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Conformed to Christ

October 20, 2019

October 20, 2019 • Cheryl Elton • HEBREWS 4:14-16; 1 PETER 4:12-13

In recent years, our local high school has turned out two star basketball players. One, since graduating, has gone on to play in the NBA. The other, a senior, led the team to winning the state title this year. Yet when the coach is interviewed, he never boasts about one individual player, but rather, he praises the efforts of the whole team. “No achievement is reached by a sole player. It takes the skill and synergy of the entire team,” he says. Synergy occurs when combined efforts yield a greater result than the sum of individual parts, or in this case, players. The word comes from the Greek sunergeo, meaning “to work together.” It’s used in a commonly quoted verse of Scripture, Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” In the context of suffering, the apostle Paul wants the church to know that although God doesn’t cause their suffering, He will in all things—the seemingly good and bad—be working to bring to pass His desired plan for their ultimate good. We might easily think “good” refers to success, health, or happiness. But the next verse sheds further light: “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.” In every challenge or difficulty we face, we can be confident that God is working for our good by making us more and more like Jesus—the One who understands all our struggles and heartaches, our joys and triumphs. We can draw near to Him, trusting that He is working in all our circumstances for our good and His glory and kingdom purposes. In Christ, God shapes our lives to become more like His Son, a process that will one day be complete when we see Him face-to-face (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2). • When have you worked together with others to accomplish a goal or complete a task? • Can you recall a challenging circumstance in your life in which you saw God working? • Have you experienced a difficult time that God used to make you become more like Jesus? And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (NLT)

More from October 2019

Jesus Is Enough

October 31, 2019 • October 31, 2019 • Cara Campbell

When you feel like you don’t measure up...Jesus is enough. When you feel like no one sees you...Jesus is enough. When you feel like you’re alone...Jesus is enough. When the world tells you to be more and do more...Jesus is enough. When you’re tired, worn, and weak...Jesus is enough. When life feels heavy and hard...Jesus is enough. When the pressure is mounting...Jesus is enough. When your worry consumes...Jesus is enough. When guilt and shame creep in...Jesus is enough. When life feels uncertain...Jesus is enough. When you don’t feel like enough...Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough. And the guilt and shame we carry? They were nailed to the cross, paid for, removed—our sin forgiven and remembered no more. In Christ, we are free from bondage, free from having to strive for or win His love, free forever and given abundant life—life in Jesus (John 10:10). He fills in our cracks, using our weaknesses to show His strength. He faithfully walks beside us in trials. He guides us in uncertainty. He allows us to lay our burdens on Him rather than carry them alone. All because of His incredible love for us, a love that led Him to die on the cross for us—and to rise again—so that we could live forever with Him. Everything we need is in Him. Jesus is enough. • Reread today’s Bible verses. Why is Jesus enough? • How does knowing Jesus is enough change your perspective on what’s happening in your life? He [Jesus] has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (WEB)

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

October 30, 2019 • October 30, 2019 • Taylor Eising

Halloween can be a controversial time for Christians. While some view Halloween as a celebration of all that is dark, demonic, and evil, others view it as a community-building opportunity to share Jesus with their neighbors. Both sides have valid points, so which one should we pick? Halloween originated as a pagan holiday, believed to be a day when spirits came to earth to wreak havoc. To avoid being haunted, people would disguise themselves so that the spirits wouldn’t recognize them. Halloween has long been linked with witchcraft, evil spirits, and death, so naturally some Christians feel that we should avoid it. Other Christians, however, view modern-day Halloween as so far distanced from its pagan roots that it has turned into a harmless night of fun and fellowship. They note that many Christmas and Easter traditions have pagan roots too, but Christians now use these celebrations to glorify God. So, they say, “Why not do the same with Halloween?” They use Halloween as a way to connect with neighbors that they rarely see and tell them about Jesus. So who is right? Well, probably both. In today’s reading, Paul is discussing a controversial issue in the Corinthian church: Is it okay to eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol? Basically, Paul says, “Well, it’s up to you. You are free in Christ, so idols hold no power over you. Eat if you want, but watch those around you. Are you causing a fellow believer to stumble? If so, then don’t eat. It’s not worth it.” This can also be applied to Halloween. If your family celebrates Halloween, take full advantage of the opportunity to reach out to others, but don’t make other Christians feel bad because they choose not to celebrate. And if your family doesn’t celebrate Halloween, don’t look down on those who do celebrate. The most important thing is to love one another in Christ even when we disagree. • Do you celebrate Halloween? Why or why not? How can Christians demonstrate love to one another even while discussing topics they disagree on? • Why is it important to know your reasons for practicing the things you do (or don’t do)? With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 (CSB)

Cut and Polished

October 29, 2019 • October 29, 2019 • Sophia Grogg

When you were younger, did you ever think gemstones came out of the ground perfectly cut and polished? I did. It shocked a younger me to learn that, when gems are mined, they come out looking like small, lumpy rocks— dusted with grime and seemingly fit to be thrown away. People are like this too. We’re covered from head to toe with the dirt and grime of sin. And, though many of us may appear clean on the outside, we’re all equally grimy deep down. From the beginning of your life, the dust of the earth covers you, and there is no going back or erasing the sin and brokenness. But there is a way forward. Jesus came to earth to save us: to turn thieves, traitors, and liars into emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. He removes us from the ground, gently picking away at the sin we are encased in. Then He cleanses us, renewing our body, soul, and mind so we can praise Him (Romans 12:1-2)! He shapes us into His children, and the journey, though slow and difficult, transforms us. In Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit, we become more precious than the largest diamond ever found. Clothed in His righteousness, we become clean in our hearts, pure in our minds, and polished from our baby toes to the tops of our unruly heads of hair—looking forward to the day when we see Christ face-to-face, when we will be completely free from sin and death. In the meantime, we rejoice that we are saved through faith in Jesus, but we shouldn’t assume our lives will be easy. As Christians, we will face persecution and other trials. When all of it seems unbearable, we always have God to turn to: He is our expert craftsman, the One who dug us out of sin and cleansed us, making us new creations in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). As you go through life, remember: you are God’s gem—immeasurably precious in His sight. • What stuck out to you about today’s reading? • If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, He promises to complete the work of saving you from sin and death (Philippians 1:6). When you fail, how can this promise encourage you? • Who is a trusted Christian in your life that you can talk to about what it means to know Jesus? I rejoice greatly in the Lord, I exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 (CSB)