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by Mark Driscoll
Devoting Ourselves to Death
Devotions aren’t all that. In the Old Testament, to devote something was to offer it to God in complete destruction (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:2 ). Is that what we’re doing when we say things like, “This year, I’m going to improve my daily devotions”? True devotion will kill you! Maybe that’s why we have so much trouble achieving a routine of daily, devoted Bible reading and prayer.
He's not impressed
In calling us to a devoted life (Romans 12:1), the Bible is not calling us to a mere performance of spiritual disciplines. Jesus wasn’t impressed with those who were famous for rigorous self-discipline (Matthew 23:23). Yet, when we look at Jesus’ life, we see a man who absolutely had his priorities straight, and it didn’t always make sense from a time-management perspective.
- Consider what he did just after miraculously feeding 5,000 families (Matthew 14:23). He went up to a lonely mountain to pray.
- And in preparation for his last day on earth, he went to a garden and prayed until he bled (Luke 22:44). That’s devotion.
Performance-based devotions suck.
When we try to perform Jesus’ level of devotion, we so often wind up disappointed with our failing efforts, sometimes even opening a door to self-condemnation. The irony here is devotional efforts that result in condemnation produce exactly the opposite of God’s work for us in Christ: justification. Performance-based devotions suck. They are anti-Jesus, anti-Gospel, and sub-Christian.
Devotions versus devotion
The next time you set some goal of personal devotion, ask yourself this question: would a spouse appreciate being approached for intimacy like, “Okay, it’s time. I need to put in my fifteen minutes today.” Neither does God. Because of his great love for us, God opened the way to his very presence (Hebrews 4:16), so our devotions become devotion only when we approach God as one we love—like a lover with her spouse, like a son spending time with his father. The relationship motivates the action, not vice-versa.
Fail like Peter
Here’s what’s redeeming: your past failure at performing self-disciplined devotions can become the very means God uses to bring true devotion from your life. Like cowering Peter before his denial of Christ versus uninhibited Peter preaching to thousands on Pentecost, the old fleshly creation must die and give way to the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), formed and filled by the Holy Spirit. True devotion brings us to the crux of that transformation in our own lives (Romans 12:2).
Give yourself to God to read the Bible, pray, fast, worship, etc. But don’t do it bound to self-driven perfectionism that exists only to be measured; do it out of dying self-effort and rising new life which longs for the measureless grace and boundless presence of a living, loving God.