The following post was written by Demian Farnworth, blogger for Fallen and Flawed. To learn more about Demian, click on the links at the end of his challenging post.
Last week I got a little frustrated when a friend emailed me this question: “Are you intimate with Jesus?”
Partly because I’m a guy and when I think of intimacy, my mind doesn’t immediately race to another GUY. But I was also frustrated because that question was attached to one of Oswald Chambers devotions.
Why would an Oswald Chambers devotion upset me?
It wasn’t the devotion itself that annoyed me. It’s the popular sentiment in America that some how we could achieve intimacy with Jesus from a devotion that annoyed me.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Chambers a lot. I cut my teeth on him as a baby Christian. But a devotion is emblematic of what’s wrong with our culture: We want our problems solved in a quick, neat manner.
What Would Chambers Think?
Looking back, I’ve often wondered if Chambers would appreciate his sermons being diced up into tidy little chunks. I don’t think he ever intended them to be consumed that way.
We’ll never really know.
But here’s the deal [I’m jumping on the encouragement band wagon now]: the amount we invest into our faith determines the amount we get out.
Little in. Little out. Much in. Much out.
If we invest 5 minutes a day with a devotion and one sunday sermon a week, we will get the equivalent in spiritual dividends. And while I can’t be precise on how much your return will be, trust me: It won’t be much.
We need to go beyond this if we are sick of spiritual frustration, weakness and doubt…if we want to become mature Christians.
Defining Biblical Surrender and Training
And really, it’s not about us. What we might gain. It’s a command from Christ: “Seek first the kingdom of God and all of these things will be added.” Matthew 6:33
We should do it, then, because we want to obey God. But what we need to do first is define that intimacy and surrender we often talk about but never articulate.
Paul said in Romans 12:1 that we are to be living sacrifices. Five minutes a day and one hour on Sunday is not a sacrifice.
It’s a joke.
Let me put it in military terms. We don’t give a soldier a combat manual, tell him to skim it five minutes a day, show up for an hour on Sunday to do manuevers and then expect him to take the enemy.
Neither do we send our Marines to an Iron Maiden concert and then cut them loose on the foe at the end of the night.
No. We make them sweat in training so they won’t bleed much in combat.
Think about how Jesus prepared for ministry. Forty days of solitude, fasting and Bible study. No wonder he could resist the devil’s persistent temptations.
Listen: In every other arena of life, if we want to become the best–we train. If we want to learn a new trade–we train. If we want to learn a new sport–we train.
Why should our spiritual life be any different?
What Is Spiritual Training?
So, how do we train? Romans 12:2 says we must be renewed in our minds. How in the world do we do THAT?
Paul said he buffeted his body so that he might not fall away. So that he might win the prize. What is this buffeting Paul talks about? The Bible tells us that he fasted. Prayed. Studied his Bible. Sung hymns. Shared the gospel.
Naturally, his effort involved discipline and self-control. And I guaranteed he invested more than five minutes a day.
It all comes down to this: If we are dealing with spiritual failure, frustration or weakness, it’s our own fault.
We have the means to renew our minds–to prepare ourselves to succeed–right in front of us. It’s the Word of God. Furthermore, God tells us that the power is already in us–that’s the Holy Spirit.
We just need to learn how to depend on him.
Why Spiritual Maturity Is So Important
What’s at stake if we neglect to surrender, train and discipline our minds and bodies to serve Christ?
That you’ll be miserable is the least of your worries. The true danger is that you might fall away when persecution arises:
“We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.” Hebrews 2:1
Want to know what’s interesting about that passage? The writer was talking to a Christian church who was under persecution while serving others. You’d think he’d pat them on the back. He didn’t.
Instead, he pointed out that they were immature and needed to be taught again the elementary truths of God’s Word:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. Hebrews 5:12
Temptation to abandon our faith is real. And the writer of Hebrews offers only one antidote: getting back to the fundamentals of the faith.
Paul’s Approach to Spiritual Maturity
Indeed, Paul always did the same when he encouraged the persecuted, rebuked sinners or corrected spiritual mistakes–he drove them back to the fundamentals of the faith.
And he always told them to develop a mature Christian mind.
What is a mature Christian mind? A mature Christian mind is a mind preoccupied with God. A mind absorbed with him in prayer and meditation.
The fastest route to developing a mind like this is to remember five or six Bible verses and ponder them all day.
A mature Christian mind is also a mind that sees life in light of a Christian worldview. It’s a mind growing in intellectual excellence. It’s a mind bred on the Bible, books, sermons and teaching. It’s a mind that engages believer and non-believer in conversation about important worldview issues.
And it’s a mind that listens well.
The hard truth about “following Jesus” [I prefer that to “intimacy”] is this: It costs. And it costs a lot. The same goes for developing a mature Christian mind.
But with regular practice that goes beyond a five-minute devotion and an hour on Sunday we can develop into mature Christian men and women bent one thing–and one thing only–pleasing God.