Archive of Daily Bible Lessons
May 19-30, 2004

  There was no Bible lesson on May 19, 2004


Ministry of Death versus Ministry of Life - law VERSUS grace
  There were no Bible lessons on May 21-24, 2004


Ministry of Condemnation VS Ministry of Righteousness


Free at last! Free at last!


Your Ministry of Mercy and Grace

Bible Lesson
May 20, 2004

Ministry of Death versus Ministry of Life

The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious . . . how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? (2 Corinthians 3:6-8)

Today's Bible verses give you yet another comparison between legalism and the Spirit-filled life.

  • These verses compare *the ministry of death* VERSUS *the ministry of life.*
  • The Old Testament's covenant of law is the *ministry of death.*
  • The New Testament's covenant of grace is the *ministry of life.*
  • These terms come from correlating four phrases: "the letter kills . . . the Spirit gives life . . . the ministry of death . . . the ministry of the Spirit."

The ministry of any given local church will either be characterized as being based on legalism (a ministry of death) or as being based on grace (a ministry of life).

What might you experience if attending a law-based ministry that leaves you relying upon you own sufficiency? You might encounter judgmentalism and fleshly striving. You might find self-righteousness and false piety. You might discover hypocrisy and frustration. You might experience harshness or coldness.

Conversely, what might you experience if attending a grace-oriented ministry that encourages you to rely upon God's sufficiency?

  • Instead of judgmentalism and fleshly striving, you would encounter love and peace.
  • Instead of self-righteousness and false piety, you would find humility and confidence in God.
  • Instead of hypocrisy and frustration, you would discover genuineness and fulfillment.
  • Instead of harshness and coldness, you would detect gentleness and warmth.

Take a moment right now to examine what you have been taught, and to evaluate your own Christian walk closely. Then answer, in your heart, the following questions from the Word of God...

  • "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
  • Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
  • Have you suffered so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?
  • Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3.2-5)

For You to Memorize
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God
Not of works, lest anyone should boast.

(Ephesians 2.8-9)

Dear Lord of life, convict my heart if I should ever bring to others a law-based ministry of death. Please develop in me a grace-oriented ministry of life, by the work of Your Spirit, Amen

Bible Lesson
May 25, 2004

Ministry of Condemnation versus
Ministry of Righteousness

For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. (2 Corinthians 3:6-8)

Today's Bible verse shows the sharp contrast between living by the old covenant of law versus living by the new covenant of grace.

  • God's perfect law is a "ministry of condemnation," which compels people to draw upon human sufficiency.
  • God's glorious grace is a "ministry of righteousness," which allows people to draw upon God's sufficiency.

If you should attempt to live by the law, then you would put yourself in the sad position of walking in condemnation.

Moreover, you soon would discover yourself to be putting other people -- your friends and family --- under condemnation. This is inevitable, since the law is a "ministry of condemnation."

Living by the law puts the emphasis on YOU, and your personal performance. The law demands that you live according to a perfect standard.
"You shall be holy." (Leviticus 19:2)

  • The only power that the law offers you is your own human ability. The problem is, the Bible correctly states that your natural ability is flawed by unrighteousness. "We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6)
  • This means that, in the flesh, you are categorically incapable of producing a righteous life. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing." (John 6:63)
  • Consequently, if you should try to live by law, you would have a sense of futility and condemnation.

On the other hand, when you live by grace, you GROW in righteousness. When you minister the message of grace to others, they also will grow in righteousness.

  • Godliness results from ministering the new covenant of grace, because it is a "ministry of righteousness."
  • The message of grace proclaims that righteousness is available by faith. "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed . . . even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe." (Romans 3:21-22)

Does this mean that you, as a Christian, have a *license* to disregard and disobey God's holy commandments? Absolutely not! Jesus said: "If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14.15)

  • You don't need to obey the law IN ORDER to be a member of God's family. Your ARE saved, and shall forever be God's own beloved child. "God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' " (Galatians 4.4b-6)
  • However, since you ARE in God's family, your Father fully expects you to behave accordingly. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2.10)

When you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, HIS righteousness was *credited* to your account -- forever.

In addition to this initial gift of righteousness (imputed, or credited to your account in heaven), God's grace also provides you with ongoing practical righteousness for your daily life on earth: "That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4)

To better understand how this works, picture a parent who is helping an infant son or daughter learn to walk.

  • A loving parent will not shout curses at the child each time he falls -- this would be *law* talking.
  • No, a loving parent will praise the child for each successful step, dust off the child's bottom when he falls, help him get back up, hug him, wipe away the tears, and encourage him to try-try-try-again!

IT IS THE SAME with your Christian walk. Yes, you will stumble and fall from time to time. But your heavenly *Dad* is right there beside you -- not to yell at you for falling, but to help you get back up and keep trying.

Don't just sit there and cry. Grab hold of Father's hand and get on with the rest of your life!

Blessed be the God and Father
Of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
Who comforts us in all our tribulation,
That we may be able to comfort those
Who are in any trouble,
With the comfort with which we ourselves are Comforted by God.
(2 Corinthians 1.3-4)

Lord God of righteousness, I have often walked in legalistic condemnation. Also, I may have pointed others -- loved ones and friends -- in that direction. Forgive me, Lord. Please teach me how to walk in the righteousness of Jesus. Please take my hand and lead me. Equip me to minister Your righteousness to others, in Jesus name, Amen.

Bible Lesson
May 26, 2004

Free at last! Free at last!

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

In prior lessons, you have observed that the old covenant of law produces spiritual bondage in those who attempt to live under it.
God's great heavenly remedy for that bondage is His new covenant of grace, because it produces spiritual liberty.

  • This liberty is a work of God's Holy Spirit. "Now the Lord is the Spirit."
  • The life-giving Lord of grace is the Spirit of God: "the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)

Living by rules and regulations has a deadening, binding spiritual effect...

  • "Obey the law and live" was the burden that the Pharisee's laid upon their congregations: "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders." (Matthew 23:4)
  • Jesus came to liberate those people {and YOU!} from the burden of the law. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed." (Luke 4:18)

Rescuing you from sin and unrighteousness is the fundamental, liberating work of Jesus.

  • Now, you are free to grow in a life of righteousness. Your newfound freedom is not for personal indulgence. It is for serving the Lord. "As free, yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16)
  • Now that you ARE free in Jesus, you can use your freedom to lovingly minister to others. "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

As you walk in humble dependence, the Holy Spirit imparts to you the freedom that is in Christ Jesus. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." (John 8.36)

  • Your freedom in Christ is the freedom to serve God out of love, NOT out of law and necessity.
  • Christ set you free -- not free to do whatever you want, because that would lead you right back into slavery to the lusts of your flesh.
  • Instead, thanks to Christ, you are now free and able to do what was impossible before -- to love unconditionally, and to live unselfishly. "For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave." (1 Corinthians 7.22)
  • In other words, Christ set you *free to obey God* -- not of necessity, but of love; not of your power, but of God's power.

If the servant plainly says,
"I love my master... I will not go out free,"
Then his master shall... pierce his ear with an awl;
And he shall serve him forever.

(Exodus 21.5 - 6)

Dear God of all spiritual liberation, I praise You for setting me free from slavery to sin and self. As a free person, I willingly and joyfully come to You. Lord, *pierce my ear* that I may serve you forever! In Jesus name, Amen.

Bible Lesson - May 27, 2004
Your Ministry of Mercy and Grace

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1)

In addition to heavenly liberty, God desires to mark your life with other spiritual characteristics. One of these is the godly encouragement that comes when you serve God.

The service you now render to the Lord is based upon mercy:
"since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy."

  • You deserved condemnation by God and separation from Him for eternity. Instead, God had mercy upon you, forgiving your sins and saving you from eternal condemnation. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us." (Titus 3:5)
  • Furthermore, by God's mercy He has accepted you into His service. "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy." (1 Timothy 1:12-13)
  • God desires that you serve Him by being a *channel* for His grace unto your unsaved friends and family. "I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me." (Ephesians 3:7)
  • Your service to God is a "ministry of reconciliation," by which God grants you the authority to share His Gospel with your unsaved friends and family. "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5.18)

God has appointed you to proclaim His Gospel to your unsaved friends and family. He does NOT expect you to "get them saved" -- that decision is strictly between Him and them.

  • If you bring the Gospel message to someone who receives Christ, don't get the idea that it was you who did the saving. Conversely, if you see no fruit when you share the Gospel, don't take it personally.
  • You are the messenger. You are NOT the message itself. Neither are you the one who saves. ONLY God does that.
  • Jesus counsels you to always remember: "He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me." (Luke 10.16)

As a servant of God, you will at times be subjected to great disappointments.

  • The more you serve God, the bigger *target* that you will become in the eyes of Satan and the world of sinners.
  • Since Satan and the world are unable to directly attack God, they attack His servants instead.
  • The more dedicated that you are as a servant, the more likely it is that the enemy will attack YOU. Jesus put you on notice: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John 15.19-20a)
  • Paul's testimony of service is similar to many of God's servants down through the ages. "For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears." (2 Corinthians 7:5)

When the going gets tough, don't give up. Remember Jesus. "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." (Hebrews 12:3)

As for them,
Whether they hear or whether they refuse...
Yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.
(Ezekiel 2.5)

O God of mercy and grace, You know how often discouragement rolls over me like crashing waves. Please remind me that my service unto You depends on Your mercy, Your grace, Your power -- and NOT on my capabilities or performance. Thank You, Lord!


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