In my earlier broadcasts I’ve encouraged you to take a good look at Jesus Christ and to seriously consider believing in him and in the salvation he offers. Perhaps some of you have done that and, to your surprise, Jesus now makes sense to you after all. So you’ve chosen to repent of your sins and to believe in Jesus for salvation. What happens now? Where do you go from here?
You may be surprised to know that God has given you some control over your own spiritual growth. You’re not just clay for Him to shape. You’re His partner. And your choices matter. If you choose to actively seek God and cooperate with Him you’ll grow much faster spiritually. If, however, you allow yourself to become spiritually lazy or resistant, your spiritual growth will slow down or even stop. A few Christians even go backwards spiritually. Fortunately, all of us, with God’s help, have the potential of amazing spiritual growth. I want to share with you eight spiritual practices taken from the Bible which will help you to work well with God.
Spiritual Practice #1: I keep my personal love relationship with God at the center of all that I do
As a believer you’ll have lots to learn and to do – activities like reading the Bible, obeying its teachings and worshiping with other believers. These are all important, but they’re meant to flow out of a close relationship with God. It’s because we love God and he loves us that we want do these things (Matt. 11:37).
If you merely become religious, without growing close to God, your religion won’t do you much good. In fact, it will become a negative for you. Religion without relationship grows toxic fruit like pride, judgmentalism, anxiety and discouragement. Ironically, religion without relationship will drive you further from God. Make your main goal as a Christian to build a close friendship with God. This leads to the next suggestion:
Spiritual Practice #2: I talk with God a bunch
Close friends talk. A lot. God conversations are called “prayer”. The good news is that this can be done anywhere at any time (1 Thes. 5:17). You don’t have to be in a church or on your knees. You don’t even have to talk out loud. God reads your thoughts just fine. Weird, huh? It’s very helpful, if you can, to have at least one longer talk with God each day. The longer time, maybe fifteen to thirty minutes, allows us to slow down and really get focused. The rest of the day, though, our prayers may be short, sometimes only a second or two – including comments like “help me please” or “Thanks, God Praying helps us feel closer and more connected to God.
Spiritual practice #3: I read my Bible regularly
The Bible is God’s love letter to us. It helps us understand how God thinks and feels. It teaches us a lot about ourselves and helps us to sort out what’s true and what’s false in our world. At first, the Bible may seem strange to you and hard to understand. After all, it was written to an ancient culture and sometimes uses words and concepts that you’re not familiar with. Just relax, read it slowly, and reread it. With patience and persistence and the help of God’s Spirit it will begin to make sense. Don’t be afraid to ask other believers for help. You may want to start in the gospels, the books that tell about Jesus, and work from there. Read every day if possible.
Spiritual Practice #4: As God shows me how to live, I do my best to obey Him
Through the Bible, other believers, and your conscience God will begin to show you new ways of acting and thinking. You will learn, for example, how to love people who aren’t very lovable, or how to forgive. Spiritual changes like this aren’t always easy, so ask God for help and be patient with yourself. When you do something foolish or sinful, and you will, just confess it to God, repent, and move on. Over time you’ll be amazedat the spiritual strength and beauty that emerges in your life. The Holy Spirit knows what He’s doing. He’s done it in many people many times before.
Spiritual Practice #5: I spend quality time with other believers
Christianity is meant to be a team sport; more like basketball than skateboarding. While each of us has an individual relationship with God, the Bible also emphasizes that we’re part of a larger group called the “church” or “the body of Christ” ( 1 Cor. 12:27). So find a good church and become part of it. By “good” church, I mean a church where the Bible is held in the highest respect as God’s inspired Word and where people take their faith walk seriously. In other words, the church is not mainly a social club. Connect even more closely with at least a few other committed believers. You won’t believe how much that this will help you to grow spiritually.
Spiritual Practice #6: I make generous use of my spiritual gift
The Bible says that the Spirit gives every believer at least one spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:1-11). A spiritual gift is our ability to show God’s love in an especially strong way. Some, for instance, are great at teaching God’s truth, while others are good at demonstrating God’s love in practical ways like feeding the hungry or fixing up someone’s house. Don’t merely come to your local church as a consumer, focusing on your own needs all the time. Come as a giver too, looking for ways to serve. Your service will not only bless others, it will bless you as well. It’s fun to make a difference in the lives of others.
Spiritual Practice #7 I rely completely on God to accomplish all this important spiritual stuff in my life
One of the best parts of being a Christian is that God doesn’t just sit on His throne a zillion light years away and bark orders at us. He comes down off of His throne, puts His hand our shoulder, and walks through life right next to us. In fact, somehow, without turning us into mere puppets, God actually lives in us and through us (Gal. 2:20). We do this thing called the spiritual life together. Isn’t that good to know? That’s why my favorite prayer is only one word: “Help!” Don’t try to live a godly life under your own power. Turn to God constantly for help. Whatever God commands us to do He also enables us to do. Ask Him to give you the right attitudes. Ask Him to help you resist temptations. Ask Him for wisdom and strength. I’ve done this many, many times over the years and have found that God is more than willing to help. That doesn’t mean that living for God always comes easily – it can be a battle at times. But in the end, those who trust in God, find that He provides the strength that they need.
When all is said and done, only God can transform us into beautiful, pure, strong spiritual persons (2 Cor. 3:17), but He wants us to be part of the process. We’re more than just modeling clay that God can mould; we’re partners in His eternal dance. These eight spiritual practices are ways that we can work with God in learning those steps. Pursue them.