The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (4):
“Senators and Media Dig Up the Distant Past; Does God Do the Same?”
Isaiah 54:4 (ESV)
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.”
It was quite a spectacle to see some members of the Judiciary Committee—Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) in particular—trying to gauge the fitness of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court based on what he wrote in his high school yearbook. One writer summed it as “lots of football, plenty of drinking, parties at the beach.” Some keyed into a cryptic reference that allegedly referred to a sexual conquest.
No doubt, to the news media and senators, Supreme Court justices are far more important than ministers of the gospel, like myself, but not according to how God sees things. Kavanaugh was trained in a law school to properly interpret the Constitution of the United States; I was trained in a seminary to properly interpret the Constitution of a Higher Order—the Scripture. Thus, before the eyes of the Lord, what I’m called to do in God’s Court (i.e., church) ranks higher than what Kavanaugh has now been appointed to do in the Supreme Court. So, if what Kavanaugh did in his youth is grounds for denying his appointment to the lower court, then, shouldn’t I resign from the higher court since I also behaved badly in my youth? Yes, I confess that I’ve done things in my youth that would greatly embarrass me if people were to find out. So did King David, who, recalling his youth, prayed, “O LORD . . . remember not the sins of my youth or my transgression” (Ps. 25:7).
Are you any different? It turned out that Senator Blumenthal wasn’t any different either. This senator, who took a hard stance against Kavanaugh’s nomination, certainly felt the boomerang effect when what the New York Times first reported in 2010 resurfaced during the hearing: falsely claiming he served in Vietnam. President Trump, not known to pass up opportunities to ridicule his opponents, quipped, “Da Nang Blumenthal.” The issue here isn’t whether to weigh one’s background to gauge the fitness of prospective employees (it’s a must); rather, it is how far back in time do you go back to dig. For the 53-year old Kavanaugh, it’s high school; for 21-year old Kyler Murray, whose anti-gay tweet the media exposed immediately after he won the 2018 Heisman Trophy, it’s when he was 15 years old. Do you have anything to hide yourself? At some point, the digger may need to be told, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone” (Jn. 8:7b).
Nevertheless, I have good news for people like Blumenthal and Kavanaugh, because God isn’t like the media that never forgets our most disgraceful moments, since these stories sell. First, let me start with the bad news: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that [we all] face judgment” (Heb. 9:27). And during this judgment proceeding, “the Lamb’s book of life” will be opened (Rev. 21:26). But the good news is that if your name is found in this book—because you have believed the promise that “whoever hears my word and believes him [God] who sent me has eternal life”—then, you do “not come into judgment, but ha[ve] passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24). In fact, God promises that “you will not be ashamed . . . disgraced,” for He says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 10:17)—that’s the New Covenant of grace!
But those who have not believed that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn. 20:31), then every single act of rebellion against God—including not embracing the gospel—will be remembered; and as a result, they are “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). If this is you, then, be your own media and recall every sin you ever committed, but instead of being given into despair, turn to Christ and repent of your sins—He will save you. Guaranteed!
Meanwhile, try not to drudge up the past mistakes of others when it suits your agenda; rather, forgive and forget, like what God did for us in Christ.
Prayer: Father, there are absolutely no words that can adequately capture our shock at finding that You will claim amnesia, in Christ, so that You will no longer remember our most shameful and disgraceful moments. Thank You! May I extend that grace to others as well. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 18
Tomorrow’s Blog: “Prophetic Witness in the City of Man”
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV):
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV):
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat [“bema” in Greek: elevated platform] of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV):
“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”
Questions to Consider
I attended a dispensationalist seminary where it was taught that there will be an additional judgment (a.k.a., the Bema Seat Judgment) just for the believers to determine their rewards. Admittedly, there is a paucity of teaching on rewards. Today, we take a small stab at it.
- Based on these passages, what should the believers be concerned about regarding their present life on earth: whether going to heaven or hell or something else? Back up your response.
- What is one key area that God will examine to decide whether we will receive rewards (not salvation) for the things done while we were on earth? In other words, what are the things that we did that would constitute “wood, hay, straw”—combustible materials?
- Certainly, these verses seem to suggest that bad things we did on earth will be mentioned at this judgement as well, which, then, goes against God’s declaration that “[I] will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12). How can we reconcile this?
- The believers need to be concerned about rewards, not whether they are going to make it to heaven. Whereas salvation is a free gift (i.e., the “foundation . . . which is Jesus Christ”), the rewards are determined by “what sort of work each one has done” while on earth.
- I am under the impression that “wood, hay, straw” do not refer to our sins (since we don’t expect to be rewarded for these); rather, these point to apparently good deeds done while we were on earth that were, nevertheless, done for our own glory, not God’s. Paul calls this “the purposes of the heart” and God will disclose the true nature behind each of our “good” deeds at the judgment seat of Christ.
- I wrote a book called Theologizing in the Radical Middle whose main thesis is this: when seeing two seemingly conflicting Scriptures that are, nonetheless, true, we accept both in tension. We may have worked out positions that harmonize them (some more convincing than others) but never to a point in which we divisively argue (2 Tim. 2:14). My position has already been stated: in the bema seat judgment of Christ, what are referred to as “bad” things in 2 Corinthians 5:10 are apparently good things, but they were done for the sake of our own glory (“wood, hay, straw”), rather than for God’s glory.
Before going to sleep, review your day—focus on those things that you would consider good deeds. Maybe you bought an extra cup of coffee for your co-worker or gave money to a homeless individual. Were you cognizant of your motive in those moments? Looking back, what was the main motive behind those deeds? If it was done for God’s glory, what would that look like? Is this too much thinking for everything we do? Or, should we be more in-tuned with why we do what we do? What do you think? Pray about it. It is important: salvation is free, but rewards are earned. But since our rewards will far exceed what was actually done to deserve them—I mean, who expects to be rewarded for giving a cup of cold water to a child (Matt. 10:42)?—you can say that grace is very much factored in determining our rewards.