December 10, Monday

The AMI Devotional Blogs from December 10-16 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, completed his Master of Divinity program at Talbot School of Theology this past spring.  More importantly, he and his wife Esther recently became brand new parents—congratulations! May God richly bless this family.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Co-Heirs in Christ”

Ephesians 3:1-6 (ESV)

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

If recent American politics shows us anything, it’s that people on one end of the aisle are becoming more distanced from those on the other end—and the division is polarizing. Unfortunately, the Church can also be a place where we see just as much division and hostility. At the time Paul was writing this letter to the church in Ephesus, I’m sure that the division between the Jews and the Gentiles was still very real and big. When Paul says that the Gentile believers are now fellow heirs in the promise of Jesus, I can imagine some Jewish believers literally feeling sick to their stomach. Yet, the Gentile believers weren’t without fault either, for the early church history tells us that they were arrogant towards the Jewish believers.

But I find it interesting that Paul—a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, someone so entrenched in the Jewish tradition—is the one that God radically changes and uses to reveal this mystery and bridge that gap. He is the one fervently pushing that there is no distinction between the Jews and Gentiles in the eyes of God, even though there were clearly “distinctions” that separated these two groups which had been built up for over a thousand years. Paul tirelessly teaches the church to accept that this revelation is truly from God, and that he’s not making this up; in fact, he suffers much pain in order to carry this mystery faithfully. God truly uses the most unlikely people to do the most unlikely things.

Paul is adamant in proclaiming that the gospel is for the Gentiles to partake in—it’s not just for the Jews—and that though there was once this “wall of hostility” between the two groups, it has been torn down by the blood of Jesus Christ. So we see Paul as a bridge-builder, used by God to extend the gospel to those on the other side. Where he once would have been the last person to embrace a Gentile, the gospel radically changed him, and he became the biggest advocate for the people he once hated.

We are in need of more bridge-builders in our time—people who are willing to cross the proverbial aisle to love others and welcome them into the family of God. Has the gospel changed you in such a way? Are you willing to let God use you in the most unlikely way, reaching out to the most unlikely people? May we be those who take our call seriously to be ministers of reconciliation.

Prayer: Father God, help us to be people who can extend Your grace to those who have yet to receive this grace. Help us to be careful stewards of this awesome mystery that has been revealed to us, this gospel message that invites all to become fellow heirs and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. May we not differentiate and discriminate against others but be the bridge-builders who bring the gospel to the most difficult people in our lives. Give us the courage to do so. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Galatians 2:11-14 (ESV)

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.  13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Question to Consider

  1. Why do you think Cephas (Peter) separated himself from the Gentiles?
  2. Why did Paul have to confront Cephas (Peter) in front of everybody?
  3. Reflect on ways that you succumbed to peer pressure and ended up alienating people from the gospel (not in a self-condemning way, but in a self-awareness way).

Notes

  1. Peer pressure gets the best of all of us. When Peter saw the circumcision party, he probably didn’t want to stir the pot and cause any commotion, so he just distanced himself from any controversy. By doing so, he also caused others to follow his lead  
  2. Paul had to make it very clear that the gospel was not just for the Jews but for all peoples. When there was a large contention of whether the Gentiles had to become circumcised in order to become a believer, Paul makes a stand on a very important issue that separates Christianity from just being another Jewish sect into what Christianity is now.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

We are told to love our enemies and extend grace to them, but we have a hard time even loving those within our churches—particularly those who are different from us. Think of the people that are part of your church: How can you show them more grace and love? What are ways you can build bridges? Spend some time reflecting and praying for these people and allow God to use you as a conduit of His love and grace.

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