Lesson 9: The Devotional Life
Written by: Biblical Studies Foundation Posted on: 04/09/2003
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Lesson 9: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; The Devotional Life ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Introduction ; ; ; In our hurry up, man-centered, man-dependent world that measures success by activity, making big bucks, or ; ; ; how much we accomplish, finding time to hide ourselves alone with God for steady spiritual growth is a lost ; ; ; priority. It is viewed by many as a nonessential, as something for those who have nothing to do. The question ; ; ; people often ask is where is the practicality of time alone with God? ; ; ; We have become so utilitarian that we find it extremely hard to look at time in terms other than æ;To Doæ; lists ; ; ; and projects, performance and accomplishments. Others view time alone with God as a virtual impossibility. ; ; ; There are centrifugal forces at work in our modern world that propel us into a whirlwind of activity or business. ; ; ; But perhaps more than anything else our society has been led into a dangerous mood of impatience. Eugene ; ; ; Peterson accurately captures this mood of our day and writes: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; been flattened by thirty-page abridgments. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach, want short cuts à; They are impatient for ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; results à;The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.92 ; ; ; King David knew his need of daily time alone with God and, though faced with trials and pressures that were ; ; ; pulling him in other directions, he vowed that nothing would keep him from meeting with God dailyù;especially ; ; ; at the beginning his day. In Psalm 5:3 David vowed: ô;In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; In the ; ; ; morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.ö; ; ; ; No doubt it was this intimate morning-by-morning meeting with the Lord that developed Davidæ;s faith and ; ; ; made him a man after Godæ;s own heart. This morning watch, as we might call it, has the special reward of ; ; ; knowing God more intimately and of Christlike transformation. Surely the Lord had this in mind, at least in ; ; ; part, when He said in Matthew 6:6 ô;But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut ; ; ; your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay (reward) you.ö; ; ; ; The rewards of time alone with God are often not immediately evident and in our impatience we run to ; ; ; something more visibly practical. But there is a self-deception at work here as well. The negative effects of ; ; ; ignoring daily time alone with God is also not immediately visible. Itæ;s not like falling off a roof where gravity ; ; ; immediately takes over and swiftly plunges us to the ground. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Ecclesiastes 8:11-12 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not [INVALID]d ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; evil. 12 Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. ; ; ; The aftermath of failing to draw near to God is more like the decomposition of organic material, slow but sure. ; ; ; In time we can begin to see and even smell the signs of spiritual and moral decay. Ironically, spiritual decay is ; ; ; often accompanied by a paradox, the rock-like hardening of our souls which may blind us to the rot taking ; ; ; place in our heart. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Hebrews 3:7-8 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ô;Today if you hear His ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; trial in the wilderness, à;ö; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Hebrews 3:12-13 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. 13 But encourage one ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; another day after day, as long as it is still called ô;Today,ö; lest any one of you be ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Mark 6:51-52 And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; were greatly astonished, 52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; the loaves, but their heart was hardened. ; ; ; Unless we make time alone with God a priority, the other hours devoted to our busy schedules will be poorly ; ; ; used. We are prone to ignore times of retreat because our work, our ministry, our families, all seem more ; ; ; important. Doing seems so much more practical than praying or meditating on the Word. But the spiritual ; ; ; disciplines of prayer and meditation on the Word do not constitute idleness or indolence. They are rigorous ; ; ; disciplines that are vital to the spiritual life. ; ; ; No doubt getting alone with God is not easy and forms a kind of paradox that modern man finds tremendously ; ; ; difficultù;retreat is really Godæ;s way for us to advance. Satan obviously delights in deceiving us in this matter ; ; ; and works overtime to make it difficult. And the fact it is difficult only serves to highlight the great need we ; ; ; have for time alone with God. We need to hear and identify with Godæ;s word to Elijah the prophet when He ; ; ; told him to hide himself by the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:3). ; ; ; Finding time to get alone with God is a need for all Christiansù;wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, ; ; ; children, studentsù;everyone. Why? Because it is through seclusion with God that we are able to develop and ; ; ; maintain the mind of the Spirit and keep our spiritual equilibrium so that God is at the center and in control of ; ; ; our lives. ; ; ; It is through the two spiritual disciplines that will be discussed in this lesson that God communicates to us and ; ; ; we to Him. Here is where our faith is developed both in content (what we believe), and in degree (how much ; ; ; and how consistently we trust in Him rather than in ourselves). ; ; ; Through the dailies, and what I will call for lack of a better term, the weeklies, we are able to get into Godæ;s ; ; ; Word and get Godæ;s Word into us for conviction, motivation, edification, comfort, direction, and disciplined ; ; ; living by the power of the Spirit. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; The Two Disciplines ; ; ; The dailies refer to the discipline of daily getting into Godæ;s Word and daily going to the throne of grace. The ; ; ; weeklies refer to the discipline of weekly (regularly) assembling together with other believers for fellowship, ; ; ; singing, reciprocal ministry, prayer, and the study the Word. Though this study will deal with the weekly ; ; ; aspect, the primary focus will be on the daily devotional life. ; ; ; The dailies and weeklies are part of the means by which believers are able to more intimately know their God, ; ; ; relate to and rest in their new life in Christ, and experience true spiritual change and liberation from ; ; ; life-dominating patterns of sin. The dailies promote growth in devotion to God and the ability to grasp, ; ; ; personalize, believe, and apply the Scripture, Godæ;s personal Word to His people. Apart from the dailies and ; ; ; weeklies properly understood and experienced, there will be very little peace and true spiritual change from ; ; ; within through a deepening faith relationship with the living God. ; ; ; For instance, Romans 8:2-4a speaks of the Christianæ;s new life in Christ with its new possibilities of ; ; ; emancipated living available to believers through the Spirit-controlled life. However, this is not just some ; ; ; mysterious, automatic experience that somehow suddenly sweeps over the Christian after he or she has trusted ; ; ; in Christ. So Romans 8:4b relates this new life-changing capacity to a walk in accord with (adapted to and ; ; ; under the control of) the Spirit. Then verse 5 relates this spiritual walk according to the Spirit to the focus of ; ; ; oneæ;s mind. Literally, Romans 8:5 reads, ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; for those who are according to the flesh (controlled by the sinful nature), are ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; minding, thinking on, the things of the flesh, and those according (controlled by) to ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; the Spirit (are minding, thinking on) the things of the Spirit. ; ; ; As the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us and illuminates our hearts to the Word (Eph. ; ; ; 1:15-20; 3:16-19). True spirituality, walking by the control of the Spirit of truth, will result in spiritual ; ; ; illumination, understanding, and so right thinking about God and man and the real values and priorities of life. ; ; ; But it is equally true that meditating on the word and right thinking is crucial to true spirituality or the ; ; ; Spirit-controlled walk. ; ; ; The Holy Spirit does not operate in a mindless vacuum, one devoid of Godæ;s point of view. The Word and the ; ; ; Spirit work together so that, if we are not taking time to get alone with God in His revelation to us in the Bible, ; ; ; two things will happen: (a) we will quench the ministry of the Spirit and grieve Him, and (b) as with a partial ; ; ; vacuum, we will tend to draw in the attitudes and viewpoints of the world around us. ; ; ; Romans 8:6 adds to our understanding of the issues here. It reads: ô;For the mind of the flesh is death.ö; The ; ; ; mind of the flesh is attempting to live independently of God; itæ;s the mind of manæ;s point of view, of human ; ; ; solutions to life, and of human will power. The result is death. Death means separation and a loss of life, but the ; ; ; context must determine the kind of death or loss of life involved. The apostle was writing to the Christians at ; ; ; Rome, and by the context he was undoubtedly referring to a life of carnality, frustration, and the absence of ; ; ; peace, a life dominated by the sinful nature. If continued, such a life would eventually result in physical death as ; ; ; discipline from the Lord. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Ephesians 5:14 For this reason it says, ô;Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; And Christ will shine on you.ö; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Romans 8:13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Hebrews 12:9-13 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 12 Therefore, ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; joint, but rather be healed. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; rightly, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world. ; ; ; By contrast, ô;the mind of the Spiritö; is the mind of spiritual dependence on God, of operating by Godæ;s ; ; ; viewpoint with His values, objectives, and priorities. The result is life, peace, victory, fellowship, a life ; ; ; controlled and led by the Holy Spirit, and of being transformed in Godæ;s image. ; ; ; These spiritua1 disciplines or routines (the dailies and weeklies) are Godæ;s grace means of channeling our ; ; ; minds according to the Spirit. Here is the place where the mind is filled with the things of Christ and ; ; ; restructured by the Spirit of God according to the Word of God that we might walk in newness of life. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; An Important Balance ; ; ; There is a subtle balance which must be maintained, a narrow road, or we will miss the way of deliverance by ; ; ; grace and end up in the pit of one of two extremes, maybe even both. ; ; ; We are calling the dailies and weeklies spiritual disciplines because the term discipline focuses on the fact of ; ; ; the believeræ;s responsibility in the process of godliness. But this is not meant to imply that by the discipline of ; ; ; human will power or human effort we can overcome our sinful nature and its life-dominating patterns. We ; ; ; cannot consistently and in all areas free ourselves from life-dominating habits by our willpower no matter how ; ; ; badly we desire to do so. For one thing, very often, the goal in such pursuits is selfish. ; ; ; Though people often overcome some habit by sheer determination, self remains at the core and true Christlike ; ; ; change does not occur. People often want change and may turn to God for help, but if they are not really ; ; ; seeking to know God and grow in their relationship with Him, they will only be turning to God as a kind of ; ; ; Genie. ; ; ; A basic truth of the Bible is that spiritual change is the product of genuine godliness, of growing in our ; ; ; dependence on and relationship with God through Christ. ; ; ; Colossians 2 touches on some of the methods or human regulations men often use in their attempt to control ; ; ; sin or bring about change. In 2:23 Paul refers to one of these methods as ô;self-made religionö; or ô;will-worshipö; ; ; ; (KJV). This is the Greek word eqeloqrhskia from qelhma meaning ô;willö; and qrhskeia meaning ô;external ; ; ; religion or worship.ö; It refers to will-worship, service, worship of the will, or a self-imposed religion of doæ;s ; ; ; and donæ;ts by which men attempt to change their lives. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Colossians 2:20-23 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; such as, 21 ô;Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!ö; 22 which all refer to things ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; destined to perish with the usingù;in accordance with the commandments and ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. ; ; ; But the apostle shows us in this passage that such methods are doomed to failure and they are doomed to ; ; ; failure for two reasons. ; ; ; (1) First, they fail because all human methods are futile to deal with manæ;s condition in sin which is so ; ; ; ingrained in his total being. The flesh simply cannot overcome the flesh. Self cannot overcome self because self ; ; ; will always remain the center of the life. ; ; ; (2) Second, manæ;s religious methods do not work because they are faithless in the Christianæ;s new position ; ; ; and life in Christ. Perhaps Paul is also warning us that the moment we attempt the process of change by our ; ; ; willpower, we are worshipping our own will (self) which takes us to the heart of the problem, our need for faith ; ; ; and dependence on God and what He has done for us in Christ. Will-worship is doomed to failure because it ; ; ; neutralizes faith in the Christianæ;s position and divine operating assets in Christ. It is the opposite of ; ; ; dependence on the Lord and His grace work. As long as we think we can deliver ourselves by our own ; ; ; willpower, it will only make the sin within us stronger. ; ; ; Note also that in Colossians 2:23 the apostle teaches us that such man-made religion or will-worship has ô;an ; ; ; appearance of wisdom.ö; It will have an outward display of success to some degree, in certain areas, and for a ; ; ; time, but there will be serious flaws, cracks, and crevices in our righteousness and the true condition of our ; ; ; inner life will eventually manifest itself in spiritual failure. ; ; ; Matthew 12:33-36 reveals another truth which is practical to this point. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. 36 And I say to you, that every careless ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. ; ; ; The Pharisees to whom Christ was speaking in this passage were religious externalists who sought to be good ; ; ; by their own will power and religious works. Since their inner life was not being changed by Godæ;s graceù;by ; ; ; regeneration and by continued fellowship with the Lordù;it was impossible for them to truly speak good things ; ; ; and behave in a righteous way. Sooner or later, regardless of their outward appearance, the real condition of ; ; ; the heart would become evident. Such is actually true of any of us, even though we are regenerated by the ; ; ; Spirit of God as believers in Christ. If our inner world is not being fortified daily by an intimate life with God, ; ; ; the true condition of the heart will come to the surface. ; ; ; It is not that we want to be that way; we have no intention or desire to give vent to our inner hostilities, explode ; ; ; in anger, or react in self-pity, self-justification, arrogance, or act in fear. But, as we go through life, as we meet ; ; ; varying problems and people, the real condition of our heart will manifest itself. ; ; ; Though we may try to cover these up, stifle them with all our might, the truth will come out by what we say or ; ; ; do, or even by our body language. Will power and good intentions have no defense against the sinful nature. ; ; ; Only a heart, a spiritual mind which is right with God, one treasuring up Godæ;s truth and using it through these ; ; ; spiritual disciplines, can provide a defense against the unguarded moment. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; captive to the obedience of Christ, ; ; ; Knowing this, we are brought face to face with a vital truth. All aspects of true righteousness are gifts of God: ; ; ; imputed righteousness, experiential righteousness, and, of course, ultimate sanctification. It is essential that we ; ; ; understand that experiential righteousness, victory over the sin nature (ô;putting off old habitsö; and ô;putting on ; ; ; the godly characterö;), or overcoming life-dominating sins is the work of God. True, we are called upon to ; ; ; cooperate with God by faith and positive response to grace, but the needed transformation, the spiritual ; ; ; change, is grace given through our new life in Christ and the power of the Spirit. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Romans 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. ; ; ; The gift of righteousness mentioned in Romans 5:17 should probably not be limited to imputed righteousness. ; ; ; There was no such dichotomy in Paulæ;s theology. With the gift of Godæ;s righteousness in Christ also comes the ; ; ; work of God on our behalf to produce His righteousness within by grace through faith. So Paul adds, ô;will ; ; ; reign (live victoriously) in life through the One, Jesus Christ.ö; When and where? In life, not just after this life, ; ; ; but even now through the new life that is ours in Jesus Christ. ; ; ; Here, then is a key truth and a place where we can easily slip off the narrow road to spiritual change. When ; ; ; we grasp this truth, that righteousness is by grace, even experiential righteousness, we are tempted to do ; ; ; nothing (to ô;let go and let Godö;) or to believe there is nothing we can do or should do. This is where these ; ; ; routines of spiritual disciplines comes into play. God has ordained these spiritual disciplines as the means of ; ; ; receiving His grace or of appropriating it into our lives so that God can change us. These disciplines allow us to ; ; ; put ourselves in the place of blessing and at Godæ;s disposal. ; ; ; Galatians 6:7b reminds us of the law of the harvest. ô;For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.ö; We ; ; ; reap according to what we sow. Just as a farmer is helpless to grow his crop without preparing the soil and ; ; ; sowing the seed, so we must prepare the soil of our hearts and sow the seed of the Word to reap a harvest of ; ; ; righteousness. Then automatically by the power of Godæ;s Word, the seed produces (Mark 4:26-29). ; ; ; So it is with these spiritual disciplines. They are Godæ;s means of preparing the soil of our hearts, of sowing to ; ; ; the Spirit, and of setting the mind on the things of the Spirit. Without these spiritual disciplines, we sow to the ; ; ; flesh and reap of the flesh, either in mere human good and dead religious works or in sinful behavior or both. ; ; ; One vital characteristic of godliness is contentment. Think about just how much evil exists because of greed ; ; ; and the lack of contentment. Paul wrote, ô;But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied ; ; ; by contentmentö; (1 Tim. 6:6). ô;Contentmentö; is the Greek word autarkeia meaning ô;self-sufficiency.ö; But as ; ; ; this word is often used in the New Testament, it included the concept of becoming independent of things for ; ; ; oneæ;s satisfaction, significance, or security. Instead, these things are found in God through the sufficiency of ; ; ; Christ. ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Philippians 4:10-13 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ; ; ; Regarding contentment, Spurgeon wrote: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; We need not sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; they are indigenous to earth: and so, we need not teach men to complain; they ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardeneræ;s care. Now, contentment is ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated; it will ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
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