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When I first got saved at the age of 12, I immediately knew my life was forever changed for the better. You can read my testimony here, but I remember being very aware and accepting of the fact that my life was literally saved from Hell, and I owed all my life and gratitude to the one who saved me, Jesus.
Maybe it is because I always wanted to know God, from the earliest times I can remember, or maybe it is because I had such a chaotic home life that I immediately sensed that Jesus brought peace and comfort to my soul…. I don’t know exactly why, but I knew I was on a different road now and I wanted to follow that path, completely and full speed ahead! I am sure that the Holy Spirit was behind this deep desire in me, and I am very thankful for this!
I wasn’t allowed (by my parent’s who were not Christians at this time) to go to church for 6 months after I was saved, but I know my faith was still growing during that time. I don’t remember the timing of some of these details, but at some point (perhaps by my older brother and sister who were allowed to go to Church) I was given one of those “Good News” paperback New Testament Bibles with the stick figure pictures in it. I know I read that a LOT! I also read my Bedtime Bible Stories book very faithfully up until I received a real Bible, and I do think that prepared me for reading and hungering for the Word of God.
I have always pondered the question of why? Why did I care so much about growing and learning and following God? From the get-go? I see so many who don’t seem to, and this greatly saddens me. Why don’t they? Why did I?
Now, I know a LOT of Christians who were/are like me, and even more-so. They truly, deeply, hungering-ly, care about their Christian Faith, and want to grow in it. They know they are changed lives and because they have such a deep love for the One who saved them, they want to lovingly attempt to “repay” that by giving their entire lives wholeheartedly back to Jesus.
But I also know many who take their Christian Life for granted. They have an apparent apathy towards their Christian walk. Why? What makes the difference? Or what makes a person who became a Christian, but didn’t at first hunger for that deeper Faith-walk, turn the corner and then start wanting and living one?
I imagine there are many factors that come into play on this situation. But I do have some thoughts on what is, in my opinion, the biggest factor.
I think that the absolute most important factor in our Christian growth, and in how much we hunger and thirst after righteousness, is how we value the Word of God.
Believers who read (or listen to) the Word of God grow! Saved believers who don’t read the Bible, don’t grow. Believers who stop reading their Bible stop growing. Believers who start again reading the Bible grow again. It’s plain and simple if you ask me. This is the key factor.
The Bible is likened to food in many of its verses. It is called milk and meat (or solid food depending on the translation) in 1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12. In both of these verses, the ‘milk’ is meant as basic truths about the Bible, while the meat is referring to deeper truths, but still, both references are to food.)
We are also told to desire the sincere milk of the Word in 1 Peter 2:2, meaning that those first basic truths are still foundational to our continued Christian growth. In fact, that verse backs up my premise very well, so here it is in its entirety:
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.” It doesn’t mean to stay babies, only drinking milk, but that as you grow in your knowledge and understanding of the Bible, keep on drinking the ‘milk’ of the Bible too, as these are core, foundational truths to cling to and build upon.
A new or a not so new Christian is not going to grow or become steadfast in their Faith if they are not consuming their ‘food,’ the Word of God on a regular basis. We eat real food everyday; we are supposed to consume the Word of God everyday also, if we want to grow and stay healthy in our Faith.
Many Christians say things like, “oh, I read books about the Bible to learn.” Or “I listen to the Pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning and let him teach the Bible to me.” These are not bad things, but these are not enough. You have to be in the Word yourself, letting the Holy Spirit teach you, and illuminate Scripture to you in order to grow in leaps and bounds. No one teaches better than God the Holy Spirit!
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man (or woman) of God may be perfect, (complete) thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (parenthesis mine)
Only the scriptures themselves are the Inspired Word of God. I read my Bible Story book before I became a Christian, and for a while after, and it helped wet my appetite for the God-Inspired-Book, the Bible itself. These other avenues of learning the Bible should merely wet our appetites for the Real Deal, the inspired and Living Word of God. Books about the Bible (teaching, instructing, explaining) are great sometimes, but they are NOT the Bible. Go to the Source! That’s where the strongest vitamins and nutrition are! The pastor, if he is yielded to God, is inspiring and gifted! But even he, if he is worth his salt, would tell you to go to the source yourself regularly! Read it Monday through Saturday and get fed all week long, as well as on Sunday! If you only get immersed in the Word on Sunday, you are starving yourself of your daily Spiritual food. You can’t grow that way!
In all my years of pondering this since I gave my life to Jesus in 1973, this is the common denominator I have found. Those who sincerely, and steadily read their Bibles are the ones who grow mature in Christ. Those who don’t, don’t. I have seen it in my own life when I got lazy with my Bible reading. I grew stagnant in my faith-walk, and slipped backwards on the path. When I got back into the life-giving habit of regular Bible reading and study, I felt renewed again in my spirit and saw the upward growth of my Faith.
I am not advocating that you have to read chapters and chapters a day. I’m also not saying don’t do that. Find a system that you can do and make it a habit. Switch it up for variety as suits your personality or the needs of whatever phase of life you are going through. Sometimes I read the same chapter every day for multiple days, dwelling on the verses over and over. Sometimes I listen to my Bible on an app, and then I do find it easy to get through many chapters in one session. (I have a wonderful day-job where I am able to work and listen at the same time!) Obviously this can’t be done by everybody, but everybody can find time one way or another. Listen to an auditory Bible app while you are driving. Or while you are gardening or working out. While you are relaxing on your deck. Reading your Bible can be done in the morning with a cup of coffee and a Devotional. Or at lunch in the break room, in the park, or in your car. Or at night before bed. Just do it! Be regular. Be consistent. GROW.
You will be amazed at what the Holy Spirit teaches you, even in passages you thought you knew pretty well! Especially if you pray and ask Him to. He will turn the ‘light’ on and illuminate the Scriptures for you; its in His job description!
Some of you are saying, yes, of course this is the key. But if it’s so obvious, than why don’t more do it. Why are we so prone to let it slip. Yes, the devil wants to distract us away, and all too often it works. As they say, the devil is not afraid of a Bible with dust on it.
Even Jesus used the Word of God to resist the devil when He was tested in the wilderness. That should tell us something very valuable! If Jesus Himself depended on the Word of God, how much more we need the Word in our lives to fight back against that great deceiver satan.
As the Psalmist says in Psalm 119 verses 11 and 105.
“Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” and “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” These verses are great words of encouragement, but more importantly, words to acknowledge and obey.
God’s Word is the greatest tool we have, next to the Holy Spirit Himself, and its at most of our fingertips! I remember reading about “God’s Smuggler” in my teenage years, and was deeply moved by how much it cost Brother Andrew to smuggle Bible’s into the longing hands of so many who were also risking their lives just to own a page or two of the Word of God.
I truly believe that if we would commit to delve deeper and more consistently into the Word of God, we would see most of our anxiety and worry flee along with our fears and doubts. The Bible calls itself many other things besides the aforementioned milk and meat. Each of these illustrations the Bible gives us about itself show us an aspect that is intended to grow us more and more into the image of Christ. What a powerful, Living Book! Here are the ones I can think of:
Bread (Mathew 4:4)
A two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12-13)
A Mirror (James 1:23-25)
Honey (Psalm 19:10)
Gold (Psalm 19:10)
Light/Lamp (Psalm 119:105)
A Treasure (Psalm 119:162) (Proverbs 2:3-5)
A Hammer (Jeremiah 23:29)
Fire (Jeremiah 23:29)
A Plumb-line (Amos 7:7-8)
Water (Ephesians 5:26)
Seed (Luke 8:11)
Eternal and Unchangeable (Psalm 119:89-91) (Matthew 24:35)
If you have this treasure house of such wisdom and power at your disposal, shouldn’t you be opening it everyday to see what God has for you? I think so! 2 Peter 3:18 says “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Reading the Bible is the best way to accomplish this!
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