Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Resolution Every Christian Can Keep (Part 2)

In my last post, I gave a quick overview of how a Christian can grow more in godliness. It can be summarized in this: You must feed your faith and then live by faith. It all begins with growing more in your understanding of God’s love and care for you.

At this point, you may be tempted to say, “I already know God loves me,” and stop there. If that is what you are thinking, let me say this as kindly and gently as I can—you are clueless. You may have tasted a thimble of God’s grace, but there is an ocean to plummet. You do not have any idea just how deep it is. That is the “work” of sanctification. It is plunging into the depths of
God’s grace, swimming in it, and then living your life on the basis that it is real.

So, how do we go about this “work” of sanctification? We make good use of the means of grace that God has given to us. In order to make this practical, let me suggest there are two things that every Christian can do to grow. The first looks the same for all. The second is different for every person.

1. Resolve to participate in worship with the people of God every week, unless providentially hindered.

There is something profound, even mystical, about gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Even if the music doesn’t “move you” or you don’t learn anything from the sermon, there is something powerful about the corporate worship of the church that you cannot get anyplace else. The Spirit moves when the Word is preached, God is praised, when you hear the struggling saints around you singing and professing their faith, when you partake of the sacrament—God works through all of this in ways that we see and in ways that we do not notice. There is no substitute for this.

2. Resolve to meditate on God’s grace everyday.

This is where many Christians will say, “Oh, have a quiet time. I have tried that and failed so many times I don’t feel like trying again.” Let me suggest that there may be more than one way to skin a cat. Here are some suggestions for ways to incorporate a diet of grace in your life that can suit any lifestyle or level of discipline. By the way, when you fail at this (not if, but when), take a mulligan and start over. Failure is not fatal. Quitting can be.

Read a Daily Devotional
There are some wonderful devotional guides out these days. If you miss a day (or two, or week), don’t quit. Start back. Here are some that I recommend:

Holiness Day by Day, by Jerry Bridges

A Godward Life (vol. 1-3), by John Piper

For the Love of God (vo. 1-2), by D. A. Carson

Morning and Evening, by Charles H. Spurgeon

The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers, edited by Arthur Bennett

Knowing God’s Purpose for Your Life, by J. I. Packer

Read through the Bible in a Year

Follow this link to several Bible reading plans: www.esv.org/biblereadingplans

Read a Psalm a day

Take one hour a week to study a book of the Bible in depth

Listen to good MP3’s in your car, while working out at the gym, biking, hiking, etc.

This works great for me. I need to exercise and I need to grow in grace. So, I listen to good MP3s while exercising. Buffet your body and your soul at the same time. Here are some good resources. Most are free.

Read a good book on grace and holiness

If you are not a regular reader, commit to reading just two books this year. If you read regularly, why not read a book a month or every two months that will feed your soul? Here are some that I recommend:

  • Holiness by Grace, by Bryan Chapell
  • Transforming Grace, by Jerry Bridges
  • Rediscovering Holiness, by J. I. Packer
  • Desiring God, by John Piper
  • When You Don’t Desire God, by John Piper
  • The Prodigal God, by Tim Keller (short)
  • Dynamics of the Spiritual Life, by Richard Lovelace (long)
  • The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, by Walter Marshall (a bit challenging)
  • The Holiness of God, by R. C. Sproul
  • Holiness, by J. C. Ryle

Read a good book on prayer and spiritual disciplines

  • Praying Backwards, by Bryan Chapell
  • Pray with Your Eyes Open, by Richard Pratt
  • The Discipline of Grace, by Jerry Bridges
  • The Christian Life, by Sinclair Ferguson
  • The Fight, by Jerry White
  • Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald Whitney
  • A Hunger for God, by John Piper
  • Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, by Marva Dawn

Take a day or half-day off for prayer or spiritual refreshment

Plan to attend a spiritually nourishing conference this year

Attend a Spiritual retreat

  • Plan a personal retreat where you go away with your Bible, a good book, and a journal
  • A retreat with your church group
  • A retreat with a small group of friends

Listen to music that feeds your soul

Take an occasional break from your classic rock or favorite country station and pop one of these CD’s in. Here are some sources of good, worship music:

Get together with someone else for encouragement

  • Join or form a small group
  • Pick one night a week to share with your wife (or husband) what you are learning and to hear what she (he) is learning
  • Call a friend once a week and ask them what they are learning. Share with them what you are learning.
  • Pick one night at dinner to talk with your family about a spiritual topic.
  • Read through a book of the Bible with your family and discuss it over dinner (just a couple of questions to start)
  • Form or join an email discussion group

Final Practical Advice

What ever you plan to do, take active steps to implement your plan. If you don’t actually make a plan, then you are planning to fail. If it is important to you, you will plan for it. If it is not on your calendar, you are not planning. You are merely wishing, and wishing won’t do.

  • Put your chosen activity on your calendar. Make it an appointment. If you wait for free time to do it, you will never do it. This may be the single most important step.
  • If you are using a devotional guide, podcast, CD’s, book, etc… order whatever it is today. Do not wait until later. Go online at the first opportunity and get the materials you need.
  • If you are planning on attending a conference, or taking a spiritual retreat, schedule the time off right away. Register for the conference today. Take active steps right now to succeed.

1 comment:

DHammerstrom said...

Thanks for the suggestions. The books by Chappel and Dawn look especially interesting.