Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals from April 4-10 are provided by Cami King. Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, is about to complete her M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Seminary. She is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
If I asked you what’s the hardest part about following Jesus, what would you say? (Go ahead, think about it.) Some would say the goal of Christ-likeness. Becoming like Jesus is a pretty lofty ambition – He is perfect after all. Others might say all the commandments to follow – it can often feel like a never-ending list of dos and don’ts. There is also the matter of constant repentance – constantly searching and evaluating the heart, being so aware of our brokenness can be taxing and exhausting. And what about endurance, especially in times of difficulty or suffering? No matter what comes our way, we are to keep on following Jesus – easier said than done!
The longer I do ministry in the Church the more I am convinced that one of the hardest parts of following Christ for most Christians is actually the simple act of receiving grace. We suffer from the “grace and…” syndrome. We know in our heads that we are fully loved and wholly accepted by God, not based on what we did, but on what Christ has done and that it’s by our faith in Christ’s work alone that we are righteous before God. We know this, in theory, but our lives often adhere to a different truth. We speak about grace, but live as though what we do is of most importance. Our perfect choices, our perfect church attendance, our perfect QT record for the week, our perfect kids, etc. make us feel closer to God and when those things go away, when we fall short, we feel far, withdraw, struggle to turn to Him.
Scripture teaches us that grace is unmerited favor from God – a gift of kindness and love that we don’t deserve. And it’s not our good works that earns us access to that gift, but the very gift itself that enables us to do good works. I know we know this – but do we really believe it? In our thoughts and judgments about ourselves and others, do we humbly accept God’s grace or do we, like the Pharisees, put our weight on our own efforts and works?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the humility to accept Your grace to me today. Not that I was good, but that Christ was. Not that I am perfect, but that Christ is perfect. May that be enough. In the areas where I am struggling with sin, in the face of my present shortcomings, give me the humility to turn to You and receive the grace I need to become more like Jesus. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 25
Lunch Break Study
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Questions to Consider:
- Why is it important to remember that we were made alive in Christ “even when we were dead in transgressions”? How does remembering God’s love as described in these verses encourage us to persist in our walk with Him?
- According to verse 9, what is the danger of focusing too much on our works in our relationship with God?
- Restate verse 10 in your own words as a promise from God to you. How does this assurance that good works will come encourage you?
- We can never be mistaken that we have to earn God’s love or God’s favor by doing good deeds or being the right kind of people when we remember that God demonstrated His great love for us when we were at our worst. We should feel encouraged to move on, not by works (which didn’t save us to begin with), but in the power of grace (know that we are fully loved and completely accepted and given the freedom from guilt, shame, and the like needed to resist sin and live well).
- Focusing too much on our works can lead to boasting, and ultimately, to pride. All the good that we do is a result of God’s grace and God’s work on our behalf (through Christ) and in/through us (by the power of the Holy Spirit).
- You will do good works (great things in this world and for my Kingdom) because I myself have created you in my son Jesus. As we surrender our lives to the hands of the master potter, he works it into a beautiful piece of art. In the face of our shortcomings and even, at times, ignorance to the ways of God, we know our loving Heavenly Father is at work to lead us to a destination that He’s already prepared.
“The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.” (Charles Spurgeon)
Is hard for you to receive God’s grace? Do you tend to put more emphasis on what you do or what He has done? Does Christ’s love compel you and God’s grace encourage you toward good deeds, or do you tend to use good works to try to earn favor with God? Spend some time remembering how God found you, when you were dead in your transgressions, and be reminded of His great love and abounding grace.