Welcome to Daily Steps!
A weekly devotional message with daily scripture readings, prayer prompts, and action steps to help you spend time with Jesus and strengthen your relationship with Him.
1 Peter 4:1-3 "Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good." (The Message)
The Pleasures of Self-Denial
While two words could not be more opposite — pleasure and self-denial — the life of Jesus provides us with a roadmap to discovering the end of ourselves in order to find the beginning of true happiness. That is the amazing, sometimes baffling, and always miraculous nature of the Gospel... the Holy Spirit's transformative work in our lives takes what the world says is not possible and makes it a reality.
Author and theologian C.S. Lewis said in his sermon The Weight of Glory, "Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us… like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
One of Satan’s sneakiest ploys is to corrupt the joy of a Christian’s heart by making him or her think that following Jesus should be primarily defined and visibly marked by self-sacrifice and deprivation of our deepest of longings. But that's the core of the evil one's lie — our deepest longings are not what we think they are. Simply put, our desires can come from two different realms — the spiritual and the physical. As both spiritual and physical beings, these two sources are often at odds with one another, wrestling for our attention, time, and resources almost every second of the day. That's why it's so important and helpful to remember that we were created to be eternal, spiritual beings first. We were created in God's image and while a desire to know and love Him are imprinted on our very souls, our attachment to this temporary life on earth often numbs, buries, and even tries to destroy the deepest longing of all — our longing to love God and be loved by Him.
Of course, not all desires that are sparked by our bodies or minds are sinful or harmful. The problem is that our physical nature usually doesn't know when and how to put the brakes on the desires that are getting out of hand. This is where our spirit, working under the influence of Jesus' Spirit, has to do the hard work of reigning in the desires of our flesh that feel so natural, so intensely pleasurable, yet so horribly destructive to our spiritual health and usually to our physical health as well. That is why Peter is pushing us so hard to learn to think like Jesus. In 1 Peter 4:1-3, he explains that when we practice denying ourselves of sinful desires, Jesus will help us re-discover the holy desires we were created to pursue — finding freedom and delight in the greatest pleasures of all.
Daily Bible Readings
This week, as you go through the daily readings below, ask the Holy Spirit to make each of the passages deeply personal and applicable to you. (NOTE: We suggest you read each of these passages in several different versions of the Bible, including at least one paraphrase version.) As you contemplate these passages, make time to pray before and after you read them. Write down anything the Holy Spirit whispers to your soul.
Monday — Read Matthew 16:24-25 and 1 Peter 4:1-2 in three different versions of the Bible (click the verse links to see them side by side). As you meditate on these two passages, look at the parallels between them. The first passage occurs before Jesus was crucified and the second happened after Peter witnessed the power of the resurrection. What kinds of pleasures have you experienced by denying your own desires in favor of God's desires for your life? Spend some time asking Him to bring both conviction and direction to your heart so that you crave the pleasure of His presence and His approval more than the temporary desires that commonly tempt you on a daily basis.
Tuesday - Read Psalm 16:11 and Philippians 2:13. Give yourself ample time to ponder the connection between the pleasure you can find in God and the pleasure God finds by working in you. Take out a sheet of paper or use your note-taking app to make a list of all the ways that God has been at work in your life. Next to each one, write down the pleasure you derive from that work. Prayerfully ask God to show you what else He wants to add to that list, searching your heart for any ways in which you are not fully receiving the joy and pleasure He wants you to have by being obedient to Him.
Wednesday - Read Luke 5:1-11 twice. On your second reading, picture yourself in Peter's place as he experienced the joy and blessing of obeying Jesus. Close your eyes and imagine yourself saying to Jesus, "Master, I worked hard on (fill in the blank) and didn't have success at it. But if you say so, I will try it again." There's so much to learn from this simple story. Spend a few minutes thinking about ways that you've worked hard in the past, but experienced poor results. Do you think it was because you were doing the wrong thing or because you were trying to do it in your own power instead of God's? Are you willing today to take risks for Him and try something new or try something again that failed before? Let your heart be vulnerable before Him and then relish in the joy and reward of obeying Him whatever He tells you to do.
Thursday - Read Psalm 37:4 and John 14:13-14. Teacher and author John Piper said, "So we have a great promise: He will give you the desires of your heart. And we have a command: Delight yourself in the Lord. The command is the condition of the promise. So delight yourself in me, God says, and I will satisfy your heart." Many people have read these verses and made the wrong assumptions. God is not like a genie in a bottle or a fairy godmother. He doesn't exist to grant our desires and wishes, rather we exist to glorify Him and have fellowship with Him. So when we delight in Him, He replaces the desires of our hearts with His. When we are walking closely with Him and get to know Him deeply, then we will ask for things that are consistent with who He is and His character. As you spend time with Him today, ask the Holy Spirit to help you learn what it means to delight in Him. Then ask Him to reveal to you what you should pray for.
Friday - Read Psalm 16:6-8 and Hebrews 12:1-2. In both of these passages, we are reminded that the spiritual pleasures of the future are worth sacrificing our fleshly desires, and sinful indulgences here on earth. Our inheritance, which is the joy that Jesus died to give us through an eternal fellowship with Him, will far exceed anything that we could pursue and acquire on our own. Likewise, the joy that comes through obedience to Jesus far exceeds the suffering that may come in the process. As you ponder the things that Jesus might be asking you to give up or the trials that cause suffering, chase joy rather than kindling discouragement. One way to do that is to spend time praising and worshipping Jesus even if you don't feel like it at first. Put on your favorite worship tune and give it a try during your alone time with Him or by taking a long walk.
TAKE YOUR NEXT STEP
Grow closer to God each day and explore what it means to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth.
Want to Go Even Further?
If you are not already using our weekly study guide with your community group or family members, you're missing out on thought-provoking questions for discussion or individual study.
Get Your Worship On!
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