When I was a little kid, my Sunday School class had a huge poster board chart on the wall. Each week we would proudly march into Sunday School with Bibles held high (literally), say our memory verse, and state whether or not we did devotions that week. The goal? To have as many gold stars as possible!
While we may not have a “gold star chart” hanging on the walls of our home, that same mentality keeps us enslaved in the land of guilt, burden, and mediocrity. So while you may cringe a bit, let me boldly proclaim: Quit doing devotions!
Now before you quit reading and think the deeperChristian site has been taken over by bandits, let me explain.
At age 16, my first job was at a Christian bookstore. When I left seven years later, I had come to the conclusion that the majority of Christians do not spend much time in their Bibles. It was evident in the lives of my friends, the people who came into the bookstore, and sadly, my own life.
But the Christian publishing world came to the rescue! In order to help out the busy soccer mom or the overworked businessman or the lazy college student, they came up with a brilliant idea: 10 minute devotional books! Rather than having to actually open your Bible and figure out what it means, you could open a less intimidating small paperback (with a cool cover) that would give you a verse, a fun modern-day story, and a prayer to pray. What’s not to love?
They soon realized ten minutes was a long time for the busy mom, overworked dad, and lazy student. Who had ten full minutes in their day to give to devotions? So I started to notice an entire line of new devotional books with these types of titles:
- 5 Minute Bible Workouts for Men
- Teen Devotional: Take a Turn for God in 5 Minutes a Day
- The 5 Minute Devotional
- 5 Minutes a Day: 365 Devotions for Women
Apparently that was too much time as well because the time continued to shrink:
- 3 Minute Devotions for Women: Inspirational Readings for Her Heart
- 2 Minutes a Day: 100 Devotions for Guys
- Take a Break: 2 Minute Devotions for the Workplace
- 1 Minute Bible for Students
I guess it was then that we decided that reading was far too time consuming … so (enter epic hero music here) they came up with “Drive Time Devotions.” An audio devotional to take with you on your commute. There were special versions for moms, women, men, families, Christmas, and a generic version for those who didn’t want specific conviction on their souls.
Okay, I admit, I’m being overly sarcastic (though the names of the devotionals are all real). So what is wrong with devotions? Let me compare and contrast typical “devotions” with “Saturation Bible Study.”
1. Rules vs. Relationship
Devotions: often focuses on the gold stars. You count and keep track of what days you do devotions and feel guilty on the days you miss. It is all about requirements, duty, obligation.
2. Have to vs. Want to | Duty vs. Delight
Devotions: it is easy for devotions to become a pressure in your life. You wake up and know if you don’t do your devotions for that day, you will feel guilty. If you do them (yea gold star!), you feel like you’ve earned God’s approval – which is subject to change the next day.
Saturation: if intimacy and relationship are the purpose of Bible study then it’s not “I have to” but “whoa I get to!” When your Bible study is all focused on knowing the Person (Jesus) it continues do draw you into increasing desire to spend more time with Him in His Word. Saturation is not about duty or fulfilling an obligation, it is about about intimacy, oneness, and the delight that comes from the relationship.
3. Spoon-fed vs. Soaking
Devotions: when you get your devotional insight from a book or someone else, you are being spoon-fed. Rather than have the adventure of discovery, as the Spirit illuminates and reveals the text to you, you are content to live on someone else’s leftovers. Yes, I admit, there are some studies by individuals which are rich and edifying (such as Oswald Chambers, Tozer, Spurgeon, and the like), but you need more than their insight for continual spiritual growth – you need to personally wrestle with and be transformed by Scripture.
Saturation: one the amazements for me about Saturation is that as I soak in the Word, the Spirit gives me understanding. As I begin to ask the 3 Questions for Bible Study and spend time in prayer asking for revelation, the Holy Spirit often gives me insight that affects my life and becomes a part of my life. Think about it, when you listen to a sermon or read a great devotional book, you may remember some of what you read … but when you do the study yourself, it is much harder to forget. I can still go back to passages that I studied years ago and tell you all about it.
4. Focus on Me vs. Focus on Jesus
Devotions: the normal focus during devotions is on myself – what can I get out of this study?
Saturation: if the purpose of Bible study is to know Jesus, then the whole focus of my study is upon Him, not me.
5. Interpretation vs. Revelation
Devotions: the emphasis is upon my interpretation. What does this mean to me? I put in the work and study so that I can come up with the answer.
Saturation: is all about soaking in a passage like a sponge soaks in water, and allowing the Spirit to give insight, wisdom, revelation of the text.
6. Time vs. All the Time
Devotions: how often do you look at your clock while doing devotions, hoping that the time would be over. Devotions is often focused on “put in your 15 minutes each day” or “a chapter a day keeps the devil away.”
Saturation: what if Bible study went beyond time and began to happen all the time. No matter where you were or what you were doing, it was constantly on your mind? Saturation Bible Study becomes a lifestyle rather than another activity to add to your day.
7. Works vs. Response
Devotions: we often have the crazy notion that if we do our devotions, God owes us. He owes us a good day, a better attitude, and the feeling of no conviction. We live with the mentality that we have twisted God’s arm behind His back and now we ask for whatever we want. How many times have we bargained with God, telling Him if He would only do ______, then we would do ______ (or visa versa). This is a works mentality that is all based upon my performance and my actions. The emphasis and focus is placed upon myself: “Look what I’ve done God! Now I need you to ________.”
Saturation: the concept of Saturation is quite the opposite: it is a lifestyle of response. I open myself before the Word and allow His scalpel to do its work in my life (Hebrews 4.12). He moves and speaks, I respond. I don’t perform and force Him to respond to me, the Biblical model found throughout Scripture is God moves, God speaks, God initiates, and I respond to Him. I am to live in a lifestyle of surrender and dependency.
I realize that when someone says they are doing their “devotions” it can mean a variety of things. For some it does mean they are studying and soaking in the Word. But I have found too often that when we talk about “devotions” we refer to our 10 minute devotional or our audio CD of Bible commute devotionals. So let me encourage you: stop doing devotions and start saturating in the Word!
Question: What struggles do you have in your “devotional/Bible study” time? Which of the seven comparisons above can you relate to the most and why? Answer in the comment section below.