We all seek approval from somewhere, but sometimes we seek the approval of men rather than the approval of God. However, we rest in the promise that God has chosen and called those who belong to him. If you are in Christ, you are enough because Christ is enough; you are approved by God. Nothing can take away the approval of God from your life as His son or daughter.
BREAKING THE ICE
What is the silliest/funniest thing you have ever done to seek approval or attention? Looking back, what makes that look silly or embarrassing?
2 Timothy 2:15
EXPLORE AND DISCUSS
In Mark 1:9-11, the Bible portrays the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. At this moment, the Spirit descended from heaven like a dove and a voice came down from heaven saying "you are my Son, with you I am well pleased." God shows his pleasure in his Son before his son has even began his ministry. We must recognize that just as Jesus did nothing to earn his approval from God other than faithfully live according to the Father's will, we also freely receive the approval of God and are called to live faithfully to the will of the Father as a result.
The baptism of Jesus is one of the clearest pictures of the Trinity in the Bible. In this instance, we see God the Father speaking from heaven, Christ the Son being baptized, and the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ. It is important for us to remember that God has eternally existed in three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) at the same time, united as one with the same nature/essence, yet different in person and function. There has never been a time when God did not exist as the Trinity; the Son nor the Spirit are created by the Father. The Father, Son, and Spirit are co-eternal together in unity.
Through Christ we have received approval with God. Our approval with God is not based on anything we have done to earn it. In fact, the Bible tells us exactly the opposite; there is nothing we can do to earn God's favor and approval. But, that is GOOD NEWS! The Bible also tells us that all of us fall short (Romans 3:23) and that our greatest works are like filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). The good news of the gospel is that though we were eternally separated from God because of sin, God who was rich in mercy has chosen us, called us, and commissioned us (Ephesians 2:4-5). If Jesus has saved you and he is the Lord of your life, then you are approved by God.
Read Ephesians 2:1-10.
Highlight what this passage tells us about ourselves before God makes us alive in Christ.
What does this passage tell us about God?
What does this passage tell us about how we earn our salvation (approval) from God?
Let's first look at what it means to be chosen by God. As mentioned, we are not approved by God through our own worth and merits (Ephesians 2:8-9). Throughout the story of the Bible, God has always had a chosen people. We do not always understand why God chooses those whom he chooses. He chose Jacob and not Esau (Romans 9:10-14); he chose the Israelites to be his people; he chose David and not Saul; he chose the impetuous Peter; he chose the murderer Paul; and, if you are in Christ, God has chosen you too. Rather than wondering how and why God chooses whom he chooses, we should be thankful that God has chosen us to be heirs of his eternal glory in Christ.
Reflect on Ephesians 2:1-10
If God did not choose us by our own merits, how does God choose?
Some say that God, before creation, knew who would ultimately choose him and chose to extend his call for salvation to those people. Such a position makes God dependent upon human response in his creation and would contradict the biblical theme that no one can come to God on their own. This is one of the hardest concepts in the Bible to grasp, so do not fear if you are struggling to understand it. Let's also be clear that though God does choose some for salvation, he DOES NOT choose to send people to hell. As the Bible points out, the wages of our sin is death. Eternal death and separation from God is what we all deserve. Yet, God, through his great mercy, extends salvation to all who will call upon the name of the LORD as savior.
Romans 8 tells us that those whom God has chosen he also has called to receive salvation in Christ. The calling of God unto salvation is irrevocable; it cannot be taken away. There is nothing you can do to lose the calling and choosing of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of the Father when he has chosen and called us. The Bible promises that all things will work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
All things work together for good - this may not look like our worldly definition of good. God is not promising health, prosperity, a better marriage, a promotion, or however we might envision things working out for good. What Paul is saying is that God's eternal plans for salvation and eternal glory in Christ in heaven are given to those whom God has chosen.
For those who love God - who loves God? The bible tells us that no one seeks God; no one loves God; and, none are righteous. So how can anyone love God? Because, those whom God has chosen to receive his blessing, he places within them a heart to love and pursue a relationship with him. If you love God, it is because God gave you the ability to love him. Be thankful that God has opened a way, through Jesus, for you to be in a loving relationship with Him.
Who are called according to his purpose - Those who love God are those who have been called according to God's eternal purposes. This is an amazing promise that the Bible gives us of our eternal security in Christ.
Read Romans 8:28-39
Highlight the key words and phrases in this passage.
What does Romans 8 show us about God?
What does Romans 8 show us about ourselves?
Why is it important that God chose you before the foundation of the world?
Notice the promise of God that those whom he chose, he called, justified, and will ultimately glorify in heaven. How does this affect the way you view God?
God commissions those whom he has chosen and called to go into all the world proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). The way that God extends his calling to the lost is through hearing the Word of God that we proclaim (Romans 10:14). If you have been chosen and called by God, you ARE a witness in the world (Acts 1:8); the question is, what kind of witness are you being? Your life is marked by God and you have been commissioned by God to be a witness. When others see you, they are to see Jesus. But living like Jesus is not enough alone; we are called to proclaim the message of Christ to those who do not know him.
How does knowing that you have been chosen, called, and commissioned impact the way that you live your life?
In what ways can you live as a person on mission for Christ? What has to change in your life?
Once again, it comes back to us being approved in Christ. If we have been chosen, called, and commissioned, then we are approved by God. As spiderman famously quotes, "with great power comes great responsibility." The approval of God is an amazing gift that comes with a great response overflowing from our gratitude. The Bible says, study to show yourself approved, a worker who is not ashamed of the gospel (2 Tim 2:15). Why would a worker of the gospel be ashamed? Because the live he lives does not reflect the approval that has been given by God. Because we are approved by God, we are compelled to pursue a relationship with God to know him intimately through his Word. Likewise, as those who have been approved, we are called to stay the course and run the race set before us with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-3). We endure because we know that the promise that awaits in Christ is far greater than any momentary affliction we may face (Romans 8:18-19).
Why is there such a great responsibility given to us as those who have been approved by God?
How does the approval of God empower you to live a life devoted to bringing him glory?
Does your life demonstrate the gratitude that comes the gift of salvation that God has freely given? How is your life honoring God? What needs to change?
Have you truly surrendered your life to Jesus, confessed and turned from your sin, and called upon the name of the Lord for salvation?
Remember, it is not about doing things for Jesus to earn his favor. But a life that has been changed by Jesus will change the things you do. We are not saved by our works but our works are evidence of our salvation.
Use the SOAP method this week on Ephesians 2:1-10 and Romans 8:28-39. These are some of the most comforting verses in the Bible for those who have received the gift of salvation. Dig into these passages and discover the truth and the promises that God holds for all those who call upon the name of Jesus.