Something stirred within me after last night’s message at Cross Training. We had a guest speaker named Neil Steinhauer, a former shot-putter for UO, and towards the end of his testimony he gave us a small tidbit of advice: Find time daily to meet with God. It’s something I’ve heard plenty of times before, but yet is ever important to practice. Having a consistent and diligent devotion time with God has a connotation of simplicity. You’re supposed to read something like a chapter a day and that’s about it. But what Neil was getting at was something deeper.
In my short nine years of walking with God, I have found that the potency of daily devotions has been numbed down in the ritual. We place so much emphasis on “devo time” being a part of our daily routine that we deprive ourselves of the real value. It’s an emphasis that I think needs to be altered.
Earlier in the day, I was quickly reading through Luke 13, 14, and 15 for a Bible study with my pastor, Tony. I hadn’t read the three chapters in weeks and was in need of a refresher. Even though I had only given myself about 20 minutes to breeze through the chapters, I still spent some time thinking through 13:24, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” We ended up not doing our Bible study, but it kind of hung with me at the back of my mind throughout the day. And after I got home last night, I broke open the book of Proverbs again. This time, though, I thought it’d be good to seriously meditate over the words rather than speed-read through. The experience was relaxing, to say the least.
I did the same thing again tonight; read through Proverbs 1 and Luke 13-15, with some extra time spent on 13:24 and Proverbs 1:1-7. Milling over the messages in each for a while gave me a sense of two things: 1. Our God is a God that wants to be known and explored and 2. That journey of exploration requires diligence. It takes serious commitment, like a good marriage or raising a child (or farming some crops, etc.). And in the experience of the last two days, I have found a deeper sense of peace.
Proverbs 1 goes on to explain the importance of an anti-complacent lifestyle; not calloused to the destruction by one’s own sinful ways, but also implicitly the sinful ways of others. It strictly warns us to guard against the ways of “sinners” or “the simple” and to turn to God and His wisdom. But what is God’s wisdom specifically? Is it just knowledge of His laws and commandments and teachings? Or is there something more?
One of Dictionary.com’s definitions for “wisdom” is “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.” Another way of putting it is something my pastor Danny once said a few years ago: God’s knowledge in action. Why is this such a big deal? Why is it so critical that we guard ourselves daily from mindless, simple ways? Jesus’ words in Luke 13 ring around again: It’s a very narrow gate that few enter.
I don’t mean to dive too deeply into the discussion of salvation, but from what I can see in Luke’s Gospel is that there is more to it than merely believing. At least, that’s what I would have to conclude. Sure, God’s the ultimate judge at the end of the day, but I think it’d be in our best interest to live the only lives we know we have with everything we got in striving for that narrow door just to be on the safe side. As God’s been teaching me over the last couple of days, this involves a serious and mindful diligence. He doesn’t want mindless puppets going through rituals and sacrifices for the image of piety; He wants authenticity.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I haven’t talked too much about Jesus with non-Christians. From what I have gathered by listening, though, I would have to conclude that the one common element from most people is their thirst, their hunger for authenticity. People want something real. People want transparency. What they don’t want is religious rituals that seem to come as part of some packaged deal that we, as Christians, are trying to sell. We aren’t trying to sell anything; we’re trying to share everything. If there’s one thing I can conclude in the short nine years of walking with Christ, it’s that He is the center of the deepest reality. If that’s the case, then we would be wise not to be fake or act like salesmen making our little sales pitches, but rather to be real with people.
Such realness, I think, only comes from honest, genuine times in our daily lives with God. It’s a way of being prepared in season and out of season for that moment when someone asks us why we believe in Jesus. If we’re true to ourselves and seek God from a state of authenticity, then when that moment arrives, we won’t give off the happy-go-lucky packaged deal of Christianity; we’ll be able to rightly and truthfully act out the knowledge given to us from God.
It takes diligence, but more specifically, it takes conscious diligence. Although I hardly read from the New King James Version, I think there is a way one passage is phrased that is absolutely applicable. It’s one of the few passages I’d rather read from the New King James than from any other translation:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things,” – Philippians 4:8 (emphasis mine).