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: Romans 4:13-25 in the Contemporary English Version. Note 1- 3 insights or questions.
There are many biblical problems with this view, but I think the biggest problem is that it destroys freedom, which God apparently puts at a higher value than life itself. (For a time, God allows evil, because to suppress it would destroy freedom. That means His concern for freedom must be greater than His purpose to destroy evil. Eventually, when all have freely made up their minds, God will take His friends home with Him, and will sadly turn away from those who don’t want Him anyway, leaving them to suffer the inevitable and terrible consequence of distrusting Him. Evil will never rise again.)
God’s friends, like Abraham, are those who trust Him and are growing in their trustworthiness. It’s a law of nature that we become like the things we love and worship, so as they focus on Christ, they become more and more like Him: patient, constructive, generous, selfless, courteous, even-tempered, non-judgmental, forgiving, persistent, trusting, and hopeful (1 Corinthians 13). They reveal “trust-grounded obedience” (Romans 16:26, CJB), which is a humble willingness to listen to Him and follow His leading. (The Greek word for obedience, ὑπακοή (hypakoē), means “to listen under.”) Although these friends may not be faultless and flawless, they are perfectly willing to listen to Him, and, as they do, they grow more and more mature in their “perfect” relationship with Him.
If we focus on relationship, and not obedience, the obedience of trust comes naturally, and, as it does, we become more and more trustworthy (Hosea 6:6). Ellen White tells us that as “children of God become Christlike in character, they will be obedient to God’s commandments. . . .” and that He will then be able to “trust them to be of the number who shall compose the family of heaven. Clothed in the glorious apparel of Christ’s righteousness, they have a place at the King’s feast. They have a right to join the blood-washed throng” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 315).
They trust (have faith in) God. They won’t cheat. And they “have a right” to live in heaven’s atmosphere of selfless love.
Recalibrate: Is the “perfection” required of us flawless behavior or is it a growing willingness to humbly listen to God and follow where He may lead?
Respond: Discover the ways of listening to God, and pray for the patience needed to respond with “trust-grounded obedience.”
Research: In the Bible, who did the least to “earn” their salvation? Does anyone need do more?
Remember: “So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift . . .” (Romans 4:16, NLT).
Dr. Mark Johnson is executive director of the public health department in Jefferson County, one of the most populous counties in the state of Colorado. He received his medical training at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University and is board certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is chair of the vision board at Boulder Adventist Church where he is a regular preacher. Mark is married to Diane Johnson and they have two adult children and three granddaughters.
Learning to listen is such an art form. Present your child with different sounds: clicking fingers, clapping hands, a snort, pot drumming with a wooden spoon. Make the sound, then stop. See if your little one notices the pauses as much as the plays. See if you can lead the expectation for the next sound and what that sound will be. Will it be a snort, a click, a clap, or a bang? Listening for God’s leading and waiting for it is such a beautiful work of art. Learning to do as He asks us, well, that is genius.
The Bible is filled with stories both about people who listened and did what God asked them to do and those who did not. We have been talking about playing on “Team Live Love.” Imagine that you are playing on this team in the World Cup. God is your coach and team owner. He has promised you that the tournament is already won, however, He still wants to play the game with you. Maybe how you play the game will encourage another kid to have a go at playing Live Love. Listening to and doing what God asks us, even when it’s difficult, shows that we know He is the coach and that we are the players. He is God and we are His people. Live love with all that you have.
The promise that is better than all the rest is Jesus. The promise is His life, His death, and His resurrection. It’s the fact that He overcame sin and death once and for all. The tricky part here is that we are living in the in-between part. The time between when Jesus was raised and the time when He will come back again. It’s tricky because it takes a lot of faith to know that Jesus has defeated sin when we see it all around us every day. What are some of the effects of sin you struggle with having to see or maybe even experience in your own life? Jesus was raised from the dead to make us right with God. Sin made us and everything else wrong, but the promise in Jesus is to make things right. Make a list of the things that you would like to see made right again. Take some time today and over this weekend to pray about each of those things—with faith. Ask God for the faith to believe that those things have been overcome through Jesus.