The New Testament uses several metaphors to describe churches… A flock of sheep isn’t a random collection of ewes, rams, and lambs. Shepherds know their flocks. They know which sheep are theirs to care for and which are not. Sheep belong to specific flocks. This is also the way it should be for God’s spiritual sheep. A temple building, just like a church building, shouldn’t have any loose bricks or blocks. If it does, something’s wrong. Each one of them has a definite place. “There is no place,” said an English preacher long ago, “for any loose stone in God’s edifice.” The same analogy is true for a human body. Your body isn’t a casual collection of loosely related parts. You don’t keep your fingers in your pocket until you need them. They are joined. They are members of the body. The local body of Christ should be like this also – those joined to Christ, who are members of His body – should express that relationship through a visible membership. And in a household, a family, you’re either a member or you’re not. So if you are part of the family of God, show it by joining a local expression of God’s family.
If we measure particular aspects of our disciplines in order to simplify our spiritual lives or to hold ourselves accountable to certain goals, then there may be real benefits. So a person might try to read a given number of chapters in the Bible daily in order to avoid deciding every single day how much to read, and/or to keep pace for reading through the Bible in a year. Not even the most rigorous practice of the spiritual disciplines is legalistic when the motives of our spirituality are what they should be, namely to do all to the glory of God and to pursue Christlikeness.
There is much Spirit-filled human effort involved in sanctification. On the one hand, “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). On the other hand, we’re commanded in 1 Tim. 4:7, “discipline (ourselves) for the purposes of godliness.” God uses means of grace to sanctify us, chief of which are the personal and corporate spiritual disciplines. In the personal realm, these include intake of God’s Word, prayer, private worship, fasting, silence and solitude, etc. These are balanced by disciplines we practice with the church: public worship, hearing God’s Word preached, observance of the ordinances, corporate prayer, fellowship, etc.
We are to worship according to the truth of Scripture. We worship God as He is revealed in the Bible, not as we might want Him to be. We worship Him as a God of both mercy and justice, of love and wrath, a God who both welcomes into Heaven and condemns into hell. We are to worship in response to truth. If we don’t, we worship in vain.
So is God selfish and vain [to pursue His own glory]? No, for while it would be sinful for sinners (like us) to promote our own glory, it would be wrong if God acted for any purpose less than His own glory. Giving preeminence to any purpose other than Himself – since all things are less than God – would make God an idolater. God can give us nothing greater than Himself in all His glory, so it’s to our advantage for God to glorify Himself above all.
The cross lies at the heart of all God did through Jesus Christ. It is the supreme example of God’s power and wisdom displayed in what the world considers weakness and foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). And anyone who wants to know God must find Him in Christ crucified.
As Jesus was willing to go to the cross to do the will of the Father (Philippians 2:8), so we must be willing to follow Jesus to the cross, daily dying to any desires that conflict with His so that we may daily live for Him. While we may truly speak of glory inaugurated by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, identifying with following Him in this world involves suffering. Indeed, there will be no end to cross-bearing this side of Heaven.
As long as we maintain meaningful face-to-face relationships, especially with fellow Christians, then our electronic relationships will remain in a good and healthy place. But if we interact with people primarily through glass or some sort of technological screen – such as a television or computer monitor – we shouldn’t be surprised that our relationships begin to seem distant, shallow, or artificial.
One simple way to cultivate koinonia (fellowship) is to ask questions designed to turn a conversation in a more spiritual direction. Here’s a list to work from:
How is your (teaching, hospitality, outreach, deacon, or whatever) ministry going? What do you enjoy most about it?
Where have you seen the Lord at work lately?
What’s the Lord been teaching you recently?
Have you had any evangelistic opportunities lately?
Have you had any obvious answers to prayer recently?
Where in the Bible have you been reading lately? What impact has it had on you?
How can I pray for you?
What’s the growth point in your life right now?
What are you passionate about right now?
What is sanctification?… Regeneration is the new birth, sanctification is the growth that necessarily results from it. Justification is God’s declaration that a believing sinner is righteous because of the merits of Christ imputed to him. Sanctification is the believer leaving the courtroom where God has once and for all time declared him righteous, and immediately beginning the process whereby God’s Spirit enables him to increasingly conform to Christ’s righteousness, both inwardly and outwardly… We may say that sanctification has nothing to do with regeneration or justification, and yet it has everything to do with demonstrating that one has experienced them.
The more scarce something is, the more valuable it is. Gold and diamonds would be worthless if you could pick them up like pebbles on the side of the road. Time would not be so precious if we never died. But since we are never more than a breath away from eternity, the way we use our time has eternal significance.
As wonderful and sophisticated as the heart is, it was never made to be just a heart, but a part of a body. It has no value to the body outside the body. And the heart itself can’t thrive outside the body. As incredible and wonderful as you are, Christian, you were never made just to be an individual Christian, but a part of body. As every organ and every cell is God-created to be an active member of the human body, so every true Christian is God-created to be an active member of a local body of Christ.
When you join a church you make it clear whose side you’re on. You’re telling the family of God that you’re part of the family too, and that you don’t want to be considered on the “outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) any longer.
When you join a church, you make it visible. You give a living demonstration of the spiritual reality of the body of Christ. You show that even though you are an individual, you are a part of the body; you are joined together with others. You take the body of Christ out of the realm of the theoretical (1 Cor. 12:27) and give it a meaning that people can see.
Membership in a local church does not mean that you are part of the body of Christ. Without Christ, church membership means nothing. Hell is filled with people who were church members. Before you respond to the challenge of church membership, you must make sure you know Jesus Christ, who is “head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22). Your greatest need in life is not to be on the membership roll of a church; it is to be made right with God by the One who died for the church, who created the church, who loves the church, and who is returning someday for His true church.
Motivations for family devotions:
1. What better way to evangelize your children daily?
2. What better way to provide a regular time for your children to learn the things of God from you?
3. What better way to provide your children with an ongoing opportunity to ask about the things of God in a comfortable context for such questions?
4. What better way for you to transmit your core beliefs to your children?
5. What better way for your children to see the ongoing spiritual example of their parents?
6. What better way to provide workable, reproducible examples to your children of how to have a distinctively Christian home when they start a home of their own?
7. What better way for getting your family together on a daily basis?
8. Isn’t this what you really want to do?
The gold of Godliness isn’t found on the surface of Christianity. It has to be dug from the depths with the tools of the Disciplines. But for those who persevere, the treasures are more than worth the troubles.
During the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, Martin Luther articulated a timeless distinction between two approaches to knowing God. He labeled one a “theology of glory,” and applied it to those who believe they can attain to a glorious knowledge of God by human goodness, religious effort, mystical experiences, or the wisdom of human reason. According to this view, God manifests Himself most often through blessings, victory, success, miracles, power, and other exhilarating experiences of “glory.” By contrast, Luther argued that the biblical way to know God goes through a “theology of the cross.” God has “hidden” Himself where human wisdom would not expect to find Him, that is, in the lowliness and suffering of the man Jesus Christ, and especially in His humiliating death on a Roman cross. As Luther put it, “true theology and recognition of God are in the crucified Christ.” So rather than finding God by ascending to Him through our efforts, wisdom, or self-initiated experiences, God has descended to us in Jesus whose glory was in the least-expected of places – the cross – and in a way where He can be found by faith alone.
A biblical definition of fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is Christian, for fasting by a nonChristian obtains no eternal value because the Discipline’s motives and purposes are to be God-centered. It is voluntary in that fasting is not to be coerced. Fasting is more than just the ultimate crash diet for the body; it is abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.
Legalism is the improper emphasis on works in our relationship to God. It focuses on the manifestations of spirituality that can be measured by number, frequency, duration, amount, and so forth. No one has the authority to force upon themselves or anyone else external measurements of spirituality that have no scriptural basis.
When Christ gives you soul-rest, there is rest for your conscience because He removes its sin-caused guilt. His soul-rest also includes rest for your mind because He reveals Himself as the truth of God. He ministers rest for your heart since it no longer has to frantically search for a haven of rest. There is rest in Him for your fears since your soul is in His loving, omnipotent hands for all eternity. Christ also provides rest for your sense of purpose now that you have Him to worship, love, and serve.
Certainty of the call of God is not only necessary for sending you into the ministry; nothing is more essential for keeping you there. Regardless of the blessings and fruitfulness God grants to your service, there will be dark, heavy days when you would walk away from the Gospel ministry if it weren’t for the bedrock of assurance that you are doing what God Himself has called you to do. Not having an unshakable sense of divine call is one of the main reasons why so few who begin to preach stay devoted to it for a lifetime. But preachers who, like Jeremiah, are sure of the fire of God’s call in their bones (Jer. 20:9), can, as Jeremiah did, endure glaciers of opposition and icebergs of discouragement.
You can no more send yourself into the pulpit than you can send yourself to China as an official ambassador from the US. A Gospel minister must be God-called.
None of the following, as desirable as many of them are, should be the reason why you believe God has called you to the ministry of preaching: Ambition to be noticed, to prove yourself, or to “make a difference;” confidence that you could do well in the ministry; compassion for hurting people; confusion about a mystical experience; fluency in public speaking; knowledge of the Bible; failure at all other types of work; belief that ministry would be the best means to an easy life, study and intellectual pursuits, or wealth; acquiescence to the expectation of a parent or the selfish opinion of others; conviction that the church needs you. Do not enter the ministry if one of these is your main motivation. You must be called.
Serving must become a Spiritual Discipline. The flesh connives against its hiddenness and sameness. Two of the deadliest of our sins – sloth and pride – loathe serving… If we don’t discipline ourselves to serve for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom, we’ll “serve” only occasionally or when it’s convenient or self-serving. The result will be a quantity and quality of service we’ll regret when the Day of Accountability for our service comes.
Summary of methods of meditating on Scripture: 1. Emphasize different words in the text. 2. Rewrite the verse or phrase in your own words. 3. Formulate a principle from the text – What does it teach? 4. Think of an illustration of the text – What pictures or explains it? 5. Look for applications of the text – What should you do in response to it? 6. Ask how the text points to the Law or the Gospel? 7. Ask how the text points to something about Jesus. 8. Ask what question is answered or problem is solved bu the text. 9. Pray through the text. 10. Memorize the text. 11. Create an artistic expression of the text (song, poem sketch, etc.). 12. Set and discover a minimum number of insights from the text. 13. Find a link or common thread between all the chapters or paragraphs you’ve read. 14. Ask how the text speaks to your current issue or question.
Ask Philippians 4:8 questions of the text: What is true or what truth does it exemplify? What is honorable about it? What is right about it? What is pure or how does is exemplify purity? What is lovely about it? What is admirable or commendable about it? What is excellent about it? What is praiseworthy about it?
Many Christians feel defeated in their prayer lives. To pray even five-to-seven minutes seems like and eternity, and their minds wander much of that time. “I guess it’s me,” many conclude. “I’m just a second-rate Christian.” No, if you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and generally seeking to live in obedience to God’s Word, then the problem likely isn’t you, but your method… Let the words of Scripture be the words of your prayers… By praying through a passage of Scripture, you’ll find yourself praying about most of “the same old things,” but in brand new ways. You’ll likely be able to turn to any part of the Bible and pray through it.
Spiritual disciplines [are] the God-given means by which we are to bring ourselves before the Lord. And as we enjoy a growing relationship with Him through them, He changes us “for the purpose of godliness,” that is, He makes us more like Jesus.
The word “fellowship” in the New Testament (as in Acts 2:42) is a translation of the Greek word “koinonia.” At its root “koinonia” describes two or more people in close association and often speaks of these people as sharing in something, such as a marriage or business. Christian “koinonia” exists between everyone who knows God through Jesus Christ (see 1 John 1:3). Everyone united with Christ by faith is also united with everyone else united with Christ. The same Holy Spirit indwells all believers and gives each a common share in the body of Christ, the church. As the apostle Paul put it, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and all have been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture… Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God intimately.
It is the Holy Spirit who is causing you to persevere. In those times when you are lazy and have no enthusiasm for any Spiritual Discipline, or when you haven’t practiced a particular Discipline as you habitually do, it is the Holy Spirit who prompts you to pick it up in spite of your feelings. Left to yourself you would have forsaken these means of sustaining grace long ago, but the Holy Spirit preserves you by granting to you the grace to persevere in them.
God has given you a spiritual gift, and it is not the same as a natural ability. That natural talent, rightly sanctified for God’s use, often points toward the identity of your spiritual gift. But you should find out the special gift God has given you while you’re serving as diligently as you can without that definite information. In fact, in addition to the study of Scripture, the best way to discover and confirm which spiritual gift is yours is through serving.
Sometimes a failure to persist in prayer proves that we were not serious about our request in the first place. At other times God wants us to persist in prayer in order to strengthen our faith in Him. Faith would never grow if all prayers were answered immediately. Persistent prayer tends to develop deeper gratitude as well. As the joy of a baby’s birth is greater because of the months of anticipation, so is the joy of an answer to prayer after persistent praying. And as much as a generation that measures time in nanoseconds hates to admit its need for it, God crafts Christlike patience in us when He requires persistence in prayer.
There’s more to a biblical fast than abstaining from food. Without a spiritual purpose for your fast it’s just a weight-loss fast… And without a purpose, fasting can be a miserable, self-centered experience.
Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God. That’s the case when disciplining yourself to fast means that you love God more than food, that seeking Him is more important to you than eating. This honors God and is a means of worshiping Him as God. It means that you stomach isn’t your god as it is with some (Philippians 3:19). Instead it is God’s servant, and fasting proves it because you’re willing to sublimate its desires to those of the Spirit.
Ten reasons to engage in Christian fasting:
1. To strengthen prayer.
2. To seek God’s guidance.
3. To express grief.
4. To seek deliverance or protection.
5. To express repentance and the return to God.
6. To humble oneself before God.
7. To express concern for the work of God.
8. To minister to the needs of others.
9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God.
10. To express love and worship to God.
Fasting does not ensure the certainty of receiving clear guidance from God. Rightly practiced, however, it does make us more receptive to the One who loves to guide us.
Fasting must always have a spiritual purpose – a God-centered purpose, not a self-centered one- for the Lord to bless our fast. Thoughts of food must prompt thoughts for God. They must not distract us, but instead remind us of our purpose. Rather than focusing the mind on food, we should use the desire to eat as a reminder to pray and to reconsider our purpose.
It’s silly when you put it in perspective. We think about missing a meal or two for the sake of becoming more like Jesus and we get anxious. And yet we willingly miss meals sometimes while shopping, working, recreating, or otherwise occupied. Whenever we believe another activity is at that moment more important, we will go without food fearlessly and without complaint. We need to learn that there are times when it can be not only more important, but much more rewarding to feast on God than food (Matthew 4:4). We should not fear the blessings of fasting.
One of the ways the Holy Spirit prompts us to fast is through a need in our lives. If you need stronger prayer about a matter, that’s an invitation from the Lord to fast. If you need God’s guidance in an issue in your life, that’s an encouragement to fast. If you need deliverance or protection, that’s a time to fast. Will you do it? Or will you miss the unique opportunities for grace that He would extend to you through fasting?
The proportion of your income that you give back to God is one distinct indication of how much you trust Him to provide for your needs… We will give to the extent that we believe God will provide for us. The more we believe God will provide for our needs, the more we are willing to risk giving to Him. And the less we trust God, the less we will give to Him.
The use of your money and how you give it is one of the best ways of evaluating your relationship with Christ and your spiritual trustworthiness. If you love Christ with all your heart, your giving will reflect that If you love Christ and the work of His Kingdom more than anything else, your giving will show that. If you are truly submitted to the lordship of Christ, if you are willing to obey Him completely in every area of your life, your giving will reveal it. We will do many things before we will give someone else, even Christ, the rights over every dollar we have and ever will have. But if you have done that, it will be expressed in your giving. That’s why it’s said that your checkbook tells more about you than almost anything else.
Do you realize that tape-recorded readings of the Bible have proven that you can read through the entire Book in seventy-one hours? The average person in the United States watches that much television in less than two weeks. In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year’s time.
In response to two excuses why people do not evangelize: A Christian who has heard biblical preaching, participated in Bible studies, and has read the Scriptures and Christian literature for any time at all should have at least enough understanding of the basic message of Christianity to share it with someone else. Surely if we have understood the gospel well enough ourselves to be converted, we should know it well enough (even if as yet we know nothing else about the faith) to tell someone else how to be converted… Do we really want to say that we are too busy to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to make disciples of unbelievers (Matthew 28:19-20)? Do we expect that at the Judgment Jesus will excuse us from the single most important responsibility He gave to us because we say, “I didn’t have time”?
I contend that many Christians want to speak to others about the Lord but do not for fear that the observable, daily sin in their lives is too contradictory for them to witness….If God does not use sinners as His witnesses, there will be no human witnesses, since there are no perfect people…This does not change the fact that the more Christlike our lives, the more convincing our words about Christ. We need to do what we can to eliminate any sin that makes our words look inconsistent. But while attempting to do that we must be convinced that we cannot delay our witnessing until we reach sinless perfection. Otherwise, we would never share the gospel! Part of the beauty of our message is that God saves sinners, sinners like us.
Some fear witnessing because they don’t feel confident enough in their persuasive powers or their ability to answer all imaginable objections to the gospel. But the power for evangelism is not in our ability; it is in His gospel. You may have never imagined that an unbeliever could actually be born again by hearing of Christ from your lips. But that’s not humility. It’s doubt, a denial of God’s blessing upon His gospel just because it is spoken by you. Don’t doubt the power of God to add His blessing upon your words when you speak of Christ.
I think the seriousness of evangelism is the main reason it frightens us. We realize that in talking with someone about Christ, Heaven and hell are at stake. The eternal destiny of the person is the issue. And even when we rightly believe that the results of the encounter are in God’s hands and that we are not accountable for the person’s response to the gospel, we still sense a solemn duty to communicate the message faithfully coupled with a holy dread of saying or doing anything that would be a stumbling block to this person’s salvation. Many Christians feel too unprepared for this kind of challenge, or simply have too little faith and are terrified of entering into such an eternally important situation.
Our bodies are inclined to ease, pleasure, gluttony, and sloth. Unless we practice self-control, our bodies will tend to serve evil more than God. We must carefully discipline ourselves in how we “walk” in this world, else we will conform more to its ways rather than to the ways of Christ.
Can you serve your boss and others at work, helping them to succeed and be happy, even when they are promoted and you are overlooked? Can you work to make others look good without envy filling your heart? Can you minister to the needs of those whom God exalts and men honor when you yourself are neglected? Can you pray for the ministry of others to prosper when it would cast yours in the shadows?
Serving may be as appreciated as a good testimony in a worship service, but typically it’s as thankless as washing dishes after a church social. Most service, even that which seems the most glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God ever sees the larger, hidden part of it.
Advance in the Christian life comes not by the work of the Holy Spirit alone, nor by our work alone, but by our responding to and cooperating with the grace the Holy Spirit initiates and sustains.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 1991, p. 243, Used by permission of NavPress – www.navpress.com, All rights reserved. For more information please see the website www.BibicalSpirituality.org. Get this book!
The word worship comes from the Saxon word weorthscype, which later became worthship. To worship God is to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy. As the Holy and Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Sovereign Judge to whom we must give an account, He is worthy of all the worth and honor we can give Him and then infinitely more.
There is a Christian failure to distinguish between socializing and fellowship. Although socializing is often both a part of and the context of fellowship, it is possible to socialize without having fellowship. Socializing involves the sharing of human and earthly life. Christian fellowship, New Testament koinonia, involves the sharing of spiritual life. Don’t misunderstand- socializing is a valuable asset to the church and necessary for a balanced life. But we have gone beyond giving socializing the place it deserves. We have become willing to accept it as a substitute for fellowship, almost cheating ourselves of the Christian birthright of true fellowship altogether.
Fasting, rather than fleshly efforts, should be one of our first defenses against “persecution” from family, schoolmates, neighbors, or coworkers because of our faith. Typically we’re tempted to strike back with anger, verbal abuse, counteraccusations, or even legal action. But instead of political maneuvering, gossiping, and imitating the worldly tactics of our enemies, we should appeal to God with fasting for protection and deliverance.
The theology of the cross simplifies the spiritual life by standing as its primary reference point. Everything in Christian spirituality relates to it. Through the cross we begin our spirituality and by the power and example of the cross we live it.
I still maintain that much of Scripture is plain and straightforward in its meaning. Our problem continues to be more of a lack of action than comprehension. The words of Scripture must be understood to be applied, but until we apply them, we don’t really understand them.
How is it possible to worship God publicly once each week when we do not worship Him privately throughout the week? Can we expect the flames of our worship of God to burn brightly in public on the Lord’s Day when they barely flicker for Him in secret on other days? Isn’t it because we do not worship well in private that our corporate worship experience often dissatisfies us?
Put yourself in Jesus’ sandals for a moment. People are clamoring for your help and have many real needs. You are able to meet all those needs. Can you ever feel justified in pulling away to be alone? Jesus did. We love to feel wanted. We love the sense of importance/power/indispensability (pick one) that comes from doing something no one else can do. But Jesus did not succumb to those temptations. He knew the importance of disciplining Himself to be alone.
The worship of God does not always require words, sounds, or actions. Sometimes worship consists of a God-focused stillness and hush.
Without exception, the men and women I have known who make the most rapid, consistent, and evident growth in Christlikeness have been those who develop a daily time of being alone with God. This time of outward silence is the time of daily Bible intake and prayer. In this solitude is the occasion for private worship.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 1991, p. 195, Used by permission of NavPress – www.navpress.com, All rights reserved. For more information please see the website www.BibicalSpirituality.org. Get this book!
Solitude is the Spiritual Discipline of voluntarily and temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes. The period of solitude may last only a few minutes or for days. As with silence, solitude may be sought in order to participate without interruption in other Spiritual Disciplines, or just to be alone with God.
The Discipline of silence is the voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that certain spiritual goals might be sought. Sometimes silence is observed in order to read, write, pray, and so on. Though there is no outward speaking, there are internal dialogues with self and with God. This can be called “outward silence.” Other times silence is maintained not only outwardly but also inwardly so that God’s voice might be heard more clearly.
What is success in evangelism? Is it when the person you witness to comes to Christ? Certainly that’s what we want to happen. But if this is success, are we failures whenever we share the gospel and people refuse to believe? Was Jesus an “evangelistic failure” when people like the rich young ruler turned away from Him and His message? Obviously not. Then neither are we when we present Christ and His message and they turn away in unbelief. We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism. We ought to have an obsession for souls, and tearfully plead with God to see more people converted, but conversions are fruit that God alone can give. In this regard we are like the postal service. Success is measured by the careful and accurate delivery of the message, not by the response of the recipient. Whenever we share the gospel (which includes the summons to repent and believe), we have succeeded. In the truest sense, all biblical evangelism is successful evangelism, regardless of the results.
You don’t have to serve God long to be tempted to think your work is in vain. Thoughts come that your service is a waste of time. Results are hard to find. Regardless of what you think and see, God promises that your work is never in vain (I Corinthians 15:58). That doesn’t mean you’ll ever see all the fruit of your labors you’d hope for, or that you won’t frequently feel nothing has come of all your efforts. But it does mean that even if you can’t see proof, your service to God is never in vain.
Worship often includes words and actions, but it goes beyond them to the focus of the mind and heart. Worship is the God-centered focus and response of the inner man; it is being preoccupied with God. So no matter what you are saying or singing or doing at any moment, you are worshiping God only when you are focused on Him and thinking of Him.
Meditation is the missing link between Bible intake and prayer. The two are often disjointed when they should be united. We read the Bible, close it, and then try to shift gears into prayer. But many times it seems as if the gears between the two won’t mesh. In fact, after some forward progress in our time in the Word, shifting to prayer sometimes is like suddenly moving back into neutral or even reverse. Instead there should be a smooth, almost unnoticeable transition between Scripture input and prayer output so that we move even closer to God in those moments. This happens when there is the link of meditation in between.
Meditation is more than just riveted human concentration or creative mental energy. Praying your way through a verse of Scripture submits the mind to the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the text and intensifies your spiritual perception. The Bible was written under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration; pray for His illumination in your meditation.
Meditation is deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying, and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word.
The kind of meditation encouraged in the Bible differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to “create your own reality.” And while Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of our God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is our servant to help us meditate on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). Furthermore, instead of “creating our own reality” through visualization, we link meditation with prayer to God and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.
Evangelism is to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to sinful people, in order that they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to receive Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church. If we want to define it simply, we could say that New Testament evangelism is communicating the gospel. Anyone who faithfully relates the essential elements of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is evangelizing. This is true whether your words are spoken, written, or recorded, and whether they are delivered to one person or to a crowd.
They are the God-given means by which busy believers become like Christ. God offers His life-changing grace…to every believer – through the Spiritual Disciplines.
The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth. They are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times…The Spiritual Disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.
Self-discipline is not self-punishment. It is instead an attempt to do what, prompted by the Spirit, you actually want in your heart to do.
All our spiritual disciplines should be practiced in pursuit of Christlikeness. We pursue outward conformity to Christlikeness as we practice the same disciplines He practiced. More importantly, we pursue intimacy with Jesus and the inner transformation to Christlikeness when we look to Him through the spiritual disciplines.
Everyone is born a slave of sin. Jesus Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). We cannot free ourselves from this oppressive master, for no one can live without sinning against God. But the sinless Jesus – not for His own sake, but for others – came from Heaven to deliver His people. Jesus allowed godless men to nail Him to a Roman cross, and three days later rose from the dead so that “we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6). And all those who trust in His work (and not their own) as the way to freedom will find emancipation from sin. “Therefore,” declared Jesus, “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
It may be, remember, that God has indeed answered but not in a way that is obvious to us. And it is possible that nothing is amiss in our praying, but that we haven’t yet seen the answer only because God intends for us to persevere in praying about the matter awhile longer. But we must also learn to examine our prayers. Are we asking for things that are outside the will of God or would not glorify Him? Are we praying with selfish motives? Are we failing to deal with the kind of blatant sin that causes God to put all our prayers on hold?
Keeping a thoughtful record of your spiritual journey can promote godliness. It can help us in our meditation and prayer. It can remind us of the Lord’s faithfulness and work. It can help us understand and evaluate ourselves. It can help us monitor our goals and priorities as well as maintain other spiritual disciplines.
The reason use of money and the things it buys is one of the best indicators of spiritual maturity and Godliness is that we exchange such a great part of our lives for it. Because we invest most of our days working in exchange for money, there is a very real sense in which our money represents us. Therefore, how we use it expresses who we are, what our priorities are, and what’s in our hearts. As we use our money and resources Christianly, we prove our growth in Christlikeness.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 1991, p. 140, Used by permi