“How are you doing with your personal devotions?” This might be a question your parents ask you periodically or something the elders of your church bring up at family visitation. This inquiry often smites the young soul with feelings of guilt, for the conscience testifies within, “I know I should be more faithful in reading my Bible and in heartfelt prayer.” And it is true that you and I must improve in our devotions. We should make it more of a priority. We ought to stop making excuses— they are all bad. The practice of personal devotions is an obligation.
However, devotions are far more than something you must do. Devotions are a delight. In your personal devotions you enjoy fellowship with God. Coming apart with God for a little while, you hear Him, your God, speak to you in His Word. There in His presence, you respond to Him in prayer, pouring out your heart before Him. In devotions, conversation takes place as Friend-Lord breathes secrets to His friend-servant, and friend-servant breathes back adoration, confession, thanks, and supplicating pleas. Back and forth, there is a holy dialogue between you and the triune God during devotions. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3b). Having personal devotions is to enjoy sweet communion with your God.
This communion is not only a delight to the soul but a blessing of salvation. Let me put it more strongly: the communion with God that we enjoy in personal devotions is our salvation. No, communion with God in devotions is not what we do in order to gain salvation with God, but rather it is what salvation consists of. That is what Jesus meant when He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Only with this perspective will we recognize personal devotions as a privilege rather than a burden.
The beautiful doctrine of God’s covenant helps us understand this perspective on personal devotions. Remember that God’s covenant is a relationship of friendship and fellowship. To be saved is to be brought into covenant with God. God rescues us who are by nature haters of God (and of His communion), children of Satan, and deserving of His infinite wrath. But this deliverance is not only from spiritual darkness. It is salvation unto His covenant—unto friendship and fellowship with our God. To be saved is to be given fellowship with God that we enjoy in devotions.
Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself in order that we might have this communion. He is called the Mediator of the covenant—the go-between. We as a sinful people do not only despise communion with God, but we do not even have the right to approach the holy God. So this Mediator Jesus Christ came to this earth to gain for us access to the Father. He suffered and died so that we might have this right to fellowship with the holy God. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Having earned for us access into God’s presence, Jesus Christ the Mediator was not finished with His work. He rose from the dead and ascended so that He might continue His work. He joins us to Himself by the living bond of faith. He draws near to us by His Spirit, and draws us near to God by that same Spirit. By His Word and Spirit, He speaks to us what God would have us hear, and He causes us to respond in prayer. Christ’s saving work, you see, is to draw God near to us and draw us near to Him. Christ has given Himself for us exactly so that we might enjoy sweet communion with God in our personal devotions. How valuable is this saving grace to you?
This fellowship with God we first enjoy during formal worship with God’s church. During worship services there is a holy conversation between God and His people. Christ by His Spirit draws near to His bride to commune with her whom He has saved unto Himself. Members of this body should not see it as a burden to frequent the house of God for worship. This too is a delightful blessing of salvation and not only an obligation. The child of God exclaims about worship, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Ps. 84:1-2).
Having enjoyed communion with God in worship, God’s people do not respond, “I have had enough of this blessing of salvation for the week.” Having tasted and seen the goodness of their God, they crave more. Thus, during the week, fathers lead families in devotions, teachers lead students in devotions, and societies gather to study God’s Word and pray together. And as a son or daughter with a personal relationship to Father, each child comes to God regularly in private, personal devotions also. That soul joyously sings these words:
My Savior, ’neath Thy shelt’ring wings My soul delights to dwell; Still closer to Thy side I press, For near Thee all is well. My soul shall conquer every foe, Upholden by Thy hand; Thy people shall rejoice in God, Thy saints in glory stand. (Psalter #163, stanza 3)
Closer we press until that thrilling day when the upright in rapture shall commune with Him face to face. This is salvation. It is not how you get salvation. It is salvation. Christ grants you access. Jehovah your God draws you His friend into His communion. Why would we not want to engage in the blessing of personal devotions?
Such is the folly of our sinful natures. That which is a blessing we view as a burden. That which is a delight we despise. That which is part of our salvation we imagine we can be without.
And this is the mercy of our God: He forgives us for despising His grace, and draws us with cords of love in Jesus Christ back to Himself again. His Spirit causes us to discipline ourselves in the good habit of personal devotions. And we discover more and more according to that new heart God has given that communion with Him is indeed sweet.