I just told a friend that I had to go and do my devotions. I had to go be devoted for 20 minutes. I had to go prove my devotion to God by reading a little encouragement and a verse. Then we could talk again.
That's just messed. I've thought about it before, but this time something clicked inside me. What am I even doing?? We've turned a verb into a noun. A lifestyle into an appointment. We go about our daily lives for 23.5 hours each day, and meet up somewhere in there for a quick rendezvous with God to check up how things are going. This post certainly isn't a devotional- it's just a rant that God has put on my heart to share. But sitting for a few minutes and writing or reading this thing doesn't really count as devotion in my mind.
And the materials that we are labeling as devotion! I have 3 different 'devotion' books in my room. All of them consist of a page of some modern day author writing about something, with a single verse at the top. Yeah, I sure feel devoted when I read them- devoted to the author, that is.
What has happened? When I mention 'devotions,' what do you think of? I'll bet you don't automatically think of Paul and Silas locked in prison, Joan of Arc burned at the stake, Nate Saint killed by the spears, people crucified upside down, hanged, decapitated, and tortured. Am I right? In fact, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is an annoying little booklet of encouraging quotes and phrases to read as you fall into bed already half asleep.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and
gave himself for me.
Devotion is not a book read. It's not a song you listen to or sing. It's not a book you write. It's not a song you compose. It's not a blog you post on once in a while. Devotion is death to the self, and life for someone else. (That someone else being Christ.) It is living with the Holy Spirit inside of you, and giving him control over every decision.
To end off this rant, here are some words straight from the pen of a man under house arrest who knew a lot more about devotion to God than most people. Here is what he wrote to his friends, the Philippians, during his own imprisonment. (Obviously, if he clinged to this stuff to give him hope during that time... it's gotta be some good stuff. So read on.)
"Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!
I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin- a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on FAITH.
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!"
Good golly, I sure hope you read that letter thoroughly. I was going nuts by the end there, bringing out the big guns- bold, italics, AND underline! (That was in Philippians 3, by the way) This is insane stuff, you guys! Paul was just about the most priestly priest guy there was- super good and proper and people probably thought he was a saint- when it came to obeying the law. He DEVOTED his life to that law, his entire life- until Jesus came and interrupted his ways for a brand new path of devotion.
And that new path of devotion was so deep and rich and worth it that he counted all his life's achievements as GARBAGE. It could not compare with the infinite value of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord.
I don't know about you, but I don't quite have Paul's reaction when it comes to my 20-minute devos every evening. I don't count my life's accomplishments as garbage when compared to that. There's a hint that something's not right.
Reading other people's books and blogs and devotionals is good. It can be great. But if that's what we are calling devotion to God, there's something hugely wrong. Devotion is constant. 24/7 obedience to His call. It's saying a kind word. Giving a compliment. Doing the dishes without being told. Paying for the next car's meal at the drive-thru.
Devotions aren't something you do. Devotion is something you show. It's something you prove.