Summary: Self-denial and spiritual discipline are not popular topics in today’s culture. But a Christianity without a cross is not Christianity at all. This sermon launches a fifty day focus on spiritual disciplines.
Disciples with Discipline
(Fifty Days of Consecration #1)
This morning we want to prepare for the Fifty Days of Consecration that begins next Sunday. The fifty days begins on Easter (March 27th) and will conclude on the Day of Pentecost (May 15th).
It is a special time for us to draw near to the Lord. We begin with the promise found in James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (NKJV). As a congregation we want to do that during these next six weeks. As individuals and families this is an opportunity for us to consecrate ourselves to the Lord. We are to live our lives in devotion or consecration to the Lord. But there are also special times of consecration. In Israel’s history the Passover was a special time of consecration. In Acts 13 we see the church in a special time of prayer and fasting.
When Israel was about to enter into the Promise Land, “Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you’” (Josh 3:5). “Consecrate yourselves”—prepare yourselves spiritually for the manifest presence of God. It was a call to separate themselves from anything displeasing to the Lord. It was a call to purity. It was a time for each family/each person to turn to the Lord and confirm their devotion to Him. The word translated consecrate in Joshua 3:5 is sometimes translated sanctify, hallow, or dedicate. How will you dedicate yourself to the Lord during these fifty days?
I want to begin by handing out these forms for a “Personal Plan”. When you receive your copy, turn to the back and read the explanation at the bottom of the page. We have purposely approached this time with a minimum of structure—because we want you to have the freedom to focus on areas the Lord is speaking to you about. I would encourage you to concentrate your commitments on a couple of areas and don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by all the possibilities.
The yellow sheet you are receiving provides a few suggestions for each of the areas we will be dealing with during the next few Sundays. Each area has a section entitle “Other” so that you can put anything there you may feel God has for you personally. The suggested commitments that are listed are not mandatory. They are simply there to help you discover what God wants you to do during this time.
As an overview of The Fifty Days of Consecration we will talk a few minutes about your Personal Plan. Let me say up front, “Without a personal plan, you will probably not get much out of this program.” Generalized good intentions usually don’t succeed. The discipline comes when we make the decision and the commitment in a very specific way. You want to draw near to God. How will you do that? Will you get up fifteen minutes earlier each morning and pray? Will you covenant with a friend to meet together once a week and pray? The thing God is dealing with me about may be different from what He is speaking to you about. But we all want to respond to the Lord. I want us to pause for a moment and each one ask for God’s wisdom and direction as to what He would have you pursue. (Pray)
(Discuss the “Personal Plan” form giving brief explanation of each commitment listed. Then allow about 5 minutes for people to make some preliminary notes on the form as to what their commitment will be.)
Now I also want to give you another resource. On the white sheet of paper being handed out is a suggested devotion in preparation for next Sunday. We plan to do this each Sunday so that you have something to work with. It will be simple and easy to use. But it will help you get into the particular spiritual discipline for that week.
Discuss “Devotional Preparation for Worship/Remembrance” and the Sermon Plan at the bottom of the page. Encourage everyone to read an inspiring Christian book during this time. Some groups are forming to discuss Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.
Now for the next few minutes set all that aside and let’s look into the word of God for an understanding of why this is so important.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “ Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”