BOLD Devotionals: WEEK TWO

Day 8

Romans 7:18-19

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

 

Have truer words ever been spoken?  Once again, the Bible hits us right where we live.  We know the things we should do and don’t do them; we know the things we shouldn’t do but we keep doing them.  So how should we respond to recognizing ourselves in these verses? Shrug our shoulders and say “that’s just the way it is”?  Paul, who wrote those words, would say, NO WAY.  There is a way out of this cycle of failure and discouragement and that way lies in a deeper walk with Jesus.  The way out lies in a BOLD faith that we can do ALL things through Christ Jesus who gives us strength (Phil 4:13).

As we continue into week two of this 21 day spiritual journey, let’s continue thinking about the things that, if we allow them, will keep us from a BOLD faith and a deeper walk with Jesus.  Let’s continue to ruthlessly eliminate these barriers so that we can become the men and women we were created to be.  We’ve talked about common sense, self-doubt and fear as barriers to spiritual growth.  For the next two days, let’s look at one that I think ALL of us struggle with.  Spiritual laziness. WITHOUT A DOUBT, this barrier is the one I have to fight against more than all of the others.  I believe that faith can move mountains.  I know that God can do all things.  I know that the Holy Spirit living in me can overcome my weaknesses.  I know that Jesus is the only hope for myself and for this lost world.  So, why is it that even though I believe all of these things, and my deepest desire is that I would grow to be more like Jesus, why am I so LAZY when it comes to consistently doing the things that will help me grow in my walk with God? 

Why do I find so much time for everything else and so little time for being quiet and alone with God, for reading my Bible, and for praying for the people in my life? For people far from God?

Spiritually, I’m a lot like a cheetah. Cheetahs can run REALLY fast.  They just can’t run really FAR.  There are times when I consistently practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Scripture reading.  And those times are always AMAZING. But it isn’t long before the consistency starts to lag--I start pressing snooze more often instead of getting up to read my Bible and I start finding ten million other things to do instead of getting alone with God.

During this BOLD campaign, let’s get BOLD with ourselves.  Let’s say ‘no’ to spiritual laziness.  I have heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit, and my prayer for all of us is that when these 21 days are over, that we would continue making this habit of daily prayer and Bible a reading a constant in our lives.  Only when we do this will we have the power, through Jesus, to stop doing the things we shouldn’t do, and begin doing the things we should.

Pray: God, help me be BOLD with myself.  Help me do everything I can do to eliminate spiritual laziness from my life…so that you can do what only you can do: change my heart and make me new.

Tomorrow we are going to take a deeper look at what the Bible says is the answer to spiritual laziness.

 

Day 9

Galatians 5:16-17, 24-25

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Anyone who has committed his or her life to Jesus wants to “keep in step with the spirit”.  We all want to stop gratifying the desires of our flesh and instead please the Spirit of God who lives in us.  As we said yesterday, overcoming spiritual laziness is vital in this struggle. 

We live in a very instant world, and to be honest, we are becoming more and more unaccustomed to waiting for anything.  We get impatient when the drive-thru takes more than 3 minutes or when the car in front of us hesitates for half a second before accelerating when the light turns green.  We want to be skinny tomorrow, muscular within the week, wrinkle-free in 10 days and rich before the month ends.  This impatience often translates into our spiritual lives—we want instant maturity and are all too quick to throw in the towel, feeling like God has let us down if all of our old habits don’t disappear the minute we give our lives to Jesus.

There are no short-cuts to learning to walk in the spirit—no way around the necessity of developing the discipline to consistently say ‘no’ to ourselves and ‘yes’ to God.  It’s not flashy.  It’s not fun.  In fact, it is downright painful at times.  But learning to walk in the spirit is the most important thing we will ever do and we must not wimp out. Unless of course you are okay with continuing to be a slave to your desires and passions.  Unless you are okay with the people around you continuing to be hurt because you are a slave to your desires and passions.  Unless you are okay with not fulfilling the purpose you were put on earth for.  If you are okay with all of that, then by all means wimp out…give up…give in.

But I know something about you: you are NOT okay with all of that.  You wouldn’t be reading this devotion right now if you were.  You want your life to be filled with Galatians 5 things: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  You want people to see all of those things when they look at you; I know you do.  So don’t wimp out.  Don’t give up because you don’t instantly see change.  Don’t let your spiritual laziness beat you.  Keep walking.  Keep saying ‘no’ to your flesh and ‘yes’ to the Spirit of God who lives in you.  Keep praying, reading the Bible, and coming to church and God will do exactly as He promised: He will change you from the inside out.

Remember the 4 commitments I challenged you to make for these 21 Days?  The third challenge was to consider fasting some “indulgence” for the 21 days of this BOLD campaign.  I hope you took me up on that challenge (if not, why don’t you start today?) because it is a very REAL way to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires”.  It takes the conflict between the flesh and the spirit that rages inside of us all the time and says to the flesh—emphatically—you lose.  Fasting for this time will enrich the time you spend reading these devotions and praying for God to accomplish His purposes in you and in our church through this BOLD campaign.

 

Day 10

Proverbs 11:2

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

No list of barriers to a BOLD faith would be complete without the granddaddy of them all: Pride.

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis said this: 

The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.

Tell us how you really feel Mr. Lewis!  Those are strong words.  But they are no stronger than what we read in the Bible.   James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble”.  That makes pride a big deal, doesn’t it?  Allowing pride into my life can cause God to oppose me.  In other words, if I have pride in my life, it acts like a sign to God reading “Keep Out!” And He does.

Are there areas of your life that just don’t seem to ever change?  Do you look back on your life and see a string of relationship difficulties and failures?  Do you find yourself asking ‘what’s wrong with these people’ more often than you suspect you should be? Do you have a string of unachieved goals that you attribute to circumstances beyond your control?  It isn’t God’s will that any area of our lives go without God’s blessing. So if there are areas of your life that just seem messed up, it might be that you have put up a big sign telling God to “Keep Out!”  Pride may be the reason for the absence of God’s peace and order and sanity in your life.

Pride shows itself in many different ways. Sometimes it is obvious—like refusing to say you’re sorry or admitting you were wrong.  But then sometimes it is harder to recognize like when you’ve been hurt and you refuse to let go of what you see as a legitimate right to be angry.  And sometimes pride can be the unwillingness to recognize that you are the common denominator in a lot of your problems.  However it manifests itself in your life, one thing is certain—your pride is blocking God from doing His work and that is not okay.  Pride is the “complete anti-God state of mind”.  It removes God from his rightful place in our lives and puts US on the throne instead.  And it will ruin everything if you let it.

I want to challenge you today to do something.  And if you struggle with pride this is going to be a very scary thing to do.  In fact, when I tell you what it is, your stomach will start to twist into knots just thinking about it.  You’d think, by that vivid description, I may have struggled with a pride problem in my life!  Here it is:  Give it up.  Lay it down.  Give up your need to be right and your right to be angry.  Stop pointing, blaming, arguing, and complaining.  Right now, right where you are, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and let God in.  Take down the sign!!

 

Pray:  God, forgive me for the great sin of pride in my life.  The last thing I want is for you to oppose me, so please help me to ‘walk humbly with you’ (Micah 6:8) so that your blessing will be on EVERY area of my life.

 

Day 11

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Money is mentioned more often in the Bible than any other topic.  The Bible clearly says that in the battle for our hearts, money will always be there, trying to oust God from his rightful place as number one in our lives.   Today’s verse urges us to be content with our present circumstances and take a step back from the endless wanting that saturates our culture.  We are among the most affluent countries in the world and yet, all around us, we hear the strident voice of “stuff” in our lives.  We aren’t content with our clothes, our hairstyles, our homes, our cars, our vacations—their shiny new-ness fleeting as the malcontent sets in once again.  With the rise of the social media generation, this malcontent has reached new heights.  We were dissatisfied enough with our own reflections in the mirror and contents of our closets and garages—how much more dissatisfied are we now that we have hundreds of “perfect” faces and “ideal” lives staring back at us through our Instagram feeds?  How much money do we waste keeping up with people we don’t even know and probably wouldn’t even like if we did? 

Reread Hebrews 13:5.  Do you find yourself wondering what the last part of the verse has to do with the first?  Do you notice what this verse says is the antidote to constant comparison and striving for more?  It is the realization that God will never leave us.  It is through this promise that we can escape the endless pursuit of stuff that sickens our culture and tempts us to live petty, empty, and meaningless lives.  This promise points to the truth that if EVERYTHING was stripped from us: our homes, our clothes, our cars, our jobs…God’s presence beside us would be ENOUGH.  Do you believe that?    Like, we know that we are SUPPOSED to believe that God is enough, but our lack of contentment and endless wanting points to a lot of unbelief.

This 21 day journey we are on together is going to change a lot of things in your life.  Every time we set aside time and give things up and make a concerted effort to grow in our faith, God meets us.  He doesn’t wait for perfection from us—he delights in every stumbling step we take towards him.  So, if you read Hebrews 13:5 and you’ve come to the realization that the things you strive for every day reflect a lack of belief in the promise that God is enough for you, please don’t despair.  Perhaps this is one of those times that we say “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).  Take this step of recognizing your unbelief and ask God to help you make your life reflect God’s promise that He is enough for us, and He will meet you and help you and strengthen you.

 

Pray:  Lord, please help my unbelief.  I want my life to reflect the TRUTH that your presence beside me always, never turning away, is more precious than any of the hollow, futile things this world has to offer.

Day 12

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”.

Jesus’ words cut deep, don’t they?  In your heart, you want to be His disciple.  But do you find yourself turning back when you get to the part about denying yourself and taking up your cross? 

I often tell people that we should do at least one thing every day that we don’t want to do.  For some, that might mean doing something big like reaching out to someone God has been at you to reach out to, or giving money to the BOLD campaign instead of taking that holiday.  For others it might be as simple as cleaning your room, or putting down your phone and having a conversation with a family member.  If our days are filled exclusively with attending to our own needs, doing what we want to do when we want to do it, we run the risk of becoming very inward-focused.  And according to this verse, we run the much greater risk of standing still when we want to be following Jesus.

Our ultimate goal is that our lives become so surrendered to Jesus that we wake up and say “Show me what you want me to do today, God!  I want your will to be done every hour of my life”, but if we’re honest, most of us aren’t there yet.  Our eyes naturally turn inwards—it is human nature to be self-involved.  But this should never discourage us from resisting that nature because “in Christ we are NEW creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit lives in us, making use more like Jesus as we surrender our hearts more and more to him.  Maybe you find yourself waiting for God to call you to that great deed, that world-changing work, when He is asking you to deny yourself TODAY, in small ways, putting the people in your life ahead of yourself.  “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16:10 NLT).  This principle is true as we learn to deny ourselves—why would God entrust a “great work” to someone who can’t be kind to the cashier or the waiter, or even to their own spouse and children?  Sometimes, the great works we are waiting to be called to, in God’s eyes, ARE the small things:  those daily interactions with people where we say “you are more important than me” as we put their good ahead of our own.

Aren’t you thankful that we serve a faithful and patient God?  The Bible says that his mercies for us are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23) which is VERY good news. His mercies—the ones we thought we used up with yesterday’s disaster—are NEW today. Today is not too late to start doing things that you really don’t want to do.  Commit to the process of the daily surrendering of your life to Him because that’s what it means to be His disciple.

 

Pray: God, help me to deny myself today.  Help me to do something I don’t want to do today. Help me hear your voice and show me ways I can serve you by putting other people ahead of myself.

Day 13

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

No, that is not a mistake.  Our verse for today is the same as yesterday’s because I don’t want to miss another truth that emerges in the powerful words of this verse.  We talked yesterday about what it means to deny ourselves—to say no to ourselves and do something every day that we don’t want to do.  Practicing this will force our self-fixed eyes outward to the people around us.

But this verse holds another truth.  When we deny ourselves, when we lay down our self-given “right” to do what we want to do when we want to do it, there is something we must pick up in its place.   Because let’s be honest.  When we make the decision to follow Jesus and not look back, we lose things.  Any true disciple can attest to that.  When we choose to follow Jesus instead of our old crowd, we probably lose friends; when we stand on the truth of God’s word instead of saying what the world wants to hear, we can lose opportunities; when we listen to the voice of God instead of our common sense, we sometimes lose credibility and respect.  When we pursue Jesus, we must pick up our cross daily, put it on our backs and carry it, like Jesus did, until His perfect will is accomplished through our lives. No matter what the cost.

That sure doesn’t sound fun does it?  But here we find one of those beautiful, logic-defying contradictions in God’s word.  When we lose our lives, we find them; when we put ourselves last, God makes us first; when we humble ourselves, He lifts us up.  And when we pick up our cross, heavy with the suffering of Jesus, we find it a joy to carry. 

In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The things God is calling you to give up today are nothing compared to what He gives you in return.  Don’t be afraid to lay them down and pick up your cross.  Because when you do, immediately he appears beside you, lifting one side of that rough wood onto His shoulder to help you carry every burden. There are no riches, no relationships, no accomplishments that compare to the joy of sharing in his sufferings and walking through life with Jesus beside you.

 

Pray:  God, help me to realize that nothing you are asking FROM me compares to what you have in store FOR me.  Help me to carry my cross gladly, knowing that You are beside me.

 Day 14

Before church today, reread the key verses from this week.  Read them slowly, think about what they mean and how they apply to your life.  Come to church expecting God to teach you something and pray for those coming to church for the first time.

 

Romans 7:18-19

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

 

Galatians 5:16-17, 24-25

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Proverbs 11:2

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

 

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

 

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”.