July 10, 2020
How is your time with God lately?
If you are having a powerful mountaintop experience with God and you find yourself experiencing transformation and growth, then that’s great!
But if you are like many who are struggling with their time for devotions this season, there is good news. The great thing about God’s grace is that we can start again today!
Are you new in your faith, and you don’t know where to start in your personal time with God?
Are you reading the Bible every day and setting aside time to pray, and yet it doesn’t seem to have the power to help you overcome sin?
Are you starting to feel like spiritual disciplines have just become part of a checklist that you need to finish to keep your daily streak?
The goal of spiritual disciplines is for us to become more and more like Christ. It doesn’t matter when or how you started. What matters more is that we are eager and expectant to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We must also acknowledge that this is impossible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us and the grace of God.
Jerry Bridges summarizes it so well in his book, The Discipline of Grace.
Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.
What could a bad day look like? It can be when you didn’t get to do your quiet time, when you seemed to commit one sin after another, or when you did nothing to reach out to someone. On those days, God’s grace is still available and God’s love remains unconditional.
How about a good day? It can be when you got to read the Bible and pray, when you were mostly obedient to His commands, or when you selflessly ministered to someone in need at the expense of your own comfort. Yes, on those days, you still need God’s grace, because it is only through Him changing our hearts that we get to love Him, desire to be with Him, and obey Him. It is only through the overflow of His love that we get to love and serve others. But how do we get a consistent reminder of this grace?
This is why daily spiritual disciplines are crucial.
It is not a checklist for us to do so we can feel better about ourselves or feel confident of our plans for the day. It is a time for us to empty ourselves of any vestige of self-satisfaction and allow God to be the hero.
It is a time for us to take our eyes off of our circumstance and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
What does this look like?
1. Be willing to expose your sinfulness.
This is probably the hardest part, especially when you are already having a bad day and you don’t want to be reminded that you were unforgiving and bitter, or rebellious, or sexually immoral. Somehow, you just want to sweep these sins under the rug and forget you’ve ever succumbed to them.
This can also be hard when you are having a good day, and it seems like you’ve obeyed God perfectly, except for that one tiny exaggeration. Or you shared a little bit of an interesting story about someone to others. Somehow, it is hard to accept how that tiny exaggeration makes you a liar. Or that little story makes you a gossip.
But when we go to God and say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner,” we get to experience our highest moment. Our highest moment is not when we have preached the gospel to many or when we have given away half of our possessions. It is when we are emptied of our self-righteousness and when we are faced with our sinfulness–because it is in this moment that we encounter God’s unconditional love.
2. Receive God’s unconditional love that leads to repentance.
When, in humility, we acknowledge our sinfulness before God, He gently reminds us that He still loves us despite that.
He loves us so much that Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed Himself on the cross to reconcile us to God and grant forgiveness for our sins. He reminds us that because of what Jesus did, we are now clothed in righteousness and are no longer slaves to sin. Thus, there is no more shame and guilt to hold us back from enjoying His love.
Indeed, when we are reminded of these truths, we see the truth of Paul’s words that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It is in this moment that we receive the overflow of His love that allows us to love and obey Him throughout the day and to also respond in love to others. May we not miss out on this daily encounter!
Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we may no longer live for ourselves, but only for Him. But it will be hard for anyone to live for Him if not for His love that compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
We need spiritual disciplines to remind us of His love despite our sinfulness. This love leads us to repentance and obedience and enables us to truly act in love for Him and for others.