This past Sunday we began a new sermon mini-series on a subject that will be a major focus for our church for the whole year ahead– going deeper in our relationship with the Lord. I was encouraged with how many in our church recognized their need for spiritual renewal and revival and committed personally to seek the Lord in a deeper way in 2019.
The question is, what will that look like? Does that mean we have to have some kind of exceptional experience week to week, with each week getting a little “deeper” than the one before? Are we to expect to feel more spiritual every day? Should we make out a checklist that will map our way to greater spiritual depth?
Most of what we are seeking as we move from ankle deep water to knee deep to waist deep to in-over-our-head (Ezekiel 47) is spiritual growth and maturity into Christ-likeness. The ten cent Bible word for that is sanctification. It literally means to be made holy, and speaks of life change, transformation, taking on the character and heart of Jesus. And that does involve a process, an incremental “walk” of putting one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes we are sincere when we say we want to be more committed to Christ, but then when it comes to walking that out in real life we really don’t know where to start. Or when we do start that walk and get tripped up, we are prone to quit because the road is hard.
The reality is that the process of our personal relationship with the Lord that takes us deeper in spiritual maturity is often a two steps forward, one step back process. There will be ups and downs. There will be roller-coaster rides of highs and lows. But if we are going to allow the Lord to effect genuine change in our hearts and minds, and in our actions, it will be through submitting ourselves to His lordship daily and committing ourselves to certain spiritual disciplines.
And nothing is more important in that process that spending time daily in God’s word. Earlier this week I got an email devotional from pastor James MacDonald that summed up the what and the why of the spiritual discipline of feeding on the truth of Scripture daily. Here’s what he said:
Ultimately we want to saturate our minds with God’s word so it can be increasingly true of us that our “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law we meditate day and night.” The goal is saturation, meditation, immersion, growth and ultimately love–not legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, compulsion or guilt. The disciplines of a sincere faith are not intended to be an intimidating obstacle between you and God but a way of deepening intimacy with the One who has called you His child and wants the best for you.
That’s a pretty good starting place. Accordingly, I am asking you to set aside some time every day to read and mediate on God’s word. The intent is not just checking off the box of religious duty. That can quickly turn into an intimidating obstacle between you and God that brings only legalism, self-righteousness and guilt, as MacDonald reminds us. Instead, we do it out of seeking the heart of God, and saturating our minds with His truth, knowing that ultimately it will be His truth that sets us free.
One of the greatest prayers in all the Bible is recorded in John 17, when Jesus prays on behalf of His disciples, and those who would believe on Him through their message. That would be you and me, followers of Christ some twenty centuries later. In His prayer, Jesus prayed for, among other things, sanctification for those who follow Him. “Sanctify them by the truth,” He prayed in v. 17. “Your word is truth.”
There is no more simple and direct way in all of Scripture that describes how God transforms our lives…by the truth, which is His word. So, if you want to go deeper, if you want the Lord to change your life in 2019, it will happen through your immersion into His word on a consistent basis.
I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.