Many of us have a love/hate relationship with spiritual disciplines because we don’t want to feel like our faith is all up to us or all about the checklists. That’s why I want you to hear something important before we go any further: Spiritual disciplines aren’t about forcing fruit or growth. They aren’t a checklist for faith. Think of that like super gluing grapes to a grapevine; it simply doesn’t work. Grapes only grow because they were birthed out of the vine. The same is true of the spiritual disciplines; they are the result of faith birthed out of relationship with Jesus and empowered by His Spirit. They are the fruit of those whose eyes are fixed on Him. Scripture is clear these practices are intentional ways God grows our faith and trust in Him. They keep us humble and remind us of our lack, and this is where we see our deep need for a Savior.
For encouragement in spiritual disciplines as a way to ground our faith in the Lord, there is no better example than the early church in Acts.
In describing the early church, Luke (the writer of Acts) drew specific attention to the practices of “the apostles’ teaching . . . fellowship . . . the breaking of bread . . . prayer” (v. 42), along with generosity (vv. 44-45) and service (v. 46). These practices would become foundational elements of the Christian life that continue today. Since Luke began with “the apostles’ teaching,” that’s where we’re starting too (v. 42). For us, that means Bible study. You’re here, so I imagine this is a discipline you’re even just a little familiar with, but it’s helpful to consider why Bible study matters.
I remember the day I decided to buy my first Bible. I was eighteen years old, a new believer, zealous, eager, and curious. One day after work, I stumbled upon a Lifeway storefront at a nearby shopping center. I remember walking in and seeing home décor, gifts, and of course shelves and shelves of books and Bibles. I walked up and down the aisles exploring this new world I’d walked into. I circled the store for a while, searching for hope, truth, and direction like we all do when life seems unclear and confusing.
A few minutes went by, and I saw a woman standing over by the children’s books who looked like, just maybe, she worked there. I walked up to her and was met with the kindest eyes and warmest soul. “Hi, I want to buy a Bible, but I’m not sure where to start. Can you point me in the right direction?” I asked timidly. Her face lit up with a huge smile like she’d just heard the best news. “Of course. I can help you! Follow me.” She headed over to the Bibles. There are so many of them, I thought.
“Are you looking for a specific one?” she asked me.
“No, actually it’s my first one.”
She smiled again and nodded. “Today’s a wonderful day for you.” That lady knew exactly what I needed and reached for a leather Bible with a purple cover. She explained that it had study commentary on each page to help me understand what I was reading. I was thrilled, thanked her, paid for the Bible, and made my way home. That night I began to read the Bible, starting in John where she had suggested.
All throughout Scripture, we are commanded to be readers, students, of God’s Word. Studying God’s Word is such an important spiritual discipline because His Word is the way He chose to reveal Himself to us and to speak to us. With the Holy Spirit working in us, God uses the Bible to help us know Him.
A faith without wavering is one rooted in the unshakable truth of Scripture. When firmly anchored in the Word of God, the Christian is well-positioned to navigate life and inform the world for God’s glory. Like the early church’s commitment to “the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), God desires for us to study Scripture in the community of faithful believers (Deut. 11:18-21; Rom. 15:4). When we study His Word together, we’re able to mine the profound and wonderful depths of truth that Scripture has to offer.
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