Total Devotion: 365 Days to Hang Tight with Jesus
by Kevin Johnson
Total Devotion You aren’t trying to earn heaven as a suicide killer. God offers you eternal life as a free gift. You aren’t aflame with viciousness. Your commitment to Jesus overwhelms you with compassion. You don’t slog for a faraway, foreboding God. You lovingly serve the Savior who walked in your shoes and died in your place. You don’t unleash death on the innocent. You usher the guilty into life.
By Kevin Johnson
Until the day you expire—or at least until some far-off future point when you misplace all your mental marbles—you’ll remember the date 9-11-2001. Deeply scratched in the memories of you and your every peer is the day nineteen hijackers—driven by a wickedly twisted dedication—killed thousands.
Don’t mistake what the terrorists did for total devotion. A way better name for it is full-blown deviation. The terrorists aimed to show the world why their cause was worth murdering and dying for. But they couldn’t have made clearer to us why Christ is worth living for.
Read Romans 12:1
What kind of commitment does Jesus want from you? The 9/11 terrorists lived out such a warped style of commitment that you can just look at what they did, then do the exact opposite:
Total devotion isn’t a one-shot suicide mission. It’s an attitude you can adopt this instant and apply moment by moment. It’s a joy-jazzed offering of your whole self to God. It’s clinging tight to the Lord of the universe and letting him reign over every square inch of your life.
And when you consider what Jesus has done for you—giving you breath, eternal life, and everything in between—you know in your heart he deserves nothing less.
You’re no dead fool. You’re a living sacrifice. That’s total devotion.
Dear Christian friends, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? ROMANS 12 :1 NLT
If You Snooze You Lose
Just as Keri slapped the snooze button on her alarm clock for the third time, her mom knocked on her bedroom door and hollered to see if she was awake. “It’s eight o’clock, Keri. We leave for church in half an hour.”
By the time Keri dragged herself into the kitchen, she was primed to whine. “Why do we have to do this? Can’t we take a few Sundays off? You and Dad should go by yourselves. You like it.” Keri thought Sunday school was okay. She just chatted with her friends while the teacher droned on. But a second hour in a church service made her bonkers. Keri’s parents weren’t amused by her organ imitation—moaning like a cow in labor—and Keri couldn’t figure out why the pastor got so worked up about everything.
One of these days, she told herself, I’m staying home. And I’m not going back.
Read Colossians 1:10
Why would anyone want to “please God in every way”?
Before we decide to trust God, we figure that knowing, following, and enjoying God ranks in value right up there with a stash of Happy Meal toys lost in a backyard sandbox. So instead of recognizing God as King of the universe, we rule our own lives. We’re God’s enemies, rebels against him.
You probably know the facts on how God figured out a way to bring us back to himself. Though we deserve to die for our sins (Romans 6:23), Christ suffered our punishment for us. He died on the cross in our place so we can be forgiven (Colossians 1:21–23).
Once you’re sure of those facts, you have a colossal reason to choose total devotion to Jesus. You’ve admitted, I’ve been wrong, God. I thought you weren’t worth it. I disobeyed you. I accept the gift of forgiveness and life you offer through Christ. You’ve become God’s friend. Now you can choose daily to follow God because you realize the infinite value of being tight with him. He’s rescued you and brought you into his kingdom of love. And he’s worth every bit of your life.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. COLOSSIANS 1:10 DAY 2 To Die or to Die
“Quit stalling! Get him!”
Tadd’s friends had made a deal—a dare each guy had to do to keep hanging with their group. The test started out as a joke. One by one Tadd’s friends had done the deed and passed.
Now it was Tadd’s turn to beat someone up for no reason—other than to join the group, that is. His friends got to choose whose head he would turn inside out. They picked Pat.
“He won’t even fight back,” they reminded Tadd. “He’s a wuss.”
Tadd more or less agreed with them. Pat played the flute. He was strange. He walked, talked, and giggled like a girl. But Tadd had known Pat since kindergarten. He didn’t deserve this. But now a bunch of people were waiting for Tadd’s first punch.
Read Mark 8:31–38
What did Jesus say was the toughest thing about following him?
When you choose to follow Jesus, you might get caught between a rock and the Rock (Isaiah 26:4). If you ignore the demands of your friends, you face humiliation and rejection. Yet if you do wrong—abusing yourself, others, and Jesus—you know God will be less than thrilled.
Either way you die. So what’s the use of picking sides?
Jesus bluntly told his disciples that obeying God’s plan would mean he would be mocked and killed on the cross. He was still determined to obey God.
And Jesus said that anyone devoted to him must imitate him. Deny oneself and take up the cross. Swap your way for his way—totally. Obey him even when it hurts—even when you feel like you’ve been pierced with nails and all you can do is twist in pain.
Daring to stick with Jesus sometimes feels like you’ve been hung up to die. Tough stuff. But Jesus promises that his way leads to life.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” MARK 8:34
Look Out Below
From your perch atop your office tower—all 110 stories of it—you ponder your quick ride to the top. A little lawn-mowing service, a few baby-sitting jobs, some lucrative investments, and whammo—you own a sizable chunk of the world.
You bought a city block. You built a building. It’s yours. Downstairs you have a garage packed with cars—Bimmers and Humvees and Ferraris. They’re yours. And every one of the thousands of workers in the tower below answers to you. All yours.
Your feet? Propped up on the desk. Your nose? Sky-high. Your bank account? Bigger than the gross national product of Bulgaria. You call the shots. You run the show. You’re your own boss. And you’re only fifteen. Just wait until you get your driver’s license and move away from Mom and Dad.
Read John 12:25–26
Who runs your life when you’re out and about on your own?
Even if you perch at the tip of the tallest office tower in the world, there still is Someone above you.
Whether your kingdom consists of half a bedroom, a bunk bed, and a few video games—or a dorm room, a microwave, and an ‘88 Honda—or condos, cars, corporations, techno-toys beyond imagination, and the largest CD collection in the world—you’re not the master of the universe. You don’t even rule your own life.
There’s no escape: You serve somebody. The Bible says you’re a slave either to what’s wrong or to what’s right (Romans 6:19), either to death or to life (Romans 8:6), either to Satan or to God (Ephesians 2:1–10).
Trying to run your own life is like leaping off your office tower. You won’t fly. Life without God is a death spiral as sure as gravity. But to “hate” life and give yourself back to God—that means to stick close to him, obeying his commands—sends you soaring.
Growing up isn’t getting free to finally rule the roost. It’s your chance to choose for yourself to follow Jesus—to fly with the real Master of the universe. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. JOHN 12:26 DAY
On Your Mark
You waddle to the line for the ten-thousand-meter race wearing generously padded hockey bibs. You eyeball the runners next to you through your helmet’s face cage. Why is everyone dressed funny? You struggle to bend over to take your mark, catching yourself with your thick gloves as you topple into position.
The starting gun fires. As you shuffle off and your blades slice into the dirt track, you observe that it’s hard to run in skates. And as the pack of runners pulls away, you look down and detect one more problem. Your skates are laced together.
Read Hebrews 12:1–3
How should you dress for the race to follow Jesus?
Bibs, jersey, pads, gloves, helmet, and skates are great if you want to jam on ice. But they make you a clod if you’re running a race. If you hope to run well, you strip to essentials and slip on the lightest shoes you can find. As Christians we have a race marked out for us, with an eternity in heaven with God and his people on the far side of the finish line. Our racecourse— a life lived tight with Jesus—isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon run that demands determination and devotion. To run well we toss off anything not necessary for the race.
Sometimes, though, we lumber along with loads as out of place as hockey gear at a track meet—like a social calendar that crowds out time with Christian friends, or a sports schedule too busy for time alone with God. Those are good things out of control.
Even worse is when bad things grab hold of our lives. Sin takes us out of the race. Doing wrong leaves us wadded in a knot and sprawled on the track until we ask God for forgiveness and let him pick us up.
Your Christian life might feel like you’ve shown up wearing skates to a track meet. Now is the time to toss off everything that tangles up your run.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. HEBREWS 12:1b
The Finest Thing in Life
With the entire contents of her closet spread out on her bed, Shawna plots party wear with Charise over the phone. “I don’t know. Sweaters make me look pudgy—especially with a turtleneck.... Huh? I can’t wear that. I’ll never wear that again. Don’t you remember? The last time I did, David called me `bubble butt’.... Sure, I suppose we could both dress up. That would really make Jill look bad.... Yeah, I guess the green outfit would be okay.... Yeah, I know. It’s kind of cute. You don’t think it makes me look like a leprechaun, do you? I don’t want anyone to laugh at me this time.”
Read Matthew 6:25–34
When you’re aiming to be totally devoted to Jesus, what goal should you keep in the front of your mind?
Girls aren’t the only ones who get intense about their wardrobes. And clothes aren’t the only things in life that can consume us. The problem?
Hunting down the ultimate snowboard gear, drilling to make the all-city soccer team, or mastering level 643 of your favorite video game—all these things aren’t bad, but they can squeeze something even better out of your brain.
You need clothes and food and a few other things. You want fun and money and lots of other things. Yet God wants to help you think about bigger things.
Jesus says to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. To seek God’s kingdom is to want what he wants. That’s giving God your heart. To seek his righteousness is to look for ways to love him and others. That’s giving God your life. And when you chase God hard, he promises to take care of everything else.
That doesn’t mean you never think about those other things. Birds dig worms and flowers drink, and it’s not a bad idea for people to lay out clothes for the next day so they aren’t late for school. But you’re running toward the wrong goal if you perpetually panic about what to wear without ever pondering how to live.
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. MATTHEW 6:32 – 33