Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.
Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
Lk. 15:16-20 (ESV): And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’”  And he arose and came to his father. . . .
Is. 58:3 (NIV): “Why have we fasted,” they (Israelites) say, “and you (God) have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?”
The 4th century British monk Pelagius, being austere and moral, insisted that man is “still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid.” To him, the younger son in the parable was being genuine. That, however, is tantamount to seeing man as capable of saving himself without God’s initiative; the two preceding parables in Luke 15 suggest otherwise. The lost coin and the lost sheep didn’t return home on their own willpower; instead, they were found by their respective owners who searched for them.
The lost son, who, at this point in the parable, has yet to encounter his father’s grace, is no different. Lost in his sin, he is still clueless about his father’s heart, believing that his anger will only subside unless he becomes a servant. The son’s decision to return is a desperate attempt by a desperately hungry man who, once again, was scheming to get what he wanted: it worked once (making him rich) and it should work again, that is, if the right things are said with the right emotions, so that he can eat.
Once, the Israelites were upset at God for not noticing their fasting and humility. So God responded, “[You] . . . seem eager for [me] to come near [you]. . . yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please. . . . You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high” (Is. 58:2). Like the younger son, the Israelites were scheming to get what they wanted from God, thinking, if we skip a few meals and shed some tears, God will be moved to see things our way.
But that’s not how it works, since God knows “what [is] in man” (Jn. 2:25). God is not moved by our cheap ploys, however holy they may appear to others. Instead, what He wants is this: “Experience first my kindness expressed in my Son Christ, then allow that to ‘lead you toward repentance’” (Rom. 2:4). Are you scheming these days to bend God’s arm to get what you want? Don’t. Encounter once again His grace; repent then obey.
Father in heaven, I adore You this morning for your kindness towards me. Though I have tried numerous times to trick You with my superficial spirituality, thank You that the Spirit in me has always shown me a better way—loving You with all my heart and obeying You wholeheartedly. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 7
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 5:4-8 (ESV): “And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’”
Luke 19:5-8 (ESV): “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’  And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’”
Rom. 2:4 (ESV): “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
Question to Consider
- What did Peter and Zacchaeus first encounter; and afterward, how did they respond to Christ?
- In what ways was Christ being kind to Peter and Zacchaeus?
- In what ways is God showing His kindness toward you these days? How should you respond to it?
- They first experienced Christ’s kindness expressed towards them; as a result of being touched by Christ in this manner, they responded with penitence and repentance.
- Regarding Peter who obviously was both tired and disappointed over not catching a single fish despite working all night, Christ cared that he had enough fish, among other reasons, to feed his family. With respect to Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector whom everyone hated, Christ showed kindness by befriending him, even willing to stay at his house. Zacchaeus was moved and felt very grateful.
- Personally, God has been very kind to our two children by allowing them to complete college without incurring any debt. A proper response should consist of a grateful heart and being generous with those in need.
As you reflect on this day, did you scheme to somehow bend God’s arm to get Him to do what you want? While God will never do that, it is amazing how frequently we choose that route. What is the situation that is causing you to scheme? What should you do instead?