Teaching Series
Grounded in Love
Sunday—Our Circle

Series: Grounded in Love
Message: Our Circle
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jenniffer Ogden 
Live Beyond: Andrew Jones
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Ephesians 1:1-14 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.

Reflect: The Apostle to the Gentiles writes, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—”

I believe in predestination. That’s right. I said it. I believe that both you and I were predestined for heaven. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Calvinist. I don’t believe you and/or I are pre-chosen for heaven and/or hell and consequently, our free will doesn’t play a factor in our eternal destiny. That seems to fly in the face of a loving God who wants “all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4).

Let’s frame it this way. I think the Bible teaches that every person who has ever been born was born with an A and not an F. We are not born lost. Everyone is born saved. Every person ever born was born with their name engraved in the Book of Life. Even you. Even Adolf Hitler. Even me. Where do I get this notion? Well, the Bible, of course.

One of the most curious verses in Scripture is Psalm 69. Here’s what it says. “For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt. Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation. May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous” (Verses 27-28).

Did you notice? Listed in the Book of Life are God’s (and David’s) enemies. What are they doing there? Evidently David doesn’t think they should be there, so he prays that their names be “blotted out.”

What David knows (and we should know) is that there is nothing (zero, nada, zilch) that we can do to obtain our salvation. It’s a gift. It was given to us when we were conceived (or at least when we drew our first breath). Even God’s enemies are included into the Book of Life. Until they choose to be blotted out. You were included in salvation when you were born too. It’s God’s gift to every human being. It always has been.

The only person that can take your salvation away from you is you. And that will never happen without your knowledge. Nobody, not even King David, can pray successfully that your name be blotted out of the Book of Life. You won’t lose your gift because of a technicality in some law. No little mistake can steal your crown. Forgiveness and salvation have been granted to you since the foundation of this old world (Rev. 13:8).

The only person that can blot your name from the Book of Life is you. At your request, tearfully, and after a hard fight to change your mind, God will blot your name out. Not because of how naughty you are, but because you have chosen not to choose Him. Minus that, you are saved. You are in. You have a seat at the table.

This is what some would call Good News.

Recalibrate: Why do you think so many of God’s people question their eligibility to be included in heaven? Have you ever questioned your salvation?

Respond: Instead of questioning His free gift, thank God for including you in His plan, even before you were born.

Research: Read Revelation 13:8. What are the implications of the Lamb having been slain from “the foundation of the world?”

Remember: “Bring praise to God’s glory” (Ephesians 1:14 , ICB).

Mark Witas is the lead pastor for the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Walk.

Share with your little one The Words to Remember for this week: “Bring praise to God's glory” (Ephesians 1:14, ICB). Take a walk with your little one and see how nature brings praise to God's glory.

Imagine you get to build your own country! Maybe even build a blanket fort or tree house this week—and decide who can come and join you in your country. Do your best to invite everyone you think God would invite to His country and think about ways to make people comfortable. Remember that God made a home for you. Think about how He would like you to use your new country to help others.

The first two verses of this week’s passage are basically Paul saying who his letter is written to and how it’s written: by the will and grace of God. If anyone in the Bible knows about God’s grace, it’s Paul. He went from being a person who hunted down Christians to someone who led the church and preached the good news of Jesus all over his world. Even if we have messed up in the past, God’s grace is good enough for us. It was good enough for Paul . . .

One of my favorite pictures of God is contained in the whole idea of “glorious grace.” It isn’t some measly sprinkling or just a little dose of grace— it is a glorious grace. He doesn’t spare anything or hold anything back for us, but instead He keeps pouring out His love upon us. It is easy for me to view salvation as sin management. As long as I have all of my life put together, spend time with God, pray, and am nice to those around me, then I will be saved. However, it is important for me to realize that my salvation does not come from what I am doing, but through what He did and is still doing in my life. His grace covers my shortcomings and so I can stand confidently knowing that I am forgiven. What does His grace mean to you? How does this change the way you worship Him? Spend some time today thanking God and praising Him for His overflowing grace, and meditating on how it affects you.

Zan Long is GRC director for faith development groups. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jenniffer Ogden serves as the children and family pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in College Place, Washington.
Andrew Jones teaches grades seven and eight at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado. He is originally from Oregon and attends Boulder Church.
Emily Ellis is a junior studying theology at Walla Walla University and interning at the Eastgate Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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