I was recently discussing with some of our leaders the importance of continually cultivating our spiritual life. This is something that every follower of Jesus should care deeply about and so I’ve included my notes for your benefit below.
Let’s stay tight to Jesus!
The Leader and Their Spiritual Life
I. Why our spiritual life matters
· Christian leadership is different from secular leadership in that our leadership is not only measured by our competency, but also by our character.
Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1Ti 4:12 ESV)
· Godly character needs to be cultivated.
train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Ti 4:7-8 ESV)
· Godly character is cultivated not through behavior modification, but heart transformation.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Pro 4:23 ESV)
· Goal is to work on who we are
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2Co 3:18 ESV)
“Our souls function like photographic plates, and Christ’s shining image is the light. The more we expose our lives to the white-hot sun of His righteous life, the more His image will be burned into our character.”- R. Kent Hughes
· We become what we behold
· Continual growth as a Christian comes from seeing Christ more and more clearly through the power of the Holy Spirit
II. How do we cultivate these spiritual eyes?
“Whatever varying religious exercises we may practice, without the two basic ones of Emmaus, prayer and Bible reading- the others are empty and powerless- Cal Lundquist
A. Bible reading
man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deu 8:3 ESV)
i. Wrong ways to read the Bible
Our tendency can be to approach scripture in a way that is self serving.
1. Osmosis approach
Being around scripture means it is having an effect on my life.
2. Jeopardy approach
Knowing facts about scripture
3. Hallmark card approach
Looking for scripture for some nice inspiration.
4. Magic drug approach
Only look to God’s word in crisis.
5. The Mary Kay approach
Go to scripture to make us feel better about ourselves.
6. The microwave approach
What is in it for me and how quickly could I get it?
ii. Convictions Necessary for a Functional Doctrine of Scripture (i.e., things you need to really believe about the Bible)
A. The “God-breathedness” of Scripture –
· God has spoken something objective. God has spoken something specific. Imagine God’s looking out at you from every page of scripture.
· God is a self revealing God. He desires to make himself known.
· God continues to speak by what He has spoken.
B. The “Understandableness” of Scripture –
· There is such a thing as the right handling of God’s word.
· Not only does God want to say something, he wants us to get it.
· The revelation of God in the Bible is meant to be understood.
· “Communication” comes from the Latin to have “in common”. God wants what he is thinking in his mind to be in our mind.
Consider all the things Scripture claims it can do
Ø initiates faith – Romans 10:17
Ø gives new spiritual life – I Peter 1:23; James 1:18
Ø helps us grow – I Peter 2:2; I Thess. 2:13; Acts 20:32
Ø sanctifies – John 17:17; Eph. 5:26
Ø searches and convicts – Heb. 4:12
Ø liberates – John 8:31-32
Ø refreshes and renews (and all sorts of other things) – Psalm 119
Ø A closer look at a Scriptural gem - Psalm 19:7-11
Simply put, it is God’s intention (i.e., both his design and his desire) to nurture us by his Word. In fact, Scripture is the primary means by which God effects our sanctification. Our responsibility is to create opportunities for the Word to exercise this intended effect.- Mike Bullmore
Continue steadfastly in prayer, (Col 4:2 ESV)
pray without ceasing, (1Th 5:17 ESV)
“My chief help [in reading Scripture] is prayer. Whenever I study a single part of divine truth, I always gain some light about it after praying and meditating…But no one should expect to see much good resulting from his labors if he does not spend time in prayer and meditation.” George Muller in his autobiography
“Turn the Bible into prayer. Thus, if you were reading the First Psalm, spread the Bible on the chair before you, and kneel and pray, ‘O Lord, give me the blessedness of this man’; ‘let me not stand in the counsel of the ungodly.’ This is the best way of knowing the meaning of the Bible and of learning to pray.” (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)
“Prayer may turn reading into seeing.” (J. Piper)
iv. Ten Recommendations for the Practice of Prayerful Meditation on Scripture
1. Set aside sufficient time so that you can be unhurried in your reading.
The difference between formative and informative reading –
Informative reading is reading to understand concepts. Formative is not just information, it is concerned with having the words that we are reading shape us.
2. Seek for consistency in daily time and place.
3. Be somewhat systematic. Have some plan but make sure your plan is serving God’s intention not tyrannizing it.
4. Position yourself for the benefit of “cross-fertilization.”
Read different sections of scripture so that you can hear the whole counsel of God. Stay away from limiting yourself to only a few biblical authors that you prefer. Remember that there is one Author and we must read all that He wrote.
5. “Adopt practical ways to impede mental drift.” (cf . D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, pp.20-22)
- Diffuse extraneous thoughts by just jotting them down and then moving on.
- Pray and think out loud. Speech helps us concentrate.
6. Allow God’s Word to lead you into prayer.
7. Allow God’s Word to guide you in prayer
It may help to cultivate some “Scripture paths”— a few favorite places you regularly go.
e.g. – Psalm 139-Psalm 73-Romans 5:8, Romans 8:32
8. Memorize Scripture
This both is meditation and fosters future meditation.
9. Read books that stir your affections for God’s Word and thereby stir your will to read God’s Word.
10. After a particular week has passed, look back and recount what took place with reference to the practice of this discipline. Assess what actually happened and make adjustments where necessary.
Don’t do this to feel bad about the past, but to look forward to the future.
Happy prayerful reading!