Editor’s Note: The AMI devotionals for July 20-24 are provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
1 King 19:1-9: Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
Some think that a right theology can cure them of the sin problem. For certain Reformed believers, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the cure for all sin. According to some Wesleyans who adhere to the doctrine of “Sanctification Entire,” we can reach a permanent spiritual state in which we no longer struggle with sin but have only love for God and others. But what a mega-church pastor in Singapore said tops them all: “Your sins were imputed to Jesus so that they would never be imputed to you. . . . [So] stop examining yourself and searching your heart for sin.” What?
What is most telling about today’s text is this: we are WEAK! Remember, Elijah was a powerful man of God, for he singlehandedly took on 850 false prophets and “won” the battle of whose God was greater. While the shouting and slashing by nearly thousand men did nothing, when Elijah prayed, “the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice” (1 Kings 18:38). The stunned crowd, after shouting, “The LORD—he is God” (v.39), seized the false prophets and slaughtered them (v.40).
But by next day, this brave man lost all will to live, praying that “he might die.” Why? Because Elijah, who did not bat an eye when threatened by 850 men, flinched when a lone woman—Queen Jezebel—threatened his life (19:2): “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (v.3).
Certainly, good theologies and programs can make us better, but don’t be fooled into thinking that our fallen nature is eradicated—the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit has diminished its potency but when allowed, it can come back with vengeance. That is why we often fumble and trip over temptations and trials.
But the fact that God didn’t condemn Elijah for being weak and failing should comfort us. Instead, God allowed him to rest, providing warm food and refreshing drinks to strengthen the prophet. And that’s what will get us through: daily reliance on a good and gracious God who gives us a way out when we are tempted (1 Cor. 10:13), forgives us when we sin, and strengthens us when we are weak.
God, You are my Rock and Fortress in whom I trust. I possess nothing that would help me to overcome the temptations and trials of life. Please deliver me from my sinful and weak nature. I’m grateful that I have a real hope in Christ whose Spirit empowers me to prevail. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Amos 1
Lunch Break Study
Read Mark 14:66-72: And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”
Gal. 2:11-13: But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
1 Cor. 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality; 10:14: Flee from sexual immorality; 2 Tim. 2:22: So flee youthful passions.
Question to Consider
- Seeing human nature through Peter’s antics, what can we learn about it?
- To a Christian who was disappointed at his wavering faith, I said, “Look, don’t get too down on yourself; remember that Peter had denied Jesus three times.” This person, then, responded, “That’s before he was baptized with the Holy Spirit.” What do you think I said to him?
- Of course, we should not play dead as if we cannot overcome sin whatsoever. If we had a healthy respect for sin, what would we do?
- First, it indicates that we are capable of caving in to sin when our faith in Christ may result in a significant personal loss; and second, we are liable to compromise our faith in order to be accepted by the right crowd (for Peter, it was the Jews).
- Both Peter and Barnabas committed a blatant hypocrisy (pretending that they weren’t eating non-kosher food with Gentiles) even after they had been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. You don’t just transcend your fallen nature by some theology or experience—even if it is good and wonderful.
- We don’t play with sin! Yes, we should pray and read the Bible, but also, we should not allow our nature to get its way by fleeing from any and every thing that is lurking to tempt us.
It would be a lie to say that we weren’t tempted today. What temptations did you face? How did do you handle them? I hope you haven’t become so numbed to sin that you don’t feel any struggle when you are actually being tempted. Ask God what areas in your life need to be awakened in order to, at least, struggle with sin. Then, pray for strength to overcome it instead of always giving into lies, gossips, pornography, greed, anger, etc.