Christmas Day is behind us, the decorations are coming down off the houses, and the presents are all unwrapped. But yet the year isn’t officially over. We still have a few more days in 2016 until the calendar rolls over to 2017. If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking of “New Year Resolutions.” Whether it is losing weight, being a better spouse, or simply getting a job, these resolutions are noble. We have a desire and a plan. But again if you’re like me, you may have trouble keeping them. Each year we say, “It’s going to be different.
But seriously let’s make 2017 different. How about we make a few “Spiritual Resolutions” – let’s resolve to grow deeper into Christ in 2017. Here are three ways we can grow deeper.
Grow in Devotion
We can grow in our spiritual devotion to Jesus, walking with Him in prayer and the Word. One way we can grow is by choosing a reading plan. This past week I challenged the church to pick up a New Testament reading plan, which sets out a 6 month reading timeline. Personally I am seeking to read through the New Testament twice in 2017. I must confess I haven’t used a reading plan in years past (I’m ADD and have a difficult time staying on track). But this year, it is going to be different. Let me encourage you to grow in your spiritual devotion. Set out spiritual goals, like reading through the New Testament in 6 months or writing out your prayers in a journal. Do something different to encourage your spiritual growth.
Practical Tips: Pick up a new Bible (I recently ordered the HCSB Notetaking Bible). Also find yourself a new journal to write out your prayers. Buy some new pens to mark up your new Bible.
Grow in Knowledge
Connected with spiritual devotion is growing in spiritual knowledge. In order for us to live differently we have to think differently. In terms of spiritual knowledge I’m thinking about growing in our theological understanding about Jesus and His Gospel. Simply put: learn something new about Jesus, theology, or His Word. Read the Bible but also read books outside the Bible. For example, at our Growing in Grace Book Club we are currently reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. If you are looking for a good place to start learning theology check out Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians. Then you can move to a biography of a hero of the Christian faith. You can also study a particular doctrine (e.g. atonement, end times, the Holy Spirit) or you can read about an event in church history. Grow in your knowledge about Jesus.
Practical Tips: Seek to read 4 books outside the Bible (1 new one every quarter). You can also find some challenges here from Tim Challies. In October of 2017 the church will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation so you can read about this historical event (see The Unquenchable Flame).
Grow in Outreach
The outflow of our devotion and learning should be gospel outreach. We must remember that many of our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family members don’t know the gospel. The gospel ought to flow through us to those around us. To some, this may be an extreme challenge. Again let’s make 2017 different. Begin by praying that God will give you the desire to share, then ask God to give you the opportunity. Trust me, He will answer that prayer. We all know someone in our sphere of influence that doesn’t know Jesus – start 2017 by sharing the gospel with them and inviting them to church. Ask that God will grow you in your opportunities to reach out to people with the gospel.
Practical Tips: Reconnect with a friend and invite them to church. Bake some cookies for your new neighbors and invite them as well. CONNECT with a local church and start serving. Share church or community events on social media. Be intentional in your interactions to make the gospel explicit.
Let’s make 2017 different by growing in our devotion, knowledge, and outreach. Remember Jesus is the Hero of 2017, let’s make it about Him!