Obligations?
     Day by day devotions, time spent in His Word, in prayer, with Him, is a discipline and practice long promoted within the church.  Many respond to that exhortation and make time within each day to read His Word, and pray.  Yet, I wonder, if, for all our study, we really enter into just what it is the Father in Christ, through His Holy Spirit longs for us to experience and possess?  I wonder, if for many, the word devotion might not be replaced by a word that may more correctly reflect our attitudes towards this time, and that would be the word obligation?  Too often I think we come to these times with a sense of duty, rather than joy in Him.  Something to be gotten through, checked off on our spiritual "to do" list, and then we can get on to the real business of our day. 
     Pastor and author Dudley Hall says that it's the Father's deep desire that we enjoy Him as He enjoys Himself, to enter into and partake of the fellowship that exists within the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus was speaking of in John 17.  In verse 3 He says, "And this is the way to have eternal life, to KNOW YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One you sent to earth," so that we would be "filled with My joy."  In verse 21 He says, "My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, as You and I are One, Father, that just as You are in Me, so they will be in Us, and the world will believe You sent Me."  Eternity will not be time enough to learn and experience all that Jesus prays for here, but we can enter into the fullness of that experience right now.  Few of us do.
     We make much of "working for" Him.  I saw a review today on a book that lists ways that we can "renew and revitalize" the church.  I can only say that if there is a way that you and I can do that, then the finished product will not be the church.  A crowd or gathering, yes, we can do that, but only He can bring life, resurrection life to the church.  We're always looking for ways to improve ourselves in the flesh, even when our motives are good.  Christ seeks to remake us, and that is a work of the Spirit that only He can do.  Our idea seems to be that we find a way to get Him to come alongside us and assist us in our plan.  His idea is that we simply come to Him, surrender to Him, and behold Him to make "all things new."
     T. Austin-Sparks has written that, "God's central purpose is not the redemption, salvation, and sanctification of men, but the revelation of Jesus Christ in our hearts."  When that happens, we begin to see the unfolding of Christ's prayer being answered in and through our lives and His church.  The world then, as He prayed, begins to believe, and to receive.  When Christ's prayer is really being answered in our hearts and lives, then we no longer see times with Him as an obligation to be gotten through, and then left behind, but as an encounter that is ongoing, continuous, and though we may lay our Bibles down, and leave our physical place of prayer, the three in one God that we have encountered there remains powerfully within and with us.  We live in a moment by moment enjoyment of Him, knowing more and more of the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a fellowship He longs to have us enter into.
     Watchman Nee said that sooner or later, every Christian in ministry will "find out that they themselves are the greatest hindrance to their ministry."  The only path to the removal of that hindrance is to be found in deep, intimate fellowship with Him.  Indeed, the removal of every hindrance in our spiritual journey will be found there.  In that place, "devotions" will no longer be an obligation we must yield to, or a duty to be endured, but a joy to enter into.  No longer just a discipline, but a discovery of what it is that Christ prays for, ever deepening knowledge and understanding of Him.  Obligation will never lead there, but a heart truly devoted to Him enters in.  Which path are you and I on?

Blessings,
Pastor O
 
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