Monday, October 1, 2012

Keys to an Abundant Life in Christ

There are three things that we need to do, day in and day out as children of God, to stay close to the Lord, to hear from Him, to be empowered by Him and to know how to serve Him. The three areas we will look at are: prayer, Bible study and fellowship.

I. Prayer

First of all, we need to be in prayer daily. We spend time with our Lord, we offer worship to God (Ps. 29:2), we petition Him for our needs (Ps. 22:19) and we make intercession for others (John 17:20). Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In our fast paced society we tend to rush around and expect everything to just fall into place quickly. We forget that we need to wait on the Lord. Find a quiet space and take some time every day to just sit with the Lord. Like Mary, who sat at His feet listening to Him speak, stop all the rushing around and wait on the Lord.

Remember, prayer doesn’t just go one way. Prayer isn’t a monologue, it is a dialogue. It is our time to be with the Lord, communing with Him. He is always present with us (John 14:23), but we need to stop sometimes and just wait on the Lord to hear from Him and receive from Him directly. Wait on Him with your heart and Bible open. Let Him speak to your heart through the Holy Spirit in you and through His Word. As you begin to confess sin and thank the Lord for who He is and all He is doing, as you worship, have your Bible there with you. Turn to a Psalm or another prayer in the Bible for guidance. The Lord will lead you and will speak to you from His word. It is His word, and He is alive, so His eternal, living word will come to life as He uses it to speak to you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

II. Bible Study

Be in the Word of God daily. The Word is alive and active, and God uses it to teach us about Himself and His ways. He speaks to us personally through His Word. If you’re pretty new to in- depth Bible study, you may want to start in Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians and the Gospel of John, but definitely work your way through the whole New Testament as soon and as often as you possibly can. It is vital that you “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16).” You should be in the Psalms often, and as the Lord leads you, get into the Old Testament, too. Let the Lord lead you through His Word. This will be a lifelong journey.

There are many ways to approach the Bible. The most common way is to just open it up to somewhere that we feel the Lord is leading us to and to just start reading. But, always pray for the Lord to lead you into the passage He wants you to be in, and pray for the Holy Spirit (who resides in you if you have received the Lord) to teach you what it means and reveal to you His message for you through that word. This devotional type of study is an informal way to spend time with the Lord and to have Him speak right into our daily lives and situations, right where we are now. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Church, every Sunday or midweek studies, should be a place where you are hearing the word of God read and expounded on, also. Pastor/teachers are to give the sense of the Scripture to us as they are gifted by the Lord to teach their congregation His word (Neh. 8:8). A home fellowship is another type of Bible study. In Acts 2:42, we see the believers meeting together in homes, teaching and discussing the Apostle’s doctrine and fellow-shipping together in the breaking of bread and in prayers.

Bible study can be done in many ways and settings, but two types of study should be done on a regular basis by all Christians. As Peter exhorted us, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).”

First, chapter by chapter study, both alone and by a teacher, as you move through the whole Bible, will give you a true and deeper understanding of what the Bible actually says and teaches. As you make your way through a book of the Bible, you will begin to see passages in light of the greater context of the whole book. As you make your way through several books of the Bible like this, you will begin to see the greater context of the whole Scripture as it relates to the specific passage you are looking at that day. There are many wonderful teachers out there today, and many from the past whose teachings are available. On the radio, in print and online you will find commentaries by people like J. Vernon McGee, Warren Wiersbe, John Walvoord, F. F. Bruce, Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie and Jon Courson, just to mention a few.

And secondly, verse by verse study will allow you to dig even deeper by looking more closely at things like the context, the cultural/geographical setting and the original language. Paul told young Timothy to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).” And Peter said, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia, from which we get apologetics) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence... (1 Pet. 3:15).”

III. Fellowship

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body as an analogy for the group of people that have given their lives to Jesus, the church. We are all connected together as the church, and we depend on each other just like the individual body parts depend on other parts of the body and the body as a whole. As we gather, we gather as Christians, Christ in us, and us in Christ. We gather together in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God with and in us. We desire everything that we do or say to be done by the Lord working through us. We let Him guide, teach and empower us as individuals and as a church. How does this happen? How is it that we can do the work of the Lord!? We do this only through the gifts that are distributed throughout the body by the Holy Spirit. Christian fellowship is more than just Christians getting together. It is the body of Christ; united, moved and directed by Christ’s Spirit in us. There are various gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, as He wills. Every Christian has at least one gift, and most of us have several. The gifts begin to operate mostly when we are together. They are to be used in love and to help and build each other and others up in the Lord (for more on the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to the Bible, see 1 Cor. 12-14, Rom. 12, Eph. 4, among others).

We should fellowship with other Christians as often as possible. Think of the time we spent in our lives doing the things that we are now ashamed of! We ought to spend even more time with the Lord, the things of the Lord and with the people of the Lord.

Jesus said to love one another, and there is nothing better than sharing in the love of Jesus with our brothers and sisters in Christ and in serving one another and others in Christ’s strength and love. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We fellowship as we reach out to our non-Christian communities, as we serve each other and others. We fellowship together at our home fellowships and at church on Sunday. We are told to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).” We fellowship at baptisms, while evangelizing and at outreach events, like concerts and revivals.

As long as we keep Jesus the center of our prayer life, our Bible study and our fellowship, we will see tremendous growth and power in our new life with the Lord. Just like any relationship, our relationship with Jesus must be nurtured and attended to. As we grow in His grace and knowledge, may He pour out His Holy Spirit upon us, more and more, for the grace and power to be followers of Christ that please Him and glorify His name. May the love of Christ overflow from our lives to all those hurting and in need around us.

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