Untitled Sermon (2)
most fail because they simply do not know how to go about cultivating the disciplines of the interior spiritual life
First, one’s prayer and devotional life cannot be reduced to a few simple rules. These areas of spiritual experience are far too dynamic and personal for simplistic reduction
All Christians should be systematically reading through the Bible, once a year if possible, so that our minds are being perpetually programmed by the data of Scripture.
This understood, there is yet another step: meditation — which involves personalizing and internalizing a segment of the Word.
The importance of having our ears dug open comes to us from the lips of Jesus: “He who has an ear, let him hear …” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). We need to read God’s Word, but we must also pray that He will blast through our granite-block heads so we truly hear His Word.
The effects of meditation are supernal, bringing:
• Revival — “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7).
• Wisdom — “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7); “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me” (Psalm 119:97, 98).
• Increases in our faith — “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17)
There can be no ongoing devotion without confession, which can take place anytime. Ideally it ought to take place whenever we sin. But all too often we are too proud and emotionally charged to acknowledge our sin at the time we commit it — for example, when we lose our temper in an argument. But devotion is impossible if we are overloaded with guilt.
If we have put off admitting our sins to God, confession may need to come first in our devotional time. There is also the probability that during Scriptural meditation, or even during adoration, further hidden sins will come to light. So our moments of devotion may be filled with repeated confession.
While understanding that confession should happen spontaneously, our discipline of devotion ought to involve systematic confession as well. First, we must confess what we are, the ontological reality that we truly are sinners
The disciplines of devotion should culminate in sublime adoration and worship. This begins with a proper sense of awe in the presence of the God we know and serve.
The height of devotion is reached when reverence and contemplation produce passionate worship, which in turn breaks forth in thanksgiving and praise in word and song
As we worship we can pray or read or sing God’s Word back to Him. The Psalms are perfect for this because they are a worship manual. For example, Psalms 146–150, the last five Psalms, begin and end with “hallelujah” (i.e., “praise the Lord!”). And Psalm 150 says, “praise the Lord” in every sentence
Does adoration lead to anything else? Yes — the presentation of our bodies — our entire lives — in an ultimate act of worship. This is how Isaiah capped his great experience with God: “Here am I. Send me!”
Our devotion must culminate in a conscious yielding of every part of our personality, every ambition, every relationship, and every hope to Him. This done, we have reached the apex of personal devotion.
As I cautioned when we began, personal devotion cannot and must not be reduced to a few principles such as meditation, confession, adoration and submission. Neither can it be put in a logical straitjacket. Sometimes we may be called to confession and submission only. Other times, adoration may occupy an extended time, or our devotions will properly be confined to petition only. There will be times when all of it takes place in twenty minutes.
But one thing is certain — it will not happen without discipline. The reason many men never have an effective devotional life is, they never plan for it. They do not know what it is because they have never taken the time to find out. They do not pray because they do not set aside the time. Their character never rises to that of Christ’s because they do not expose their lives to His pure light. Their wills stay crooked because they do not tie into Him.
The question for prayerless men is a very masculine one: Are we man enough to meditate? To confess? To adore? To submit? To sweat and endure?