I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
When I first became a Christian, I still maintained a bit of a foul taste in my mouth when it came to the Bible. Bible stories were tales I’m not sure I believed, and verses were things they made you memorize in AWANA, camp and at vacation Bible school. I didn’t realize that, when I opened the Bible, I was reading the words of God. More than that, I didn’t care.
Somewhere down the line, someone informed me that I was supposed to be having something called a “quiet time.” At first, I had no idea what they meant. “Quiet time” sounded like some kind of punishment, or something my parents wanted me to do so that they could have a moment of peace. The main problem for me was this: I knew I was supposed to be having a quiet time, but I didn’t know how.
When I was around twelve or thirteen, I started asking questions. As I’ve grown up, I learned that these weren’t just questions I was asking; lots of people didn’t know the first thing about maintaining a consistent, personal devotion time. I’ve seen a lot of methods for how to “get the most out of” this personal, devotional time. I finally found someone spell it out simply, and this has been my philosophy since.
In John Ortberg’s, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (which is not the self-help, prosperity gospel kind of muck it sounds like), he puts the matter simply, breaking it into a five-part process.
- Ask God to meet you in scripture. Many read the Bible as a chore, but God speaks through his word and will speak to those who seek him in that moment. We should open our Bibles with the expectation that God is going to speak to us, and ask him to.
- Read the Bible in a repentant spirit. We should not primarily read the Bible to gain information, but to leave the moment with a transformed heart. When we read the Bible in this mindset, it will point out our weaknesses and call us to repentance.
- Meditate on a fairly brief passage or narrative. One mistake I made early in my Bible reading was to try to take on too much on a daily basis. Reading the Bible in a year is a wonderful thing, but when I got behind, I tried to race through it to catch up. This killed all desire to focus on God in the moment. For the purposes of meditation and reflection, brief passages are often best.
- Take one thought or verse with you through the day. I found that when I focused my time on a single thought and tried to leave the devotional moment thinking of that thought throughout my day, my life was much more transformed by its truth. Using my devotional time to meditate on that single truth marked such a change in my desire to read and understand the Bible.
- Allow this thought to become part of your memory. Scripture memorization is a key way to confront specific sinful tendencies of our hearts, and to hide away valuable truths about the character of God that will chase away our doubts.
Whatever your method is, having a personal devotional time with Jesus every day is an essential element of the Christian life. Our aim should be to quiet our hearts, meet with God and walk away with a continual hearkening back to what He has said in his word.