The spiritual growth of our churches is greatly dependent upon the spiritual growth of our members and those who attend. A church must have a discipleship system in place that leads an individual through a process of spiritual growth and hopefully on to spiritual maturity. Each follower of Christ must not settle for only knowing what it means to be a disciple but must also be applying the principles being taught. It is not what you know but what you do with what you know that really makes the difference.
Discipleship is about life transformation not just information transfer. We know that in good Bible study there are three basic rules of thumb to follow. First, there is observation. What does the text say? Second, there is interpretation. What does the text mean? What timeless principles can be found? Third, there is application. What should I do about it? We cannot stop at the first two because true discipleship always includes an obedience mechanism. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
The journey begins with learning the truth and understanding God’s thoughts and His viewpoints. How do we know God’s thoughts? How do we know if it is Him speaking to us? The Apostle Paul told the church at Philippi, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” God wants us to see and understand the world through His eyes. He is the only omniscient One who knows all and sees all. There are three primary ways we can hear from God and know His thoughts on all matters.
First, the Word of God! Why read the Bible? So that we will believe precisely what God already knows to be true. The Bible is what conveys the thoughts of God and enables us to think like Him. If you want to be a healthy Christian and be a part of a healthy church it will require a daily commitment of being in the word of God. The Bible can change your life, but not just because you own several copies. The word of God is the primary way that God speaks to us and we are not listing if we are not reading it.
In The Bible Questions, Hal Seed calls II Timothy 3:16 the II Timothy Road. There are four words there that describe how the Bible can make our life better. First, the word of God teaches us. The scriptures show us the road we need to be on and what that road looks like. Second, the word of God rebukes us. It tells us when we have gotten off the road. Third, it corrects us by showing us how to get back on the road. Lastly, the word of God trains us. It shows us how to stay on the road He wants us on.
Second, the Holy Spirit of God! Are we actively listening to the voice of God, the Holy Spirit? In John 14:26 Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit–the Father will send Him in My name–will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” Are you placing yourself in a position to hear Him clearly on a regular basis? Prayer is vitally important to your spiritual growth and it not only involves you talking to God – but also God talking to you.
The very best way we can know God’s thoughts is when we are reading His word and the Holy Spirit illuminates that truth to our hearts. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and is there to enlighten the truth, direct his steps, and guide him daily. He sometimes tells the believer to move forward in faith and other times to wait for further instructions. John 16:13 says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” Study the word and listen to the Holy Spirit if you want to know God’s thoughts.
Third, the people of God! We grow best in a community of believers. Solomon told us that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and that iron sharpens iron. Look for wise godly people you trust and allow them to speak into your life. These wise counselors do not supersede the word of God or the Holy Spirit but they can bring confirmation to both. God speaks through the preacher, a small group leader, a mentor, a coach, and through friends who are walking with the Lord. It is important to remain teachable.
This principle is taught throughout the word of God and Hebrews 13:7 reinforces this clearly, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.” We live in a day of tolerance that says you do not have to agree with other people but you certainly have no right to tell them they are wrong and they can do what they want to do. That is a skewed philosophy because if you love someone you should warn them. Paul said, “Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
In The Bible Questions Hal Seed says, “That’s the goal: that by reading scripture and letting it read us, we will become a people who have everything we need to do the right thing in every situation.” It all begins by being in the word of God daily, listening to the Holy Spirit closely, and then allowing godly people to speak into our lives. Are you thoughts His thoughts? Are you looking at things from God’s perspective or yours? Do you have the peace of God in your life? Do the people around you agree with the road you are traveling right now?
Healthy churches train their people to feed themselves through personal Bible study, how to listen to the Holy Spirit, and the need for a spiritually accountability partner!