Editor’s Note: The AMI Devotional QT from June 6-12 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor intern at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
Galatians 4:8-20 (ESV):
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
We are all susceptible to having counterfeit gods in our lives. What are counterfeit gods? Timothy Keller explains it as “anything in life [that] is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth.” We can easily jump from one idol to another, thinking that we have overcome idolatry, but actually falling prey to another false god. There are so many false idols in this world that continue to pull for our attention—power, sex, social media, etc. But often the moment we feel like we have broken free from the grips of one god, we realize we have been enslaved by another god.
The Gentiles whom Paul was writing this letter to must have been shocked to read this letter, accusing them of turning back again to false gods. Though they were once enslaved by pagan idolatry, they thought that they were now true worshippers of God—how could Paul accuse them of such a thing? Yet Paul was talking about a different false god: the Law, given by God himself. These Gentiles may not have been worshipping false gods, which their culture had erected—but they were worshipping the Law. Paul says that the Law has no power to save, but they were treating it as a god who could save them.
But today, I want to focus on Paul’s genuine concern for these Galatians as a spiritual father. Not only as a father, but also as a concerned mother who is in the process of childbirth. He is in deep anguish that his spiritual children are turning to false teachings. When we take an inventory of our relationships with our family, our friends, and the brothers and sisters in our church, do we have a concern for them in this way as Paul did? On the other end, do we have people who are concerned for us in this way? This is the importance of the community of faith. We need those who are genuinely concerned for us and are willing to point out the counterfeit gods in our lives—particularly in this “do-anything-your-heart-desires” world. If we are not actively involved in a local church, we are missing out on an important element of the Christian faith—people who love us enough to point out these false idols.
If I have a false idol in my life which I can’t see or won’t admit to, I would want those who genuinely care for me to point it out graciously. Wouldn’t you? Of course, it’s uncomfortable and we might get defensive at first, but hopefully, we will realize that it is for our good and that these idols can be rooted out. Surround yourselves with people who care for you and take a moment to thank them.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the many spiritual fathers and mothers who have poured into my life, making sure that I am not following after false gods, but that I am worshipping and honoring the true and living God. May You surround me with more people who will care for me in this way, and may you use me to care for others in this way.
Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 70