December 17, Thursday

Editor’s Note: Today’s devotional is written by Jabez Yeo of TRPC.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted. 16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. 18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

16History is filled with people who have sought meaning in philosophy—only to be disillusioned by the fruitlessness of their search. One such person was Justin Martyr (born in the early 2nd century A.D.), who attempted to find fulfillment in the Greek philosophy of Stoicism.  Unconvinced, he then cycled through the teachings of different philosophers but was never completely satisfied.  Around A.D. 130, conversations with an elderly believer led Justin Martyr to surrender his life to Jesus and experience a powerful life transformation.

Around the same time, the heresy of Gnosticism was becoming rampant in the early church. In a nutshell, the Gnostics believed that the material world was unimportant and that physical bodies were prisons trapping the human spirit, which they considered to be the “spark of God.”  Thus, they proposed that Christ had not come in the flesh, but only appeared to be human.  Since its inception, Gnosticism has spawned heretical beliefs, including the elevation of the soul to divinity that has echoed throughout history, especially in the recent New Age movement.

Utilizing his past experience in Greek philosophy, Justin Martyr countered the claims of Gnosticism thoroughly in his writings. In particular, Justin Martyr delved into the concept of the Logos—God’s pre-existent Spirit who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He explained, “Just as fire comes from fire without diminishing the original source, so Christ as the universal Logos pre-existed as God’s Son.”[1]  Justin Martyr then wrote Syntagma, which established him as the most important 2nd century apologist in the eyes of many— it was the first major anti-Gnostic writing by an orthodox Christian.

Ultimately, Justin was arrested for his faith and was ordered by Roman authorities to denounce his belief in God. Refusing to do so, Justin was then executed and surnamed “Martyr” as he gave his life for what he considered to be “true philosophy.”  As Christians today, may we also find our true satisfaction, not in the world’s wisdom, but in God’s eternal truth.

So, let us study and train our minds for God; and then live for God’s glory.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for being the Way, the Truth and the Life. Help me to find ultimate meaning in Your Word and may it spur me to lead a life that is pleasing to You. May I not trust in my own intellect or in the world’s wisdom but help me to place my hope in Your truth,even though my mind cannot completely comprehend it. Lord Jesus, as my Good Shepherd, lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. In Your Name I pray.  Amen.

[1] Olson, Roger. The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform.

 Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 6

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Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 17:16-21: While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Lk. 9:23-5: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?

Question to Consider

  1. I have heard some people say that philosophy (love of wisdom) is inherently harmful.  That’s nonsense.  How can philosophy help us?
  2. But Paul didn’t like the way the Athenian philosophers went about it—why?
  3. Fundamentally, how is the Christian faith different from philosophy?  How did Justin Martyr show this difference?

Notes

  1. Since philosophy deals with matters of reality, existence and knowledge, a wrong philosophical foundation produces a wrong worldview which distorts the truth. In my opinion, philosophy is helpful when it acknowledges the existence of fixed truth, and the limitation of science and moral law.
  2. These philosophers did nothing but talk about the latest ideas. In fact, they didn’t care about how these ideas were relevant to real life.
  3. The Christian faith begins with “ideas” about how life ought to be lived under the rubric of a personal God who sent Jesus Christ to save us from the penalty of sin. This led Justin to die for Him when given the choice between believing God—or  denying Him.  Philosophy, by definition, loves ideas, rather than putting the ideas into practice.

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Evening Reflection

Today was a different kind of devotional, right?  The followers of Christ should be doers but not before having first become thinkers.  That’s part of loving God with our mind.  What do you really believe?  Are you living accordingly?  Do you have a set of non-negotiable beliefs and values that you will not compromise under any condition? What are your non-negotiables?

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