Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Duty or Desire: "the law vs. grace in morning devotions"

If you have been or you are one of the fortunate few to have been biblically discipled after your conversion to Christ, you have undoubtedly been taught that a personal devotion is essential to your growth in Christ. And it is! Every new born baby needs the nutritious milk in order to be healthy and to grow. Every believer needs a time of “sucking on the milk” of the word which will lead to “the chewing of the meat” of the word in order to experience healthy spiritual growth.

A healthy devotion is made from consistency, studying a small passage or paragraph, meditating on the paragraph or passage, seeking application from the passage or paragraph, honest prayer, worship, and journaling. A healthy period of time between you and your Lord meditating through His word section by section will enable you to “grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18, ESV)

One of the things that you must desperately guard against is “murdering” grace. Have you noticed that we tend to “preach” the good grace of God to unbelievers and then turn around and preach “the law” to ourselves? Christianity is not a religion of “oughts.” Yet, if we are not careful we can turn the wonderful grace of God and the gracious relationship with God into the disastrous “substitution of duty and obligation for a loving response to God’s grace.” (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace)

As essential as a daily devotion is with the Lord, our devotion is to be a loving response to the grace of our heavenly Father. A devotion turned into an “ought” is a piece of the law that will never satisfy you nor encourage spiritual development.

In order to grow spiritually and mature you must practice commitment, discipline, and obedience. However, we must not allow these practices to be lords of law over our souls. We are saved by grace and we are sanctified by grace. In other words, we are separated from this world by God in order to grow into Christ likeness through the unmerited favor of God bestowed on us.

One thing that I have found helpful for my time of “devotion” with the Lord is to begin with a book called The Valley of Vision. The Valley of Vision is a collection of one page prayers and devotions from godly saints of yesterday called the Puritans. Before you turn your nose up at the word Puritan I would suggest you take a few opportunities and study them. They will bless your soul in a manner in which you could not imagine. These men and women had such a handle on the glorious, magnificent, and holy character of our God.

This collection is edited by a man named Arthur Bennett and it is published by The Banner of Truth Trust. It contains 223 prayers or devotions categorized under 10 different topics.

The back page of this collection reads:

“The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation. In this practice the spirit of prayer was regarded as of first importance and the best from of prayer, for living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality. Yet prayer is also vocal and may therefore on occasions be written. Consequently in the Puritan tradition there are many written prayers and mediations which constitute an important corpus of inspiring devotional literature.

Too often ex tempore prayer lacks variety, order, and definiteness. The reason for this lied partly in a neglect of due preparation. It is here that the care and scriptural thoroughness which others found necessary in their approach to God may be of help. This book has been prepared not to “supply” prayers but to prompt and encourage the Christian as he tears the path on which others have gone before.”

Because I like to get up around 4:30 AM and after showering and dressing, I like to begin my devotional time with God by 5:30 AM, I am still a little groggy from sleep. In order to “wake my mind up” I read a prayer from the Valley of Vision. This helps me to begin to first, focus my mind on spiritual things, and second, to focus my mind on just whom I am meeting with. After all I am meeting with the most glorious, majestic, holy, magnificent, and splendid creator of this universe. These prayers help me to focus on my absolute need for God and His absolute ability and willingness to supply me need.

Allow me to recommend that first; you maintain a consistent devotional time with our God. Secondly, guard against substituting a duty for a loving response to your God. Thirdly, begin your devotion period with something saturated by the Holy Spirit which will enable you to focus on God; fourthly, consider purchasing and using The Valley of Vision in your morning quiet times of devotion.



A great post as always Gregg, you make it all very easy, but sometimes when things are not what they should God seems not to be listening, I don't wish to be facetious, but when things have gone wrong for me another one quickly follows in succession desparation sets in, I've said a silent prayer but at times I'm banging my head against the preverbial brick wall.
I am now safely gathered in the fold but for a while I was in ten wilderness.

Have a good day.


Many times a Christian is made to feel guilty because he or she is disciplined in their daily Bible reading.

I have noticed that the criticism usually comes from those who claim they are 'free" in Christ. They think their freedom in Christ allows them to read the Bible or not. Those who have a daily time of Bible reading and prayer are often called legalistic by them.

I believe daily devotions and how and when they are done is between God and the person doing them. Even if you force yourself into a routine of daily Bible reading and don't necessarily do it for any reason other than, "it's my duty", do it anyway. I believe God's Word will not return to Him void and He will use it in your life.

RCUBEs said...

Great post and clarification that we must avoid making His grace fall into legalism. Christ indeed had set us free. So, why do we end up being bound again to rules? A heart completely in surrender to His leading is what we, His children must have. Blessings to you.

Lloyd said...

Thank you so much Gregg for this uplifting message. I agree with RCUBEs that it is important not to turn our Lord's grace into legalism. God's blessings to you. Lloyd

Lisa said...

I enjoyed this as making time for God (the "right" amount of time) is something I struggle with. For me, daily Bible reading is extremely important and I find that if I miss a day, I feel it. I'm going to find that book - thank you for the suggestion.

Shannon said...

As usual a great post...I find that I have never been ultra disciplined in daily reading, but would like to be more regular and devotionals help...I get one monthly from Charles Stanley and when I read it I so enjoy it! God is so good All the time, isn't HE!It is a daily decision to keep my mind on godly things, and can be easy at times and others times very difficult. Devotionals, or regular Bible reading help to keep me focused, as well as worship music.