When a guy gets a girlfriend, he doesn’t have trouble making time for her. Love compels him. Same with Jesus: fall in love, and we don’t give Him the extras. When we aren’t there yet, we talk about devotions as a discipline. We would never talk about our relationship with a gal or guy as a discipline. When our meetings with Jesus become a delight, no one tells us to spend time with the King. A have-to has changed into a want-to.
If you say, “I talk with Him on the way to school,” try that on your friend–“I’ll talk with you on the way, when I have ten extra minutes.” If you give leftovers, he/she will feel used. She must not be special if you just can’t find time to be with her, if she gets what spills over after a busy week. God told the Israelites through Malachi that He couldn’t stand the cheap sacrifices they were giving. A second-rate offering signaled a second-rate God!
Imagine this check-list: 1) Do my homework, 2) Have my quiet time, 3) Call my girlfriend. When we get done, check it off the list. Suggestion: don’t show it to your friend. She won’t be impressed. She just moved from a desire to an assignment, from a person to a project. Not even close to love.
I was there. I remember in college asking a friend to pray for me that I would be regular with my devotions. He found it strange that I would ask. I guess it was a non-issue for him. Then something happened a few years later to change duty to delight. When it takes place, you know it, because you are wanting time with the King. When you miss it, you don’t get clobbered, but you do want it, because love engages the heart.
I’m not sure how it happens. For some it comes when they realize how much they are loved. “We love because he first loved us.” For the prodigal, it came when he realized how badly he had blown it but was forgiven and embraced anyway. You don’t need to tell him to spend time with the old man. He wants to!
The religious leaders tried to corner Jesus by asking Him to boil it down to one word from heaven, one command, one “have to.” They thought they were going to trick him into saying something controversial. He said simply, “Love God and love people.” He reduced it to relationship.
We get that; we have experienced it. We know the difference between motivation and force, between doing something expected of us and something we are drawn to, between the pastor or youth director reminding us and the inner working the Spirit drawing us.
When external demand morphs to internal supply, the fight is over. That is what the new covenant is all about. It is your inheritance to have a heart that loves God, that wants to obey. It you are fifty years old and not there yet, acknowledge that you need a transplant. God is a heart doctor: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26,27).
Under the newer covenant, God does the motivating, not the pastor. Chapter 36 includes twenty-two “I will’s” from God. Heaven’s answer to our, “I can’t,” is “I will.”
Nothing beats love. It creates its own passion. It never makes it to the “to-do” list because it is the highest priority. Take heart: I’ve seen it happen to scores of young people, and it can happen to you. Hey, every meeting with the King is not a “ten.” Sometimes the Bible can come across as boring, though it never is. Discipline is still required as an ingredient of maturing love, but underneath is the solid foundation of a relationship we have been invited into that matches the deepest desires of our heart!