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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

In my previous devotional, I argued that the two “hinge” passages in Hebrews (4:14-16 and 10:19-25) together encapsulate the spirituality of this inspired sermon.  Three central tasks are enumerated in these verses.  First, we consider Jesus.  Second, we draw near to God through Jesus.  Third, we hold fast our confession of faith in Jesus.  Mind.  Heart.  Practice.

This balanced paradigm is critical to implement in your own relationship with God, as most Christians tend to belong to one (or two) of three “personality types” with respect to their preferred, intuitive form of “spirituality.”  All three of these personality types (and their respective spiritual “strategies”) are good and necessary, but, when one becomes so predominant as to take our focus away from others, they can become truncated and distorted.

Some Christians are inclined to be ivory-tower theologians and philosophers—that is, they love meditating on the conceptual beauty and complexity of the Christian faith.  They get excited to dig richly into the Scriptures and expend great energy and passion on the pursuit of intellectual truth, on sound doctrine. In other words, they are more naturally inclined to “consider Jesus” in their own pursuit of God, but they are perhaps less inclined (or find it more difficult, or less rewarding) to “draw near” or “hold fast” with the same commitment of time and focus and intentionality.

Other Christians tend to be experience junkies—that is, they love to worship God, to come near to Him subjectively in prayer and devotion, and to experience His life-changing presence.  They find great joy in encountering the Lord directly, and their affections are remarkably oriented toward the experienced reality of God (not just the objective idea of God).  They can be at times less interested in serious study of biblical theology, with all of its nuances and challenging, jarring content, and even feel frustrated at those who are so wired.

Still other Christians are thoroughgoing pragmatists—for them, books and theoretical sermons are fine, getting emotional in worship and excited in prayer is commendable, but what they really want is to know concretely what God desires them to actually do on a daily basis to make a difference for the kingdom of God, to honor and please the Lord, and to bring redemptive impact to the world around them in mercy and justice.  The pressing need to give serious, ongoing regard to the conceptual content of the Christian faith, or to the more experiential dimensions of encountering God daily, can be counterintuitive or even seem unnecessarily hindering and time-consuming.

Of course, not all Christians fall neatly into just one of these categories, though many will recognize one or two of them as being more descriptive than the other(s).  And certainly God has wired each of us differently; Christian spirituality cannot be naively reduced to a one-size-fits-all model.  However, all three of these orientations or emphases are important in the Christian life, and all of us can grow in areas that are less natural to us, or that seem to not “pay off” as much as other approaches to following Jesus do.  What we see in these two “hinge” passages in Hebrews is the call to become well-trained disciples of Jesus in all three realities: doctrine, experience, and concrete obedience

Therefore, after considering Jesus, we then respond by drawing near to God through Him.  Our whole being is engaged here, whether the form our approach to God takes is in public worship, private prayer, meditation, singing, or listening to the voice of God in Scripture.  This act of entering into God’s holy, gracious presence is inescapably subjective and experiential (though it will not always seem as intense or tangible as at other times).  However, it must also be added that drawing near to God is never merely an end in itself—it is the central means by which we receive God’s outpouring of grace and transforming mercy for the obedience that still lies ahead of us.  Experience of God through Christ and in the Spirit empowers us for faithful action in the world.  Finally, having considered Jesus as He is and having drawn near to God through Jesus, we are now called to do something with our hands and our feet, with our words and our actions, with our time and our money, in public and in private: namely, to obey.  As Oswald Chambers reminds us, “The true spiritual life is to be measured, not by its ecstasies, but by its obedience.”  The final “move” in the spirituality commended to us in Hebrews is to find tangible, concrete actions of living out our faith, of honoring God with our lives, or serving our neighbors in deed and truth.  With such priestly sacrifices God is well-pleased (13:15-16).

nick webNick is from the New Jersey / New York area. He became a Christian during his freshman year at High Point University through the influence of a student-led Cru ministry. He earned a BA in English Writing with a minor in Religion/Philosophy, and then moved to the Twin Cities to attend Bethel Seminary. While earning an MDiv, he also served as a youth pastor and as staff at Minnesota Teen Challenge.

He next spent two years as a pastoral apprentice at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis under John Piper in The Bethlehem Institute, and concurrently he taught a number of theology and Bible classes at the undergraduate and graduate level. Nick studied at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary prior to joining Christian Union in 2008.  He has written several curriculums for CU's University Ministries, including Sex & Spirituality, Romans and Hebrews. He is currently working on a book on the story-shaped spirituality of the Psalms, and in his free time loves all things NYC, jogging in Central Park, and reading great novels over allegedly good coffee.
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