The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15
How to Develop a Devotional Time
Draw closer to the heart of God by building a deeper relationship with God!
Peter talks about humbleness (2 Peter 1:5-7), which is characterized by the willingness to grow in Christ, by which we receive learning, resulting in the experience of rational, emotional, and spiritual growth. Two of the best ways to do this is through personal devotional time and by being a part of a small group Bible study. Peter tells us we ought to be humble toward one other so that we can know the Grace of God and not be in opposition to God. Then secondly, he says we had better be humble, not only toward one another, but toward God. This is so straightforward. It is so essential to become a blessed and growing Christian and church, not necessarily in numbers, but in what is most important-discipleship-which is leaning on, learning from, and growing in Christ, leading to a lifestyle of worship!
How can I develop quality time with our Lord so I can become a deeper and more mature Christian?
Here are nine thoughts to get you pointed in the right direction:
1. GOAL: See where you are spiritually (Acts 22:8-10; Philippians 2:13) and determine where you need to go. Then, make a goal, and understand your GOAL. Your goal is to become complete, that is find fullness in Christ (Colossians 1: 28). To say it another way, it is to become a mature Christian, a person whose attitudes and actions are like Christ's (Ephesians 4: 13). Where are you spiritually and where do you need to go? Not only where do you want to go, but also where is God calling you to go?
2. PROCESS: Understand there is a process at work (Psalm 16:11; 73:28; Proverbs 16:9; Hebrews 11:1-6). It does not happen overnight, and you cannot get it in a bottle, off a shelf, or by sitting in a pew. The process is one of the main growth builders. It is about the journey as well as the destination. It is an essential step toward reaching your goal to spend personal, daily time with God. Thus, the journey is as important, if not more, than the destination, because in our walk, we are learning and growing. If we just arrived at the goal without the struggles of getting there, we would not have built any depth, strength, or maturity. Make sure your goals are a match to God's. We must never allow our presumptions and pride to cloud His way.
3. PLAN: Planning ahead (Isaiah 26:3; Mark 1:35) does not automatically happen. You need to plan out your devotions to make them more effective. You can get many prepared devotional schedules at a Christian bookstore or sit down on Sunday and decide exactly what paragraphs or chapters you will be studying during each of the next seven days. Doing this will eliminate the problem of spending half of your devotion time trying to decide what you will study that day. You can use a Bible reading chart, quality devotional books, or a pre-written guide, but try not to just dive in. You will get much more out of your experience by having a plan.
4. CONTENT: Put into your devotional time variety and consistency (Psalm 16:8-11) in what you study. One month, you might study an Epistle. Then, you might spend a month or two in a narrative passage such as 1 Samuel. Then, you might go back to the New Testament to study a doctrinal passage such as Romans. Then, switch again to a minor prophet such as Joel. Try to go through the entire Bible in your devotional study within a year, or two years at the most. Do not stay in just one section, such as the Epistles, and do not skip the Old Testament, as you cannot understand the New without the Old. Do not use the same plan year after year. Break it up, and try new ones. Do the same with your devotional books. Mix them up. If you have a good one such as My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, stick with it for the entire year, go to another one, and then go back to Chambers in the following year. When we are too consistent, it may turn into rhetoric, and then you will have a habit, not time with Christ!
5. FOCUS: Set aside time each day by focusing on the purpose for your growth and maturity (Psalm 119:130; Isaiah 42:16; John 4: 23-24; 15), and then make it a priority. In doing so, you will be able to "go for it" with passion and vigor. Let Christ transform you through His Word. ATTITUDE is essential. You must start with the proper attitude. You are going before a Holy GOD! Usually, it is good to spend most of your devotional time closely examining a few verses, not rushing through multiple passages. This will help you keep focused. Some find it best to take notes and write down questions to ask a mentor about. In addition, you can set aside one day a week to switch from taking detailed notes on a few verses, to reading a chapter or two from a different passage without taking any notes. Whatever way you choose to go, stay focused and do not bite off more than you can chew.
6. MATERIALS: Get the best stuff you can get, and buy a good Bible (Ephesians 4:1-3) in an easily understood translation such as the New Living Translation. Consider using a Study Bible. I prefer The Reformation Study Bible. For serious study use the ESV (English Standard Version), NASB, NIV, or the NKJV. The best devotional books are My Utmost for His Highest by Chambers, and Evening by Evening by Spurgeon. You can also get a notebook that can be used exclusively for things that pertain to your relationship to God and to other believers so you can write down what you learn and any questions you may have.
7. PLACE OR LOCATION: Select a quiet place (Luke 5:16) to study where you are free from distractions. Remove all distractions. Close the drapes, shut the door, turn off the TV and radio, clear all busy work from your desk, take the phone off the hook, and lock the cat in the bathroom-whatever it takes. You will then be better able to concentrate and have quality time with Him. Be serious about meeting God!
8. TIME: Select a quality time (Ephesians 2:18). Chose a time for your devotions when you are at your best. Usually, early morning is best, because outside distractions are at a minimum during this time. If you are not a morning person, do it when you are most alert. Give God your best. Set aside "x" number of minutes to study, and "y" number of minutes to pray. Be flexible to the Spirit's leading within this framework. If you have a short attention span (as I do), then break it up throughout the day. Perhaps read from the Old Testament in the morning, a passage from the New Testament at lunch, then read a devotion and practice intercessory prayer before bedtime. Remember, this time is holy, which means it is to be set apart to and for God only. If you are just being devoted to your plan and time, then there will be little room for Christ. The plan is the tool for growth, not the growth itself.
9. SHARE what you have learned (Psalm 55:14; Matthew 18:20; Romans 12; 2 Corinthians 12:18). We learn by doing and sharing. What we have been given is usually not meant for us solely; it is a gift that keeps on giving as we, in turn, help others. A willing heart, a teachable spirit, and the willingness and availability to share are essential for a disciple of our Lord!
From these nine precepts, we realize that from the character of Christ comes the conduct of Christ, if we choose to follow Him. Then, those values of our daily walk that drive our behaviors will, in turn, influence others and build our character. You cannot lead where you have not been or when you do not know the direction to go. This is why discipleship is so essential to the aspect of being a Christian. We are called, not just to visualize discipleship, but also to do it-not just to talk about it, but also to do it. One cannot just think about dinner and satisfy hunger. The ingredients need to be gathered, the meal has to be prepared. Then it is eaten. The Christian who wants to go deeper and become more mature as well as the effective church will take Scripture and the call of our Lord seriously, and then implement it and apply it to their lives.
APPLICATIONS: Here are some thoughts to consider about applying and turning your devotional time into action.
1. You will never be able to fully experience the value of a devotional time until you discipline yourself to apply what you have learned. Study with the determination that God will give you an application. Then, be willing and able to put it into action without fear or trepidation. Allow your trust in Christ be real and exercised!
2. Make your applications measurable. Think through the who, what, where, when, how and why, such as I will begin showing more love to my neighbor by asking if there is anything I can pick up for them from the store next time I go shopping.
3. Sometimes, you will see four or five specific ways the passage you have studied can be applied. It is better to select one you want to apply from the Word that day and do it. If you try to implement three or more ways, you will most likely get frustrated and fail. If you cannot decide, stick to the first one that pops up or one in the area where you need the most help.
4. Make most of your applications short-ranged, such as things you will do within the next day or so, or within the week. Periodically, God will give you an application that you will need to work on for a longer time. When that happens, rejoice and praise God, for this will build you up. At the same time, continue to work on fresh, short-range applications. See them as baby steps that will eventually turn into a marathon. Let God do a new work in you each day, and be thankful He wants to work in you.
When we are growing, we become contagious with the faith. We then are able to witness because we have something to say and something to model that people want. When we are growing, we will become the church that Christ designed, mobilized in Him to be welcoming and connective to others for Him. This is the church triumphant! Let us, as the church triumphant, pay heed to His call and follow it. Apply your faith. Then, watch your faith grow and become contagious to others!
There are many ways we can do devotions and study the Bible effectively. There is no "best" way, only that we do it. Many Christians feel all they have to do for their spiritual growth is sit in a pew, turn on the television or radio, or naturally receive knowledge just by being a Christian. However, this is not the way to transform our lives. We can no better grow deeper in Christ without any effort as we could go to a grocery store, stand in the produce section, and become a cucumber. To be a mature and growing Christian, we must read and get into the Word of God ourselves. We do it through prayer, hard work, discipline, concentration, application, and even more prayer!
Take this to heart: Jesus never asked anyone to do anything without enabling them with the power to do it. Let this be your encouraging motive (Matthew 28:20)!
Remember, Christ loves you, and wants the best for you. His way is the best way, and we need to have Him and the perspective of eternity in mind, not our limited feelings and desires.
1. How can I develop quality time with our Lord so I can become a deeper and more mature Christian?
2. Has your passion and zeal for witnessing grown or diminished over the years? What were the reasons?
3. Why would someone who is a Christian refuse to share the gift of salvation with others?
4. What causes bitterness in people? How does bitterness come into play when you witness?
5. When someone is antagonistic to you because of your faith, how do you feel? How do you react and respond? How should you?
6. Imagine you live in a country that is non-Christian, and where it is even against the law to be a Christian. How would you hold onto your faith and reliance upon the Lord? How would you witness? What would you do if you were persecuted?
7. What are the distinctions, character, and personality of a Christian who bases all his or her life, IT ALL, upon Christ, with full trust and assurance by faith and obedience? What would this do to evangelism efforts?
8. How would you define "self-imposed" righteousness? How would you define "obedience" to righteousness?
9. How do we get to be righteous? What is the key ingredient?
10. Some Jews, as well as people in general, do not feel they have the need for Christ; what can you do to show them the Light?
11. If you and your family had been Jews all of your lives and for many generations past, how do you think you would respond to Christ?
12. If you are able to change, and Paul, the "chief sinner," was able to change, how does this give hope to others and encourage you to be persevering in being a good witness?
13. Christians receive the gift of Grace, but do not give the gift to themselves. How does it make you feel to know that you cannot earn or buy God's most precious gift?
14. What has your church done, or could they do, to cause our Lord to weep?
15. God desires us to have "beautiful feet" (Romans 10:5-21) to bring the Good News! What can you do to keep your feet beautiful?
16. Evangelizing and discipling are the main goals of the church (Matthew 28:19-20) and what Christ has called us to do and be. In what ways do you and your church do this? How can you do it better?
17. From your experience, what are some of the misunderstandings about Christ and His Church that cause people to reject Him?
18. Despite Paul's passion and the willingness of God to gather His chicks, Israel rejected God anyway. Why did Paul keep persevering?
19. How can the fact that we are not responsible for the results of evangelism keep the fires of perseverance and zeal lit under you?
20. How can you keep yourself and others from being discouraged from witnessing or obeying Christ when it becomes difficult?
21. Take a close look at who in your life, at work, school, at the shoe store, or wherever has not confessed Jesus as Lord? How can you bring the message of the most precious Gospel to them?
22. What comes into your mind when you see the phrase, follow Me (Christ)?
23. Jesus comes as the good Shepherd to rescue His lost sheep. How are you, or how could you be comforted with this truth?
24. What are you focused on? Is it money, job, family, hobbies, food? How is your focus related to God's focus?
25. When you are putting your faith into practice, how do you feel when people reject you or treat you badly?
26. Paul was viciously and personally attacked-and, for what? For spreading the true Gospel. Read how he responds in Galatians 1:10. How can you be further empowered to serve and witness, knowing that you are not responsible for how or why people respond to you?
27. What holds you back from embracing God's call to you?
28. How much does fear affect your motivation to be involved in a ministry?
29. If we become tied down with possessions and worldly concerns, we will miss His call to participate in the mission He has for us. What are your thoughts on this?
30. How can a Christian balance wealth with his or her call? When do wealth, possessions, jobs, or money (if you think you are not wealthy, think again-especially if you live in the US, where the poorest of the poor live five percent above the rest of the world) become hindrances, and even evil to what Christ calls us to do?
31. When you do outreach, most people will not listen or care; but that is not your problem. What can you do to break away from feeling rejection, knowing that it will be difficult not take it personally, in order to be effective for the Kingdom?
32. How can you keep from being shocked when strangers and family friends no longer accept you because of Christ?
33. What is your church doing now about evangelism?
34. What should your church be doing now about evangelism?
35. What are you going to do about it?
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
Some passages to consider on discipleship and mentoring which are not options, but a command: Proverbs 18:24; Matthew 7:18-24; 10:1-42; 19:28-30; 28:16-20; Mark 1:1-5; 1:35 -2:12; Luke 9:23-25; 48; Luke 14:26-27; John. 8:31; 12:20-26; John 14; 15; 1 John: 5:3; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 3:5-11; 12; Galatians 6:1-10; 2 Timothy 2:7; 1 Peter 3:15.
© 1982, 1987, 2002, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org