UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought—first posted on April 11, 2014—is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches. He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Revisiting This Thing Called ‘Grace’”
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Let’s be honest; most of us still struggle with grace. In our high-achieving culture—that, for the moment, has been jolted by the pandemic—we think grace is a little unfair, don’t we? For example, let’s say at work you are in line for a promotion; in fact, you’ve worked for years to get this position, but instead of giving it to you, your boss gives it to the fresh MBA grad who happens to be his son. This would probably drive you bonkers! Today, let’s revisit this thing called “God’s grace”.
Now, I understand that there is a vast difference between nepotism in the marketplace and salvation through grace, but might I suggest to you that fundamentally, the idea that some people get far more than what they merit bothers all of us. In the church, we see the same phenomenon. Some of you may have been praying for a particular gift or ministry opportunity for several years, and lo and behold, the guy who has only been a Christian for like two months gets it.
The truth is, we gravitate toward works because it appeals to our sense of economics; if we work, then we can say we have accomplished. Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge our sinfulness in this line of thinking, and to see that we are trying to steal away from the glory and power of the cross. The Galatians made this mistake; they wanted their works to count toward their salvation. But the reason God poured his Spirit on them (and us) was because they simply believed. Let’s be clear; our works and efforts do count toward our sanctification (becoming more like Christ) and rewards in heaven, but they can never justify us (take away our guilt) before God.
Today—amid so many people who have lost so much during the pandemic—instead of growing in jealousy, let’s come to grips with the fact that we have received far greater than a job promotion, and we were far less deserving than even the boss’ bumbling son. Let’s clothe ourselves in thankfulness that God would choose to save us and to use us for his Kingdom. As we work/serve, let us remember that while our labor is not in vain, God is never obliged to do anything for us; his love, mercy, and favor are a gift.
Prayer: Father, help me to serve You faithfully with my hands, but let my heart depend on Your grace. Remind me that I was lost and hopeless without You; make me thankful for Your mercy; and never let me rely on my own righteousness. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 45
Lunch Break Study
Luke 16:28-32: “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Questions to Consider
- What do we observe about the older brother?
- What do we observe about the father?
- With whom do you relate the most in this parable?
- Let’s not kill the older brother, for we would all be angry with the younger brother. But we see that the older brother is jealous of the father’s love, and does not understand the fullness of the father’s love for all his children. We also see that the older son has viewed his labor as “slaving,” being self-righteous.
- The father is lavish with his love. He was the one to initiate reconciliation with his older son by pleading with him to come in. The father didn’t stop loving the older brother, but at that moment, it was more appropriate to celebrate the younger son’s return.
- Many of you who have been in the church awhile probably feel like the older brother; but know that your labor is not in vain. Some of you may be able to relate with the younger son, who have come to your senses and have run to God. Others who have wayward children may feel like the father; be ready to celebrate your son’s return.
Were you able to cultivate a thankful heart today? Did you allow jealousy, comparisons, or self-righteousness too much free reign? Did you serve or work to honor God?