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
Luke 15:23-4 (NIV): “Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Matt. 21:28-31 (NIV): “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.  Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.  Which of the two did what his father wanted? ‘The first,’ they answered.”
Many years ago, our youth group drama team, for a Sunday service, did a skit about the Prodigal Son who now needed to work; after all, he had left the farm because he chose play over work. Following the skit, I planned to show in my sermon that true salvation produces changes, like the first son in the Matthew parable who, after changing his mind (i.e., repenting), obeyed his father and went to work in the vineyard.
James, frowning on “faith” that elicits no changes, says, “What good is it . . . if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14). That is, merely saying that I believe, like “the demons [who] believe . . . and shudder” (2:19), is not an adequate evidence for a true faith.
As for the skit, the team presented two prodigal sons who, after the weeklong party, are told by the father to rise up early to work; being grateful, they eagerly assure him that they would. But once the morning arrives, the undisciplined sons struggle to rise: while son #1 never does, son #2 shows up late. The father isn’t upset, but understanding. By the end of the week, son # 1 finally arrives on time, while the other son, seeing that he doesn’t get punished, becomes brazen and makes no effort to get up to work. Finally, the father pays the sleeping son a visit; meanwhile, the audience assumes that he is going to punish the son for taking his grace for granted. Instead, the father says to his lazy and ungrateful son, “Let’s go have lunch.” At that moment, the song based on Romans 2:4 is played: “It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, O Lord, knowing that you love us, no matter what we do, makes us want to love you too.”
The right information is necessary but is insufficient to change our selfish heart; rather, it is the realization of God’s amazing love bestowed upon callous and ungrateful people like us. Today, be more mindful of being grateful to God; show it by being kind to undeserving people around you.
O God, how beautiful and precious is Your amazing love for me! Your grace and mercy are like a deep well where there is no end to life-giving water that quenches thirst for meaning and life. I love You, Lord, for the way You always take me back no matter what I do. That motivates me to change. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 10
Lunch Break Study
Read James 2:20-4 (NIV): “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”
Matt. 7:17-20 (NIV): “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Tit. 3:5-6 (NIV): “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. . .”
Question to Consider
- What is the clear teaching found in all the passages?
- Why are changes expected in a person who is saved? That is, is salvation a matter of agreeing to a set of correct information about salvation, or along with that, the Holy Spirit coming into our hearts?
- What are some inherent dangers when we wonder about the salvation of those who do not show much changes? What are some areas that you need to work on to bring your shortcomings under the Lordship?
- Jesus and Apostle James expected that those who say they are saved demonstrate it by corresponding work or changes. Faith alone without work is grounds for questioning the authenticity of that faith. Martin Luther: “We are saved by faith alone but not by faith that is alone.”
- The gospel is the necessary information without which salvation is not possible; and the Holy Spirit turns that information into the truth that organically changes the heart. This doesn’t necessarily mean visible changes right away, but it does mean initial changes in intent, desire, will and attitude (inward dimension).
- There are several dangers: one, judging people based on a small sample; two, since the faith journey fluctuates for many, it would be unfair to judge them when they are momentarily down. I prefer that we examine our own salvation (2 Cor. 13:5) instead of someone judging it (1 Cor. 4:5).
As you review today, what were some good and constructive things you did today that you wouldn’t have done if you weren’t a believer. That, in short, may be part of the work that affirms your salvation.