Study No. 2: Why Christians need constant exposure to the Word of God

Holy BibleWe have seen that receiving the Word of God and the Christ of the Word are essential for salvation, but this is meant to be just the beginning of a lifetime’s exposure to the Word and, in consequence, of growth in Christ.

1.  Continuing to receive the Word is basic to growth as a Christian

What gives the Christian faith its marvellous simplicity is the fact that the principles of its beginning are also those of its continuance.

A key verse here is Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.”   In this passage first learning (implied by “dwell in you”) and then teaching are in view, and the nature of the teaching clearly reflects the influence of the word.  “The word of Christ” here may mean the teaching Jesus himself gave or it may mean the teaching about him, because genitive constructions in Greek (as this is) can express both senses.  It matters little here, because teaching about himself was an important feature of the teaching Jesus gave.   “Richly” must mean that it is to become deeply implanted in us, just as the seed was in the good ground of the parable, as we saw in the previous study.   It is when the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts that we become good ground.

Do not overlook the connection with wisdom.  This suggests that growth in God’s grace  should be accompanied by growth in wisdom, which is, of course, discerning the practical bearing of knowledge.  The purpose of the word of God is therefore not simply to give us new truths but to furnish guidance for our way by imparting practical wisdom.

Once again we see an intimate connection between the word of  God and Jesus Christ, and this must always be true.  Earlier in the same epistle, in Colossians 1:27-2:7, Paul had already made it clear that “Christ in you” was the heart of the revelation God had given him and which he communicated in his preaching, and that his great concern was for believers to be perfected (made complete) in Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

We can sum this up by saying that progress in the Christian life is simply getting to know Jesus Christ better through the God-given revelation made known to the apostles. If these treasures are hidden in him and if through our new birth our spiritual eyes are opened to them, we are to explore them. This means exploring all that Christ is, and doing so through Scripture.  In Genesis 13:7, God told Abraham to walk through the length and breadth of the land of Canaan, the land God had promised him (Genesis 13:17); Jesus himself is our spiritual Canaan.

The biblical writers use a great many simple analogies to help us to understand the truths they are concerned to communicate, and we will be giving some special thought to the use of analogies in a later study.  So, in another passage in the same epistle, Paul says that the Colossian Christians, having already received Christ as Lord, are to continue in him, to be rooted and built up in him (Col. 2:6-7).  Once again, as in the parable of the sower, the idea of rooting comes into view.  This time Paul combines this agricultural imagery with architectural language (“built up”), so that two simple pictures reinforce each other in our minds.  Plants need roots, buildings need foundations, and once these are in place there can be much progress.

The two epistles of Peter teach the same lesson, but here Peter extends his analogy of the new birth, which, as we saw in the last study, he used of the beginning of the Christian life and which he associated with the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23-25).  Once a child has been born, he or she needs to be fed, and so Peter goes on immediately to say, “as newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-3).  The word rendered “crave” is a strong one, very appropriate both for the strong and urgent thirst of the newborn baby and also for the great thirst for God’s Word that Christians should have.  At the close of his second letter too, Peter again takes up this theme, when he exhorts his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:15).  Physical growth can only take place through eating the proper food, and in the spiritual life the proper food for Christian growth is God`s Word.

So then we can see clearly that the way we are to go on is the way we began.  We need to dwell more and more deeply in the Word, to dwell more and more deeply in Christ, so that, to revert to the agricultural imagery, there may be deeper and deeper rootage and so more and more abundant growth.  This then is the function of the Word of God in the life of the Christian.

As in so much else, this teaching owes its origin to that of the Saviour himself.  This comes out particularly in his parable or allegory of the vine and the branches in John 15.  Here he employs a further type of agricultural language, that of viniculture.  To bring forth much fruit we are to dwell in Christ as the branches do in the vine.  There is a union of life, so that the life of the parent vine is to be found in its branches.

The whole of John 15:1-17  explores the spiritual implications of this.  In verses 3 and 7, Jesus refers to the function of the Word in this connection.  Verse 7 is particularly notable, for in it Jesus relates remaining in him and having his words remaining in them, as if these are not really two facts but one.  The more we absorb his words at a deep spiritual level the more we will dwell deeply in Christ.  Once again, the importance of the Word of God is highlighted.

This means then that dwelling in Christ is not some vague mystical experience but is intimately connected with receiving the Word.   Of course prayer is needed too, but true prayer is shaped by the teaching of the Scriptures.  The disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), and he proceeded to do so.  We too are instructed in the way of prayer, both by this passage in Luke and also elsewhere in Scripture, so that in converse with him, the Christ of the Scriptures, we may dwell more and more deeply in him.

Nothing can be simpler than this Scripture-induced indwelling of Christ, but at the same time nothing can be more demanding, for the teaching of Jesus did not tickle the ears of the hearers but made deep demands on them.  It is here, as we will see before long, that we need to think about what the New Testament has to say about the fulness of the Holy Spirit.

Some students of this course may think I have spent too long making this point, but its importance is so great that it cannot be over-stressed.

2. Teaching which departs from this pattern is spurious 

The Epistle to the Colossians was written to people who were encountering heretical teaching.  There is some debate as to the exact nature of this teaching, but for our purposes it matters little, for the main point is that it was not Christ-centred.  In Chapter 2, Paul writes about philosophy and vain deceit, about regulations, about worshipping angels, and so on.  How all these elements were combined in one system of thought and of  “salvation” it is not easy to tell, but the main point is that they all deflected attention from Christ.   No wonder then that Paul exalts Christ so greatly in this epistle!

Other later books of the New Testament were also written in the context of the attacks and blandishments of heresy, for Satan saw to it that the gospel would face not only challenges but attempts to corrupt it.  The stress in these books on the importance of the word of God is most noticeable.

In Second Timothy, the last of Paul’s extant letters, he sets correctly handling the word of God over against the teaching of heretics which “will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15-19).  Then, still in the context of heresy, he highlights the divine inspiration and profoundly helpful functions of Holy Scripture (2 Tim.3:12-17).  In his second letter, Peter writes about prophecies of the Scriptures as given by those who were moved by God’s Spirit.  He contrasts them with the teaching of false prophets, both those contemporary with the Old Testament writers and those that were afflicting the churches in his day (2 Peter 1:16-2:22).  We will look at these passages in more detail in a later study.

When thinking about heresy, we usually concentrate on the harmful nature of its teaching, and, of course, it is important to discern this.  Most important of all, however, is the fact that the person who embraces the heresy loses sight of Christ, the biblical Christ.  The Jehovah’s Witness does not usually focus on Jesus when he or she stands at somebody’s front door but on the Kingdom; the Mormon often talks not so much about Jesus but rather about Joseph Smith.  In writing about the heretical teaching that was confronting the Colossians, Paul says that the heretic has “lost connection with the head” (Col. 2:10), who is, of course, Christ.  In his second epistle, John says, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God” (v.9).  Your teaching may be so “advanced” that it has moved out of the Christian faith altogether!

It is worth saying that teaching does not have to be heretical for those who hear it to lose sight of the centrality of Christ.  If a Christian teacher has a “hobby-horse”, continually riding it while teaching, there is the danger of not giving Jesus his central place.

Two old friends meet one day after many years of not seeing each other.  One speaks to the other proudly about his son, whom the other has not seen since he was a child.  The first man brings a photograph out of his pocket and shows it to his friend.  The latter scrutinizes the picture and makes various complimentary remarks, commenting on the wallpaper in the room and the beauty of a vase on a shelf.  The other is deeply disappointed, for the son of whom he is so proud has been side-lined.   We should never side-line the Son of God.

One notable feature of the various heresies of New Testament times is their complexity.   This comes out in passages like Colossians 2:18 (“such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen”), 1 Timothy 1:4 (“myths and endless genealogies”) and Titus 3:9 (“foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law”).  In contrast, there is a beautiful simplicity about the gospel.  It is so simple that if it is clearly explained a child can understand it, and yet it is so deep that the most advanced and deeply godly Christian will never plumb its depths.  This does not mean it has no mysteries that may baffle our minds, for it does, but its basic truths are simple and clear.

It is evident that there were people in New Testament times trying to get the early churches away from this simplicity.  Note what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:3 about those who would deflect the Corinthians from  “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” . We see this kind of thing most clearly in the Colossian and Galatian epistles.  The Colossian heretics were promoting a kind of spurious “higher life” teaching, while the Galatian heretics were introducing legalistic complications to the gospel.

These two heresies clearly had a number of differences, but what united them was the fact that they complicated the gospel.  Now the gospel, although in essence so simple, is in fact deep beyond plumbing.  The word “depth” is correct, for there is no question of other things being added to the gospel but rather of its deep implications being seen, explored and enjoyed more fully.  This must be so, for if Christ is all that God is and all that a human being is (apart from sin), and yet is one Person, there are depths here that can never be fully explored, and no additions are even conceivable.

It is when the church gets away from this simple emphasis on Christ that things begin to go wrong.  The Reformers believed this had happened to the church of the Middle Ages, and so they emphasised the great simplicities of the gospel, in such phrases as “grace alone”, “faith alone”, “Scripture alone”, and, most fundamental of all, “Christ alone”.  The first three of these draw our attention to the great fourth, for Scripture instructs us about Christ, grace woos us to Christ, faith joins us to Christ.

Incidentally, the implications of the principle that nothing should ever become central to our outlook except Jesus Christ is very far-reaching. One of the great aims of education is not just the gaining but the integration of knowledge. It is often an important moment in a course when a student comes fully to realise that all its parts form a unity.  Integration requires a centre just as a wheel needs a hub, and for the Christian that centre is Christ.  Paul says that “in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).   This should apply not only to all Bible teaching but to everything we know.

I recall once meeting a young Christian man who was a student of sociology.  I asked him how he integrated sociology with his Christian faith.  I was troubled by his answer, for he said he kept them in separate mental compartments.  To do this is to court eventual intellectual and even spiritual disaster, for it is to bury questions that will eventually surface and do real damage.  In the late Middle Ages, some Aristotelian philosophers maintained that a statement may be true in theology but false in philosophy and vice versa.  Such irrationalism is foreign to the Bible and to our Christian faith.

If you study philosophy, you will find that philosophers want to gain a vantage point from which they can see that there is a unity to everything in life and in the universe.  In writing to the Colossians, Paul made a statement which has the profoundest philosophical implications, when he wrote of Christ, “In him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).  He meant everything that exists, both visible and invisible (Col. 1:16), and this applies to all truths, for all knowledge finds its point of unity in him.

Profitable Bible study never fails to find its centre in Christ and this is true also of ancillary subjects.  Ultimately the value of such subjects as biblical introduction, comparative Semitic linguistics, biblical archaeology, the geography, history and culture of the ancient Near East, is to be tested by the extent to which they help us to understand a Bible that points us to Christ.  It is easy to get sidetracked and to lose sight of the main purpose of such studies, while to see that purpose clearly is to give us a strong motive for pursuing them..

3. The word of God continually and deeply absorbed will deepen both faith and repentance

In 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Paul writes about the nature and purposes of Scripture.  The teaching Timothy had been given came first of all from his family heritage, from Lois and Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5),and this had made him wise for salvation.  Here is evidence of the value of a godly upbringing.  It is uncertain whether Paul means that Lois and Eunice were godly Jews who later became Christians but who taught Timothy the Scriptures in their pre-Christian days, or whether he is referring to them after their conversion to Christ.  This does not really affect the point I am seeking to make here.   They were able to instruct him in the Scriptures which eventually brought him to faith in Christ.  Here then is the value of early teaching in the context of the home.

It is true that in this context it is the Old Testament Paul has in view, but the New Testament too is Scripture and the definition given here fits this too.  When he goes on to write about “what you have learned” he could still have in mind the teaching of Timothy`s home; on the other hand, this may be a reference to the gospel itself as preached by him and his friends, which, of course, eventually found its way through his writings and the writings of others into the New Testament Scriptures.

Nothing can be more basic than the different purposes outlined in these verses, and they are basic in the sense that they are foundational to everything.  We need to know Christ, we need to be taught Christian truth and we need to know how to live the Christian life.  All this goes on throughout the whole of life.

Paul’s reference here to becoming “wise to salvation” probably is not meant to apply simply to Christian conversion, but rather to the whole Christian life.  You see, salvation in the New Testament does not only refer to the initial saving encounter with Jesus but embraces the whole life in Christ from conversion to its consummation at his second advent (1 Peter 2:2, Jude 3).  This must be the meaning here, for in the initial sense Timothy was obviously saved already.

This makes it clear to us that it is not only on its objective side (meaning the doctrines of the Christian faith) but on its subjective (meaning Christian experience) that Christianity is Christ.  To live the Christian life and to grow in that life is to know Christ and to live out the practical implications of that knowledge, nothing more, nothing less.

Then in verse 16 the apostle defines the function of Scripture in relation to this comprehensive salvation much more specifically.  “Teaching” and “correction” probably refer to theological instruction, both positively, in teaching us truth, and negatively, in combating our wrong thinking, for both are needed.  “Reproof” and “instruction in righteousness” refer to Scripture’s ethical function, this time with the more negative term placed first.  In fact Paul may have intended the order in this verse to follow, in general terms, the order of Christian experience.  The gospel instructs us in the truth of God, through this the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, more and more our wrong thinking is put right and we are led on in paths of righteousness.  Of course the time never comes for any of these functions to become redundant.  I should mention however that some commentators relate “correction” to ethical instruction and “reproof” to theological.  This difference of interpretation matters little, for in either case the reference of the whole verse is to doctrinal and ethical teaching.

We note that in Colossians 3:16 (what a basic text that is!) Paul writes about teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.   This teaching  and admonition relates closely to the functions of Scripture outlined here in 2 Timothy3:16 and also to the nature of faith and repentance.  Faith is deepened as we are instructed from Scripture, as we see more and more fully the beauties of Christ and the wonders of his redemptive work for us, while the Bible also puts right our wrong thinking and living, so that we can turn away from them.

We are all in need of both.  Scriptures that centre in Christ and faith that focuses on him and that is purified as it is associated with an ever-deepening repentance – here are the basics of the Christian life which are forever true and which can never be set aside or replaced.

All this is with a view to Christian service, which is the theme of 2 Timothy 3:17, and which is reflected too in the reference early in the next chapter to preaching the Word (4:2).  This does not, of course, mean that all Christians are called to preach, but it does mean not only that our growth in Christ has a practical end in view but also that Christian understanding and Christian character are fundamental to Christian service.  We need to be constantly deepened in our understanding both of the gospel of Christ and of its moral implications if we are to serve him aright.

In a day when courses in such subjects as sociology and managerial studies are sometimes thought to be of special importance for ministers and other Christian workers, it is good to be reminded that, whatever value they may have, nothing can take the place of Christlikeness of character.

In Ephesians 2:8-10, where Paul says that we are saved with a view to good works that God has prepared for us.  The passage in Second Timothy that we have just considered makes clear, what the Ephesian passage does not, that the means to effective Christian service is the application of Scripture to our lives.

We have seen that the Holy Spirit changes our desires when we accept Jesus with all our hearts.  This does not mean that the old desires will never reassert themselves, but it does mean that through the new birth there is a deeper desire, a desire to please the Lord, implanted by the Spirit of God to enable us to overcome these desires.  Growth in grace will make us more and more aware both of the wonder of God’s grace in Christ and also of God’s hatred of sin, so that we will grow in our faith in him and in our realisation that we should always reject temptation to sin, not in our own strength but in the power of the Spirit.

4. The rich indwelling of the Word and the fulness of the Spirit are two sides of the same fact

Ephesians and Colossians are in some ways companion epistles and they were probably written about the same time. There is some evidence that Paul may have intended Ephesians to be read not only at that church, but in a number of other churches in the area.  Colosse itself was in the hinterland of Ephesus, which was a major port.  Paul may have written his Ephesian letter partly, at least, to ensure that the churches that might be in danger from the  heresy that was afflicting the Colossian church, or something like it, were reminded that all the blessings of the Christian  life flow to us from the Christ who, once crucified, is now exalted to the supreme place in the universe.

If this is so, it will account for the fact that some parts of the two letters are similar, although in no case identical.  This can provide a most fruitful field for comparative study, a subject we will be looking at later in the course.  In relation to our present topic, we may note a striking similarity between the passages in which Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18 occur. The one major difference between them is in these two verses.  Where Paul says, “Let the word of Christ indwell you richly”, in Colossians, he says, “Be filled with the Spirit”, in Ephesians.

In both cases the verb used is in a continuous tense, suggesting that neither is to be seen as a once-for-all experience but rather as a constantly continuing one.  Not only so, but in both cases the verb is in the imperative mood, which means that in neither passage is Paul writing about something that happens automatically.  Just as, in terms of the Colossian passage, we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly by prayerfully reading, studying, believing and obeying it, so, in terms of the Ephesian one, we are to be constantly filled with the Spirit by opening our hearts fully to him and depending constantly on him, not on ourselves.

The Word and the Spirit should never be separated.  We are to respond to the Word, and that response is not to be simply intellectual (although there needs to be an adequate measure of understanding) but spiritual, and if it is truly spiritual it will be due to the activity of the Holy Spirit in the depth of our being.  It was he who gave the Word through its writers, and his ministry is to draw attention to and to exalt Christ, who is the great theme of the Word.

A major implication of this is that nobody can say he or she is filled with the Spirit who is not also accepting control by the Word, and this needs to be through that deep appropriation we have seen both in the parable of the sower and also in Colossians 3:16.  It is not the amount of Scripture we know that matters most in this, but the faith and obedience that we bring to what we know.  Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”   There is truth in this for us all, even though Mark Twain meant it in criticism of the Bible.  For the Christian the Bible may often disturb us in the sense that it makes us uncomfortable with elements of our life-style and challenges us to change.

What results may be seen if the word of God is dwelling richly in us and the Holy Spirit is  filling us?   Paul writes both of the gifts and of the fruit of the Spirit.  The gifts relate to Christian service and the fruit to Christian character.  Luke too relates the fulness of the Spirit to both service and character in his account of the early church’s life in the Acts of the Apostles.  A number of times he says that people were filled with the Spirit, and we find them speaking with power (Acts 2:4, 14; 4:8, 31; 6:10; 7:55-56).  At other times he links the fulness of the Spirit with qualities of character such as wisdom and faith (Acts 6:3, 5; 11:22-24).

Gifts of the Spirit are outlined in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.  There is no suggestion that the Spirit imparts gifts in order to make us independent of him.  In fact the opposite is true.  Not only their imparting but also their implementation are to be the work of the Spirit.  Never does God set us up for independent action.  In fact, not even Christ, unique as he was as God`s Son, acted independently, for he always did the Father`s will (John 8:29) and was constantly full of the Spirit (John 3:34).  The Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Christ, who indwelled and filled him throughout the whole of his ministry.

The fruit of the Spirit is detailed for us in Galatians 5:22-23, although we need not necessarily infer from this passage that the list is intended to be exhaustive.  A comparison of the fruit with what we read of Christ in the Gospels shows that they are in fact his character traits, which is what we might have expected, because there is complete harmony between the Son and the Spirit, What the Spirit seeks to produce in us is the character of Christ.

Now there is no doubt that sometimes the gifts of the Spirit can be counterfeited.  Even the disciples of the Pharisees apparently could cast out demons (Matt.12:24, 27), and some people who at least professed to do so Christ assures us he will turn away at the judgement (Matt7:22).  As Paul’s treatment of them in 1 Corinthians 12-14 shows, they can be misused, so that they can never provide the acid test of true spirituality.  In the midst of his discussion of the gifts, Paul writes about the supremacy of love, the supreme manifestation of the Spirit’s fruit (1 Corinthians 13).  This is so understandable, for God is love and to love is to exhibit the very likeness of God himself, imparted by the Spirit of Christ.  John expounds this theme at some length in his first epistle (1 John3::11-18; 4:7-5:5).

After I left school, I worked for some time in a bank.  One of the first things I was taught there was the double entry system of bookkeeping.  Every transaction was to be recorded twice but in two different ways.  Every six months everything was checked and the two systems had to tally, or something had gone wrong.

God has given us a means of checking whether we are deceiving ourselves as to our progress in the spiritual life.  The rich indwelling of the Word may be tested by the fulness of the Spirit.  If I know the Bible well, but am not being changed by it so that I manifest the fruit of the Spirit, this is not the rich indwelling of the Word. Also the fulness of the Spirit may be tested by the rich indwelling of the Word, for the richness of its indwelling is not essentially quantitative (although that is not unimportant) but qualitative.  If I profess to be filled with the Spirit but am disobedient to the Word, my profession is vain.

Full obedience to God`s Word in so far as we know it and complete dependence on the Holy Spirit – these are the marks of a truly godly life, which are seen in perfection in Christ and are to furnish the constant, daily purpose and aim of the Christian.

5. There is a corporate dimension to spiritual growth through the Word and the Spirit

It may seem to the reader who has followed the study thus far that growth in the spiritual life is purely an individual matter.  This is not true.  It is deeply personal, but it has not only an individual but a corporate dimension.  This comes out particularly in the Epistle to the Ephesians.

Paul says that the truth of the mystery of Christ was disclosed to the apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:5), and their function, along with that of evangelists, pastors and teachers is said to be “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph. 4:11-12).  Incidentally, the reference here to “prophets” is almost certainly to New Testament prophets, for in each of the three occurrences of the word in this epistle, they follow “apostles”.  Nevertheless,  the Old Testament prophets were also recipients and organs of God’s revelation, and, as the New Testament shows, their ministry too, in written form, edified the New Testament church.

Here then Christian growth is seen to be on the basis of revealed truth, and it is corporate, not just individual, for the whole of this passage is about the church.  What are the implications of this for Bible study?  It means that such study is not intended to be pursued in a purely individualistic way, divorced from the ministry of the church.

There is, of course, great value in personal study and every Christian should spend time in prayerfully reading the Bible each day.  After an evangelistic mission, I was asked by a church to visit the homes of people who had professed faith.  Unhappily, some showed little interest, while others did.  One visit greatly encouraged me.  In the lady”s flat, the front door opened straight into the living room.  She rose from her chair to greet me, and I saw to my delight that there was an open Bible beside her.  That was about twenty years ago, and she has been a member of that church ever since.  When I visited her, she had been a Christian only a few days, but she had already learned the importance of the Bible.  The seed had fallen on good ground.

The fact is that personal Bible study and the biblical ministry of the church can complement each other.  If a series of biblical expositions is being undertaken from the pulpit and the structure of the series is known to the congregation in advance, it is very helpful for them to prepare by studying the passage beforehand.  If the passage is not known in advance, it is good to study it at home afterwards.  Also in a church group Bible study situation, a large part of its value stems from the fact that passages can be personally studied so that there is a meaningful interaction in the group study itself.

The purpose of the church’s biblical ministry should never be viewed as purely informative.  The phrase, “pastors and teachers”, in Ephesians4:12 uses only one definite article for the two nouns in the Greek, implying that they describe two different sides to the ministry of the same people.  This means that Christian teaching should always have a pastoral dimension, a concern for the spiritual blessing and growth of the hearers, and this integrates with what we have been noting about the need for a devotional approach to the Bible.

What is the ultimate aim of Bible study, both at the individual and corporate levels?  It is nothing less than likeness to Christ.  This is how Paul defines Christian maturity in Ephesians 4:13:  “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.”  If what we have been considering about the fulness of the Spirit is true, it means that this is the aim of that fulness too.  A church in which there is both the rich indwelling of the Word and the fulness of the Spirit, where every life is open to both that Word and that Spirit, and where there is ever-increasing likeness to Christ at both the personal and corporate levels – what a goal this is, and how glorifying to God!

6. A closing practical comment

Perhaps the most challenging of all the sayings of Jesus is to be found in Luke 9:23, where he says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  I used to think the word “daily” particularly demanding, and so it undoubtedly is, but now I see that it is also very encouraging.  It means that every day can be seen as a new beginning.

I have also found that to view the fulness of the Spirit in the same way is very helpful.  It is good, at the very start of the day, in the first moments of full consciousness, before even getting out of bed, just to lift up one`s heart to the Lord, first of all in thanksgiving for all his mercies, the greatest of which are outlined for us in his Word, then to commit oneself anew to the bearing of the cross, which we have learned from the Word is our calling as disciples of Christ, and finally, confessing total inability to live this kind of life in mere human strength, asking to be filled with the Spirit.  God gives us time in parcels of twenty-four hours, and it is important to renew our spiritual commitment at the start of each.

NB. From Study 3 onwards, suggestions for further reading on the topic of the study will be given.



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