DEVOTION TO JESUS
Websters: religious fervor; an act of prayer or private worship; a religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate worship of a congregation; the act of devoting of time and energy; the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal;
Well even the world defines devotion in some profound ways. Notice that Webster does not gloss over the word but gives several penetrating revelations of devotion. We are not speaking of being a baptized church member or giving in the offering plate or having a bumper sticker on your car. None of that can be called devotion since they require very little if any real sacrifice. And we cannot be devoted to Jesus if we do not know who He is and what He requires of us. That must be foundational for any discussion of spiritual devotion.
The Person called Jesus is the Creator of the universe. So many misinformed believe that God (Father) created the universe and Jesus was just there. But the Spirit reveals that Jesus Himself was a participant in all creation.
Jn.1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
This is not just a FYI truth. This is vital to any understanding of Who Jesus was and is, and it completely undermines all the theories that Jesus was not God in the sense that the Father is God. The eternal deity of Jesus Christ must be completely understood or it becomes another Jesus referred to by the Apostle Paul, and that is spiritual death. He was, He is, and He always will be the Most High God. God has revealed Himself in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I cannot fully describe the mystery of the Godhead, but the deity of the Son must never be compromised or diluted.
There is no power but that which emanates from the Lord Jesus. He holds and wields all power throughout the universe, and even though things have been placed in a fallen state because of sin, do not for a moment forget that there is coming a day of judgment followed by restoration. And at the helm of that event will be the Lord Jesus.
It is impossible for a human mind to completely understand the breadth and scope of the Person of Jesus Christ. He is beyond our imaginations. But God has graciously given us a revelation of Him through Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And therein lies the foundation of any devotion for Christ. The Scriptures are an unfathomable gift from God and we are to treat them as if they were spoken right from God’s mouth. In effect, they were. And they are a light unto the path of spiritual devotion. But be aware that over the years the path to devotion has been so watered down because of the cultural diminishment of the Scriptures that most of the church no longer even know what devotion looks like.
Those who would follow Jesus with sacrificial devotion are called to forsake everything.
Lk.14: 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
What a statement. So in order to be a disciple, a devotee if you will, of the Lord Jesus we must forsake all. What does that mean, and why haven’t we been seeking an answer to that question? If we desire to follow Jesus in devotion then why have neglected and ignored His Words as they apply to that very issue? If Jesus said no one can be His disciple if he does not forsake everything, then should it not be essential to discover the meaning of those words? Why isn’t that the driving force of our lives, to forsake everything for Christ?
Well, the western church by and large has jettisoned any hint of that kind of sacrifice and self denial. Being a follower of Jesus now only requires a tepid belief system which is primarily designed to wind up in heaven and not so much for a life lived with remarkable devotion which is completely at odds with the surrounding culture. We have been sold a bill of goods that says Jesus paid a way to eternal life but how we live in this life is up to us. That is not only unscriptural but it is spiritually dangerous. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “We must never rely on our conversion experience, but we should always be turning from sin unto Christ.”
The fast paced culture of success and capitalism has completely altered our understanding of what it means to be His devoted disciple. Imprisoned by the prevailing culture the church has systematically deconstructed the Scriptures and now interprets them through a western cultural prism. In other words, if the Scriptural mandates seem painfully at odds with an average western lifestyle then the Scriptures need to be whittled down and remolded. And now people by the millions love and follow men like Joel Osteen, Rick warren and Rob Bell. And what these and other men teach is not only a diluted form of the New testament, it is completely antithetical with everything revealed in the New Testament.
No longer are people called to forsake all and become a devoted disciple of Jesus. They are now called to get everything and have God become a disciple of them. That is not an overstatement. That is exactly what has happened. God has become the errand boy to fulfill the dreams of professing believers in the western church. And preachers who should be the living example are at least in the upper fourth of their congregations in wealth. And while they play golf and talk incessantly on the phone and have lunches with movers and shakers, the prayer closet is basically bare. And compared with many hard working stiffs, preachers spend more time with their families than many in their flock even though they present a different scenario. One preacher told me to always seem like you’re in a hurry when anyone is watching.
Is that devotion? No wonder the flock is in the slough of despond and is unconcerned with their own spiritual state. They see an example of compromise in the pulpit every Sunday. But devotion to Jesus Christ runs deeper than just these external, perfunctory religious practices. It renders all things as subservient to Jesus Christ, and it in fact dies to all our dreams and aspirations and desires. Contrary to the Osteen lies, God is not interested in promoting your dreams. He calls you to a life that fulfills His will and in that life is eternal glory.
Oh how we have lost our will to follow Him and we have lost any appetite to deny self and lift Him up. Read again the words of Webster. He describes devotion as that which is done separate from the gathering and above that which is practiced by the congregation. That means that the gathering on Sunday morning reveals very little about your commitment to Jesus Christ even though the local church has suggested it is the ultimate litmus test. The depth of your devotion is revealed in what you are and what you do and what you believe when no one is watching. And it is also revealed when you refuse to consume without personal investigation what the preachers and teachers tell you to believe.
And there it is. And it happens to preachers as well. Perhaps 15 years ago I came to a revelation that what I was told to believe in Bible school and by the “orthodox” community was not necessarily true and according to Scripture. And while all my preacher friends remained steadfast in their belief systems, I began a journey which would detach me from the intransigent community called evangelical. It did not mean I would reject what I knew about Christ or redemption, but it did mean that year after year I continued to awaken to the fact that the church had moved away from Christ and His teachings. And just because we could regurgitate certain orthodox doctrines did not mean we were following Christ.
And when I would discuss some of these things with preachers most would admit to some needed alterations, but most were much too afraid and blind to even set out on any journey to investigate what was true and what was not. You can understand that when a man’s family depends upon his support, and that his support comes from his congregation, that he would naturally avoid any upheaval which might jeopardize that situation. I know, I was there. But no man can serve two masters, which is what is rampant in the present local church construct. The man with a large church is given more authority and is deemed to be a better preacher than one who has a small church. And when your church grows you either get a big raise or you move up to a lager church. That is a devotion to consumerism and not to Christ.
So it is the internals which must be devoted to Christ. Do not look around for a myriad of visible examples to which you can set your sights. No, you must read the New Testament as if your life depended upon it. And you must pray without ceasing that the Spirit will both guide you into truth and crucify everything within you that is not of Christ.
So our devotion must be expansive and it must affect every area of our lives. My brother once shared with me about a believing girl he knew in college. He told me she would walk into McDonald’s and ask Jesus what she should order. My brother thought that a little strange, however I mow believe she was closer to devotion than many church leaders.
In the end we must take a personal journey which shuts out the church, and shuts out the things of this world, and desires to shut out the voice of your own flesh. And when we arrive time and time again to that sacred place, we must do business with God and allow Him to do business with us. I cannot overstate the worth of such a place. This is not a physical place but it is much greater than a physical location. This is a place in the Spirit that brings us into God’s presence by grace through faith. This place is a holy place where sins are forgiven and minds are renewed. This a place of revival and restoration. This is place where the Sword of the Spirit slices off that which weighs us down in our journey to Christ. This is a place where His life swallows up ours. This is a place so sacred and so filled with glory that we are surprised by its intensity and arrested by His Person.
This is a place which empowers us to be crucified and surrendered to Him alone. This is a place where things can be revealed to us which cannot be believed in the natural. This is a place where our eyes are opened to things about us that cause us to repent and things about Him that cause us to embrace. This is a place where devotion is deepened again and again and again, until that devotion ends in the reality of eternal devotion.