Won’t You Join Me at The Table?
God invites us to:
But most importantly…
Before every Christian is the invitation to delight in God and things of God. The invitation of spiritual disciplines is extended to all in whom the Spirit of God dwells, to taste the joy and contentment found in a Christ-centered lifestyle. Whether it be spending time in Scripture, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, or learning, spiritual disciplines are practices. Although they are things we do, the goal of any given discipline is not so much about the doing as it is about the being: Being like and abiding with Jesus Christ. The ultimate purpose of the disciplines is godliness; the purpose is to become a better reflection of Christ.
- Make a list of spiritual disciplines (from the paragraph above) you recurrently practice.
Godliness is both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, inward and outward. Growth in holiness is a gift from God. However, we are not to sit still with our hands folded as we await our Savior’s return. Action is an immense part in our side of the equation. God-given spiritual disciplines are for our good, providing a pathway for us to receive His grace. Ultimately, the goal of Christian disciplines is not for our own transformation but to know and enjoy Jesus Christ. Read the following:
- John 17:17
- 1 Corinthians 15:10
- Philippians 2:12-13
- Colossians 1:29
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23
- 1 Timothy 4:7-8
- Hebrews 2:11
- Hebrews 12:12-13
“The essence of the Christian life,’ writes John Piper, ‘is learning to fight for joy in a way that does not replace grace.’ We cannot earn God’s grace or make it flow apart from his free gift. But we can position ourselves to go on getting as he keeps on giving. We can ‘fight to walk in the paths where he has promised his blessings.’We can ready ourselves to remain receivers along his regular routes, sometimes called ‘the spiritual disciplines,’or even better, ‘the means of grace,” David Mathis writes. Read the following:
- Hosea 6:3
- Matthew 4:4
- Luke 18:35-43
- Luke 19:1-10
- John 1:16-17
- John 17:3
- Acts 18:27
- Romans 11:5-6
- Ephesians 2:4-10
- Philippians 2:12-13
- Philippians 3:7-9
- 2 Timothy 1:9
- 2 Timothy 2:22
- Hebrews 4:16
- 1 Peter 1:13-16
- Jude 21
- You cannot control or manipulate the grace of God through habits and actions. Recall the grace God has already shown to you.
- How does your response to God’s grace, having been given freely, make a difference in the practice of spiritual disciplines?
- How would you define Matthew 4:4? What does it mean to live by every word?
The biblical way in growing to be more like Jesus is the rightly motivated doing of the biblical spiritual disciplines. “If we would know God and be godly, we must know the Word of God.” Don Whitney so aptly puts. Scripture reminds us that self-control is a necessary precursor to godliness and when it comes to Bible reading, discipline is not developed in a single reading. Christlikeness is the result of a lifetime of consistency. Read the following:
- Psalm 34:8
- Psalm 37:4
- Psalm 42:1-2
- Psalm 63:5
- Psalm 107:9
- Ezekiel 36:37
- Matthew 10:38
- Matthew 11:29
- Luke 9:23
- John 6:35
- John 16:14
- 2 Corinthians 3:18
- Galatians 5:22-23
- 2 Peter 1:5-8
In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “How instructive to us is this great truth that the Incarnate Word lived on the Inspired Word! It was food to him, as it is to us; and, brothers and sisters, if Christ thus lived upon the Word of God, should not you and I do the same? He, in some respects, did not need this book as much as we do. The Spirit of God rested upon him without measure, yet he loved the Scripture, and he went to it, and studied it, and used its expressions continually.” The power and perfection of God’s Word is eternal. It gives life and has no limits. Intake of Scripture feeds the heart, mind, and soul. To eat God’s words means that we take them in by hearing, reading, or study. God’s Word in itself is as essential to the soul as eating and breathing for the body.With consistency, hearing, reading, and studying Scripture, God’s voice becomes a joy and delight. Read the following:
- Psalm 119:89-96
- Jeremiah 15:16
- Philippians 2:14-16
- Paraphrase Psalm 119:89-96 in your own words.
The easiest of disciplines is related to hearing the Word. If unintentional, this might only take place when we feel like it, or never at all. If we are not disciplined, we may only hear accidentally and unintentionally. Vance Havner writes, “The alternative to discipline is disaster.” Sadly, George Guthrie’s study shows USA Today reports that only 11 percent of Americans read the Bible every day and more than half read it less than once a month or never at all. Prothero Research Group concludes that with evangelicals only 18 percent read the Bible regularly, with a shocking 23 percent not reading the Word of God at all. Read the following:
- Psalm 1:1-2
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17
- Whether daily, weekly, or monthly, what regular rhythms and practices do you currently see yourself using to engage with God’s Word?
- Which of these habits is most important to you? What is one new habit you might develop?
- In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, for what uses would we find Bible knowledge? List these.
With these percentages reported in secular sources, it is important to consider the results of a study done jointly by Lifeway and Ligonier Ministries. As they partnered to find out about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible, these are the startling results on the fundamental convictions that shape our society: https://thestateoftheology.comI urge you to read and share this recent report.
- Are you committed to the Bible as the Word of God? How often do you read the Bible?
- Do you have a Bible reading plan and if so, has it become a checklist among your other daily duties?
- What danger do you face if the focus in your Bible reading is to complete a task?
“Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down…Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline.” writes V. Raymond Edman. Even within the Christian community, it seems obvious we’ve lost direction. Although, discipline without direction is not helpful.
Jesus himself assumed that those claiming to be the people of God would have read the very Word of God. He and others in the Bible often asked questions about the people’s understanding of the Scriptures, sometimes beginning with the words, “Have you not read…?” or “It is written…” Read the following:
- Matthew 4:4, 7 & 10
- Matthew 19:4
- Mark 12:10
- 1 Corinthians 10:11
- Colossians 3:16-17
- 1 Timothy 4:13
Our biblical illiteracy hurts us personally, hurts our churches, and hurts our witness. Therefore, it hurts the advancement of the gospel across the globe. Regarding our distraction from and inattention to the scriptures, Randy Alcorn writes, “It was God—not Satan—who made us learners. God doesn’t want us to stop learning. He wants us to stop what prevents us from learning.” Read the following:
- Luke 2:40 & 52
- Luke 24:45-47
- John 15:9-10
- 2 Timothy 2:7
- 2 Peter 3:18
- What are your daily distractions from reading, hearing, and learning God’s Word?
- What captures your idle thoughts?
- What do you get passionate about? What captures your awe?
- Do you continually make excuses for not spending time in Bible reading and study?
- How is frequent Bible study essential to hearing from God?
God has revealed himself in act, word, and person. The Bible is record of this revelation; its purpose is to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Confirmed from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, Christ himself is the ultimate vehicle of the self-disclosure of God. Only in the Son do we meet the fullness of the revelation of the Father and only in the Scriptures can we meet and commune with our Savior.
In reference to the shape of the history of God’s revelatory and redemptive activity in the world, “It is focused initially on his covenant people of Israel, and then comes to a climax in the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of his Son, the Word made flesh, before spreading out to the whole world through the outpouring of the Bible is the Word of God must be explicitly related to God’s speech and actions in history.” writes Timothy Ward. Scripture primarily reports God’s great acts in redemptive history. The ability from the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to recall accurately the words and deeds of Jesus and to record and interpret them rightly. Read the following:
- Luke 24:25-27
- John 1:1
- John 14:26
- John 16:13-14
The Bible’s own story line still speaks today despite the rejection and rebellion of sinners. Yet, there is even more to the Bible than this. Ultimately, we should agree that Christianity is based on knowledge that comes to us from God himself. His truth is far superior to anything we gain from our worldly analysis of situations, our own introspection, or observation of circumstances and the world around us. Christians follow the light of the Word as our guide. We can trust the Word to give us life and delight in it until the very end of our days. Read the following:
- Psalm 119:105-112
- Romans 1:18-23
- Hebrews 1:1-2
- What internal or external influences hinder you from Bible intake?
- Are you listening to a voice that is not God’s?
- Do you place secular voices above God’s authoritative Word?
By man’s sin nature, we are spiritually blind and spiritually dead. The light of God’s word comes to us in our spiritual sickness and blindness. We have spiritual illness, according to the Bible. Scripture therefore provides God’s prescription for this spiritual illness. As Ward emphasizes, “…The words of the Bible are a significant aspect of God’s action in the world. The relationship between God and the Bible is at heart to do with the actions God uses the Bible to perform. The word of God is, after all, living and active.” Read the following:
- 1 Corinthians 2:7-13
- Ephesians 1:13
- Ephesians 2:1-5
- Ephesians 6:17
- Hebrews 4:12
- 1 Peter 2:2-3
- Do you know someone who actually lives by the Word of God? Is his/her life one characterized by day-to-day consistency? If so, how would you say this person is living out 1 Corinthians 2:7-13? How does this encourage you?
- Where is the evidence in your own life that you are living out your salvation?
Therefore, sin-sick souls are extended the invitation to feast on God’s Word. Scripture works by way of the Spirit over the heart and mind, time and time again. It changes our attitude, outlook, and conduct. When we settle for poor intake of God’s Word (hearing, reading, and studying), we diminish the main corridor of God’s communication. Read the following:
- Romans 12:2
- Philippians 1:9-10
- Colossians 1:9-10
- If the Spirit strengthens the soul as we engage in the hearing, reading, and study of God’s Word, have you become weak?
- Specifically, if you were to gauge your strength in numbers, where would it fall between 1-10?
- Do you understand the big story of the Bible, it’s overarching theme?
- Can you recall a situation or circumstance when the Bible has been instrumental in a life decision?
The Bible really is at the center of providing an orientation to life, which directs us in all we do and helps us face the challenges of life. The believer should shape her life with the Word of Life. “We see God’s faithfulness and consistency as He has worked in the lives of our spiritual ancestors in the Bible. We see how people of the Bible responded in different situations, so when we’re going through times of discouragement, we can respond accordingly.” explains Bible scholar David Dockery. Read the following:
- Psalm 1:2
- Acts 20:32
- Romans 15:4
- James 1:22-25
- Do your thoughts about direction in discipline and orientation toward a Christ-centered life motivate you to implement practices that will shape your life with God’s Word?
- Which practices (corporate or private) came to mind?
- Do you foresee these practices turning into God-honoring lifestyle habits? Why or why not?
- Finally, as Christians, we read the Bible for breadth and study the Bible for depth. Maturity is characterized by good theology and at least, in part is measured by the embrace of sound doctrine and the rejection of false doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). Accordingly, it is the Christian belief that involves not just our head, but our whole being: Mind, emotions, will, motivations, attitudes, intentions, behavior, and words. Therefore, for all these things, Christians should have a robust appetite for the Word. Won’t you join me at the table?
Reflect on your reasons for doing this study.
- My goals for this study are…
- As a result of my studies, I hope…
- My prayer for this study is…
All sources for this series are listed here: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/30/excited-to-share/