“The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of His discipline. Let them sit alone in silence beneath the Lord’s demands. Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.” Lamentations 3:25-29
Depend on Him.
Search for Him.
Wait quietly for Him.
Submit to His discipline.
Sit alone in silence.
Lie face down in the dust.
Why do devotions? Famous last written words of Peter to the church: “…you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 Can I give you some bad news? Spiritual growth and vitality will not be accomplished by mere attendance in the church once or even three times a week. We must put ourselves into position to learn from Him so that we can live life right and not give up the fight.
Devotions require the right “heart posture.” This is not a time that we storm the throne with grievances against people or life. This is not a rushed time where He must fit into a scheduled amount of time (and then we get frustrated at Him for not fulfilling our needs).
This “heart posture” is a premeditated time that you set apart to get into the head of God. Sit alone. “Lying face down in the dust” and “submitting to His discipline” is the picture of a heart ready to receive correction or any other thing that He may want to address. Wait quietly for Him. We are not talking. We are listening. It may be a time of encouragement or discipline or a time of silence from the heavens. But we come. And we listen. And we come again and again and again. This is setting us up under His authority. This is showing our dependence on Him. This is seeking Him.
Want some more bad news? We must resolve in our hearts that we want to do this. We must show up. If you don’t want to, you can ask Him to help.
If you don’t know what scriptures to read to start out your time with Him, you can ask. Then just dive in. The Word of God is the springboard into relationship with God. From that foundation we can experience the living God. Listen to the Word. Those Words are the very words of God. The God who created the heaven and earth and holds them together by His will.
The time of devotion is where religion turns into relationship. It is time with the Father. He is not impatient. He knows how hard it is for us to do this type of thing. But we must. It is for our protection from the enemies of our souls and our flesh.
“And [Israel] refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them…” Nehemiah 9:17 NIV
In the KJV it says, “God is READY TO PARDON…AND OF GREAT KINDNESS, and FORSOOKEST THEM NOT.”
We have all had our moments of refusing to listen to God. We all have moments of having a “stiff neck.” This is when we hear His Word or get directions on how to change our situation and then refuse to obey what we have received of Him. We become slaves to unrighteousness and become broken, depressed, discouraged, etc.
When we realize what we have been doing, how do you imagine God’s response? Your desire to turn from your stubbornness and return to doing things God’s way?
Here is what it looks like:
God is READY TO PARDON! Just imagine Him sitting on the edge of His seat, ears open in anticipation, just waiting for the words to cross your lips or even your mind, and as soon as they do?! He is so excited at your humility He lets out a “Yes, Yes, Yes! You are pardoned!” The hard work of humbling yourself is rewarded by a kind God who never forsakes, never leaves, always anticipates and waits for that moment when you finally decide His ways are best. He is QUICK to forgive!
If we have a wrong picture of how God receives us during our time of repentance and we get a Scripture like this, it is time to replace our old understanding with the truth.
“…the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought…”
Before you read on, read the above Scripture again and imagine God looking down into your soul and seeing every last corner of your heart throughout your whole life…
Our first response to this Scripture ought to be fear. The God who spoke the universe into existence knows every thought and desire I have ever had or ever will have. This is terrifying because we are all at war with wanting to do things our way instead of God’s way. Even when we are born again, born of the spirit, our flesh wars against God’s will.
On the heels of our fear, however, we ought to have relief. This relief is only for those who have accepted the gift of salvation. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins. The punishment we deserved was placed on Him. Through our faith in His work on the cross, we are made right in the sight of God. We have relief because when God looks at a person who has faith, He sees the finished work of Jesus.
The Lord searches every heart and loves that heart even when he sees every evil intent.
The Lord not only knows, but understands, every desire that we crave, and loves us still.
The Lord knows every thought, and He loves us in spite of it.
He knows us fully. He knows our condition. He is not unfair. He loves us and accepts us as we are.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are…” Hbr 4:15
He fully understands our struggle with sin. He loved us enough to die for us. He loves us enough that no sin will separate His love from us. God’s love is powerful. It changes us. In the midst of our struggles, He sees us, and has compassion on us. When we receive His compassion, love and forgiveness, we have a duty thereafter:
Here is the challenge, brothers and sisters. When someone’s sins are uncovered to you, and you see the depth of their filthiness, will you imitate Jesus Christ and love them in spite of what they do?
People’s sins are dark, but not any darker than yours or mine. Period.
Like the lyrics in this song,
“Everyone needs compassion, Love that’s never failing; Let mercy fall on me. Everyone needs forgiveness” (Mighty to Save from Hillsong).
I need it. You need it. The world needs it. Our fellow Christians need it.
Life can really beat us up.
People can really beat us up.
We do a pretty good job of beating ourselves up.
Let us not forget the accuser of the church, the devil, who loves to see us beat up. Discouragement is easy to come by. Feelings of condemnation are around every corner.
Feeling unworthy to come into the presence of a Holy God is common.
Why do we let the feeling of unworthiness keep us silent? We ARE unworthy. Let us not forget that it was because we finally came to the realization that we were unworthy that caused us to become a Christian in the first place. The very feeling that keeps us from worshipping our God is the very reason WHY we worship Him.
So when you beat yourself up, agree with yourself! “I am just not good enough to be worshipping God now, since I have done such and such…” Absolutely! That is the very heart of the Gospel! Say, “Forgive me, I am not good enough to be here now…Thank you God for saving a wretch like me!”
When the devil is beating you up and reminding you of all the ways you have failed, agree with him.(“Agree with your adversary quickly” Mt 5) “I do not deserve to be happy right now. I have done too much…surely God is disgusted with me right now!” Surely you are no more disgusting than you were on the day you were saved! He died for you while you were still sinning and didn’t even care that you were sinning! How much more will He forgive you now! Agree with the devil! “I don’t deserve to be happy now! Father, forgive me today as you have forgiven me before! I WILL praise you because I AM a wretch and you love me in SPITE of what I do.”
Here is a hard one. When you stand to worship God and you wonder, “Surely, they must think I am a hypocrite because I stand here wanting to worship God and they know how awful I was just moments ago! They must wonder how I can just stand here smiling…surely they expect remorse from me…what do I do?” Ask God to forgive you and smile and worship God! You are absolutely right that you are awful. No one becomes a better Christian by beating themselves up. Letting God chasten you, asking for forgiveness, and responding to His forgiveness with praise is what changes us.
We must stop letting others think that we have it all together, because it is a house of cards. People will see our failings one way or another. Let them in early and let them witness what grace looks like. The fact that you don’t grovel over your failings may encourage another that their sins are not beyond forgiveness, too.
Let us worship Him because He is Worthy. He has saved us from our sins! God loves us just as we are. Come to Him and He will clean you up. No amount of beating yourself up will change you, but He will.
“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…” Is 61:10a