The University of Kentucky basketball program has become the emblem of one-and-done college basketball. We grab high school athletes from the highest tier of basketball greatness, bring them in for a season, teach them the Coach Cal way, and get them to the NCAA tournament. The season-opening blue and white game looks like an all-star weekend dunk contest. The high-scoring, double-digit preseason victories stir up buzz about March Madness before college football has even played their bowl games. If you want to watch freshman phenoms year after year, tune into UK basketball.
By the time they play against the big shots, they are usually a top ten team, and with the exception of some major freshman slip-ups, we always feel one step closer to another national championship banner. As March comes and goes, we watch these young men earn their first round draft picks as they rally to the Elite Eight, Final Four, or the national championship.
They reach the pinnacle and then they’re gone. As quick as they came, they vanish. As soon as they announce their draft status and their agent, we say our goodbyes. Another year of one-and-done basketball. We see them off to their first round NBA glory and they make a life somewhere out there on an NBA team.
We watch them from afar, but we're not nearly invested. We've got eight-graders and blue chip seniors to keep our eyes on! Have you heard about next year's draft class?! We have to watch them early because we know they'll be gone soon.
Following Jesus Is Costly
We need to beware of a "one-and-done" Christianity. Too often, it's right in front of our eyes. It may even be in our living rooms. We invest in some top-tier church prospects—the ones we think can really make an impact for the Kingdom. We tell them we are Christians, invite them to a Bible study, and get them to visit our churches. After some good book studies or a convicting Bible conference, they get all the way to the point of confessing Jesus as their Lord and Savior. After their baptism, we celebrate like we just won the NCAA national championship.
Then we see them off to the rest of Christian lives, rooting for them from afar, hoping they look more like Lebron James than Greg Oden (just do a Google search if you don't know what I mean!). Of course, we still want to see them on Sunday morning. We make sure they're in a Sunday School class or weekly small group. We want them to be plugged in to a local church!
However, seeing people saved and attending a local church is not the end. It's only the beginning. For most Christians, following Jesus is long journey of perseverance and suffering. This is why Paul told the Philippians, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). Getting into the faith is a glorious miracle! There is no doubt that "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). But we can't stop there. If our ultimate aim is to merely see people baptized and showing up on Sunday mornings, we have settled for a weak, unbiblical Christianity. We have chosen to side-step the path of discipleship for an easier route.
Work It Out
Just as UK's one-and-done freshmen move on to a much more mature game of basketball, so new converts are called to move from "milk to meat" (1 Cor. 3:2). Those young men work with strength trainers, dietitians, sleep coaches, chiropractors, and many more professional specialists in order to grow and thrive in the NBA. Failing to disciple new believers is like an NBA team leaving it up to the players to train themselves for game day. However, God gave the Church gifts to build up His people after they get saved:
"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood..."
The aim is much further than conversion. God desires saints who move on to maturity. Together, the church does the work of ministry. Sunday morning is a piece of the preparation. The church leaders are here to equip the saints to do the work of ministry in everyday life.
It is for this very reason that Paul says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). If we want people to mature in their faith, we must continually point them to the Savior who is at work in them "both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). We exhort them to live obedient lives because God is at work in them! We walk with them and urge them to pursue spiritual maturity!
Preach the gospel. Urge people to confess and believe in Christ. Baptize people of all nations. But please don't fail to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded them (Matthew 28:18-20). There is no one-and-done Christianity. New converts aren't just banners to put in our sanctuaries or hall-of-fame rosters. They are eternal souls awaiting the day of Christ.
Unexpected and life-altering changes are the icy cold bucket of water that instantly jars us awake on a cozy morning. It seems that life went from normal to chaos in only a couple of days. Of course, history is full of pandemics and mass hysteria, but it is unprecedented—as the media has often said—for us in the 21st century with our advanced medical technology and interconnected systems of communication and information.
Yet here we are. A tiny band of parasites is threatening to undo us. A microscopic organism is lurking at the grocery store or in the breath of a loved one. These evil minions are rubbing their sheisty hands together as they wait to embed their genetic material into our bodies and try to take us down. Most of the time, they don't win. But that doesn't mean they'll give up without a fight.
Back To The Old Paths
Every generation is faced with some circumstance that can seem to pull the rug right out from beneath their feet. From the Black Death of the 1300s to the Spanish flu of the 1900s to the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020, we all face circumstances that can leave us feeling undone. Yet in these challenging times, we would do well to remember the words of Jeremiah 6 when Jerusalem was facing great destruction:
"...Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."
While our circumstances are quite different than the Israelites Jeremiah was speaking to, the principle is still very applicable to Christians today. In the face of what appears to be a new reality for us in coming months, we have the choice to either respond in faith a follow the good path or say to God, "we will not walk in it." I hope and pray for myself as well as this generation that we will respond by going back to the ancient paths.
A Side Note
Before we go further, I'm not one of those gloomy Christians who starts every sentence off with, "the modern church has got it wrong because of...". There are many Christians around the world who are striving, with 2000 years of tradition behind them, to live out a biblical faith. It brings me great joy to see Christians around the world rallying to worship God together in these days of global lockdowns and quarantines. Praise God for technology that lets us worship and receive His Word together in these days of "social distancing".
My focus is what we do with the other 167 hours of the week. After my first seven days of social isolation, I was ready to go insane! It wasn't because I have a house full of little kids or even that I'm stuck and can't have the social interaction I desperately desire. Rather, my problem is that my devotional life was so intimately tied to the routines of my life that when things changed, so did my time with the Lord.
I've got to keep focused on the old paths or I'll be led by the media's mirage that solace is found in having more knowledge of the world around me.
What are the old paths?
What are the "ancient paths"? What is "the good way" where we can find rest for our souls? The first and most obvious answer is Christ alone. He calls us to come to Him and find rest (Matthew 11:28). But what are the means He has given us to do this? How do we seek and find Christ in the midst of all the noise and chaos that seems be closing in from all sides?
I'll be forthright. This is not an impressive or exhaustive list. I don't have a secret path or formula that will guarantee instant devotional success. If you have it, please share it early in the COVID-19 social isolation phase so we can master it! In all seriousness, I just want to recommend 3 basic spiritual practices that can help anchor our souls during such a time as this.
Spend Time In God's Word
This may be the most boring and unoriginal tip you've read all week. But in the barrage of free books, free lectures, free courses, and a host other free resources, we can lose sight of the richness of God's Word. While starving our souls on supplements and junk food, we forget that there's an infinite supply of manna right before our eyes. We need God's Word in these times.
Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, says "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Will we be like the Israelites who detested God's food (Numbers 21:5)? Will we frown at the Scriptures like children do a plate Brussels sprouts or will we heartily agree that God's Words are "sweeter than honey" (Psalm 119:103)? Whether it's your physical Bible, an audio Bible, or an app on your phone, it's important that we spend time reading and hearing God's word alone, with our families, and even with friends (get creative!). Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
Meditate on Scripture
I once heard of dieters who put tasty food in their mouths, chewed it up for a few seconds, and then spit it out. This gave them the taste of the food without adding all the calories, sugar, and fat from the foods they loved. While it sounds like something for the birds, we often do this with the Bible as we plow through our reading plans or knock out our chapter for the day.
Just as people who don't actually eat their food would wither away to almost nothing, so our souls will be desperately malnourished without meditation. The 19th century writer, Nathanael Ranew said that, "little meditating makes lean Christians, of little life, little strength, little growth, and of little usefulness to others." This doesn't mean we need to be monks or mystics, but it does mean that we need to commit to slowing down and thinking deeply about God and His Word. If Joshua and David were both men of meditation and great leaders in Israel (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2), then we can "find" the time during our time away from work and social life to meditate. The blessed path of meditation is available for all of us.
Once again, nothing new here! We know we ought to pray, but do we actually pray? Do we delight in our time with God? There used to be a slang phrase called the "Blackberry prayer" before smartphones took over. You've seen it. People have their phones in their lap, looking down in what could either be deep agonizing, solemn prayer, or simple scrolling. I wonder how many hours we will spend in "Android prayer" or "iPhone prayer" during these COVID-19 days with our live news and infinitely scrolling newsfeeds. I get easily sucked in.
It is during these days that we must remember to "continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2). Watchful, thankful prayer, like meditation, is a continual command, but it is especially needful as we are isolated and waiting out this storm. As valuable as it is to connect with people during these socially isolated days, it is infinitely more valuable to connect with God. We must prioritize our time with the Lord.
Spiritual Paths for Spiritual People
These old paths have been blessing believers for millennia, but it's not merely the doing that brings change. Without the Holy Spirit's help, our reading, meditating, and praying will be vain and powerless. We are needy people! Without the blood of Jesus, we can't come boldly to the throne of the gracious Father, nor can we understand the aim of all the Scriptures—Jesus. Without the love of the Father, we would be left to our sin and lost for eternity! Never forget who and whose you are while you're doing these spiritual duties, for that will put you on the path to legalism and burnout. But also don't neglect these important duties which God has given for our good.
Do You Keep Your Bible Open?
Lately I've been keeping an open Bible on my desk at work. Before you think I'm being self-righteous, it's not an attempt to show off to my boss or coworkers, nor is it to "preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words". I actually got the idea after hearing about the devotional life of a godly man who mentioned keeping open Bibles around so he could be consistently in God's Word.
This tidbit of wisdom seemed genius, and I wanted to put it to the test. I recently read Andy Crouch's Tech-Wise Family and I'm finishing up The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley. These books speak of the importance of habits and nudges that help guide our lives in the direction we want them to go.
So far, keeping a Bible open has been a great nudge in the right direction, and I want to share a couple of reasons I've found it helpful.
An open Bible helps me read Scripture more frequently.
Too often, I find myself confining Bible reading to a "quiet time". While I highly value having a daily quiet time with the Lord, there are nights that I stay up late and mornings that I sleep in. However, the blessed person is the one whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2). In order to meditate day and night, I need more than just a once-a-day encounter with scripture. I also desire to at least read and pray morning and night.
Keeping my Bible open helps me meditate in two very practical ways:
An open Bible leads to spiritual conversations
At home, if my Bible is open on my desk, counter, or table, I am ready to look at some passage of scripture to discuss with my wife and children. Some of the best spiritual conversations I have with my wife are when we are wrestling with a truth in Scripture that has perplexed us both. It usually starts out with, "this may be a dumb question, but...". It always ends in us discussing and searching scripture to find the answers. If I'm reading Hebrews 2:1 over and over, it may lead to discussion about how to guard ourselves against apostasy. That may then lend itself to some discussion during family worship.
At work, I am able to take a few minutes to read scripture on breaks or at lunch. When I’m actively reading and thinking about the Word, it’s more likely to mix into my conversations and allow me to witness effectively to my colleagues. While I may not quote a specific passage, I’ll certainly be reminded not to try to hide my faith or operate from a secular worldview. Rather, I’ll be more likely to let the words I’ve been glancing at to season my speech with grace. In a postmodern society, this will prove to be an effective way to witness to your coworkers.
An open Bible impacts how I live
It would be foolish to claim that the world doesn’t influence me throughout the day. From a tough student to a slow-moving tractor on a two lane road, sin is crouching at the door. If I’ve been reading scripture I may still fall into that temptation. But the chances of escaping temptation are higher when my mind is set on the Spirit and I’m putting my sin to death. How often have you found yourself in a temptation only to remind yourself of something you read or heard earlier in scripture? That’s the Spirit working through His Word to sanctify you.
If we strive to be doers rather than hearers of the Word, then reading the Word frequently will change how we live each day (James 1:22). If we are drawn to worship from a passage in the Psalms, that love for God will spill over into our work. If we have been convicted about not loving our spouse by reading Ephesians 5, that will change our home life. If we’ve just confessed pride, lust, or worldliness because we’ve been convicted by scripture, we will be more likely to forgive as God forgave us. The Spirit uses His Word in our normal, mundane, everyday lives to give us the holiness without which no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).
Give it a try
Keep your Bible open for a week and try to intentionally read at least a verse each time you pass by. I am confident that your life will be impacted by it. If you’re like me and youve got a bunch of Bibles, set one in a few different places. As you go through your day—especially when you feel nudged to check in on social media or waste the time doing something else, take a few minutes to read a verse, think about it, and pray. Surely it will be beneficial to be with God for those few minutes, right?
What are some other small nudges or habits that have helped you spend more time in God’s Word? How have they benefitted your spiritual and devotional life?
Think about the last time you were tempted and fell into sin. What were the thoughts going through your mind? What weapons did you use to wage war against your flesh and against sin? Now think of a time when you defeated sin and rose victorious over the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil? What was different about that situation?
Last week, we looked at the crafty serpent and how he tempted Eve into eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. While it is good to know the anatomy of temptation so we can recognize when we are being tempted, it is essential to know how to actively fight temptation the way scripture commands. Jesus, being our great High Priest, has been tempted in every way like us and yet withstood. Who is better to teach us how to fight temptation?
In Matthew 4:1-11, we can see at least 5 ways Jesus fought temptation. By His grace, we too can fight temptation as Jesus did. It’s a lifelong fight, and much of what we see happened long before Jesus was in the moment of temptation. By implementing these strategies in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, we will be able to overcome the whispers of Satan, the lustful draw of fleshly desires, and the enticements of the world.
1. Know Your Identity
When you see Satan’s attempts to draw Jesus into sin, it is clear that Satan tried to confuse Jesus about His identity as he did Eve in the garden. He begins his tempting words with “If you are the son of God…” (v. 2 and 6). In verse 9, Satan was so bold as to try to subject Jesus to idolatrous worship in exchange for earthly glory.
However, Jesus is so confident in His identity as the Son of God that He isn’t moved by Satan’s attacks. Instead, He launches counter attacks that shift the focus from the Satan’s questioning to the most important matters. Instead of making a stone become bread, Jesus points to something greater than bread—the Word of God. Instead of jumping from a building to test God’s miraculous provision and care, He reminds Satan not to put God to the test. Lastly, instead of bowing down to Satan to receive “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”, He knew He was the Son of God who is appointed the “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2, Matthew 28:19).
As Jesus rested in His identity as the Son of God, we need to rest in our identity as adopted children of God who are in Christ. If we are in Christ, we are “dead to sin” (Romans 6:11) and “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). We can consider ourselves crucified and risen with Christ because He has nailed our sin and record of debt to the cross (Colossians 2:12,14). We are no longer “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3) for we are “saints… in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). We could go on and on about who we are as new creatures in Christ. If you don’t know who you are, the enemy will try to entangle you in a web of lies and accusations. Let the Word untangle that web by taking you directly the cross of Christ.
2. Know the Meaning of the Word
Satan attacked Jesus using the Word of God in Matthew 4:6. He did the same to Eve. The ancient serpent has seen and heard God’s Word far more than any human on this planet. That should humble us! This knowledge allows him to twist and turn it in more ways than we could ever imagine. Having hearsay of biblical concepts will not suffice for us. Christians need to know the Word of God and its true meaning.
This is not to say that God will not also graciously protect those Christians who are weak and feeble in the Word. He surely will! But mature saints must, by grace, imitate the Bereans and the blessed man of Psalm 1 through searching and meditating on the Word day and night. With an enemy so knowledgeable and crafty, knowing the Word is not an option.
Through the Spirit we can know the Word:
3. Hide the Word in your heart
It is clear from Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus knew the Bible and knew it well. He had the Word hidden in His heart and he didn’t sin against God. We should long to say with the Psalmist, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Temptation is a major reason to take up the task of memorizing scripture on a regular basis. If you want to use the sword of the Spirit and fight as Jesus did, you’ve got to have it memorized. Jesus didn’t use Google or the Bible app, He used His memory. This is spiritual work even for those who feel that they don’t have a good memory.
Memorization and meditation go hand-in-hand. As you memorize, you can meditate on the meaning, depths, and applications of a passage. As you meditate on the words, phrases, and structures of a passage, you begin to memorize the passage. As you memorize more passages, they begin to come together to bring deeper and fuller meditation than ever before. As you meditate more, your mind is renewed and you become more Christlike because you are beholding Him. The Word begins to slowly move from your mind to your heart. As hot water seeps through coffee grounds picking up the scents, flavors, and characteristics of the beans, we absorb the Word of God and become conformed to it through meditation.
Applying the Word to your life will also hide it deeper in your heart. Think of those times when you made a concerted effort to obey God’s specific teaching in your life. Do you have to go back and open your Bible to remember what it said? Instead, you are able to give yourself counsel directly from the Word of God because you’ve been there before. You may have used directions to get to work the first few times, but by the hundredth time, you recognize the streets, houses, mailboxes, cars, and know exactly where to go. The more you apply the Word of God in everyday life, the more you will be able to use it fight temptation. The Spirit will bring it to remembrance at the perfect time.
4. Walk by the Holy Spirit
It is easy to miss the seemingly insignificant detail that Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Jesus was not alone! He was walking “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). As believers, we too must be filled with and led by the Spirit, especially during times of intense temptation (Ephesians 5:18). How often do we fail to pray “lead us not into temptation” and then walk aimlessly as though Satan has taken a day off?! We aren’t conscious of our enemy or the Spirit of Christ within us.
If we are going to walk by the Holy Spirit, we need to:
5. Fight with the Word as your sword
If it isn’t obvious yet, Jesus’ primary weapon in his war against temptation was the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Each time He refuted Satan, He used the Word of God powerfully to pierce His enemy. Each deceptive attempt to lead Jesus into sin was met with living and active Word of God. It should bring us great confidence to know that we have access to the same sword used by our Savior to defeat satanic temptation! How great it is to have the heaviest artillery ever wielded against temptation!
The culmination of knowing your identity (through the Word), knowing the Word, hiding the Word in your heart, and walking by the Spirit who inspired the Word of God is found here. When you’ve believed the gospel, you can counter attacks on your faith with the truths of the gospel. When you know the Scriptures, you can use them to dismantle the corrupt arguments crafted to deceive you. By hiding the Word in your heart, you can be armed and ready at any given moment. If Satan is prowling like a lion, we better be ready to defend ourselves! If we are walking by the Spirit, He will guide us in what scriptures to hide, what prayers to pray, and give us the power to walk in obedience.
As you begin the new year, it is wise to look back at last year to see areas of success, failure, and the need for improvement in your spiritual life. Regardless of how great your year was, you have sins that need to be repented of. There are temptations that need more diligence in guarding against.
Being watchful against sin means knowing when temptation arises and having a plan for how to fight. One way is to look closely at the cycle of temptation in order to develop a battle plan. Since temptation is a part of the fabric of life for the believer, it is wise to understand a general pattern for temptation.
5 Steps In The Path of Sin and Temptation
In Genesis 3:1-7, we see Eve faced with temptation from the "crafty" serpent who is later called "the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan" (Rev. 20:2). Taking a closer look at his tactics will reveal a lot about the process of temptation. As you read, consider how you’ve seen this progression in your own life.
1. The Word of God is twisted and contradicted. (Gen. 3:1-4)
Satan asks Eve tricky questions to trip her up and bring confusion: "Did God actually say?", "You will not surely die". Sometimes—because our flesh is weak—Satan doesn't even have to prompt such twisting. Men often twist the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). This first layer of temptation is especially dangerous for those who are lax in their devotional lives, especially Bible reading and prayer. If we don’t have a steady diet of daily bread, we will be anemic Christians in times of temptation.
2. A convincing argument is made against God and the meaning of His Word. (Gen. 3:5)
Satan offers a convincing argument for his contradiction and paints God as keeping something from Eve. This happens so often and so subtly. For example, "Be angry and do not sin" gets turned into, "you have the right to be angry, so your response can't be sinful! Even Jesus turned over tables and beat people with whips!". See how assumptions turn into facts and allow us to justify sin?
You can also see Satan sneakily throw shade at God: “For God knows that when you eat...you will be like God.” It’s like Satan said, “See Eve! He’s keeping something from you! He doesn’t want you to be happy or live your life to the fullest! Break free from this bondage and really find out what it means to be in the image of God!” Again, craftiness at it’s best.
3. The contradiction and argument are embraced. (Gen. 3:6)
Eve thought enough about Satan's argument to change her mindset about the tree. She set her mind on the flesh (Rom. 8:6). She began to covet what she didn't need rather than appreciate the forest around her, leading her into idolatry (Col 3:5). The fruit appealed to the flesh, eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2:16).
How often are we settled in our convictions about a sin only to conjure up some strange reason for why we might not have to fight it after all. For example: "It's only lust if you look twice, right?". We hear the lie, consider the serpent’s logic, and then embrace the contradiction.
4. The sin is committed. (Gen 3:6)
Eve took of the tree and ate. She embraced the lie of Satan so much that she threw away God's command like yesterday’s trash. When we get to the point of committing sin, it may not always be as conscious and certainly not as willful, but we all still take this step and make this choice. We can never say, “the devil made me do it!”. James 1:14 is clear that when we sin, it is due to being “lured and enticed” by our “desire”. Eve demonstrated this clearly when she saw that the tree was “to be desired to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6).
Sadly, we often sin with that anxious feeling in our stomachs because we've wrestled with it, but ultimately saw fruit that seemed more glorious than God. We must fear this lest we be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13).
5. Others are invited to partake in, or are supported in, their committing of the sin. (Gen 3:6)
Finally, Eve gave some fruit to Adam (who was with her!), and he ate. Even in our “secret” sins, we often try to convince others that it’s not such a big deal, or we partake in sins that involve others. In turn, we "give approval to those who practice them" (Rom 1:32).
Consider the sin of gossip. You’ve heard more than you should have, or you know about a situation more than others. You know you shouldn’t ask for more details or get into the nitty gritty of what you know. In that moment you could be honest and say, "You know, this is moving into gossip, I’m sorry. Please forgive me." Instead, you give the details with a perceived sense of concern or righteous anger, but you really just enjoy the conversation. Now you’ve brought others into sin with you. Replace with gluttony, along with many other sins, and you can see the same outcome.
A Beam of Hope
While some Bible readers spend much time trying to determine what the fruit was, what it meant for Eve to talk to the serpent, what the nature of her sin was, etc., it is more important to realize that we are weak and need help in the time of temptation. Jesus, our great High Priest, was "in every respect, tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). As we behold the glory of Christ, we are being transformed into His image (2 Cor 3:18). We are only able to fight temptation if we have trusted in Christ as our Savior and are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In your temptation, rely on the Spirit and look to Christ. Before your temptation, behold Christ’s glory by drinking deeply from the rich well of scripture. If you fall into sin, trust that He is interceding for His sheep and has paid for sin once-for-all for those who have placed faith in Him. Christ is the headcrusher of the serpent, and He is our very present help in time of need (Ps. 46:1).
Next time, Lord willing, we will look at fighting temptation the way that Jesus did.
The new year is underway, and many of you have probably already started your new Bible reading plan. You’re likely working your way through Genesis and Matthew and starting to get into a groove. You’re getting up early or staying up late to read, you’re highlighting and underlining like crazy, and you’re enjoying it.
But as we all know, that dreaded Monday is soon to come. You won’t feel like getting out of bed to read. You’ll be too tired to stay up and read. Your eyes will just gloss over the page or you’ll totally lose focus while you’re listening to your favorite audio Bible.
Life happens, but the blessed man meditates on God’s Word “day and night” (Psalm 1:2). With such busy and hectic lives, we must keep reading our Bibles and seeking the Lord.
5 Tips To Help You Keep Reading
So, how do you abide in Christ (John 15:4) and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) in the 21st century? Though not even close to an exhaustive list, here are some practical tips that can help you spend more time in God’s Word this year:
1) Acknowledge your dependence on God’s Word.
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when He was tempted by Satan in Matthew 4:4. He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” If we want to live and thrive spiritually, we need to be eating the bread of the Word on a daily basis. Confess this to God and others on a regular basis. Deut. 8:11-14 serve as a good reminder that prosperity can lead to spiritual forgetfulness and carelessness.
2) Pray daily and ask for God to give you delight in His Word.
Not only should you depend on the Word, you should enjoy it! Ask God to give you the heart of David when he said of the word: “more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).
3) Make Bible reading a part of your daily routine.
Though it should be much more than a mere routine, reading the Bible should be something that you do every day. If you’re a list person, add it to the top of your daily to-do list. Keep a journal or document with your daily readings in it. In Deuteronomy 6:7, God called His people to talk about his Word when they sit in their house, as they walk, etc. The Word can’t go with us in all of life if we are not reading it and knowing it daily.
4) Meditate on something from your daily reading.
Whether it is a journal, text message, or simply sitting in silence, do something to process a portion of your daily reading. It is vital that we “meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). This is a good time to ask: How does what I’m reading apply to my life?
5) Read the Bible with a spouse, your children, a friend, or an accountability partner.
One way to keep you reading the Word is to read and talk about it with others. We talk to people about what we delight in. If you have children, share your daily reading with them, too! Again, we see in Deuteronomy 6:7 to take the Word everywhere we go and to talk of them with everyone we meet.
Care For Your Soul Like You Do For Your Body
Put simply, Bible reading isn’t a thing you do to mark off your list. It is as vital to the soul as eating and drinking are to the body. Each week, we plan what we are going to eat, we make a grocery list, we shop, we cook, and we eat. Even when we don't do these things, we make sure our bodies are fed. All of this is to take care of body that is perishing (2 Corinthians 4:16). How much more diligence and care should we have for our eternal souls?
What are some practical tips that help you read your Bible day after day?
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Don’t do dumb stuff while you’re young that you’ll regret when you’re old. That’s at the heart of In Praise Of Old Guys. Nicolas Alford and Nicholas Kennicott drive home this message with transparent, hard-hitting, and biblical wisdom page after page.
In a day in which the perils of youth are lauded as virtues, we are reminded that “a believer with gray hair has a banner signaling you to ask them for advice, counsel, and encouragement” (p. 13). Instead of calling for more contemporary worship services or more innovative ideas, Alford and Kennicott call young and aspiring pastors to “care more about growth in holiness and communion with the Lord in the quiet and unseen times of the day than we do about cultivating and maintaining a public platform and popular persona.” (p. 39)
On many of the pages, I was convicted by the folly of my own youthfulness in life and ministry. I’ve cared more about getting seminary and ministry credentials than sitting under the mentorship of a godly older man. To put it bluntly, I’ve often been shaped by the notion that true education is found in a classroom, not in the trenches of real ministry.
In Praise Of Old Guys is both practical and deeply rooted in scripture. At some moments, the tone is light and hilarious which is sure to get a few laughs along the way. At other moments, you get hit hard by the rawness of the reality of pride: “Beware of a self-exalting man, especially if he is doing it with a smirk. He’s not edgy; he’s an idiot.” (p. 24). This makes for an enjoyable read on a topic that could certainly be depressing and discouraging if handled wrongly.
As a book nerd, I loved the sections which highlighted great writers and books from the past. It’s important to read scripture, which made very clear in this book. It is also important to read good books from old dead guys. They’ve lived their lives, preached their sermons, and written their books. We don’t have to fear that they’ll tarnish their faithful ministry with sin because their story has already been written.
Ultimately, if you’re a young man, pursue an old guy with gray hair to do life with. There is so much wisdom to be found in their lives, and you’re commanded in scripture to do so. If you’re an old guy (I’m getting closer to that description with every ache, pain, and grey hair), find a young guy to mentor and disciple. It’s worth it for both of you.
I highly recommend this book. I look forward to more by Alford and Kennicott!