You Don't Have To Spend Time With God
Sometimes a corrective lens is needed when one’s eyesight is impaired. Perhaps their 20/20 vision was never a thing or gradually got worse over time, thus warranting the scheduled appointments to the eye doctor and many eye dilations. It isn’t until our vision is corrected that we are truly able to make out what blurred lines may have become to our near-sightedness of the truth of who God is, by His Word alone.
Spending time with God is definitely a necessity to Christian living and actively contributes to our share in our sanctification as non-robotic individuals, who are yielded and submitted to the authority of God. However, today many people have made spending time with God into that awful appointment to avoid that’s been on your calendar for weeks, to sit underneath a bright light while a dentist with perfect teeth, cleans your plaque infested molars.
A works-based mindset has infiltrated our approach to God and His Word, which leaves us feeling like we shouldn’t even bother because we can’t seem to get things right. We just don’t “feel” Him like we used to and we don’t seem to “hear” Him like everyone else, thus leading us into a rut that is void of the richness of the beauty and splendor of God’s Holy Word.
It is true, you read the title correctly. We don’t have to spend time with God. But, we sure do get to have the privilege, honor and invitation to commune with The Heavenly Father through Scripture reading, studying, exegeting, discussion and practical application in a healthy way.
To be in communion with The Father because of the great sacrifice and atonement of The Son, lends us a deep appreciation for the time we’ve been undeservingly given to speak with, learn from and be sanctified by God. This time, whether daily or weekly, is never a time for a chore-like mindset, but one that oozes gratefulness for a gracious God that invites regenerated sinners into the fellowship of the Holy.
THE LEGALISTIC LENS OF INTERPRETATION
If we’re honest with our after-emotions post spending time in the Bible, many of us have felt nothing short of condemnation and the effects of the influence of others that have drilled into our cerebrums that if we don’t spend time with God, then we pretty much suck at life and there’s no hope. Whether self-inflicted or others-inflicted, there has at some point been this push of an eisegeted, legalistic lens of interpretation of Scripture that leave many beating their selves up over a Scripture or two that have absolutely nothing to do with the projector’s out of context interpretation of it.
Scriptures like Matthew 6:6 do not mean that you have to go and make these elaborate rooms to pray in and spend time in His Word. “Quiet-time” culture has led many of us to believe that Scriptures with specific contextual meanings should be our fuel to fall into more and more legalistic mindsets. Here in the text Christ is setting a charge and command against hypocritical legalities in which things are done for attention and personal reward. He is contrasting the unbiblical mark of prayer to one that is pleasing to The Father. Even more specifically, this set of Scripture is honing in on prayer.
God’s plan and intention behind our studying of His Word, was never so that we could rip scriptures out of context and beat ourselves up with them, somehow hoping that this would enable us to gain discipline in the area of delighting in Him. That’s actually the complete opposite. When we’re looking at Scripture out of context, it can cause us to develop unhealthy habits and ideas about who God is.
Let’s start here with some common legalisms that we often exercise in our relation to God:
You didn’t read your Bible for a couple of days and now you think that’s why you got into a car accident later that morning.
You didn’t spend time with God that morning so now you have to wait until the next morning to hopefully make your scheduled appointment on time.
You didn’t post a photo on Instagram after you had your “quiet time” so now it doesn’t seem legit and you have to do it all over again.
If you didn’t do it for an hour or more, it doesn’t count.
Do you see the pattern? We project these presuppositions fueled by everybody else’s legalisms upon ourselves and wonder why we can’t simply enjoy God’s presence and time spent in His Word. The Bible does not support nor paint a narrative that compels us to spend time studying and reading out of a guilt-ridden conscience. The Bible does not support legalisms that point to self as the sustainer of relationship, totally kicking God out as the author and finisher of our faith. And it surely doesn’t encourage those mindsets and ideologies to be made into “convictions” by others who have not truly understood their freedom in Christ, that they mask in “how-to” videos, blogs and sermons.
Our spending time with God has become an obligation and not a delighting time of learning about Him, engaging accurately with the text and growing as a Believer. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
STAGED PHOTOS + COFFEE CUPS
These days, we get a whole event planner, catering company and scripted mugs with the latest popular calligraphy scrawling about something faith-based, to set up for us before we spend time with God. We lay it all out, have our coffee poured with the perfect cream design, our cute $5 dollar TJ Maxx, Marshall’s or Ross journals and if you’re feeling really scholarly that day, a 1,000-page Bible dictionary on the side that you barely touch.
Smoke and mirrors. Pomp and circumstance. Carnivals and ponies. Cropped photos and Instagram posts.
Spending time with God has literally become everything it isn’t and wasn’t ever intended to be. This time is intimate and doesn’t need to be proven to social media. It doesn’t warrant validation from likes or follows, deep captions or personal revelation sharing, etc. If we’re truly there to grow as Believers and meet with our King to learn more about Him so that we may give accurate presentations for our hope in Him, why does everyone else need to see it? (1 Pet. 3:15)
Granted, sharing faith-based things on Instagram is totally okay. But when we “meet with God” for the sake of creating a share-worthy post for our social media friends, we’re in the wrong. This is a time in which we are afforded an opportunity to get to know more about our Lord. Unbelievers can’t even read the Bible and understand it to the extent that we can because they are void of The Holy Spirit. We must cherish the time, each time, we have in and with God’s Word. Even if that means we intentionally miss out on a “quiet time” post that day.
Some great questions to ask ourselves to search our motives and intentions concerning why we do what we do:
(1) Do we really enjoy the pretty journals or do we just buy them because they look good on our Instagram profiles?
(2 Do we really want that “quiet-time” cup of coffee or do we just make it to help us feel better about spending time with God?
(3) Does Bible journaling and calligraphy make God’s Word more interesting, palatable, or digestible?
(4) Does this take away from my understanding of the text, my focus on the text, and my ability to search the Scriptures without any distractions?
A THEOLOGICAL REST
We can rest in the finished work of Christ, trusting that His death enabled us to even be brought back into fellowship with The Father. This reality means that every amount of time spent with God, is a privilege and an honor, not a chore.
Let’s look at the man being described in Psalm 1:2. He is delighting in the law of The Lord, not holding a disposition of obligation or meeting a requirement. He finds God’s inerrant and infallible, Holy Spirit inspired, God-breathed Word to be a source of relishing gratefully. This is a posture to model oneself after.
Living in a culture that is cold towards God’s Word and sees His laws and commandments as archaic, rigid and unattainable, this individual both fears The Lord and greatly delights in His commandments! Doesn’t sound like labor to me!
Let’s take a look at a few other Psalms that echo the same sentiments!
What’s interesting is that in Psalm 1:4 we see a picture painted of the Ungodly and what they would look like in comparison to the Godly who are blessed, walks not in the counsel of the wicked, delights in the law of The Lord and meditates on it day and night, being like a tree planted beside streams of water, so on and so forth.
The Ungodly do not delight in the law of The Lord, they do not refrain from walking in the counsel of their constituents, they have not been planted by God, they don’t meditate on The Word of God day and night. Looking at this, we must remember that when we don’t see God’s Word as a place of delight, we begin to resemble that of a Godless man.
The psalmist is not describing a dead Word that has no life, brings no satisfaction or a change of perspective in troubling times. We literally see them expressing all throughout the book, but especially in chapters like 1, 112, 113, 119, 127, 140, 159, 163, and 167 how powerful God’s Word is.
We see eight different expressions referring to Scripture itself throughout the psalm like: law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, judgements, word and ordinances. These terms are commonly associated with modern-day unrighteous perspectives that paint God as overtly militant, unapproachable and someone unworthy of learning from. But, the psalmist here uses words such as these to refer to the Word of God and how it consumes their life. We can take away a great deal of valuable perspective when we look at how God appears to us in His Word and not rely on others experiential, traditional and sometimes extra-biblical ideas of Him.
God even commissions Joshua in Joshua 1:8 to not allow the Book of the Law to depart from his mouth, but to meditate on it day and night (same language as Psalm 1:2), so that he may be careful to do and adhere to all that is written in it. God then goes onto say that by doing this, Joshua’s way will be made prosperous and he will have good success.
The Book of the Law is another reference to Scripture, but more specifically a reference to Genesis through Deuteronomy, which was composed by Moses. The act of meditation isn’t anything mystical. It is a sincere, conscious effort to linger and relish over and in God’s Word whilst intently reading with a posture bent towards carefulness and focused attention.
When we see God speak of good success and prosperity, He is displaying how effective, powerful and transformative His Word is. Out of all the things God commissioned Joshua to do in chapter 1, He stressed heavily the importance of focusing on His Word, meditating on it, and being ever so careful to do all that was/is written in it.
A practical application for us here is not to seek out God’s Word for promises of good success and prosperity. Contextually, this is a direct promise for Joshua from God. However, we can look at how the Word of God impacts us as we understand it, rely on it for the governance of our lives and meditate on it so that we too may be careful to live our lives in accordance with it. Again, although God is instructing Joshua, this isn’t an admonition to become a slave to looking at “spending time with God” as a chore or legality, but a means of sanctification, direction and success in doing the will of The Lord.
Ultimately, our goal in spending time with God shouldn’t be looked at as something we have to do, but something that we have the great opportunity to do! As we change our focus from a works-based “this will bring me blessings mindset”, to this is the great God I get to delight in and spend time with getting to know, we will run to His Word ever so passionately as we long to study Scripture in-context and practically apply it to our lives!
For a people that were once separated completely from the fellowship of God, any day within His courts is a beautiful place to be, never a place to run from.