Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals from February 8 to 14 are co-written by the AMI Teaching Pastor Ryun Chang (Ph.D.) and Joshua Chang, a graduate of Swarthmore College and currently a student at Yale Divinity School. They are taking a break from the study of Acts.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
1 John 5:19
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
Christiana is a slim, healthy woman who was raised on nutritious meals. When she goes off to college, however, she encounters the university dining scene. She had never eaten french fries before, but, boy, are they so tasty! Unlimited ice cream! Buffet lines of fried chicken and burgers! The first few weeks of this new diet has caused a little waistline tightness, but she thinks, It’s no big deal; I still eat my salads, she reassures herself. Then, after the semester is over, her parents are mortified to see their now hefty daughter plodding down the airport return gate.
This is my fear for the Christian church in America. Once we leave the doors of the church steeple, we soak in the influences of the secular world, a world whose mind is ultimately directed not by God but by his enemy. Little by little, our Christian character becomes unhealthier, bloating and bloating until one day, we find we can no longer pass through the narrow gate. It is not without reason that the narrow gate parable is followed by a very unsettling declaration by Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21). While they certainly profess to have faith, the object of their faith is not the God of the Bible who commands that we “do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).
We must remember that our ultimate authority is to Christ, to His teachings and call of obedience! We must “see to it that no one takes [us] captive by” the influences of the world that are not guided by Christ but by some other authority. This doesn’t mean that we wear strange clothes and do even stranger things in public to ensure that we appear weird before the world. Be fashionable, if you would like, but within reason and budget, but stand up for God’s truth with integrity and love. Study the Word, understand the issues, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and then engage!
Father, I praise and exalt You this morning. Once again I am in need of repentance for fooling myself into thinking that I am somehow spiritual because of what I do inside the church—praying loud and praising even louder. Lord, help me to praise You in the world as well through how I live and think. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 37
Lunch Break Study
Read James 2:14-9, 24, 26: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, . . . faith without deeds is useless. . .. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. . .. 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Question to Consider
- According to James, do demons have faith in God? If yes, is this a faith that can save? If not, what is it about the faith that demons have that make it a dead and useless faith?
- In light of that, what is the problem that James was seeing and addressing?
- Examine your life: based on what you actually do outside the church, does your faith resemble that of the demons (i.e., intellectual assent that changes nothing) or Abraham?
- Yes, demons do have faith but it is not a saving faith; otherwise, we should expect to see them in heaven. What makes their faith useless and dead is that it doesn’t change them; their condition remains the same. What the demons have is intellectual assent that doesn’t change the heart.
- Though it may seem harsh, James is saying that people who say they believe but are the same as before, without any affirmative changes and good fruits, are not saved at all. Their faith is that of demons. In other words, their faith is too wide for the narrow gate.
- Don’t look at just one thing or how you did today; instead, examine your body of work—a general pattern of your life. We are looking for consistency, with gaps here and there (because we are, after all, humans)—not perfection; for that, we need to wait until we reach the abode of God.
Be honest: In what ways is your life any different from those who do not confess Christ? If someone who doesn’t know you saw you throughout the day, would that person think that you are different for the right reasons? Can people tell that we are different for reasons other than praying before lunch? 1 Peter 1:15 says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” That is tantamount to saying, “Be different from the world, because I am not of the world.” Would you take this seriously and start being intentional about living with integrity, love, and in truth?