But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21–26, NIV)
We often quote Romans 3.23 (“All have sinned…”) but we need to remember the next verse: “And all are justified freely by his grace.”
What are the different ways you can identify that people try to justify themselves, that is, try to determine they are in good standing with God? Why do so many of these ways involve our own doing and our own power?
How does being justified freely by God’s grace through Jesus affect how you approach trying to live for God? In what ways does it make living for him easier?
How do you have faith in Jesus to redeem you, a redemption that comes from no effort of your own?
Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (Genesis 37:1–11, NIV)
“I enjoy seeing God’s presence in all of Joseph’s life journeys. It gives me much confidence in God’s love for me.”
As you read through the introduction of Joseph, what sort of life do you think he had growing up? What would you consider normal and what seems very different to young people growing up today?
What advantages and disadvantages do you think there was for Jospeh since his father loved him more than his other sons?
Despite Joseph’s rocky start, we are going to find out that God uses him for good. How have you found God to be a part of your growing up and in what ways has this helped you do good for him today?
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36–37, NIV)
The point of our parable is not who is our neighbor, but how do we be a neighbor.
Why do you think this wise teacher of the law wanted Jesus to answer the question of how to inherit eternal life? In what ways do we ask similar questions?
As you think about what it means to follow Jesus, what are ways you try to justify yourself, that you are either following Jesus enough or that certain aspects of following him do not really matter all that much? How do we keep from doing this?
To whom can you be a neighbor today?
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15:31–32, NIV)
“Luke 15 is an amazing passage detailing the importance of our seeking out those who are lost, yet also having comfort that we are God’s and do not have to fear the certainty of our relationship with him.”
When you read the three stories in Luke 15, what is similar and what is different? Why are these things important for our understanding the point of the chapter?
How do you think you would have reacted to the younger son who took everything and left if you had been the father? If you had been the older son?
Why do you think it is so easy for people to worry about themselves more than it is those who are lost?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
“God has a plan for me”
How does knowing that God knows you enough to know his plans for you help give you courage for your daily life?
Why do you think it would have been important for Jeremiah to mention that God had no plans to harm those who were returning form exile (the people he is speaking to here)? Why do people assume God is out to “get them?”
When you think about your future for God, what do you hope for?
Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22, NIV)
What cares do you have that you would like to no longer weigh you down? What would it look like, in practical terms, to cast these cares upon the Lord?
How have you experienced the care of the Lord in your life and in times when you were burdened with the cares of this life?
Why is righteousness such an important part of being able to cast your cares on the Lord? In what ways can you increase your righteousness?
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:14–15, NIV)
“Speaks of God’s will and guides for holy living.”
How hard is it to live at peace with everyone? How hard do you try to live at peace with everyone?
Why is holiness an important characteristic to see the Lord?
How do people fall short of the grace of God?