Garments of Grace

April, May, June 2011

Want to learn more about Garments of Grace? Use these Bible Studies for personal devotion, group Bible studies, or teaching a church class. Below are links to the lessons in this 13-part series.

Lesson 1: In the Loom of Heaven (Isaiah 64, Romans 3, Matthew 22)
If all of your life you have acted wisely by generally obeying your parents and God, you are at a distinct disadvantage in one important area: righteousness by faith. There is nothing like tumbling into a terrible sin to teach the important lesson that we have nothing of ourselves that will save us. We may be better than most of those we know, but we are absolutely lost unless we depend completely on Jesus' life, death and resurrection on our behalf. With this lesson we begin a new series that focuses on the symbolism in the Bible that teaches us of our need for a Savior. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and consider what Jesus' robe of righteousness means!

Lesson 2: From Exalted to Cast Down (Genesis 3, Revelation 12, Ezekiel 28)
If righteousness is like a robe, what does evil wear? This week we examine what the Bible has to say about the origin of Satan and of evil. Our study is complicated by the fact that some of the writing seems to be symbolic. What is real and what is symbolic? How do we get to the bottom of the facts? Let's plunge into this adventure in our study of the Bible!

Lesson 3: A Garment of Innocence (Genesis 1-3)
A once popular country and western song by Toby Keith contains the line "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." Do you feel that way sometimes? Innocence is better than knowing? The problem with erasing knowledge is that the clock of time does not turn backwards. (Unless you have Alzheimer's.) Once you know, you know. This week we study the garment of innocence, and two people who desperately wished that they "didn't know now what they didn't know then." Let's dive in!

Lesson 4: The Coat of Different Colors (Genesis 29, 30, 37 & 41)
Do you struggle with feelings of inferiority? Does jealousy sometimes cause you to do things that you would not otherwise do? What portion of your life is wasted trying to prove to others that you are worthy? Has jealousy altered the course of your life and that of your family? This week we turn our attention to a family filled with jealousy and feelings of inferiority. Terrible things happened as a result. Let's dig into our Bible story and see what we can learn!

Lesson 5: The Priestly Garments of Grace (Hebrews 7 & 8, Exodus 28)
Do you ever ask yourself, "How do I know that Christianity is the right faith?" Judaism is older. Islam is younger than Judaism or Christianity, but is expanding rapidly. They are all"related" religions in that they share a common text (the Old Testament of the Bible). My Jewish friends tell me that Christianity hijacked their religion. Muslims accept parts of the Old Testament and New Testament. I think it is fair to say that Mohammed believed that he was the latest (and greatest) in the line of Old Testament prophets. A large part of the answer is in our study this week about the sanctuary system. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what God has for us!

Lesson 6: Elijah's and Elisha's Mantle (1 Kings 19, 2 Kings 2)
Do you remember the video game Donkey Kong? Although it has been a very long time since I've played a video game, I still recall trying to maneuver Mario up the series of inclines. We would be making great progress, and then suddenly get run over by a series of barrels or other hazards and find ourselves back at the bottom. Is your spiritual life a lot like that? Great progress followed by a great fall? Small progress followed by a small fall? Our study this week is Elijah, a man who would grasp the principles of Donkey Kong. Let's leap into our study of the Bible!

Lesson 7: In the Shadow of His Wings (2 Samuel 12, Psalms 32)
When I was growing up, I learned in my Christian school that sin was followed by calamity. That is often true. You deserve the punishment, you get the punishment, and you should know better than to ask God to shield you from what you deserve, right? Maybe not. Our lesson this week looks at one of the Bible's greatest warriors for God, who engaged in great sin, and then suffered punishment. But, for some reason, he still seemed to be grateful for God's protection. It seems a mystery. Let's jump into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

Lesson 8: Garments of Splendor (Isaiah 1 & 61, Romans 3, Luke 10)
The controversy will probably never end over what is appropriate for worship in church. I have a clear preference and I know others who clearly disagree with me. Our lesson this week touches on something much deeper - what lies underneath our worship? Should we be alert to an evil which can lurk beneath our worship and invalidate it? Since we exist to give praise and honor to our God, let's dive into our Bible study to uncover whether we are guilty of an evil which makes even our worship unacceptable to God!

Lesson 9: A Brand Plucked From the Fire (Zechariah 1-3)
The news this week is that the head of the International Monetary Fund, and the man leading in the polls for the office of President of France, sexually attacked a woman cleaning his hotel room. Assuming this is true, how does such a thing happen? How can such a sophisticated, important, refined man engage in such horrible behavior? Can we safely laugh and point? Or, are you and I capable of such things? God's answer is "yes," this should be a moment of truth for all of us. In Romans 3:10-18 Paul quotes the Old Testament statement that we are all "worthless." No one is righteous. We are all destined to burn (Malachi 4:1). Our lesson this week is about being plucked from that fire. That sounds like an important goal! Let's dive into our Bible study and find out more.

Lesson 10: The Prodigal's New Clothes (Luke 15)
Jesus tells us in Luke 7:47 that those who are forgiven much, love much. Those who are forgiven little, love little. Have you been "good" your entire life? Were you obedient to your parents, the school authorities and the state authorities? Were you always in church and still are? If I'm describing you, then identifying a specific time that you were converted is hard, right? If none of this sounds familiar, were you always getting in trouble? If you have been "bad," but are in church now, you undoubtedly clearly recall your conversion experience. Now that we all know who we are, what if God told us a story whose point is that good people are not entering the Kingdom of Heaven? Let's dive into our Bible study and learn more!

Lesson 11: The Wedding Garment (Matthew 21-22)
Matthew 21 contains stories which reveal that God has enemies among humans. The problem with these enemies is that they do not at first appear to be opponents, they appear to be supporters. Last week we studied the parable of the prodigal son and learned that the salvation of the older, "good," brother was in dispute. All of these stories are a bit unsettling for us "good" Christians, and drive us to better understand the gospel. Let's jump into our study of the Bible to be sure that we are not in the camp of God's enemies!

Lesson 12: More Clothing Imagery (Mark 5, John 13 & 19, Matthew 26-27)
"Man bites dog." "Revenge of the nerds." "Ugly guy marries beautiful girl." These phrases give us unexpected news. Normally dogs bite humans, the smart, good-looking, popular teens seem to prevail, and the handsome guy marries the beautiful girl. What if the Kingdom of God has everything in reverse? Is God leading a kingdom of nerds? Or, is that just what the world thinks? If God has things reversed, why? Is there a blessing in this for the average person? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and find out!

Lesson 13: Clothed in Christ (Romans 8 & 13, 1 Corinthians 15)
In the last several lessons we winced when we learned that "good" Christians may well be like the older brother in the story of the prodigal (Luke 15), or the religious Jews in the story of the "Good Samaritan" (Luke 10), or the friends of the king in the Matthew 22 story of the wedding feast. The "less righteous" readers of the lesson, on the other hand, were rejoicing. Salvation by grace is good reason to rejoice and keep on rejoicing. But, Jesus gives us all ("good" and "bad" Christians alike) sobering news when He describes (Matthew 7:13-14)the path to salvation as being "narrow" with "only a few find[ing] it." How can it be "narrow" when it is given to all who believe? Is putting on the wedding garment of salvation a one-time event which we can later forget? Or, is it more? Let's dive into our Bible study and find out!

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