This article shows that the Christian can spiritually grow through keeping a devotional time, meditation, private prayer, family devotions, and corporate worship.

Source: Witness, 2010. 3 pages.

Practical Advice with Regard to Scripture

The Scriptures are vital to Christianity. We can only truly know God and ourselves, the way to be saved and the way to live in this world and what the future has in store for us, by studying the Bible. Thankfully it has been translated into our own language, we are able to read, we can buy a copy and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can understand it.

Devotional Time🔗

Every Christian should read the Word of God every day. We all need to have our quiet time and this should involve reading, meditation and prayer. Just as the Israelites in the desert went out each morning to gather the manna so we also must seek nourishment for our souls from the Lord each day. Our bodies require a daily intake of food and similarly we have to feed our souls. We should read at least one chapter of the Bible every day. That is the bare minimum. Those engaged in Christian work, because of the spiritual battles they will meet and the need to minister to others, should read several chapters. We must not rush through this reading as a duty to be performed but thoughtfully and prayerfully ask what God is teaching here and specifically what He is saying to me in this passage today. We should read every part of Scripture but some parts we should read more often e.g. Genesis, the Psalms, Proverbs, the specifically Messianic sections of the Prophets and of course the New Testament. Some parts are difficult to appropriate for ourselves, therefore we should mix the reading of the difficult parts with more accessible passages from the Psalms or the Epistles. M’Cheyne’s Calendar for Daily Readings provides an excellent plan for reading. It can be downloaded freely from the internet and provides a concise course whereby one can read through the whole Bible once a year and the Psalms and the New Testament twice a year.

Meditation🔗

The Christian art of meditation has been largely lost in our day. The Puritans particularly were experts in this. It involves taking a word or phrase of Scripture and turning it around in your mind asking it questions, thinking of what it means in the context, of what it meant to the original readers and how it applies to yourself and others today, and all the time praying for light from God. Then move on to the next word, or phrase or sentence. Take a verse and memorise it, so that you can keep on returning to it and chewing on it throughout the day or night. It is amazing how sweet and blessed you will find even well-known verses to your soul as you meditate upon them.

Take for example the words at the end of Galatians 2:20: ‘the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me’. Who loved me? The glorious Son of God. Whom did He love? Me, and what a useless, wretched, sinful person I am! What did He do for me? He loved me what an amazing thing for the Son of God to do for me! To what extent did He love me? To the extent that He died for me! Why did He give Himself for me? To save me from hell and to bring me to heaven! Each of these thoughts can be further developed.

We can be so busy doing things, even good work for the Lord and service to others, that we forget to stop and think. Busyness can be a real danger to our souls. We can be so active running around, doing this and that, that we forget to nourish our souls. Devotional time is rushed. We have a talk to give so we make that the passage for our devotional time. But then we are thinking of others and what they need rather than thinking of our own souls and our spiritual needs. No, keep your devotional time separate from time spent on preparing talks or sermons. Prioritise your personal devotional time.

Secret Prayer🔗

Prayer has a vital place in devotional times. Pray at the beginning for light, for illumination from God upon His Word. Pray over the passage as we read it, turning if possible the very words into a petition. Lord give me this. Lord change me in this way. Lord help me to practise this. Lord may this be true in my family. Lord change my church in this way. Lord transform society so that this might become true. I praise you for this. Thanks Lord for this, etc. Prayer should not be simply a prayer list. Lists have their place but remember God knows all these things before we say them. He can read the list too. Rather we should see it first and foremost as conversation and fellowship with God. We enter His presence, we talk to Him in prayer, we praise, worship, give thanks, confess our sins and plead for His blessing on us and others. He speaks to us through His Word. It is a two-way conversation. Sometimes we will become very conscious that He is drawing near to us. Our hearts burn within us as did those of the two on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:32) when Jesus drew near and opened up the Scriptures to them. John Wesley, who later became a great evangelist, was searching for peace. One night he went to a meeting where he later recorded that his heart was strangely warmed. It was the turning point of his life. We all need that experience of God drawing near. Devotional times should be opportunities for getting to know God better, whom to know is life eternal (Jn 17:3).

United Devotions🔗

Just as it vital to have our private devotions, so if we live in families, or share a flat with Christian friends, or work together, it is important, if possible, to have a time of daily worship together. They used to say with regard to marriages, ‘Those who pray together stay together’. It wonderfully binds a family in love when they daily meet to read God’s Word and pray. Similarly friends are drawn closer by daily sharing in worship. Fellow-workers will get much strength, understanding and mutual support from studying God’s Word and praying daily together.

Church🔗

Some individuals are very independent. They feel that their religion is a private matter between them and God. Public worship does not seem important to them. Even those involved in Christian work can forget the importance of the church services. But there are special promises of blessings on the gatherings of God’s people. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt 18:20). God, Himself, is specially present in the worship. We must guard against the sin of those who forsook the assembling of themselves together (Heb 10:25). Rather in the church we are to exhort one another as we see the Day of Judgment approaching. The focus of church services should always be the Word of God. The Word is to be read and preached and sung (the Psalms God’s songbook) and prayers should be steeped in it as well.

Fellowship🔗

Fellowship is much neglected in these days. Fellowship is not simply getting together to eat or to speak about the weather, culture, food or whatever. These things have their place but Christian fellowship is sharing together in the things of God. Basic to profitable fellowship is the Word of God. We are to talk together about God’s Word, discussing what it means, how it relates to us in our individual lives and also in the church and society. Iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17) and we correct and develop one another’s understandings as we discuss together. Words, ideas or passages from the Scripture will make our times spent together both profitable and enjoyable. When we leave such company we will feel that it was not wasted time but that it really did us good.

Should the Bible be studied like any other Textbook?🔗

Sometimes the question is asked, Should the Bible be studied like any other textbook? At school or college people study science text books which provide them with information or they consider critically works of literature, like the writings of William Shakespeare. Now the Bible is our textbook for theology which basically is the study of God. Theology used to be called the queen of sciences. We must study it as we would a science textbook to absorb the truths taught there. Also the Bible is a great work of literature, in many ways the greatest. But in all our study of God’s Word we must remember that it is different from every other book. It is God’s Word to man. We must not set ourselves above the text but rather sit under it. We dare not criticise it as we would the writings of Shakespeare. The plot, the style, the words and phrases used in the original languages are perfect. The Bible is inerrant and authoritative. We must allow ourselves to be judged by it and we must not judge it. It is the standard and the perfect standard. Yes we must gird up the loins of our minds to study it (1 Pet 1:13). We need all our intellectual ability. Our approach to it must not be that of mystics who see it as a means of getting into some anti-intellectual trance-like state. Rather we are to use linguistic aids, dictionaries and commentaries in order to find out the true meaning of the Author. But we are always to remember what the Scripture is the inspired word of God, and we must bow before its message.

Preaching and Witnessing🔗

Paul speaks of his mission: ‘For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God’ (1 Cor 1:17­ 18). We are to follow in Paul’s footsteps. He states: ‘It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe’ (v 21). Elsewhere he asserts, ‘We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord’ (2 Cor 4:5). But what is the substance of this preaching? It must be the Scriptures. That is the tradition handed down by the Apostles and that is the message which alone can save souls and edify Christians. We, as those who have found the Saviour, are to witness to unbelievers, and again the Scriptures contain the message: ‘Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1 Cor 15:1-4). Luke writes of the early church: ‘Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word’ (Acts 8:4). The word used here for preaching means evangelizing or informally communicating the Gospel. He then adds: ‘Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them’ (v 5). A different word is used in the Greek here. It means heralding or proclaiming the truth. Vital for both is the most thorough knowledge we can acquire of the Scriptures.

Conclusion🔗

Paul advised the Colossian Christians to set their affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Col 3:2). Because they were dead with Christ they were to mortify sin. Being risen with Christ they were to put on compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind and especially love. You should, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom’ (v16) and whatever you do in word or deed, ‘do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him’ (v 17).

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