(Family Bible Class 21 January 2024, by Pastor Hennie)
You scroll on your computer on Facebook, or you open a What's App status and you see an image: A beautiful sunset on the horizon of a gorgeous landscape. It could be the bushveld, the beach or just a nice backyard. In the foreground you see an open bible marked with some highlights. The caption reads “Inspirational devotional time.” You switch off your computer or your phone, and you reach for your own Bible. You take a colored pen and you open to a random passage of Scripture and you mark some words which stand out to you, but you feel uninspired. In fact, you feel guilty and depressed. Why can’t my devotional time help me feel good?
We will all feel less guilty and less depressed once we realize that “feeling good” is not the goal of daily devotions. Feeling good, blessed, refreshed and inspired are all byproducts of daily devotions, but not the goal. What is the goal of Daily Devotions?
If our goal is to post a photo on social media, or to be like the people we see on social media, our devotional time will remain fruitless and frustrating. The true goal of Daily Devotions is to know God. Knowing God involves more than just reading the bible to get through the daily reading plan. It involves more than filling our heads with a bunch of bible trivia, helpful as that may be sometimes. Communion (Fellowship) with God through our union with Christ should be our aim.
Can we have such a glorious goal in our devotional time? Is it possible to have meaningful fellowship with God? Not only is it possible, but God gives us supernatural grace. God does not want Christians to have godless devotional time. We cannot have fellowship with God, without God. It is such a comfort to know that He is faithful to meet with us, so that our devotions are not a godless exercise!
We cannot have effective fellowship with God in our own strength, through natural means. God’s supernatural grace to us is His Spirit. We have received the Holy Spirit, that we might hear and understand the thoughts of God.
1 Corinthians 2:11-12 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
In our devotional time we must submit ourselves to the Lord and patiently seek His help in understanding the Mind of God. We must expect to be stretched in our thinking, because God’s thoughts are not earthly or low. His thoughts are higher and greater! Many turn away here, because we are saying devotions are not easy going.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We must not let the difficulty in stretching to attain an understanding of the Mind of God deter us from daily devotions. God is more willing to help us, than we are to ask for His help. That is why He prompts us to ask for the Holy Spirit.
Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
You cannot start your devotion without the Holy Spirit! We are not aiming to spend time alone, by ourselves, but time in communion with God by the help of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit whom we received is our gift from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit brings us into communion with Jesus and the Father. (This is the most important work of the Holy Spirit! Far more than speaking in tongues.)
John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Without the Help of the Holy Spirit, our personal devotions will not only be ineffective, but we run the risk of incurring the wrath of God for idolatry and blasphemy! We cannot accept nor understand what God offers us, unless the Spirit indwells us. (Without the Holy Spirit our devotions are godless and meaningless exercises).
1 Corinthians 2:13-14 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Personal Devotion is a Discipline of the Godly Mind.
We are not saved on the basis of our organized thinking, we organize our thinking on the basis of our salvation in Christ. We naturally think that our investment in personal devotion leads to salvation and blessing, when in fact salvation by God’s grace fuels our desire for personal devotion.
Colossians 3:1-3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The reality of our salvation is
That we have been raised with Christ
You have died (the old you, the natural person)
Your life is hidden with Christ in God (has been hidden with Christ in God)
And because of this reality, we proceed to
Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated
Set our minds on the things that are above and not on the earth.
*Mind in this context is not your brain or your intellect. The word translated as mind, is in fact the midriff or diaphragm, the parts around the heart. As the diaphragm regulates breathing so our inner “regulatory organ” (Mind in English) must regulate our lives according to the things that are above where Christ is seated. It means that we are not only to set our Intellect on the things above, but all of our Affections. Our whole inner being, our whole heart must be set on heavenly things.
Paul uses the same word “mind” in Philippians 2:5-11, to call us to have the same mind as Christ our Saviour. Christ was concerned for the heavenly kingdom in every part of His earthly life. If our Lord and Saviour submitted himself in the midst of severe suffering and trial to humble Himself and obey God, why would we think that we can escape this calling as Christians?
Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
James 4:4-10 helps us to see our calling in light of what Paul describes in Philippians 2:5-11.
James 4:4-10 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Questions to Consider:
What is the goal of daily devotions?
Is it possible to attain this goal? (why/why not?)
How does Colossians 3:1-3 describe the reality of our salvation in Christ?
What is required of those who are being saved and brought into this reality?
Are daily devotions purely an intellectual exercise? _________________________________
What does the word “mind” in Col 3:1-3 and Phil 2:5-11 mean?
Why do we organize our mind?
How do we organize our mind?
What did Christ do according to Paul in Philippians 2:5-11? And what are we required to do in light of Christ’s work?
God exalted Christ, because of Christ’s willing humiliation. Do you have the hope that God will exalt you, when you humble yourself? What are some specific ways that you can humble yourself before God? Write them down and commit yourself to doing it.