REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on June 29, 2016, is provided by Ulysses Wang who pastors Renewal Church in Sunnyvale, California. Pastor Ulysses is a graduate of New York University (BA) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Is Believing in Jesus the Same as ‘Get Out of Jail’ Card?”
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
There is a great temptation to associate believing in Jesus with a “get out of jail, free” card. “Thanks for the sacrifice Jesus. Now, I’ve got some stuff to do, so I’ll see you in 50 years.” Such people will be in for the surprise of their lives if at the end, they hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23b). The fact that this is a real possibility can be seen in Paul’s logic – we have been “reconciled…if indeed you continue in the faith…” If. This disturbs us because it wasn’t what we learned in Sunday school – if you believe in Jesus, you’ve got a spot waiting for you in heaven. Your table can’t be given away. We object further: “This sounds like works! I thought salvation was free!” Amen! Salvation is free – it’s a gift. But true salvation is evidenced by the kind of continuing on in the faith Paul wrote about. A duo of commentators put it this way: “If the Bible teaches the final perseverance of the saints, it also teaches that the saints are those who finally persevere – in Christ. Continuity is the test of reality.” The famous reformer Martin Luther is helpful as well when he so elegantly quipped: “It is grace alone that saves, but the grace that saves is never alone.”
So what does this mean for us folks living in the 21st century? It means the same thing it has meant for the people of God throughout the ages: We cannot just rest on our laurels. It means that if you see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life, you should have great assurance that you are indeed in the flock of God. Evidence, however, not only includes victories, but it also includes genuine repentance after devastating defeats, tooth-and-nail struggle against an old sin-stronghold, and faith—even if it’s on life support, in the face of earth shattering pain and loss. It also means, however, that if you consider yourself a Christian but see no evidence of Christ in your life – no desire, no fight, no longing – then you’d better do some serious self-reflection. God forbid that you find yourself among the “goats” in that final day. To quote the street theologian Ice Cube slightly out of context—“You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.” The apostle Paul would agree with such wise admonition.
Prayer: God, help me to be a Christian not in name only, but in deed, love, and faith. Help me to run the race to the finish like the apostle Paul. May the powerful working of the Holy Spirit increase in my life that I may abound in the works of the Lord and be overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit. Help me to never take grace for granted but tap into such grace that I may live a life worth living. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Joel 2
Lunch Break Study
Read Matthew 7:15-20: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Questions to Consider
1. According to Jesus, how are we to recognize true disciples (good trees)?
2. Forget the fact that you consider yourself a Christian. If someone were able to observe your thoughts and actions 24 hours a day for an extended period of time, what conclusions do you think he or she may draw about you?
3. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” What do the people in your life see when they see you?
1. By their fruit (a.k.a., works); that is, the way they live their lives.
2. Do not despair if you think your fruit is bad; instead, seek a deeper and more genuine relationship with Jesus. As you do, the fruit you bear will reflect this deepening relationship.
3. Personal response.
Philippians 1:6: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Be encouraged to know that as you run the race, God is the wind at your back.