Matthew 3:16-17

Trinity | Devotion #1: Matthew 3:16-17
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I am new to the parent game. Figuring out holiday traditions has been one of the more enjoyable conversations I get to have with my wife. Last Easter, my wife and I decided that we would get our boys gifts that would have to fit into three categories. These categories were, “something fun,” “something to wear,” and “something to read.” We both agreed that we wanted to make sure any books we purchased had some “Jesus merit” to them. While wandering around a Christian bookstore, my wife found cute books about the ark, Bible sight words, and other colorful age-appropriate books for my, at the time, infant son and year-and-a-half son. What did I find you ask? I somehow found a children’s book about one of the hardest topics to explain. Yes, I found a children’s book that helps explain the Holy Trinity! My wife thought I was insane for getting this book because our sons would not be able to understand the complexity of the Trinity. However, in due time, I know I will need to teach my sons one of the most complex and necessary theological concepts.

The very difficult part of understanding the Trinity is there are only a handful of moments when God is fully present in all three persons. One of the easiest moments to see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit present is when Jesus is baptized. Matthew 3:16-17 says, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” At this moment we see Jesus, the Son, being baptized. We read the God, the Father, saying that Jesus was “my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Lastly, we see the Spirit of God descending like a dove. The account in Matthew might be the easiest story to see Father, Son, and Spirit all interacting with each other. 

We have to understand that God operates in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. We also must look at God as one, Father, Son and Spirit are God. We must also know that each person of the Trinity has a different role. All three are all God, but all three “operate” differently. Run that through a few mental filters and when your brain starts to hurt you will be where you need to be when it comes to understanding the Trinity! Many people brush aside complex theology and leave it to a Pastor or scholars, but understanding the Trinity is so important!

When you look at any relationship you have, there are different complexities to it. I am a son of my father and a father to my son. I never treat my son as my father, and my father never treats my son like his son. It is important to understand that how we operate about others brings closeness. Way back in my young adult days I was given the opportunity to preach. At that time, I lived in complex theology, and I wrote a sermon titled “A Shallow view of the Trinitarian Godhead, Creates a Shallow Doxological Response.” I look back on that and realize I was a bit of a showoff. I should have simply titled this message “Not Knowing all Three Members of the Trinity Personally, can Affect the Way You Worship God.” This is why Matthew chapter 3 is so important. It is a perfect story to see all three members of the Trinity at work at the same time. At some point, I will have to teach my sons about God as Trinity, and this will be a tough task. I am welcoming the struggle because knowing them all personally will help the way my boys worship.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Salvation by Faith Alone & Grace of God | Devotion #6: Ephesians 2:8-10
Jayson Combs | Family Pastor

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Firmly, Awana stands. I grew up as a “church kid.”  Every Wednesday night, I was a part of a program called Awana, which is a program focused on Scripture memorization. Currently, we have this program at all of our locations. Ephesians 2:8-10 is one of the passages I memorized in Awana that I have never forgotten. I am guilty; however, of skipping right over these verses because I have heard it so many times. We are never done learning, though, and fortunately, I continue to glean truth from passages I have heard over and over. We could spend hours on this particular passage, but I want to focus on four key words for this study.

The first word is “grace.” Yes, you have probably heard the definition of grace as “unmerited favor,” but what does that mean? Paul effectively explains the word grace in Ephesians 2:5. He says that “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” In other words, when you had nothing, He gave everything. Romans 5:8 states, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” To sin means to reject His ways, and to reject Him. I believe this verse should pull at all believers. Jesus died on the cross even when we were the ones spitting in his face. That, my friends, is grace.

The second word is “faith.” Yes, it is by grace that we are saved, but Paul also makes a reference to faith in verse 8 (KJV), “for by grace are ye saved through faith.” Faith is our response to salvation and our action. In chapter 1 verse 13, it says we hear the word of truth, and then we believe. Faith is also a gift of God, like grace (v.8). It’s all His gift to us; grace, faith, and salvation. Therefore, we cannot boast of faith because it is only through God’s grace that we have faith. Tony Merida, in Christ Centered Exposition, says, “Faith is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ.” 

The third word is “boast.” When we “get grace,” we can understand that boasting about our part in salvation and faith is laughable. Paul says it well in the first chapter of his first letter to Corinthians when he says, “So that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:29-31). Church, let us boast in the Lord. Let us boast about Him at our work, with our family, and in our neighborhood.  

The final word is “works.” Scripture clearly says we are not saved because of good works, but rather as followers of Christ, we are created to do good works. Ephesians 4:24 puts it this way, “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Again, we do not do good works to be saved, but I believe the reverse is the truth we need to understand. If good works are not evident in our lives and we have no desire to follow Him and to live for him, then where is the salvation?  Salvation takes us to good works.

What an amazing passage! I challenge you to memorize this passage and make it part of your life.

1 John 5:11-13

Salvation by Faith Alone & Grace of God | Devotion #5: 1 John 5:11-13
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

A few years ago, I stopped by my bank on the way home from work to make a deposit. I cannot remember exactly what for, but I am not a huge fan of going to the bank. However, I now love all of the mobile banking apps out there. Sorry, you are not reading to hear about my banking preferences. So, as I walk out of the bank, I hear this lady yelling at me attempting to get my attention. For some reason, I was off of my game that day, I pride myself in being a pretty street smart person, and for some reason, I walked up to a stranger’s car in a bank parking lot; yes, not the smartest move I have ever made. As I approached her car, she did something I would never have expected; she began spraying me with cologne. I noticed she had hundreds of bottles in her car and it felt like her goal was to spray me with every one of them! I was caught off guard and was ready to walk away until she said the magic word, well at least the words that caught my attention, “I am running a DEAL today!” This was like magic to my ears; I love a good deal. She said that the bottles normally sell for $75, but today she was selling them for $20. I thought to myself, “How can I pass up on such a good deal?” So, we narrowed down to the best smelling one, and I handed over $20 to a lady in a bank parking lot, and she handed me the merchandise.  

Now, I live about 5 minutes from my bank, and so I thought I would surprise my wife with my new smell. I knew she would be so excited about how good of a deal I got and also that I had some semblance of thought on personal smell. So, I sprayed myself a good dozen times on the ride home to the point my car, myself, and probably those cars around me could recognize how good I smelt! I arrived home and walked in with my chest held high in an attempt to impress my wife. She just looked at me in confusion and asked what I was doing. I moved closer sticking my chest out further hoping she would ask about my smell, and to my amazement, she never did. At this point I was frustrated, so I skipped her asking me and told her the story of my amazing deal and how I thought she would be so impressed with me, but to my dismay, she was not. She just looked at me with a crooked face dissecting what I had just done. She said to me, “I think I recognize that bottle.” I responded, “Of course you do, you have seen it at one of your fancy stores!” But she said, “No” and then a light went on, “I know where I have seen that bottle. You can buy it at the dollar store!” At that moment, I realized I had been taken in a bad deal. I was taken for $19 when I thought I had gained so much. 

This is an embarrassing story, but one that shows how a bad deal can work. However, Jesus Christ has offered us the best deal of all, the grace of God. Salvation comes by grace and grace alone. It is not something we can earn by doing good things or deserve by living a “good” life. Simply putting our faith in Jesus Christ and trusting in His perfect plan, we too can have eternal life. He does not ask much of us because He already has done the heavy lifting on the cross. He conquered death, Hell, and the grave; His grace covers all of our sins. 

We are told a powerful promise in 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” Grace is a free gift; it is the best deal we could ever take. If you have never received this gift, make today the day. If you have the best deal of all time, make sure you appreciate the work done by Jesus and realize His grace is enough to cover all of your sins: past, present, and future.

John 3:16

Salvation by Faith Alone & Grace of God | Devotion #4: John 3:16
Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

This is most famous verse in all of the Bible!  This is the verse that everyone knows, even if they are not religious at all.  It is John 3:16!  

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

You probably know it by heart.  What does it mean?  Have you ever stopped to truly digest the words and the meaning behind the message?  Here is a quick breakdown.

“For God so loved the world”   There is a God.  This God loves us.  Humans are God’s most precious creation.  God’s most precious creation made a mistake and sinned.  Because of this sin, God’s most precious creation was separated from Him.  Imagine this scenario.  Imagine loving someone so deeply, but you cannot interact with that someone because they made a mistake.  God is too holy to interact with the sin that infests humanity.  So, God devised a way to get us back to Him and allow us to interact once again.  

“That he gave his only Son”  The only way God could reunite His most precious creation to Himself was to sacrifice His Son.  He was the only person that could be holy enough to atone for the sins of the world.  Do you think God wanted to do this?  Would you want to sacrifice your child for someone else?  Let me answer that for you…NO WAY!  That is how much God’s love for us was and is.  Despite not wanting to, He did it anyway.

“That whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” – Now what do we do because Jesus, God’s Son, paid the ultimate sacrifice?  We do like Romans 10:9-10 says, “Confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe with our hearts God raised him from the dead.”  When we do this, God’s Word says that WE WILL BE SAVED!  That is how God’s love for the world should impact us.  It should cause us to believe in Him with everything.  It should cause us to love Him in return.  It should cause us to want to serve Him with our lives.

As a church, we believe this to be the only way you can attain eternal life in Heaven.  Humanity cannot merit salvation in any way.  It is simply a belief each person has to make for themselves.  Salvation comes by faith in God alone.  This is the Gospel.  It is the only way God could get us back to Himself.  The decision is now up to you.  What have you decided?  Or what will you decide?

Romans 3:20-24

Salvation by Faith Alone & Grace of God | Devotion #3: Romans 3:20-24
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight…” Romans 3:20

One of the important truths of the Scripture that we must understand is there has only ever been and only ever will be one means of salvation. For some this may be a radical thought that differs substantially from what you have been taught. Nonetheless, it is true. Throughout the whole of human history, one method of salvation has been given.

Some have, in error, taught that obedience to the Law of Moses was how the saints of the Old Testament were saved and reached the glory of Heaven. Romans 3:20, clearly teaches, “…by works of the law no human being will be justified….” Clearly, Abraham, Moses, David, and every other ancient saint was not justified, redeemed, or saved because of their adherence to the Mosaic Law. This principle continues today; no person regardless of the depth of their personal devotion can restore a right relationship with the God of the universe simply by following the letter of the law. Just a few verses later, Paul writes, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are unable to obey the law (James 2:10). So, if the law does not provide a means of salvation, what is the law’s purpose? God has given us the law because “…through the law comes knowledge of sin” (3:20). God’s Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai with the sole purpose of revealing how far from God’s holiness and perfection we truly are.

That understanding leads us to the great and rather depressing reality that we cannot save or rescue ourselves from God’s wrath that is on us. The principle question of this portion of Romans chapter 3 is, “How can we be made right before God?” The Scripture says, “…the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

God in His marvelous grace, sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin on the cross of Calvary. He was buried but rose again on the third day. It is through Christ’s atoning work on the cross that the gift of salvation is offered to mankind. We receive that gift, “…through faith….” We believe in what Jesus did as the only means to rescue us from the deserved punishment from God that we were facing.

Back to the original point, God’s Word gives only one way of restoring a right standing before a Holy God, “…by grace you have been saved through faith.” Abraham, Moses, David, and the saints prior to the cross looked forward in faith (see Hebrews chapter 11) to the cross, while we look back in faith to the work of Christ on the cross. Salvation has always ever been and always ever will be by grace through faith.

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