devotions, the best of me, and checklist discipleship

"And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord"

God, I'm sorry you're not getting the best of me these days. I was feeling discouraged with myself (DING! DING! DING! Discouragement with myself is the opposite of putting my trust in the Jesus, right?). I was discouraged with my "devotional times," or lack of them. I don't have a beautiful, daily, focused time of "devotion" in the prayer and the Bible, and I've definitely never been a morning person. My read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan petered out in 2 Chronicles . . . two years in. 

At the same time, I love the Lord and His Word, and He's always teaching, training me, and correcting me.  

How would Jesus, my friend and Savior, reply to this idea of my "best time" for Him? Is my guilt from Him? Is He disappointed in me?

I wonder if Jesus would chuckle and motion me over to His side, pat the seat next to Him, and explain a few things.
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24
Maybe He'd say something like this: "Mary, I get the 'best of you' all day long. There is no slicing and dicing up your day and your life to what's devoted to me and what isn't. It's all mine."

Interacting with my husband as we parent, manage our home, and navigate our marriage. Training and teaching our children. Taking care of our home and yard. Blogging. Emailing. Talking to neighbors and friends. Praying for wisdom with a stubborn child. Taking care of my body. Grocery shopping. They're all "devotional" because they're for Him.
"Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:9-10
Check-list discipleship seems more manageable than this demand for my whole life to come under His reign--as it is in heaven. We feel "right with God"when we've checked off a number of "devotional" activities. But then we feel guilty because we can't complete our checklist or we've got an unrealistic checklist that God didn't give us in the first place. 

Elyse Fitzpatrick writes that "When we try to make hard-and-fast rules that are more far reaching or more specific than God's law, we are actually opening the door for sin and failure . . . because adding to God's law doesn't make it easier to obey; it makes it even more impossible to follow than it already is . . . . Failure to live up to human additions to God's rules always produces guilt, and guilt never produces grateful obedience" (Good News for Weary Women).

In addition, "hey, come and let me teach you to be an imperfect, stressed-out, discouraged, and burdened rule-keeper just like me" is not good news.  Who wants to pass that around the neighborhood? That thinking doesn't motivate evangelism from the heart (only as a checklist item). 

No, good news says Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, the Divine checklist, and took the penalty of our failings. He is the only one that makes us "right with God." Checklist making and keeping never could.
"Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'" John 6:28-29
Jesus calls us to a moment-by-moment, all-encompassing relationship with Himself, which He has already secured for us.
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." Galatians 5:16-18
Friends, in order to "walk in the Spirit," we need to hold tight to the pure principles of God's Word and learn to filter out man-made rules, as "right" as they might sound. I think we (at least I observe this in myself) tend to see God lead us to obey His Word in a specific manner in a certain season of life in a way tailored to how we're made, and it works so well that we want to set that up as a model for everyone else. We blog about it, write a book about it, share it with our Bible study girls. "10 steps to . . . whatever." Better parenting. Better Bible study and prayer. A cleaner home. Raising children who clean up after themselves.

The problem is not this advice-sharing. The problem is when we make absolute something that God hasn't. And maybe no one is even saying these things are absolute, but somehow they've seeped into our hearts as such, producing guilt in us. They've led us to methods and not to Jesus, to checklists and not to walking in His Spirit (where there's freedom).

This is really tough for me, all of it, but the freedom that is possible for us is worth the sorting out, don't you think?

As Elyse Fitzpatrick puts it, "So iron those shirts . . . or don't! Eat acai berry-laced gluten-free pancakes . . . or don't. Get up at 4:17 a.m. to do your devotions . . . or don't. The Lord has given you the freedom to seek to serve Him in whatever way He has wired you to. And then, in all the ways you fail, He also gives you His righteousness" (Good News for Weary Women).

And that's good news.

Today's printable is from Colossians 3:23-24. You can download your page here or by clicking on the image below!*
"And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord"
PRAYING the Word
Remind me that my whole day is yours and everything I do is serving you. Help me work at it from my heart, knowing my reward comes from YOU.

QUESTIONS to ask about the verses:

1. What does it mean to work heartily?
2. Who are we really serving with our work?
3. What has God asked you to work at right now? How can this verse encourage that work?

*I'm so happy for you to enjoy my coloring pages and printables for your personal (not commercial) use! All artwork and photos are copyright Marydean Draws. If you share this, you're awesome (!), and as a courtesy,  please link back to this post and not the PDF file. Thank you!!

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