THIS WEEK’S THEME:
God Speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, Prayer, Circumstances, and the Church to Reveal Himself, His Purposes, and His Ways.
(NOTE: Write out the BIBLE KEY at least once this week, perhaps in your personal journal. Then, before you begin to read the devotional thoughts for each day, read the BIBLE KEY for that week. Become familiar with it and, perhaps, even memorize it.)
BIBLE KEY: (John 8:47, NIV) [Jesus speaking.] He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.
(Isaiah 55:6-9, NIV) 6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
One of the main purposes of our “Experiencing God” Journey is to encourage people to diligently seek God while they can, because a time may come when He feels much farther from them than now. Or, a time may come when they are unable to seek Him—when it’s too late. It’s important to call on the Lord while He is near.
Then, when they turn to the Lord and surrender themselves obediently to Him, He will have mercy on them. He will make it possible for them to do what some consider impossible. That is, He will allow unholy sinners to come into His totally holy presence. (Have you ever thought that God could not love you because you sinned to much?) This is only possible because of God’s great love and grace that offers the cleansing of regeneration through His Son.
Now, that concept may be difficult to understand. That’s because, God is very different from us. His thoughts and ways are governed by His absolute righteousness and pure holiness. But, our the thoughts and ways—those controlled by unregenerate human nature—are governed by our selfish desires, confused morals, incomplete wisdom, mistake-filled lives, and lots of false information about spiritual matters. You see, it’s not our nature to think like God or to understand Him. Our only hope to understand Him is to listen to what He actually says. Fortunately, He will teach us His ways, if we really listen to Him.
Pray that God will give you understanding and wisdom when you read His word, the Bible. Study it so that you learn its truth.
(Proverbs 19:20-21, NIV) 20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. 21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Listening to advice and accepting instruction are difficult things to do. They imply that we have incomplete knowledge or inferior wisdom to make our own decisions. Most of us prefer to rely on ourselves and chart our own courses. We may not trust someone else’s judgment or motives.
From my experiences in life, I think some young people are good examples of this characteristic. They refuse to listen to their parents because they think their parents don’t understand their lives. They think they know more than their parents. They often mistrust the wisdom of people with white hair, because those old folks don’t know how things really are today. Sadly, their refusal to listen to wise advice and instruction relegates them to learn the lessons of life the hard way, if they learn them at all.
In a similar way, we need to listen to God so we can get His wise advice and instruction. Otherwise, we suffer the consequences of our foolish ways.
Regardless of how smart you think you are, God is much smarter. His plans and purposes always prevail. Your plans pale in comparison to His.
So, decide to listen and learn from God.
(1 Corinthians 2:9-12, NIV) 9 …As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
Though we may not know much about the Holy Spirit, He plays some very important roles in our lives. For one thing, He is our teacher. He teaches us empirical truth—truth that never changes. It’s the same in every age of time. It is eternal because it comes from an eternal God.
You see, the Holy Spirit is God, part of the Trinity. He is the gift from God (Acts 2:38) that we receive when we are born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). He lives in us to transform us into what God wants us to be. He does so by teaching us and guiding us.
We need to learn to listen to this unique gift from God because He knows the thoughts of God. We won’t learn the truth about God without His help. He reveals His truth through the Bible. Then, He works through that knowledge in the circumstances of our lives, when we pray, and when we interact with other Christians in the church.
What is so wonderful about all this is that the truth you learn from God will set you free from ignorance, false beliefs, and futile living. He will teach you about God, His purposes, and His ways. These are very good reasons to thank God for giving you the Holy Spirit. Why not thank Him now?
(1 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV) 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: 16 ”For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Christians are very fortunate to have the Holy Spirit living in their lives. He teaches them truths from God.
Yet, unbelievers don’t see it that way because they are blinded to the truth. They measure life from their limited perspectives. They don’t understand spiritual issues of life the way Christians do. Their values have not been impacted by the Judgment and eternity. Their hearts have not been warmed by God’s love.
The man without the Spirit doesn’t accept God’s plans, but the spiritual man does. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. He gradually gives us “the mind of Christ” as we grow in the knowledge and gracious living of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18).
Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance. Continually strive to develop the mind of Christ by discerning and learning truth in the Bible.
Don’t forget to read your Bible Key each day.
(Romans 8:26-27, NIV) 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
Prayer is a marvelous mechanism. It allows us to communicate with God. Unfortunately, many times we think we are communicating with God when we spend all of our time in prayer telling God what He already knows. Prayer is more than one-way communication.
Yes, prayer can involve verbal expressions of praise, confession, forgiveness, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and commitment. But, it also involves quietly thinking about what God says to us in the Bible. In order to guide us to deal with our prayer requests, God may speak to us through His Word that is planted in our minds, as it acts on our consciences.
In this way, the Holy Spirit helps our weakness. He carries each of our heart-felt petitions to God with the clarity that we cannot express. Then, when God is ready to answer our prayer and we are ready to receive the answer, the Spirit brings to our remembrance the truth of God’s word that applies to it. After that, it’s up to us to take action on it. At the same time, we can be assured that God will act on it, too.
You should learn to practice two-way prayer. First, remove distractions around you and focus on your time with God, as if you were sitting at His feet. Humble yourself before Him by reflecting on His unique characteristics as God. Tell Him you love Him and thank Him for some of His blessings. Submit yourself to Him and make yourself available for His purposes. Tell Him what is on your heart and mind—be open and honest with Him. Surrender yourself to Him—be receptive to His instructions. Think about God and Jesus—try to recall His instructions from the Bible. Commit yourself to obeying Him, even if you must sacrifice something to do so. Then, lay your prayer before His throne of grace in Jesus’ name.
As you learn to pray in this way, you will discover a beautiful intimacy with God that will make His daily presence in your life a magnificent reality.
["Devotional Guides for the Journey" are written by Philip Walter. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012.]
(Scripture quotes are from the New International Version [NIV] of the Bible, copyright © 1984, International Bible Society.)