There can be a rhythm to our devotional life as Christ followers that parallels the beat of Jesus interior life with his Father. Make no mistake, Jesus practiced solitude to seek his Father and we must as well. Seeking God is our privilege once our hearts have been set free from sin’s power by Christ’s victory in the cross and resurrection. We are commanded by God’s word in many places to seek him with our whole heart and soul (Deuteronomy 4:29, 2 Chronicles 11:16, Matthew 6:33). In the story of Jesus encounter with Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) we see six steps that are necessary in our spiritual growth.
- Fight For Solitude- There was a pattern to Jesus daily life that began with an extended time of “being alone” with his Father (Mark 1:35, Luke 9:18). He practiced solitude in extended times as well. In the testing that Jesus experienced in the wilderness, Matthew’s description begins, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” He was led into the wilderness… making it a rich time of solitude & preparation in the Spirit. To be tempted by the devil…This represented the testing that would manifest his readiness for spiritual battle and the “ring” where Jesus delivered a powerful blow to Satan at the outset of his public ministry. A disciple must discipline himself to break away from the world and unplug completely. In our high-tech, ultra-connected culture this can feel like we are cutting off our arm. Our even worse like a betrayal to those who need us. It is not. It will make us more of a lover, servant, and warrior for them. In solitude we are called to hear his voice “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Only alone with Him can we hear his voice but not until we have dismissed all other competitors for our heart’s attention. The enemy will seek to disrupt our holy time with Jesus through: fatigue, distraction, boredom, and sinful thoughts like lust, resentment, and unforgiveness. We must battle to clear our mind and heart to focus on the lover of our soul. Meditation upon God’s word and prayer will be mighty weapons for us.
- Practice Meditation- King David in Psalm 119:11 writes, “I have hidden your word in my heart that might not sin against you.” Hiding the word deep in our heart requires the discipline of meditation. This involves prayerful repetition, speaking out loud, the word of God, cherishing it. This repetition of passages aiding memorization, etches the word, scoring it in our spirit. Here it will speak to us deeply and continually. Meditation on the word is a form of prayer that transforms our “stinkin’ thinkin” into a life-giving awareness of Christ’s care for us as our great shepherd (Psalm 23). Meditation can be aided in the practice of a very simple prayer like the Jesus prayer. The classic version goes like this… “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Meditation on the word builds our faith (Romans 10:17) and produces an endurance for more sustained times of being attentive in God’s presence.
- Expect His Visitation- As we are intentional and regular about getting alone with God and meditating upon his word we will experience his visitation. Christ through his Spirit will abide with us; he will come to us in his manifest presence. His presence is indeed everywhere in his creation. This we call his omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-12). Also, all believers in Christ are filled with his indwelling presence by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). His manifest presence however is a deep, conscious awareness of God that we are called by the Psalmist to seek and to experience personally.
- Cherish His Revelation- Through these disciplines God in the fulness of his personhood: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are made known to us in increasing fashion. He is surely the most fascinating being in all the creation and we can only begin to know Him intimately in this life. It will take an eternity to truly know Him. I believe this is what David felt when he wrote in Psalm 139:17 “How precious to me are your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Our justification by faith alone (Romans 4:3-5), our union with Christ (Romans 7:4), and our adoption into his family as “sons” of God (Romans 8:15-17) are all made known to us through revelation. It is there that the word and the Spirit speak to our spirit. God uses pastors and teachers in this process for sure but there is no substitute for the fresh bread-revelation He gives to his children who seek him daily (John 6:30-35).
- Resist Temptation- Just as the devil broke into Jesus time of solitude in the wilderness to test him, he will surely attempt to disrupt our spiritual disciplines to remove the sustaining source of our identity and power (James 1:12-15). Defeating our enemy by the word as Jesus did can be our path to victory over sin as well.
- Spontaneous Celebration- Once Jesus had faced the testing of the evil one and battled him victoriously the angels came and ministered to him. I imagine it was a time of great celebration, honor and initiation for Jesus. We should celebrate the victories God gives us in our battles. As we give our mind, heart and discipline in this six step process praise and thanksgiving will erupt in us. We will celebrate God’s mercy to us in Christ, his abiding presence with us, and all his precious promises (Psalm 103:1-5). We celebrate our kingdom authority now to reign with Him and our shared destiny to reign with Christ in the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21). We celebrate our good Father who loves us with a perfect love and gives his Spirit of adoption to us. We bring this sense of celebration that transcends the suffering in our lives to our brothers; they will rejoice with us and their faith made stronger!