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Essential Practices

We are saved by God’s grace and not by our works, but the Christian life is not passive.  Neither is Christian growth.  God accomplishes our salvation from sin and sanctification from its power over our lives entirely by His own power, but He still involves us in the process.  There are habits we need to form and practices we must pursue in order to grow.  Four are essential for Christians:

Bible Reading:  Scripture is spiritual food.  We need a regular intake of Scripture, reading it, reflecting on it, studying it, connecting it to our lives, so we can live it.  Taking in Scripture regularly protects us from sin (Psalm 119:11).  It guides us through life’s decisions (Psalm 119:105).  Its stories reveal human weaknesses and demonstrate God’s ways of delivering us from ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:11).  Reading the Bible through helps us to gain God’s perspective on history, so we see the benefits of righteousness and the consequences of disobedience (Proverbs 14:34), as well as His unfolding plan for redemption.  Then we can connect the way He worked with His people in the past to the way He works with us today.

The Bible gives insight into human nature and hidden motives of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).  It is the primary weapon of spiritual warfare, by which we confront the lies that dominate our world.  Most important, God’s Word is the seed that creates new life and causes us to be born again (1 Peter 1:23).  Like milk to a newborn, God’s Word gives life.

Prayer:  while reading the Bible is the receptive side of communing with God, prayer is expressive.  When we pray, we enter into the very presence of God and find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).  Through prayer, we can tell God everything on our hearts – our every concern or need.  As God answers our prayers according to His wisdom, we come to know Him, which is eternal life (John 17:3).

Prayer comes with the promise that “everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds” and that God only gives good gifts (Luke 11:10-13).  Regular prayer reestablishes our awareness that everything we have we received from God and teaches us to rely on Him for everything (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Prayer gives us guidance in decisions we face and comforts us with God’s presence (Psalm 23:4; 32:8).  Through prayer, we access God’s power, not to get whatever we want for ourselves but so God can accomplish what He wants in and through us.  God gives us boldness for witness (Ephesians 6:19), wisdom for trials (James 1:5), and deliverance from what we fear (Psalm 34:4).  The prayers of the saints have delivered people from physical and spiritual bondage (Mark 9:29; Acts 12:5-11).

Most importantly, God uses the prayers of His saints to turn societies from spiritual destruction.  Read about the life of Elijah (1 Kings 17-19) and the observations that James made about the role of prayer in his life (James 5:16-18).  Then bring your concerns for our nation and our world to the Father.  The prayers of God’s people have not been stopped for over three millennia.  They never will be.

Giving:  God doesn’t need our money.  He doesn’t need our help, either.  But He chooses to do His work through us and uses our meager resources to accomplish His incredible plans.  We have the honor of contributing the material goods God has given us to the work of God’s kingdom.

We need to give.  It is so easy to trust in our possessions and not God, but everything we have is from Him (Romans 11:36).  Soon, our trust and hope center in what we have rather than the One who provided it.  In the end, we find ourselves “worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25), which is the essence of idolatry.

That’s why we need to give.  Giving helps us to own our possessions without letting our possessions own us.  In Scripture, God generally links a promise of blessing with a command to give (Malachi 3:10-11; 2 Corinthians 9:6-10).  The idea is not that giving allows us to manipulate God into getting a whole lot more stuff.  The idea is that God always provides for His children and we can trust Him for all things in all circumstances (Philippians 4:19).

More than that, we begin to see our possessions – and all the things of this earth – in a different way.  The world and all it has to offer loses its grip on our lives and we become more free to live for heaven.  We treat the stuff of of this earth as an investment in eternity.  Temporary investments pay eternal dividends, as God uses us to build His kingdom.

Gathering:  God made us relational, just like He is.  “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), God said as He helped Adam (and us) to see his need for a spouse.  Just as humanity is a race, not a collection of individuals, the people of God form a body of different members working together to accomplish His great purposes (Ephesians 4:11-16).

That’s why the church gathers together (Acts 2:42-43; 1 Corinthians 11:18), worships together (Hebrews 10:22-25), prays together (Matthew 18:19-20), and works together (Acts 13:2, cf; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  We are mutually dependent (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).  As we come together to worship God, we are rehearsing for heaven where different people from all over the earth will gather and sing His praise (Revelation 7:9-10).

God delights in a united Body working together in love, because it represents His nature to the World (John 17:20-21).  As we give, we set aside our preferences for the sake of others, we model Christ’s willingness to give up heaven and come to earth, then surrender His life on earth for our sakes.  Or, as Christ said, “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Good habits promote good health and consistent growth.  The four habits that produce strong, healthy growth in your Christian life are regular Bible reading, consistent times spent in prayer, giving to God’s church and the work of His kingdom, and gathering with the saints for worship, instruction, fellowship, and service.  Devote yourself to these habits and trust God to make you grow.

By: Dave Dussault