August 21, Monday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY

1 John 3:18-20 (NIV 1984)

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongues but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

When facing a temptation—like looking at porn or spreading rumors—recognizing the choice between sinning and not sinning isn’t as hard as choosing not to sin.   What’s difficult is having to choose between two seemingly valid options. Consider the following example which I wrote while attending seminary in Southern California.

“Last Wednesday, I was once again fighting the traffic to get to my 8 am class.  The ride to the school, located about 30 miles from my home, usually takes anywhere from 45 minutes to one and a half hours.  I try to be on time out of respect for my professor and to avoid my grade being docked for tardiness.  That morning, as I was cruising fast, I saw an elderly man pushing his stalled car off the road; I continued to drive.  Immediately, however, my conscience began to bother me: Well, what is more important: my grade or helping that man out?  So, I made a U‑turn to return to him, only to find that he was already being helped.  Although I was late to my class, again, I didn’t feel as bad as other times because I felt like I had made the right decision (though a tad late).”

After citing this incidence that happened some 30 years ago, I began to feel that perhaps I had patted myself on the back for no good reason, and as a result, my readers would frown on me.  But then I realized that that is my point: as believers, we should cultivate a sensitive conscience so that we don’t feel totally satisfied with the good that we’ve done, either because we could’ve done it better (e.g., stopping for the elderly man right away) or chosen another action that is better.

Facing such situation, John tells us to find rest for our condemned hearts in God who is greater than our hearts—meaning, don’t seek satisfaction or escape from guilt by justifying our actions, however good or almost good they may be, but throw yourself at God’s mercy.  John says that God knows everything—meaning, He knows you tried, He knows you feel bad, and He knows you love Him.  With that in mind, “let us not love with words or tongues but with actions and in truth” today.

Prayer: Dear God, I’ve failed to reflect Your light to the world so many times.  At the same time, I’ve tried to justify my standing before You with good deeds, which shows how deficient my understanding of Your grace and mercy is.  Thank You for being always being gracious and merciful towards me.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 18:9-14: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

  1. In light of 1 John 3:18-20, how would you advise the Pharisee who was quite confident of his own “Christian” performance?
  2. In light of 1 John 3:18-20, how would you advise the tax collector who felt so miserable over what he failed to carry out?
  3. What is your main struggle? Is it more like that of the Pharisee or the tax collector?       Pray about what action to take in order to find peace for your troubled heart.

Notes

  1. An example of an advice: “Mr. Pharisee, while ‘you give a tenth of your spices . . . you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness’ (Mt. 23:23). Therefore, don’t feel too good about yourself by selectively appraising your life; instead, throw yourself at God’s mercy.”
  2. An example of an advice: “Mr. tax collector, you did the wise thing by throwing yourself at God’s grace and mercy since you’ve done little to please Him. Now that you have been ‘justified before God’, I urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain’ (2 Cor. 6:1).  From now on, ‘produce fruit in keeping with repentance’ (Mt. 3:8)—‘not with words or tongues but with actions and in truth’.”
  3. Personal response.

 


EVENING REFLECTION

Looking back to your entire day, did you experience feeling guilty or ashamed?  Was it over a sin or genuine mistake on your part, or something good that you could have done better or should have done?  Before vowing to do better tomorrow, thereby feeling better about yourself by your deed, let’s find our rest in God.  Throw yourself at God’s mercy and repeat what the tax collector told God: “‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner and someone who doesn’t produce as good a fruit as I should.”  

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