REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan, was first posted on April 10, 2014. Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“‘Usefulness’ of Religion That Leads to Blindness”
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
God gave His chosen people various commandments to follow and guidelines to live by so that they would be able to enjoy a relationship with Him, living lives of love of God and others. Yet over the years, that relationship (from their end) became mere religion – a system of rules and boundary-driven identity markers. It was this religiosity that eventually blinded them to God, so much so that they were not able to recognize Him when He was standing right in front of them (literally).
Justification by faith in Christ should have been an easy jump for the Jews. After all, it was by no merit of their own that they were chosen as God’s people. It was a grace. And it was that same grace upon which they relied for generations as they failed to meet God’s standards. Over and over again God rescued them, not because of their works, but because of His faithfulness. But religion gives the illusion that it is something we’re doing (or not doing) that earns God’s favor.
It is very easy for faith-based people to get wrapped up in religion. Our lives need order and the faith-based life is messy. We aren’t always able to see in the natural what we believe in the spiritual and we don’t have all the answers. So we create these systems to help us organize it all and get a handle on things. And, in this regard, religion serves us well.
But while religion is important, it is not ultimate. It’s our way of systematizing what we’ve learned from God, but we don’t have it all figured out. So, we have to be careful not to let our religion blind us to what God is doing. God’s people didn’t intentionally misunderstand justification by faith (nor were they intentionally racist toward Gentiles). But they’d clung so tightly to their system (as opposed to their God) that they were blind and dumb to both. Whether it’s denominational standards or conservative/liberal values, we have to remember the God behind our systems (and the people He loves) is ultimate, but not the system.
Prayer: Father, I thank you for the religious system(s) I’ve grown to adopt over the years. I know these are a help to me, but help me keep them in their place. Help me not to cling more tightly to my religion than to You. Jesus’ name, amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 16
Lunch Break Study
Read Isaiah 58:5-8: Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Questions to Consider
- What were God’s people doing wrong?
- What did God want instead?
- What is the result of proper fasting?
- They were going through the religious motions of fasting without a heart of fasting. Their bodies seemed to be doing Godly things, but their hearts were not concerned with the things of God.
- He wants their religious actions to lead their hearts to love of God and care for others. Otherwise, it is of no use.
- God’s people experience His glory! Religion alone cannot do this, but relationship (in our hearts) with God guarantees it.
Are there areas in your life where you’ve settled for religion as opposed to a living relationship with God? Pray and ask God to identify these areas and to exchange stale religious ritual for a fresh relationship with Him.