Day One: Return to the Lord
Read: 2 Chronicles 30:6-9, Mark 1:14-17
Exile has ended. The Persian Empire allowed Jewish exiles to return to Judah. Post-exile, the people are struggling to rebuild. They go through cycles of good leaders and bad leaders. In the passage you read in Chronicles, a good king named Hezekiah writes a letter that encourages people to recommit themselves to God. Hezekiah reminds the people that God is “gracious and compassionate.” Their ancestors did not commit themselves to the Lord. They were stubborn (the Bible calls them “stiff–necked”), they were rebellious, and they were unfaithful to God. But God does not hold these people responsible for the misdeeds of their ancestors.
In the same way, we are called to return to the Lord. The Kingdom of God is near. God has acted on our behalf and he is gracious and compassionate to us. Just as he called the first disciples into a radical new way of following him, he calls to us. His Kingdom, his wonderful Kingdom of love, justice, shalom, flourishing, and peace is here! And he wants us to be a part of it.
Reflect: When did you decide to follow Jesus? Was there a time that you needed to return to him? Journal about those times. What happened in your life that first made you want to follow him? What made you want to return?
Pray: God, you are gracious and compassionate. You were gracious and compassionate to your people so long ago, and you are gracious and compassionate to me now. Amen.
Day Two: A New Identity
Read: 1 Kings 18:21, Luke 6:46, 1 Peter 2:4-10
How do you identify yourself? How would you describe yourself? We often describe ourselves in terms of our gender, racial or ethnic background, occupation, family connections, or where we are from. But there is one identity that supersedes all other earthly identities. We are Jesus’ people.
1 Peter describes us as living stones, being built into a house with Jesus as our cornerstone. We take our place in God’s family, God’s people, God’s purposes. And because we are God’s people, we are chosen, set apart, and holy. No matter our background, no matter our standing in the world, no matter our past life, we are called into a new identity. We are God’s special possession, and we must live our lives in ways that honor him.
Reflect: How do you think of yourself? What defines you?
Pray: God, help me to first think of myself as your child, your chosen one, part of your royal priesthood. There are so many other things that define me. Help me to remember that you have called me into a new identity and a new way of life. Amen.
Day Three: A New Loyalty
Read: Philippians 2:9-11; 3:7-14, 15-21
Yesterday, we learned about how we have a new identity. But what does that mean for our life? What does that mean for our behavior?
Because of our new identity in Christ, we have a new loyalty to him. Paul, the writer of the book of Philippians, understood this well. He writes that he has reordered his life and what he considers of worth in light of knowing Jesus. Everything from his old life, everything that he considered a gain, is a loss in light of gaining Christ. He is willing to give up everything to follow Christ. But not only does he want to follow Jesus, he wants to participate in his sufferings.
Paul offers an excellent example for us to follow. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate example of how to behave as people of the kingdom of God. However, it’s always useful to have faithful saints for us to follow and model. Paul was a model to the Philippians in his time, and to us in our time. We can follow his example of kingdom living and loyalty.
Reflect: How do you order your life? What gets your loyalty?
Pray: God, help me to have the right priorities. Help me order my life in a way that shows that I belong to you. Help me to share in your sufferings well as I live in my own time of exile. I love you, God. Amen.
Day Four: A New Lifestyle
Read: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 5:1-10
So far this week we have considered how, when we return to the Lord, we have a new identity and a new loyalty. But faithful followers of Jesus also have a new lifestyle. We become like the King we serve. And becoming like Jesus means that some things in our life must change.
Paul has some pretty strong statements in the verses we read for today. They might make us a little uncomfortable. They may convict us of things in our life that need to be changed. We don’t always like to have things pointed out that need to change. It can make us defensive. It can make us feel ashamed.
But we don’t have to feel ashamed of what we once were. We were once darkness, but now we are light. So, we put off all of the immorality of our old ways. Instead, we focus on King Jesus and we adopt his ways. This becomes our lifelong passion and pursuit.
But following Jesus isn’t just about giving up things. It also means that we adopt better ways. We demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As we follow Jesus, we become more and more like him.
Reflect: What was God saying to you as you read those passages? What needs to change? How can you adopt the ways of King Jesus?
Pray: God, what needs to change in my life? Please point those things out to me. Please convict me when I do wrong. Help me to become more and more like you. Amen.
Day Five: A New Purpose
Read: Matthew 6:9-10; Acts 28:23-30
We are new people. We have a new identity, reordered lives, reordered loyalty. We also have a new purpose for our lives. We are now tasked with spreading the good news of Jesus and his Kingdom.
St. Francis articulated this new purpose well in his well-known prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Like Jesus, we pray for the Kingdom. Like Paul, we proclaim the Kingdom to those around us. Like so many Christians before us, we live new lives in light of God’s Kingdom purposes.
The rest of this month, we will continue to explore what it means to be the missional people of King Jesus.
Reflect: What is your purpose? How would you describe your purpose?
Pray: God, help me to have a new purpose in you. It’s so easy to lose focus. It’s so easy to forget what I should be doing. Help me to tell others about you and your kingdom. Amen.
- Songs We Sing
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