January 27, Wednesday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals for today are provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (Ph.D.) who is the AMI Teaching Pastor.  He and Insil have been married for 28+ years and they have three children: Christy (teacher), Joshua (grad student) and Justin (college freshman).  They live in Philadelphia.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Acts 2:22-3 (NASB)

[Apostle Peter’s sermon] Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with]miracles and wonders and  signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of  godless men and put Him to death.

27aWhich animal you see in the picture depends on where your focus is: a gaze to the left will show a duck, to the right, a rabbit; but as whole, this image contains both a duck and a rabbit.  I first saw this image in a book extolling postmodernism that, to ensure that Eurocentric thoughts no longer dominate the rest, has relativized all truth claims.  This is why religious pluralism— belief that all religions lead to the same God—emerges as a child of postmodernism.

So, should we eschew seeing our reality, including the Bible, in terms of either/or?   Again, it depends.  Some matters are quite clear as to which position the Bible advocates.  For instance, it doesn’t say “God exists” and “God doesn’t exist” at the same time.  Whereas the writer of Hebrews says, “He exists” (11:6), the psalmist calls those who say, “There is no God,” a “fool” (Ps. 14:1).  God’s existence, then, is a matter of either/or.

27bNow, in church history, one of the fiercest theological battles has been fought between the Calvinists and the Arminians.  Regarding God’s election (that God predestines some to be saved), whereas the Calvinists posit that its basis is His deliberative plan (Eph. 1:11) that has nothing to do men’s merit, the Arminians say that the basis is God’s foreknowledge (1 Pet. 1:2).  That is, God, “having foreseen men’s potential faith” chose “those who would turn to Him when they heard the gospel” (Hammond).   But they do agree on one thing: this is a matter of either/or, and that both positions cannot be right at the same time.  But Peter’s sermon suggests otherwise.  Talking about those who played a critical part in crucifying Jesus, he says that it was done based on God’s “predetermined plan” as well as His “foreknowledge” of men’s future action.

Folks, accept that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is always a matter of both/and—not either/or.  God, having long worked out His plan, has revealed His general will to us in the Scripture; therefore, it is our responsibility to know it and then obey.  So today, instead of torturing yourself to make sense of this theological mystery with some logic, read the Scripture and pray to discern what God is saying to you.  Then just do it.

Prayer

Dear Lord, I magnify Your majestic Name.  I worship You with all my heart and mind.  Thanks for Your magnificent Word.  Forgive me for having such a cavalier attitude and the arrogance with which I handle Your Word.  May the Spirit continue to illuminate its deep truths throughout 2016.  May I obey it.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 23

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Lunch Break Study

Read John 16:33b: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”

Matt. 19:34: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Matt. 23:23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Question to Consider

  1. What apparent problem emerges as a result of reading John 16:33 and Matt. 19:34?
  2. What logic is found underneath what Jesus tells the Pharisees in Matt. 23:23?
  3. So, should we choose between John 16:33 and Matt. 19:34? If not, then how can we reconcile these apparently contradicting verse?

Notes

  1. The apparent problem is contradiction: Jesus seems to be talking from both sides of the mouth. He says He came to give peace, and then He says its exact opposite—not peace but a sword.
  2. The logic found in Matt. 23:23 is both/and. Jesus tells the Pharisees to practice justice, mercy and faithfulness, something they had neglected for a long time. But they shouldn’t stop tithing, which they had been doing.  (Practice this and not neglect that, not practice this or not neglect that.)
  3. We should accept the propositions of both John 16:33 and Matt. 19:34. As for reconciling this, Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for the penalty of our sins, broke the barrier standing between God and men.  So, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).  As for the sword, this happens when “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 5:6). This also occurs when our desire to obey God conflicts with the will of our loved ones (Mk. 3:33-4).

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Evening Reflection

How was your day?  The “both/and” paradigm is also very useful in reconciling relationship conflicts.  When we just interpret the conflict according “my” perspective, it actually gets worse.  Think of a relationship problem that you are experiencing presently.  Meditate on 1 John 1:8 (“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”) and ask the Lord to empower you to see the other person’s side as well.  Then, reconcile with that person by making that call or writing to him/her.

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