March 15, Wednesday

The AMI QT Devotionals from March 13-20 are provided by Pastor Jason Sato of OTR in Cincinnati.  Jason, a graduate of UC San Diego (B.S.) and Westminster Theological Seminary in California (M.Div.), is married to Jessica, and they have two young children: Jonah and Lily. 

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

A Jew to Win Jews

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. [20] To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. [21] To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. [23] I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

When I was in junior high, my friends and I would rep “AzN PRiDe.”  I’m not entirely sure what random capitalization or spikey hair had to do with being Asian, but underneath it was a desire to find a group of people to identify with—or to put it another way, to be with people with whom I felt most comfortable.

Supposedly, we grow out of this adolescent desire but the evidence appears to indicate otherwise.  For instance, some say that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week in America.  Theologians and church planters discuss the Homogenous Unit Principle, which states that people like to become Christians among those like themselves.  But Paul has a decidedly different viewpoint, for he is interested in being with and even being like people who are different from him; that is, Paul willingly sets aside his culture to identify with others.

Thus, it comes as a surprise when Paul declares, “To the Jews I became a Jew.”

Wait a second—wasn’t Paul already a Jew?  According to Philippians 3:5, Paul is “a Hebrew of Hebrews”!   Before he met Jesus, Paul’s Jewishness was actually his greatest hindrance to believing in the Son of God.  Yet, Christ had transformed him so completely that being an Israelite is no longer his primary identity.  Paul does not need to find his identity in the cultural and religious customs of Israel.  He is a citizen of the coming Kingdom.  He is an heir with Christ; he is a child of God.

Certainly, Paul, continuing to value his heritage for Jesus, declared that salvation comes from the Jews.  He has a particular love for his Jewish brothers, even desiring to trade his own salvation for theirs (Rom. 9:3).  However, Paul’s culture is no longer an idol to be worshiped or a means to find belonging, but a tool to be used for a gospel purpose.

In Paul’s day, there were 200 million people in the world, of which about 100% were unreached (referring to those who never heard about Jesus and who will remain that way  unless a Christian crosses a culture to tell them).  He gladly utilized his cultural background or took on the patterns of another to more effectively share about Jesus.

In our day, there are over 7 billion people in the world, of which about 40% are unreached.  Incredible progress has been made, but still over 3 billion people have very limited access to the Good News of Jesus Christ.  If God’s people do not cross a culture, they will not hear of the only way of salvation.

As we go to the nations and as the nations come to us in our own cities, may our cultures be a Gospel tool and not a hindrance to believing, obeying, and sharing Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Father, I think you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Everything about me was created with purpose and with great potential for bringing Your Son glory.  Use all that I am that all peoples may worship Jesus.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 3


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Philippians 3:4b-11 (ESV): If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: [5] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; [6] as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. [7] But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. [8] Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—[10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Question to Consider

  1. How could Paul boast in his background?
  2. Why does Paul willing count his impressive background as loss?
  3. How can Paul use his culture to spread the Good News?

Notes

  1. Paul has a prestigious lineage: he was trained by well-respected teachers; he was zealous in his defense of Judaism; he was meticulous in his adherence to the law.
  2. To gain Christ, that is, to know Jesus in His sufferings and in the power of His resurrection.
  3. Paul’s training and law-keeping commended him to fellow Jews. His knowledge of Scripture could be used to prove that Jesus is the Christ. His zealous persecutions of believers and following transformation testified to the power and truth of Jesus.

EVENING REFLECTION

Reflect upon your day.  How were you tempted to use your culture or background as a means to judge others or excuse your sin?  What opportunities did God give you to connect with others because of or in spite of differences in culture?  Pray for God to use all that you are to spread the name of Jesus.

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