The academic year is about to begin and many seminary and bible college students are about to experience the challenge of remaining spiritually fresh during the rigors of study. Likewise, families are revving up for the busyness of the school year that also seems to be full of extra-curricular activities as well. I understand this full well as our family prepares for my second year of doctoral work, my eldest child’s second grade year, and my second child’s kindergarten year; Awana, soccer, and other miscellaneous activities are about to commence as well.
So with all this going on, how does a student or family remain spiritually fresh during all the busyness? For me, it requires carefully carved out devotional reading. Devotional reading is a great way to slow yourself down and realize that things can and should wait on time with God. When you do devotional reading, you give your full attention to what you are doing. It’s not the same as listening to an audio book, while you’re really busy thinking about errands and other things that are going on. It’s not the same as being plugged into your smart phone, listening to a podcast of your favorite pastor, who actually isn’t your under-shepherd, while you’re in the grocery store, commuting to campus, cycling, or on a run. Devotional reading requires you to pause, sit, with undivided attention, in order to meet with God. In my opinion, the best kind of devotional reading is sermon reading. Find someone whose sermons are available in print or digitally and eat those sermons up voraciously.
If this is something you long for, then let me share with you what I did this summer and what I’m doing this year. If you’re looking for more ideas of who or what to read, I think you should consult your pastor. Your pastor will be able to give you helpful suggestions.
During this summer I had the delight of reading through Jonathan Edwards sermon series, Charity and Its Fruits. This collection of sermons is built off the famous 1 Corinthians 13 text on love. Edwards preached fifteen sermons, each discussing one of the phrases from this text. It is excellent devotional reading. I used the Yale Edition, which I have the complete set from Logos, but if you’re interested in reading these sermons, Crossway has a more affordable edition of Charity and Its Fruits, edited by Kyle Strobel.
For the coming year, I am working through Thomas Manton’s sermons on Psalm 119. Again, I am using Logos, because it is very portable, and I have Manton’s entire works through my subscription to Logos Cloud. Ideally, I would read from the Banner of Truth text of Thomas Manton’s sermons on Psalm 119, which is the best way to read through the printed collection of these sermons. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have this set and am not in a position to buy it right now, but it is on my Christmas list.
Thomas Manton preached 140 sermons on Psalm 119 over the course of a year, three sermons a week. He preached on nearly every verse, one or two verses at a time. And these sermons are rich with imperatives of living according to the Good News.
The first sermon from Psalm 119:1 is devotionally juicy. Here’s the text of Psalm 119:1
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! (Psalm 119:1 ESV)
Here’s some quotes from the first sermon, which I read this morning:
Nothing can give us solid peace, but what doth make us eternally happy. (p. 7)
Nothing but the favor of God is from everlasting to everlasting. (p. 7)
Many times we are doctrinally right in point of blessedness, but not practically. (p. 8)
That sincere, constant, uniform obedience to God’s law is the only way to true blessedness. This is called a way, and this way is said to be God’s law…which implies not absolute purity and legal perfection, but gospel sincerity; and in this way we must walk. (p. 9)
A civil orderly man is one thing, and a godly renewed man another. (p. 10)
Human laws are good to establish converse with man, but too short to establish communion with God. (p. 10)
The will of God must not only be known but practiced. (p. 11)
To single out what pleasures us is to make ourselves Gods. (p. 12)
Sincere and constant obedience is the evidence of our right to future blessedness. (p. 12)
The joy of the presence and sense of the Lord’s love will counterbalance all worldly joys. (p. 15)
That’s just a quick selection of some of the sweet drippings of devotional goodness that come from these texts. The goal here isn’t to get you to walk with me in my devotional reading for the coming year, but, of course, I’d love to hear from you if you decide to read these sermons. I hope you are simply stirred to find something to read devotionally and dive in. You don’t have to wait until January to begin new habits or rekindle dried up habits. And, of course, you might not be on the same devotional rhythm that I am, so you might not be ready to shift gears to new material yet. But I want to alert you to the fact that you don’t have to read the most current devotional or be locked into a podcast from today’s preachers. Sometimes entering into another time period is even more refreshing and reading old sermons is even better than listening to recent ones. Whatever you do, don’t give up, use it to refresh you, especially if you think that you have too much on your plate or are too busy to take 15-30 minutes to commune with the Lord. There is nothing so sweet as spending time with him.