Welcome to the devotions for the Month of Mission 2017.
The preaching series and Daily Readings for our 2017 October Month of Mission concentrate on Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom of God, particularly the parables of the kingdom and, in particular, the image of wine and wineskins.
The Gospel is always "new wine" - the love and grace it reveals are so transcendent that it can speak to all times and cultures. We need new wineskins to bring this wine to our rapidly changing world. The Kingdom Jesus describes and that is demonstrated in the the New Testament is a vibrant missional vehicle -- it is the new wineskin.
All of this points towards the significance of the Reformation and the 500th anniversary of Luther's significant act at Wittenburg -- a new wineskin was needed -- which is why the Sundays will focus on the "five Sola's" of the Reformation -- they represent the wine and the Kingdom is the wineskin. --------------------------------------------------
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1John4:9-12)
"Sola Gratia" means "by grace alone".
I use this passage when I do marriage prep with couples. For me, the well-loved 1 Corinthians 13 tells us how to love, but 1 John 4, tells us what love is.
According to John, God is love, and He always makes the first move.
When we were far away - He brought us near (Eph2:13)
While we were still sinners - Christ died for us (Rom5:8)
When we were dead - He made us alive (Eph2:4-5)
When we were lost - He came to find us (Luke 15:4)
When we were blind - He opened our eyes (John 9:25) (And I could go on...
God makes the first move - He takes the initiative again and again. The Old Testament is a story of God looking for Adam and Eve, rescuing Noah, calling Abraham, calling Moses, rescuing Israel from Egypt, calling David, sending the prophets and promising the Messiah.
And we don't deserve it - God owes us nothing - but He gives us grace. The Hebrew word -- chêsed - "loving-kindness" is the word that most consistently reflects God's grace.
Norman Snaith, a famous OT theologian, said this about chêsed: "The word stands for the wonder of his unfailing love for the people of his choice, and the solving of the problem of the relation between his righteousness and his loving-kindness passes beyond human comprehension."
John uses the Greek word "agape" to describe God's love but I can't help but wonder if he would have used chêsed instead of agape if he could have mixed his languages. Look at what God's Love -- Loving-Kindness -- Grace does:
It takes the initiative -- God shows His love to us long before we do anything for Him (We are undeserving)
It gives -- God sent His Son into the world so that we could live (He showed us what God is like -- John 10:10)
It sacrifices -- God sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice. (at-one-ment is how God makes us one with Him)
It transforms us -- We can love and become agents of grace.
500 years ago Martin Luther nailed a letter to a church door in Wittenburg. He had tried to get near to God by good works and failed. When he read the Bible he discovered that God had already made the first move: He offered us grace.
He took the initiative
He sent His Son
He died for our sin
He makes us new.
It is by grace alone that we are saved.
(Theo Groeneveld serves at Emmanuel and Grace Presby in Pretoria East. He is hubby to Brenda and Dad to Caleb. He enjoys the outdoors, cycling and playing with technology.)