This morning, as I prayed for people in the congregation I serve, I ended up writing this short letter of encouragement for people to seek God’s grace through soaking in the Story of the Bible.
To Jesus’ Sheep—
Here’s a wonderful Bible Reading plan for you to commit to for the next 2 years:
Soaking in the Script of God’s Redemptive Story is one of the ways that his Spirit forms us into the likeness of our Lord Jesus himself, and brings us into deeper relationship with himself- this is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. If you’re not exposing yourself to the Lord through his Word, you’re neglecting one of his “means of grace”— the way he consistently pours his grace into our lives to nourish and help his people to grow.
Having a desire to grow- to mature, to know God more fully, to be refined-
is an aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Even in our human relationships, to grow in intimacy with our spouse or friends requires us to pursue them and be responsive to their pursuit of us. This necessitates a disposition of curiosity, eager desire, humility, and a trusting willingness for our prior paradigms and ways of thinking to be challenged. If this is the case in our human relationships, how much more so would this be true of our relationship with the Triune God?
In his letter to the collection of house church plants around Ephesus, Paul writes:
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, ”uc”>I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…” (Eph 1:15-19).
One diagnostic question for us today is: “Do I desire to grow, to mature, for my character to be refined by God’s grace? Do I want Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians to be true for ME?”
Because, as our heavenly Father through the grace of Christ, God’s own ambition is to accomplish this prayer in the lives of his people, for “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion to the day of Christ Jesus…” (Phil 1:6). Is this our own ambition today?— to know real hope, the riches of being God’s inheritance, and the depths of the very power that rose Christ from the dead?
How does this even happen?
As D. Martyn Lloyd Jones points out in his sermon series on “Spiritual Depression,” this is not a mere emotional experience, or our hearts being moved- though many of us stake our comfort primarily in emotion. Nor is this an accomplishment of our wills, of doing good stuff- though many of us find security in being good, in control, of being productive. Nor is growth in grace a mere intellectual endeavor, of knowing the right theology, in being right- though many of us think that right doctrine is all that we need.
Growth in grace impacts and expresses itself in all of these areas of our humanity— emotional, volitional, intellectual— the whole person must be engaged by the whole gospel, a gospel which communicates our declaration of innocence and forgiveness for sin through Christ’s blood (justification), and that communicates our new identities as God’s children, as being free from condemnation, as leading us to holiness and deeper relationship with God and the church via grace (sanctification).
And, this grace impacts us in an ordered way— our intellects being exposed to the revealed truth of the gospel, now grasping and believing: “know the hope to which he has called you”; our emotions being moved with grief, gratitude, joy, and desire through this Spirit-given sight and faith: “know the riches of his glorious inheritance”; our volitions being so gripped by the vision of the gospel that we’re moved to obedience, holiness, and good works motivated and empowered by grace: “know the immeasurable greatness of his power”.
Any pronouncement of the gospel missing either justification or sanctification is not the communication of the whole gospel. Any pronouncement of the gospel not addressing all three facets of our humanity is not addressing the whole person.
So, today draw near to God through his mind, heart, and will revealed in Jesus Christ who is witnessed to in the Scriptures. And, invite God to shape every facet of your humanity through his application of grace, and participate in his tender and mighty work through your own eagerness, commitment in the ordinary, and desire for humility.
May you have eyes to see and faith to comprehend the Savior’s grip on you today—