December 17 | Friendship

Text: Romans 5.6-8

After considering the scandalous past of the people for whom Jesus goes looking, you too might furrow your brow. Jesus goes straight through the despised area of Samaria to locate an adulterous woman (John 4.1-26) and now we find him purposefully befriending the chief of tax oppression (Luke 19.1-10). But Jesus’ unlikely company demonstrates his extravagant love and his desire to call sinners his friends.

In John 15.9-17, Jesus explicitly describes his intention to call his disciples “friends.” Not because they’d choose his friendship, but because the “radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1.3) wrapped in human flesh (John 1.14) chooses them. Yes, even Jesus’ disciples need Jesus to choose them: to demonstrate a greater love by laying down his life sacrificially for them, teaching them about his Heavenly Father, and appointing them to experience and give away his love.

Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19.10) and he is interested in befriending you. Whether you relate with the adulterous woman, the tax collector, or one of Jesus’ disciples, Jesus invites you to be his friend because of his death on the cross (Romans 5.6-8).

Know for sure, everyone who calls on the name of Lord will be saved (Romans 10.13). Substitute your name in for the “us” and “we” and memorize your personal version of Romans 5.8.

December 16 | The Response

Text: Luke 5.27-32

In Eastern culture to receive hospitality was to extend friendship. Jesus, by choosing to be a guest of Zacchaeus, meant he was befriending one of THEM—those the Jews blamed for their current oppression. Up to this point, the Jews had been under oppression for what seemed like an eternity: from the Egyptians, Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, and Romans. No wonder the Jews were upset when their promised rescuer comes and befriends THEM (Luke 19.7).

Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, he befriended another tax collector named Levi. In response, Levi held a great banquet for Jesus and invited an inordinate number of people to honor him. Because of this, the Jews became angry about Jesus’ choice of company. This response never changed even after Jesus described his mission to heal the spiritual sickness of their depravity, including those who believed they were “well” (Luke 5.31).

With great compassion, Jesus levels the playing field—oppressors and the oppressed all need a doctor. We are all spiritually sick whether we admit it or not. In fact, a response of anger is likely a refusal to see our own spiritual sickness.

Today, discuss the One Big Question with your small group or a trusted friend . . . Over the eight weeks of the series Found, in what areas have you discovered you are lost?

December 15 | Our Search

Text: Luke 19.1-14

As Jesus heads back to Jerusalem, the Jews begin their annual preparation for Passover to celebrate their liberation from Egypt. It’s precisely during this national holiday when Jesus stops in the city of Jericho to meet with the chief tax collector, a man hated and feared for collaborating with the Romans and guilty of oppressing the Jews. Jesus deliberately stops his journey to take notice of a man searching for him.

Zacchaeus’ curiosity peaked at the news of Jesus’ arrival as he undoubtedly heard much about Jesus. Jews in Jericho would have openly debated the possibility of Jesus being their Messiah, his circle of tax collectors would’ve known about the great banquet Jesus attended (Luke 5.27-32), and perhaps he’d heard about some of the conversations Jesus had with his colleagues about “lost” things being “found.” Whatever it was, this oppressor’s interest in Jesus became a priority as he disregarded proper etiquette and ascended the tree.

Perhaps you can relate with Zacchaeus: you’ve heard a lot about Jesus but never caught a glimpse of him yourself. Or maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of Jesus but, unlike Zacchaeus, you haven’t yet gladly sought him out or welcomed him in.

No matter your past, Deuteronomy 4.29 says, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him. . .” Seek the Lord as you welcome him into your day by listening to “The More I Seek You” by Keri Jobe.

December 12 | Change

Text: 1 Corinthians 6.9-11

In Luke 7 Simon made a mistake we’re all prone to make: stereotyping. The woman washing Jesus’ feet was a known “sinner.” She’d probably committed a sexual sin that became public. In Simon’s eyes, this woman was out of God’s favor and would be the last person on earth to be made right with God.

Early followers of Jesus were also guilty of this same error. In 1 Corinthians 6.9-10, Paul describes the people who won’t be in the kingdom of God. But he  follows with a humbling statement saying, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified” (1 Corinthians 6.11a).

We cannot write somebody off from the grace of God. Like Simon, we might think, “There’s no way that person could ever come to God.” But Paul reminds us we are them! They are us! We all need to be saved and there isn’t one of us more qualified by our “goodness” to receive the mercy of God. God can change anyone!

May our hearts be open to the possibility that anyone can change—God’s reach is farther than we may presume. Today, thank God for his freely-offered grace and mercy in your life and take a moment to pray for someone specific who still needs to be found by Jesus.

December 11 | Faith

Text: Ephesians 2.8-9

The story in Luke 7.36-50 of the woman washing Jesus’ feet is ultimately a story of faith, forgiveness, and restoration. Jesus’ final statement to her is, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace” (Luke 7.50). While for the benefit of the woman who had placed her faith in him, the statement was also intended to correct the thinking of the watching Pharisees.

Jesus’ use of the word “saved” was probably a bit confusing for the Jews. They believed they were automatically in right relationship with God because they were God’s chosen people. They believed God blessed and accepted them based on their “cleanliness” and adherence to the Law.

Jesus’ statement here challenges both of these ideas: it’s the woman’s faith that’s saved her and, ironically, he doesn’t declare Simon “saved” even though he’s the model Israelite and as “clean” as a guy could be.

The Apostle Paul reiterates this reality saying, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God” (Ephesians 2.8).

Basically, it doesn’t matter what family you grew up in or how good you’ve been, your salvation comes through placing your faith in Jesus Christ—believing Jesus died on the cross for your sins, rose again defeating death, and is now Lord over all creation.

As you welcome God into your day, memorize Ephesians 2.8-9 as a reminder of God’s gracious gift of salvation to us through Jesus Christ.

December 10 | Gratitude

Text: Ephesians 2.1-7

In Luke 7.41-43 Jesus challenges Simon’s condescension with a parable. The essence of the parable is: the greater the gift, the greater the gratitude. One of the great challenges of Christianity is sustaining a sense of awe towards the gravity of the debt we owed because of our sin and the magnitude of the gift we’ve been given in forgiveness through the cross.

If our awe decreases, our gratitude becomes lack-luster in response.

Ephesians 2 reminds us how wonderful the gift is we’ve been given; how we were “dead in our sin” and servants to the Enemy himself. But God would choose not to leave us dead.

The Message restates Ephesians 2.5-6 this way: “Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did this all on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.”

The woman washing Jesus’ feet in Luke 7 is immensely grateful for the mercy showed to her – it shows in her worship. This should also be true of us. As we grasp the magnitude of God’s gift of salvation, may our gratitude grow and be displayed in genuine acts of love for God.

Take some time to wrestle with this week’s One Big Question . . . How do you express your gratitude for Jesus’ forgiveness? Discuss this with your small group or a close friend.

December 9 | Cleanliness

Text: Mark 7.14-23

A high value in ancient Jewish culture was that of ceremonial “purity.” This came by separating from anything that would render a person unclean, such as avoiding physical contact with any substance or person that would contaminate their “cleanliness.” This is why Simon quips, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7.39). For Simon and the Pharisees, if they touched something unclean they, then, became unclean.

But not according to Jesus: “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (Mark 7.15). Jesus said we’re clean or unclean based on what’s in our heart.

This is a great reminder. We often become consumed with keeping up an appearance of “cleanliness.” We attend church, speak proper Christian verbiage, and don’t post incriminating photos online. But Jesus points out that things like hatred, bitterness, lust, pride, and envy are the true culprits of contamination.

The starting point of cleansing from these impurities is confession and forgiveness. When we acknowledge our uncleanness before God, he promises he will be “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9b).

Take a moment today to examine your heart. If the Holy Spirit reveals an area out of line with what he desires, acknowledge it before him, accept his forgiveness, and consider how God wants you to respond in the future.

December 8 | Honor

Text: Luke 7.36-50

Showing respect socially is much different today than in Jesus’ day. We show respect with a handshake and by welcoming people into our homes. However, in Jesus’ culture respect was communicated with foot washing, oil, and kissing.

When someone entered your home, you’d first wash their feet. In a filthy, dusty road environment this was a dignifying act of hospitality. Also, because their face and skin were chapped and wind-whipped from the hot, arid climate, you’d give them scented oil (possibly from an alabaster jar) to wipe on their face or hands.

In the biblical world, kissing in public was always of the non-romantic type and conveyed honor: kisses for greeting, farewells, and showing deep reverence and devotion.

When Jesus enters Simon’s house, Simon doesn’t offer any of these gestures. Instead, honor is bestowed on Jesus by a woman with a sullied reputation. She’s the one who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, anoints his feet with oil, and kisses his feet in deep reverence and devotion. She, in humility, worshiped and sought after the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. She’s the one who is forgiven and found.

We, too, must approach Jesus with humility, reverence, worship, and honor. However, it’s possible that our pride and self-righteousness can restrain us from falling at the Savior’s feet, just as it did to Simon.

As you welcome God into your day, listen to “Alabaster” by Rend Collective as it describes the humble act of falling at the feet of Jesus in worship and reverence.

December 5 | Continue

Text: Colossians 2.6-7

Recognizing our sin, our need for the gospel, and coming to the Cross for forgiveness is just the beginning of our life with Jesus. Unfortunately, for some, it’s also the end: we lose the continual, ongoing need for the gospel in our lives and drift from living a lifestyle patterned after Jesus.

The Apostle Paul recognized this tendency in the early followers of Jesus. He reminded them, in Colossians 2.6-7, to stay closely connected to the source of their spiritual nourishment: Jesus. Ways to stay “rooted and built up in him” include such things as regular Bible reading, Scripture memory, and prayer. These “spiritual disciplines” remind us of our daily need for the gospel of God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

One way to study the “word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20.32) is to memorize it. Today, and through the weekend, memorize Colossians 2.6-7 as a reminder of your need to continually receive—and live in—the gospel.

December 4 | Humility

Text: 2 Chronicles 7.11-16

By his prayer, the tax collector demonstrated that the starting point of salvation—as far as a human response is concerned—is humility. Realizing his complete unworthiness and lostness because of sin, he prays accordingly. When he understood God as he really is (glorious and holy) in relationship to himself (sinful and depraved), he could pray no other way.

Scripture continually shows God honoring those who are spiritually humble. Speaking to the third king of Israel, Solomon, God promised that “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7.14).

Jesus’ half-brother James speaks to the intensity of this type of humility when he writes we should “grieve, mourn, and wail” (James 4.9), meaning we’re broken and feeling wretched because of being lost and separated from God. This type of humility means we need to admit we’re wrong: certainly to God and usually to others.

Today, review the past week and see if there’s anyone to whom you need to apologize. Take the time to do it and make sure you do it from an attitude of humility that honors God.