a believer in Christ, or after. For me it simply doesn’t matter, the struggle against sin is real. According to vv. 14-24a, overall why does Paul feel so wretched? Do you experience the struggle Paul discusses? If so, describe one specific experience you have had with this struggle. If not, explain why you think you do not experience it. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul ask. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” he exclaims. (vv. 24b-25a). Why is it important to realize that only Christ can rescue you from the power of sin?
From the superscription of Psalm 34, we learn this hymn originates from one of the darkest hours in David’s life when he, in desperation, feigned insanity (1 Samuel 21:10-22:5). When the details of David’s dire situation are compared to the jubilant praise of Psalm 34, its clear David found comfort from God’s presence in the midst of his personal struggle. Over and over again in Psalm 34, David invites people to experience and praise God’s goodness. As you read through these calls to praise God, select one or two that really speak to you today. Write them on a piece of paper and put them in a conspicuous place to remind you to seek after God in times of struggle. Additionally, share your findings with a friend either in person, in a card, a text, or share it with all on social media. Share what you read in Psalm 34 and how it helped you.