Our current sermon series is focused on what we, as followers of Jesus, are told to add to our faith. As we said as this series began, we are made right with God by grace alone through faith alone. But the faith that saves us makes us new people with new priorities and new affections. There is born in each new child of God a longing to be remade in His likeness – “conformed into the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
As 2 Peter teaches us, we are not passive in this transformation process. We are told to be diligent. To make every effort to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Paul tells Timothy that godliness is something that comes through training. We won’t grow in godliness unless we desire it and pursue it and strive for it.
In the same way that we build stronger bodies through physical training and exercise, we become stronger spiritually when we spend time in daily spiritual exercises or practices under the guidance of our personal spiritual trainer – the Holy Spirit. Physical exercise is good for our bodies and has value in this life. Spiritual exercises are good for our soul. They have eternal value. They are designed by God build spiritual muscle and spiritual stamina.
The core workout for every Christian involves two fundamental exercises – regular time in God’s word and regular time in communion with God through prayer. There are other spiritual disciplines, but these two are the strength training and cardio of the Christian life. They are the foundation on which other practices rest.
Time in God’s word involves reading, studying, meditating on and memorizing scripture. Reading a couple of chapters each day as part of a Bible reading program is a great practice to cultivate. But we should add to our Bible reading time to dig more deeply into a passage with help from on line sermons or study tools like Bible commentaries. When we memorize verses or passages from the Bible, we make them a part of who we are. And with any passage, it’s also a great practice so slow down and think deeply about what we’ve read, to chew on it over and over again.
The other foundational spiritual discipline for growing in godliness is time spent with God in prayer. The discipline of prayer will involve time we set aside for personal communion with God, time for corporate prayer and communion, spontaneous prayer in the midst of challenging circumstances and ongoing awareness of God’s presence and communion with Him.
Here’s a critical caveat as we think about the practice of these and other spiritual disciplines. It’s not the exercises that make us more like Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit. Apart from Him, the practice of spiritual disciplines will produce self-righteousness, not godliness. We may become smarter about the Bible as we read and study God’s word. We may have a growing sense of God’s presence in our world and in our lives as we spend time talking to God in prayer. But any spiritual practices that we attempt to employ on our own will end up like surgical instruments in the hands of an untrained physician. They can do more damage than good!
That’s why the practice of any spiritual discipline or activity begins with a fresh sense of surrender to the Spirit of God who lives in each believer. Before we read or study or meditate on or memorize passages from the Bible, we should begin with prayer, asking God to speak to us through His word by His Spirit. The Word of God is living and active and as sharp as a scalpel. We want the Spirit to be the One who guides us as we come to the Bible.
In the same way, we need to be careful that our prayer life does not become the mechanical process that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount, filled with posturing and clichés. Prayer that is not Spirit birthed in us is empty. That doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from tools like the Valley of Vision prayer book, or even something like the old Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Jesus Himself gave us a model prayer to guide the time we spend in communion with God.
So, as we work to add to our faith virtue and knowledge and all the other attributes of godliness found in 2 Peter 1, let’s make sure that we understand how spiritual practices and disciplines can assist us as we pursue these qualities. And let’s make sure that we are constantly relying on God the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do in us – make us more and more like Jesus.
Small groups are starting up at RCC this week. Click here for a list of group leaders and dates and times when groups are meeting. And if you’re new to Redeemer or not yet part of a small group, make plans to visit a group soon. Small groups are where life and relationships happen at RCC!
Have you talked to Pastor Matt yet about the upcoming New Members meeting that is happening next week? Here’s the info. Send Matt an email right now if you’re interesting in attending.
The Spring women’s Bible study starts soon. Here’s the info:
But before the Bible study gets underway, all women are invited to a special night of fellowship.
Food is provided. Plan to come and bring a friend for a night of fellowship and fun.
And speaking of food, it’s almost time for the Souper Bowl!
I wanted to update you on our parking lot expansion. We have received an initial bid of about $50,000 to add 50 new parking spaces on the east side of our property. Before we can begin, we would need city approval. And we’ll need to see if we’re able to fund the project with our current resources or if we’ll need to raise additional funds.
Please continue to pray about this possible expansion project.
This Sunday, we’ll pause from our current sermon series to spend time reflecting on a very sobering subject and one of the most polarizing issues in our culture today. We’ll look at what the Bible tells us about the value of all human life and the practice of abortion.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!