June 29, Wednesday

Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from June 27-July 3 are provided by Pastor Ulysses Wang who pastors Remnant Church in Manhattan. Ulysses, a graduate of New York University and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Christine and they have two children.

Devotional Thought for Today

Colossians 1:21-23

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

29There is a great temptation to associate believing in Jesus with a “get out of jail, free” card. “Thanks for the sacrifice Jesus.  Now, I’ve got some stuff to do, so I’ll see you in 50 years.”  Such people will be in for the surprise of their lives if at the end, they hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23b).  The fact that this is a real possibility can be seen in Paul’s logic – we have been “reconciled…if indeed you continue in the faith…”  If.  This disturbs us because it wasn’t what we learned in Sunday school – if you believe in Jesus, you’ve got a spot waiting for you in heaven.  Your table can’t be given away.  We object further: “This sounds like works!  I thought salvation was free!”  Amen!  Salvation is free – it’s a gift.  But true salvation is evidenced by the kind of continuing on in the faith Paul wrote about.   A duo of commentators put it this way: “If the Bible teaches the final perseverance of the saints, it also teaches that the saints are those who finally persevere – in Christ.  Continuity is the test of reality.”[1]  The famous reformer Martin Luther is helpful as well when he so elegantly quipped: “It is grace alone that saves, but the grace that saves is never alone.”

So what does this mean for us folks living in the 21st century?  It means the same thing it has meant for the people of God throughout the ages: We cannot just rest on our laurels.  It means that if you see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life, you should have great assurance that you are indeed in the flock of God.  Evidence, however, not only includes victories, but it also includes genuine repentance after devastating defeats, tooth-and-nail struggle against an old sin-stronghold, and faith—even if it’s on life support, in the face of earth shattering pain and loss.  It also means, however, that if you consider yourself a Christian but see no evidence of Christ in your life – no desire, no fight, no longing – then you’d better do some serious self-reflection.  God forbid that you find yourself among the “goats” in that final day.  To quote the street theologian Ice Cube slightly out of context—“You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.”[2]  The apostle Paul would agree with such wise admonition.

Prayer: God, help me to be a Christian not in name only, but in deed, love, and faith.  Help me to run the race to the finish like the apostle Paul.  May the powerful working of the Holy Spirit increase in my life that I may abound in the works of the Lord and be overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit.  Help me to never take grace for granted but tap into such grace that I may live a life worth living.  Amen.

[1] E.K. Simpson, E.K. and F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians (New International Commentary, Marshall, Morgan & Scott/Eerdmans, 1957) p.213

[2] Jackson, O’Shea. “Check Yo Self.” The Predator. Priority Records. 1992.

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 91

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Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 7:15-20: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Jesus, how are we to recognize true disciples (good trees)?
  2. Forget the fact that you consider yourself a Christian. If someone were able to observe your thoughts and actions 24 hours a day for an extended period of time, what conclusions do you think he or she may draw about you?
  3. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” What do the people in your life see when they see you?

Notes

  1. By their fruit (a.k.a., works); that is, the way they live their lives.
  2. Do not despair if you think your fruit is bad; instead, seek a deeper and more genuine relationship with Jesus. As you do, the fruit you bear will reflect this deepening relationship.
  3. Personal response.

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Evening Reflection  

Philippians 1:6: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Be encouraged to know that as you run the race, God is the wind at your back.

2 thoughts on “June 29, Wednesday

  1. Dan Nguyen says:

    Good afternoon Pastor Ulysees,

    My name is Dan Nguyen, currently attending Symphony Church in Boston, MA. I am really glad that you wrote about this topic today. It has cleared up a lot of confusion in my mind about how we as Christians need to live a life of faith through obedience and good works (bearing fruit). I think that I may have misunderstood Protestant Christians when they say that they are saved be faith alone. When they are saying this, do they mean that they need to live a living faith that bears fruit? I don’t think the “one saved, always saved” statement connects well with the passages that you’ve brought up today. If it does, can you please explain how?

    Thanks,
    Dan

    1. Hi Dan,
      When Christians say that they are “saved by faith alone,” they usually mean that their salvation was not in any way achievable through their own merit, but rather, they simply had to believe and accept the fact that someone else, namely Jesus, died in their place. This is as anti-work as it gets, for even the ability to believe is via the grace of God. This is why there is no boasting before God (Ephesians 2:8-9). “Once saved, always saved” is a statement of truth. However, the only definitive proof that we were “once saved” is if we make it to the end. As Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). This is why we should never take our salvation for granted, but instead, work it out with “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Again this doesn’t mean we need to be constantly insecure about our relationship with God – if you are bearing fruit, you should feel reasonably confident that you are a good tree. However, we need to finish. Even if you have a big lead going into the fourth quarter, you have to keep your foot on the pedal.

      Blessings,
      Ulysses

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