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As we approach the new year, when people are refocusing their efforts on improving various aspects of their lives — such as their weight and financial affairs — perhaps this is also a good time to do a spiritual check-up and refocus our attention on the most important part of being human, our relationship with God.
Probably everyone who is a regular churchgoer wants to live a life that God will favor. But in a world of microwave meals, Las Vegas instant weddings, and $300 quickie divorces, we are conditioned toward easy fixes and painless transformations.
Thus, many Western Christians get sucked into the crippling thinking that a life which God will honor means going through the motions of religious observation without any real attention to the long and often painful process of character transformation as we follow the example of Christ in everyday life.
Everyday life? That doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?
A discussion on the importance of understanding God’s work in the day-to-day might not seem at first blush like material noteworthy enough to write a column about. Yet, you might be surprised by how much emphasis God puts on it and how many Christians are frustrated in their spiritual walks because they fail to recognize how God works in the everyday disciplines and events of the common day.
Many of today’s thrill-seeking Christians are not necessarily wrong for wanting a deeper relationship and experience with God. However, what tends to be dangerous is the emphasis on experience over developing Godly character; emotion over self-discipline; quick and easy transformations over working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling; seeking out exciting revival services over understanding how God can and does work in one’s life through ordinary and everyday experiences and spiritual disciplines.
Some are wandering away from sound doctrine and a reverence for the Holy Spirit-
inspired Word of God because of a mindset that exalts experiences over submitting one’s self to the teaching of the Scriptures first and foremost. Zeal without knowledge, says Proverbs, is “not good.”
We must also ponder the influence that Christian TV has had on modern Christianity. Because of production-
enhanced broadcasts, it’s all too easy to believe that Christianity must surely be about wide-eyed experiences that leave one feeling weak in the knees. But what we are watching is often not the truest representation of daily Christian living.
Let me state my point bluntly just in case it’s not already clear: Emotion and goose bumps are not what make a person spiritual, mature or close to God. To the contrary, it is what goes on in the days between church services where true spiritual maturity is tested. It is, in fact, the day-to-day grind where God often does the most dramatic work in the lives of His people.
So in refocusing our efforts on developing spiritually in 2014, here is a list of some basic, yet monstrously important, daily disciplines that, if adhered to, have the power to transform lives over the long haul.
Renewing our minds through daily intake of the Scriptures, and then obeying what we read
A high priority on weekly meetings of the church
Occasional fasting for spiritual focus and renewal
Regular financial contributions to the church, mission works, the poor
Serving in the church and society
Mentoring others (discipleship)
Forgiving and living in peace with others
This list does not give one goose bumps. But this is the substance of true spiritual growth and bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.
As legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to teach, if you master the basics, you seldom need anything else.
And that is as much a truism in the spiritual realm as it is in basketball. Those who master the basics typically are transformed into fruit-bearing Christians over time as they simply continue to forge ahead, even in the absence of overwhelming emotions.
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