GETTING STARTED: How to draw closer to the heart of God by building a deeper relationship with God!
First Peter talks about humbleness, which is characterized by the willingness to grow in Christ, receive learning, and experience growth. Two of the best ways to do this is personal devotion time and 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. This is so essential--to be a blessed Christian and church, to be a growing Christian and church, not in numbers, but in what is most important--discipleship, which is leaning, learning, 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:
A. GOAL: See where you are Spiritually (Acts 22:8-10; Phil. 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, fullness in Christ, (Col. 1: 28), or to say it another way, to become a mature Christian, a person whose attitudes and actions are like Christ's (Eph. 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?
B. PROCESS: Understand there is a PROCESS (Psalm 16:11; 73:28; Prov. 16:9; Heb. 11:1-6) at work. 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!
C. PLAN: Plan ahead (Is. 26:3; Mark 1:35). This 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.
D. 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 N.T. 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 at most. Do not stay in just one section, such as the Epistles, and do not skip the O.T., as you cannot understand the N.T. without the O.T.! 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, 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!
E. FOCUS: Set aside time each day by focusing on the purpose for your growth and maturity (Psalm 119:130; Isa. 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, write down questions, and ask a mentor. 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!
F. MATERIALS: Get the best stuff you can get, and buy a good Bible (Eph. 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 NIV or NASB or 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 to do with your relationship to God and to other believers so you can write down what you learn and any questions you may have.
G. 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 better quality time with Him. Be serious about meeting God!
H. TIME: Select a quality time (Eph. 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 OT in the morning, a passage from the NT 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.
I. SHARE: What you have leaned (Psalm 55:14; Matt. 18:20; Rom. 12; 2 Cor. 12:18). We learn also 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, 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 will come 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 to just visualize discipleship, but to do it, not to just talk about it, but 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 become deeper and more mature, and the effective church will take Scripture and the call of our Lord seriously, and then implement it into the function of applying it into their lives!
APPLICATIONS: Here are some thoughts to consider about turning and applying your devotional time into action:
A. You will never be able to fully experience the complete 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 trepidations. Allow your trust in Christ be real and exercised!
B. 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."
C. 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 the area where you need the most help.
D. Make most of your applications short-range, 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.
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 their knowledge for being a Christian. However, this is not the way to transform our lives. You can no better grow deeper in Christ without any effort as you can go to a grocery store and 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 (Matt. 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!
"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 Cor. 2:14-15)
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; Mark1:1-5; 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.
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries, 'a discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word and is also a pastor, teacher, speaker and a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California. He has amounted over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.
© 1987, 2002 Rev. R.J. Krejcir, Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/