Seek God First – Spiritual Exercise

sflogoScripture Focus: Colossians 3:1 17 (take some time to read through this as you begin)

What I Desire: To be formed deeply into the likeness of Christ and live into the fullness of who He created me to be. To love, lead and serve like Christ in every part of my life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see the particulars of my sin and lead me into confession under the fullness of your mercy and grace. Grant me a deep desire to live into the virtues of Christ and to seek you first in all things at all times for your glory.

UWM Core Value: Seek God First – We pursue God’s Kingdom, presence, and sanctifying work in us as foundational to everything. We are intentional about spiritual formation, beginning with our own hearts.

Thoughts for Reflection

At the foundation of our spiritual formation is the sanctifying work of God to restore us into His likeness. This is a work of the heart. Our heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (James 17:9), marred by our sinful nature and attacked by the evil one. As a follower of Jesus Christ, we are justified by our faith in Christ, but the gospel doesn’t stop here. The gospel continues and invites us into a renewing of our heart and mind, a regeneration of the heart as we live out our daily lives. I like how John Wesley says this, “Justification is a doctrine ‘relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins,’ while regeneration relates to ‘the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature.’ Justification is for us, regeneration in us. The one restores us to the favor, the other to the image of God” (Fred Sanders, Wesley On the Christian Life). Therefore, as the people of God on mission with and for Him, we desire to be intentional about our spiritual formation and this begins with a deep work in our hearts. As my friend Brian Rice says, “This is a long, slow, deep, difficult and particular work of God’s grace.”

Why Seek God First?

Because He is our Sovereign, our Creator, our Father, our Savior, our LORD, our King, our Teacher, and our Friend. He calls us over and over again to come to Him, to seek Him over all the things of this world.

Because He first loved us and pursues us diligently with great longing so that we would desire, love and enjoy Him forever. He seeks to offer us love, life and liberation.

Because His Kingdom and presence are filled with ultimate love, fullness of joy and abounding grace. We are crowned with loving kindness, and in Him all things are made right. We are changed by the magnificence of His glory, and in His presence we find life.

We are intentional about our spiritual formation because it matters for us, those around us and the mission of Christ in the world. The degree to which we have been transformed by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit will be the degree of our influence and impact on the people around us. We will only be able to love authentically like Jesus to the degree that we have experienced and received His love for us and been changed by it. We will only be able to offer mercy and grace to the extent that we have first received it from Jesus. In other words, we will not be able to engage the world as Jesus did unless we are being deeply engaged by Him and allowing His work in our hearts to form us. Spiritual formation leads to transformation both within as well as around us, authentically demonstrating the nature and characteristics of God. This always leads to something glorious and beautiful because this is who He is and we were created in His image.

As we consider Colossian 3:1 17, we are invited to remember that we have been saved by grace through Christ’s death and resurrection, and then instructed to seek the ways of the Kingdom of God. Paul offers us a necessary process for the presence and work of God to be enabled. He points to the deep work we must do to deal with our sin ruthlessly and to desire and grow into the virtues of Christ. At any given time, as we do this, we hear the word of Christ spoken intimately to us, and it becomes the very Word that regenerates us. As this Word dwells in us richly, it is the Word we now have to offer others. It is our message of life in Christ, our story, meant for the praise of God and the edification of the body of Christ, the Church.

Colossians 3:1 17

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek (“zeteo” dzay teh’o – desire, endeavor and enquire about) those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears,
then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in

your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Suggestions for Reflection

As you move into this reflection, I encourage you to take several devotional times to give deep prayerful thought with each suggestion. Allow this to guide you to places Christ has been and is now inviting you. Return to it from time to time, for this is an ongoing process, and Colossians 3 is a beautiful doorway for dealing with your heart.

  1. Slowly, prayerfully read Colossians 3:1-17, listening for where the Holy Spirit is inviting you to stop and listen carefully.What is the Holy Spirit drawing your attention to? What is the Word saying to you?
    How do you desire to respond?
  2. Think about the word SEEK (to desire, to endeavor and to enquire).
    What things are you seeking regularly? Are they the things of Christ, heavenly things?What are the earthly things you seek?
  3. Put to death that which is earthly, sinful and destructive. Spend time with each sin listed.
    Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal where any particular sin is present and the impact it is having on you, your relationships and service for His Kingdom. Write this out. If nothing changes, what destructive end will this lead to?Spend time in confession and repentance, allowing His grace and forgiveness to wash over you. This is where transformation occurs.
  4. Put on what is holy, righteous, good and life giving. Spend time with each virtue listed. Where do you see the particular virtue emerging in and through you naturally? Write these out. Which ones are lacking? What do you desire?Offer a heartfelt, honest prayer of longing and desire for the virtues the Holy Spirit is inviting you to grow in. Give thanks and praise to God for those that are already leading to beautiful ends. This is evidence of the redeeming, sanctifying and formative work of God in your life.
  5. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.What Word has Christ spoken to you?
    Has it become a song within you of thanks, praise and adoration to God?
    How is Holy Spirit giving you opportunity among others to offer the work and word that has occurred in you?Take time to write a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving and desire to your Lord. Share this great work with a friend, your family, someone you serve with or the community you share life in.Proverbs 8:17
    “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.” (Proverbs 8:17)Psalm 9:10
    “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”

By: Chad Hollowell, Director of Spiritual Formation and Field Leadership