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Lesson 9: The Devotional Life


Written by: Biblical Studies Foundation    Posted on: 04/09/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ; 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 C

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