Tuesday, 01 July 2014 10:56

Private Practice. Public Faith.

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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There is a direct relationship between the outward expression of our walk with Jesus and the private time we spend with Him.  I came across the findings of a LifeWay Research survey from the fall of 2012 which indicates we as believers could do better on our personal, private encounters with Christ as we engage His Word.


The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers agree with the statement: “I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,” and 59 percent agree with the statement: “Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths.” While the majority agrees with both statements, there is a significant difference in the strength of agreement. Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (64 percent) strongly agree with the first statement, but only 20 percent strongly agree with the second.


However, when asked how often they personally (not as part of a church worship service) read the Bible, a similar number respond “Every Day” (19 percent) as respond “Rarely/Never” (18 percent). A quarter indicates they read the Bible a few times a week. Fourteen percent say they read the Bible “Once a Week” and another 22 percent say “Once a Month” or “A Few Times a Month.”


LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer is quoted as saying that, “Bible engagement has an impact in just about every area of spiritual growth...You can follow Christ and see Christianity as your source of truth, but if that truth does not permeate your thoughts, aspirations and actions, you are not fully engaging the truth.”


He offers this powerful reminder: “You simply won’t grow if you don’t know God and spend time in God’s Word.”


A little aside here: a 2009 Barna survey conducted in partnership with Living on the Edge found that a large number of churchgoers could not define spiritual maturity.  An open-ended survey question asked churchgoers to describe how their church defined a “healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus.” Half of churchgoers simply said they were not sure, unable to venture a guess regarding the church’s definition.


Even among born again Christians – that is, a smaller subset of believers who have made a profession of faith in Christ and confessed their sinful nature – two out of five were not able to identify how their church defines spiritual maturity. Among those who gave a substantive response, the most common responses were having a relationship with Jesus (16%), practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study (9%), living according to the Bible (8%), being obedient (8%), being involved in church (7%), and having concern for others (6%).


I hope this data is challenging for us.  Here are some takeaways I see:


First, we have to recognize the direct relationship between engaging in God’s Word and spiritual maturity.  We simply cannot become the Christians God desires for us to be without intentional reading of and study of God’s Word.  He intends for us to not only read the Bible, but to not put its teachings “on the shelf,” so to speak, when we leave our private places of study or our homes.   When you consider that only 20 percent of those surveyed by LifeWay even think about the truths of the Scriptures throughout the day, we recognize there is significant work to do.


Also, a working definition of spiritual maturity is very helpful.  In the Barna research, only 8% of born-again Christians said that living according to the Bible was a standard by which their church defines spiritual maturity.  Half of churchgoers couldn’t even say what spiritual maturity looked like.   If we can’t define it, how do we know that we have achieved some measure of it?   We do need spiritual benchmarks.   And, it’s important that we identify areas in our lives that need to change and take Biblically-inspired steps to change our course.  


We must realize that our areas of struggle can become areas of challenge, leading to the opportunity to achieve some measure of spiritual growth.  And, God’s Word will help us identity areas of growth opportunity and provide the instruction - and the capability - in order to see His nature revealed in us.


In order to grow spiritually and experience the abundant life that Jesus has made available for us, it’s vital that we are spending time in God’s Word.  And, the promise of the Scriptures is that the Word is living and active, and our growth in Christ is directly proportional to the degree of our immersion in the Scriptures.  Our aim is not to get enough of God to get by, but to allow God to have all of us - that involves surrendering our will to His and allowing His Word to shape our thinking and to prompt our actions.  Our public demonstration of faith in Christ is an outgrowth of our private time with Christ.




Last modified on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 11:04
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