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Christian Hedonism

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Jesus often withdraws to deserted places to pray.
Image source: Lumo Project

Yesterday, we looked at Jesus’ secret to overcoming temptation. In today’s Bible reading, we see the secret to Jesus’ life overall.

Simon and his business partners, James and John have been fishing all night. They have caught nothing. It happens occasionally. When you make your living fishing, some days are diamonds and some days are coal. Last night was stone hard, dirty, black coal and the men are discouraged and tired. But at Jesus’ suggestion, they cast their freshly-cleaned nets and haul in two boats full of fish! There are so many fish that both boats begin to sink! This was a diamond of a day! Completely overwhelmed, Simon cries out to Jesus, “Get away from me. I’m a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Jesus simply responds, Simon, James, and John, your fishing days are over. This is the fishing story of all fishing stories! You’re retiring at the top of your game. From now on, you’ll fish for the souls of men. Immediately, they drop everything and follow Him.

Wait! What? They don’t even take their catch to the market! They just leave the fish and the nets in the boats and walk away. Obviously, they saw that Jesus was worth more than the value of two boatloads of fish!

As Jesus travels, news about Him travels faster. He finds Himself being greeted by large crowds of sick people, desperately asking Him to heal them. And He does.

Next, Dr. Luke tosses in a nugget of information that we might otherwise overlook. “Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 (CSB)

One might think that Jesus was successful because of all that he accomplished. Or maybe He was successful because of the miraculous things that He did. But Dr. Luke’s little piece of information speaks volumes. Yes, the ministry was great. The numbers were growing. Yet, Jesus often withdrew to secluded places to pray.

Some people are energized by the crowds and rubbing elbows with lots of people. But as an introvert, I can relate a bit to Dr. Luke’s statement. Sure, I can be “out there” with people. I can speak to lots of people. I can greet lots of people. But it takes a lot of energy. I have to withdraw from people to recharge my batteries.

Application

Note that Dr. Luke doesn’t just say that Jesus withdrew to pray. He points out that Jesus often withdrew to pray. It wasn’t just once a week. It wasn’t just once a quarter. It wasn’t every seven years for a sabbatical. No, Jesus often withdrew to pray. It was his habit, his normal mode of operation. A.T. Robertson says,

The more the crowds came as a result of the leper’s story, the more Jesus turned away from them to the desert regions and prayed with the Father. It is a picture of Jesus drawn with vivid power. The wild enthusiasm of the crowds was running ahead of their comprehension of Christ and his mission and message. [1]

Do you often withdraw from your activities to pray? I’m sure that you’re not as busy as Jesus. I know I’m not. But if Jesus needed to take some time to pray, we do, too! And we need to do it more than He did!

So… When was the last time you spent some extended time praying? Extended time…. like more than a couple of minutes? Like more than ten minutes? Like an hour or more?

Simon and his business partners knew that being with Jesus was worth far more than whatever they would get from selling their catch, their nets, and their boats. Do you? Do you see that being with Jesus (yes, now, on this side of eternity) is worth far more than anything you could do with your time? That’s what Christian Hedonism is all about: seeing Jesus as being worth way more than anything else.

Maybe you and I need to get away (not together) for a little while to spend some extended time in prayer.

Often.

[1] Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.

This devotional was originally published July 3, 2019.

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Jesus is tempted
Image Source: Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

In today’s Bible reading, we get a glimpse of the secret to Jesus’ success in His ministry. It’s very easy to look at Jesus in His temptation and say, “Well, that was Jesus; He’s the Son of God! I can’t measure up!” Of course, we can’t measure up. But Jesus didn’t give in to temptation because of Who He was. He didn’t give in to temptation because of His secret. So what was Jesus’ secret?

Look at Luke 4:1. “Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” (CSB)

Did you catch that? We often think that the Devil leads us into temptation. And a quick read through today’s reading could lead someone to believe that. But Matthew (Matthew 4:1) brings out that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for the very purpose of being tempted.

And look at Jesus’ secret after successfully resisting temptation. “Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity.” Luke 4:14 (CSB)

Jesus’ secret was that He was full of the Spirit and He was led by the Spirit. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18 to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit and he tells us in Romans 8:14 that God’s kids are led by the Spirit. Paul further tells us, “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 (CSB)

Application

Jesus’ secret to not giving in to temptation is the same secret available to you: Be filled with and walk by the Holy Spirit. What does that look like? It looks like submitting to His leading. I mentioned a few days ago that the results of being filled with the Spirit and letting God’s Word abide in us are the same. So my takeaway is that being filled with the Spirit is reading God’s Word, studying God’s Word, and memorizing God’s Word. It’s letting God’s Word operate in and through us.

Are you purposefully reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word on a regular basis? I’m not talking about reading and studying God’s Word on Sunday. You eat more than one day a week, right? Shouldn’t you eat God’s Word just as regularly as you eat food? (Matthew 4:4, Acts 17:11, Joshua 1:8, Proverbs 22:17-18 )

If you don’t have a plan to read the Bible, join me! This year, I’m using the 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan from the Navigators. You can download a copy here. This plan goes through the entire New Testament over the course of a year (Can you believe we’re halfway through already?!). It only takes about five minutes a day, five days a week. The Bible App will even read out loud the day’s Bible reading for you while you brush your teeth or drive to work. “I don’t have enough time” won’t cut it for an excuse!

Please download the plan or the Bible App (or both) and read through the New Testament (in a translation you can easily understand) with me through the rest of the year. I promise that if you will do this, your life will change!

This devotional was originally published July 2, 2019.

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If you’ve ever watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, you heard Linus van Pelt quote from Luke’s Gospel in today’s Bible reading. Charlie Brown complains that Christmas has become so commercialized. (The animated classic first aired in 1965) Exasperated, Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Linus replies, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” Linus takes the stage and asks for the spotlight, “Lights, please.”

“In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” Luke 2:8–14 (CSB)

Click here to watch Linus tell the meaning of Christmas.

Application

If you’ve seen the program, you may have missed a crucial point. In the middle of his quote of Luke’s Gospel, Linus drops his blanket as he says, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

In dropping his security blanket, Linus drives home the point that because Jesus came, there’s no reason to be afraid.

Have you dropped your security blanket
to embrace the good news of Jesus?

This devotional was originally published June 28, 2019

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Paul wasn’t easily satisfied. It wasn’t enough for him to see people come to Jesus. It wasn’t enough for him to see people going to church.

Paul knew there was much more to the Christian life than these things. In today’s Bible reading, he tells us that he has prayed — and he will continue to pray — that the Christians in Colossae would grow to full spiritual maturity.

Full spiritual maturity is more than activity. It is more than doing. Full spiritual maturity is developing godliness in one’s life. Don’t believe me? Read back over today’s scheduled reading in Colossians 1, especially verses 9-14 and 24-29. Note how frequently Paul uses the word or concepts of all, fullness, completion, and maturity,

Application

Yes, the key word in the Gospel Message is DONE! We don’t have to do anything to receive the Gospel Message, to be saved, and to be securely and eternally sealed in Christ unto the Day of Salvation.

But Paul knew that you would need to grow. Do you know that you need to grow? Or are you content with knowing God just a little? Are you content in your relationship with God? Are you content with keeping God at a distance?

Or do you want to know God more every day? Do you want to become more holy in your behavior? Do you want to grow in intimacy with your Creator, your Father, your friend?

I pray that you would seek God with all that you are. That is His will for you in Christ Jesus. Seek Him and don’t stop seeking Him until you would “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” (Colossians 1:9b–12, CSB)

This devotional was originally published June 20, 2019.

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trophies

In today’s Bible reading in Philippians 3, Paul rattles off his Curriculum Vitae (resume):

“circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5–6, CSB)

Paul says, “You may think you’re religious, you can’t top me!” And then he adds,

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8, CSB)

In comparison with all of the awards, all the trophies, and all the diplomas Paul had earned and treasured in his “BC Days” as a very devout Jew, he says all of those admirable things weren’t worth a crap.

Yes, I just said that. I said it because Paul said it. And he meant it.

Elsewhere, Paul emphasized his Christ-centric message:

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1–5, CSB)

Paul could have come to the Corinthians with eloquent messages. He could have impressed them with all of his learning. Instead, he focused on Jesus. As a result, God showed up in demonstrable power from the Holy Spirit.

Application

We used to joke about how much we had learned in the cemetery, I mean the seminary. But as they say, there is an element of truth in humor. I can tell you from personal experience, reading (and amassing) a lot of theology books, learning Biblical languages, sitting in classrooms under world-class theologians, and writing a lot of papers doesn’t necessarily result in a closer walk with Jesus. In fact, sometimes these things can get in the way of a closer walk with Jesus.

Being a long-time believer and being a long-time church-goer doesn’t necessarily result in a closer walk with Jesus. In fact, sometimes these things get in the way of a closer walk with Jesus.

The only thing that will result in a closer walk with Jesus is spending time with Jesus. Spending time in prayer. Spending time reading His Word. Spending time studying His Word. Spending time memorizing His Word. Why?

Because we’re talking about a relationship. And the only way to grow closer in a relationship is to spend time together.

This devotional was originally published June 18, 2019.

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1 2 3 36

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