Editor’s Note: The AMI devotionals for July 20-24 are provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
1 King 20:20-8: Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”
25 (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.) 27 And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly. 28 And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”
Can we really grasp the following saying of Jesus, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk. 2:17)? Condemning the Pharisees comes easy to us, but wouldn’t we have joined their railing against Jesus for “eating with ‘sinners’ (read, prostitutes) and tax collectors” (v.16)?
Undoubtedly, once we arrive in heaven, we’ll be shocked to see those who made it there—such as Karla Faye Tucker, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy. Tucker, a convicted murderer, was the first woman to be executed in Texas (1998) since 1863; and of course, Dahmer and Bundy were notorious serial killers—the latter was executed (1989) while the former was killed in prison (1994). Now, these dubious characters might have lied about their conversions, but if they had trusted Jesus as the One who died to pay for all our sins, then they would’ve already joined the criminal hung next to Jesus to whom He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43).
Today’s account certainly lends credence to that assertion. After all, “there was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD” (NIV). For instance, just prior to this pronouncement against Ahab, he had taken, with the help of Jezebel, a vineyard belonging to Naboth through a devious plot that resulted in his murder (1 King 21:1-11). Yet, it took a simple contrition by Ahab for an elated God to declare, “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me?” And for that, Ahab was spared of having to experience the destruction of Israel during his lifetime.
Of course this is unfair in the courts of man but not in God’s, because He had “made [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21); that is, the finished work of Christ is infinitively weightier than any sins humans have committed, including the heinous kinds that the aforementioned three committed.
Are you still not sure whether you have eternal life? Believe in Jesus and His work already completed on the Cross for the salvation of your soul. Then live a life worthy of His grace and mercy. For starters, forgive those who wronged you.
Lord Jesus, I often take my salvation for granted, but today I must confess how grateful I am to You for allowing me to be part of the redeemed family of God. Help me to live a life that is truly reflective of God’s grace and mercy toward those who don’t deserve any of it—like me. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Amos 5
Lunch Break Study
Read Matt. 23:39-43: One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
2 Pet. 3:9: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Ezek. 18:23: Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
1 Jn. 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Question to Consider
- What does the Gospel account involving the penitent criminal truly reveal?
- Describe God’s heart.
- Pastor Joseph Prince of Singapore teaches that since all our sins—past, present and future—are already forgiven in the finished work of Christ, we no longer need to confess our daily sins to be forgiven. What is both true and false about that assertion?
- No account in the four Gospels clarifies the gospel better than this one: this forlorn man had done nothing meritorious to deserve salvation. But it was his faith in Christ, expressed in his rebuke of the impenitent criminal and pleading for Christ to remember him, that saved him: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . .—not by works” (Eph. 2:8-9).
- He yearns for all sinners to “not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). He rejoices over “one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Lk. 15:7).
- Prince is right in that all sins are already forgiven in Christ, but there is a condition attached to it: we must confess our sins for the finished work of Christ to be efficacious in our lives. Isn’t that how we became believers in the first place? Didn’t we have to believe and then confess (Rom. 10:9) that belief to be saved at the outset? So, why would that change for the sins that we commit thereafter? Prince’s assertion regarding 1 Jn. 1:9, that it was written to unbelieving Gnostics who needed to confess their sins to be saved, is false. 1 John was written to the believers (note the pronoun “we” that includes John), among other reasons, to warn against the false teachings of the Docetics, the precursor to the Gnostics (4:1-3).
The truth is that we make our lives too busy, along with being distracted and addicted to entertainment, to be in touch with the abiding presence of God in our daily lives. Perhaps today, you experienced at least one moment in which you truly sensed His gracious and merciful presence. Reflect on that as you thank the Lord for His unceasing love towards you.