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As followers of Jesus in a world and culture where being so is decidedly outside the mainstream, it can seem a real challenge to maintain a daily cadence of walking with Christ. Growing up into Christ in a spiritually ambivalent, if not sometimes hostile, is hard. While many spiritual leaders will blog about tips for surviving spiritually in the year ahead, I won’t. I don’t want you to merely survive in the year ahead, I want you to thrive. I want your life as a follower of Christ to grow both deep and wide as your closeness with Christ increases and your obedience to him the same. So here are a few habits to put into practice and to strive for in 2018 to thrive spiritually.
Tip #1: Attend Church Services Regularly. “Regularly” implies the frequency of “more often than not.” The church gathered on Sunday morning is more than a spiritual pick-me-up in the course of the week—it is the local representation of the global people of God, gathering to feast on God’s Word and respond in worship through song, prayer, confession, communion, and fellowship in the Gospel.
There are many who say they love Jesus, just not the church, or that as Christians they do not want to “go to church” but to “be the church.” The first sentiment is patently wrong-headed. Jesus died for the church—he gave his life for her constitution. So to love Jesus, but not the people he has loved enough to save, is to fundamentally misunderstand Jesus.
To the second sentiment, nowhere in Scripture do we ever find the concept of “church” as something one is, but it is always a reference to a physical gathering of mutually committed followers of Christ. Even the word “church” (ekklesia in Greek) means “the assembly.” Plainly, a Christian cannot be a gathering, but must be a part of a gathering. So if you want to thrive in Christ in 2018, join physically with other believers on a weekly basis to do what disciples of Jesus do together. Don’t only go to church when it fits your calendar this year, but shape your calendar around the weekly gathering of our church family.
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Tip #2: Read the Bible Deeply. Reading the Bible is always an encounter with the spoken word of our infinite and eternal Creator. The Bible is more that just a good book, it is God speaking and revealing himself to us! This year, whether you read the Bible all the way through or work more slowly through a portion of it, endeavor to read deeply. Find a readable and reliable translation (my favorites are the English Standard Bible and the Christian Standard Bible). Give your most attentive moments of the day to reading God’s Word. Spend more than five minutes reading. Find the unchanging meaning of the text that is there for all ages. Read the study notes and follow the cross-references that are in your copy of the Bible. Reflect on how what you have read fits in the grand scheme of God’s plan to save sinful humanity. Ask what part of the overarching Gospel narrative your text fits into (God, Man, Christ, Response, or if you prefer, Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation).
Pray intently that the Holy Spirit would teach you how to apply God’s Word to your own life. Read with others, pray together, help one another to understand and be obedient to Scripture. Join a Bible study group or Sunday school class to discuss the Word with other believers. Don’t merely guess at what God is saying to you day by day, but hear directly from him in the Word he has already spoken and written.
“Teach me, Lord, the meaning of your statutes,
and I will always keep them.
Help me understand your instruction,
and I will obey it
and follow it with all my heart.”
Tip #3: Care Enough about Others to Share Jesus with Them. Loving and walking with Jesus leads us to love those whom he loves, namely our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends who do not know him. Jesus’ own mission was to seek and to save those who are lost and do not know him. Friends, to thrive spiritually in the year ahead, to truly grow in our relationship and walk with Christ, we need to love our neighbors by pointing them to the life altering, soul-saving truth of the Gospel of Jesus. We do generous and sacrificial things for those we love, so let us this year give the Gospel message with flagrant generosity to our family and friends who are without it. May the story of hope that comes by trusting Jesus, the Son of God who died for our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification with God, ever be on our lips and in our conversations.
“Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Brothers and sisters, let us do more than merely survive in the year ahead. Let us instead thrive in Christ as we prioritize gathering for worship and training for ministry. May we grow up into Christ who is our head as we devote ourselves to knowing God’s Word and hearing from Him daily in it. Would that we might give our lives in 2018 to the cause of the Gospel of Jesus heard and believed by those we love who are presently lost and without Him!
May the year ahead be one of our thriving in Christ as we live for His glory.
Your Partner in Ministry,