Bernie Diaz, December 26-29, 2018
Our annual check-up at the doctor’s office is supposed to give us an idea of how we’re doing physically and may present certain health issues for us to be aware of or to even be concerned about.
Many of these check-ups occur around the first of the year in order to coincide with news year’s resolutions and goals that might enable us to improve our physical condition.
That same principle applies to Christians entering into 2019 from a spiritual perspective. As important as our bodies are to our well-being and to God’s, our hearts- our spiritual condition is even more so as per the apostle Paul, who in the midst of ‘training’ his apprentice and young pastor Timothy, said, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8, ESV).
Therefore, the end of 2018 this coming week presents disciples of Jesus Christ a good opportunity to engage in a spiritual check-up. To help us take our spiritual temperature, it may be helpful to ask ourselves the following ten questions posed by author and pastor Kevin DeYoung:
- Did I make regular devotions with the Lord a priority?
- Unless there was an emergency, did I commit to attending church every single Sunday?
- Did I preach the gospel to myself to remind me of the grace that is available to me through Christ?
- Did I confess and repent of my sins quickly?
- Did I live deeply in Christian community and seek to bear the burdens of others?
- Did I regularly share the gospel with nonbelievers in hopes of persuading them to repent and trust in Christ?
- Did I steward my time, talent, and treasure to the glory of God and for the sake of the church?
- Did I seek spiritual mentors?
- Did I disciple others?
- Did I trust God’s providence when things didn’t go my way?
Some of these will apply to you; some of them won’t. For example, due to this season of life, you may not have had the opportunity or energy to disciple anyone. That’s fine and serves as food for thought and a thing to do next year if you can.
These questions are provided not so much to make us feel guilty, but to provide some motivation and guidance to help you check your soul for spiritual health.
Just as a physical check-up may result in a diagnosis such as being over- weight, our doctor may propose some fundamental disciplines or strategies to combat that issue, such as a better or proper diet, self-control and regular exercise program. Therefore, I would exhort my church and fellow Christian readers to commit to four, fundamental New Years resolutions of our faith to deal with our spiritual check-up results above.
For those of you who are not crazy about making new year’s resolutions by the way, or believe they may be unbiblical, consider that America’s greatest theologian perhaps, Jonathan Edwards made 70 pretty good ones before reaching age 25- and all were quite biblical (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-resolutions-of-jonathan-edwards).
Furthermore, it is actually quite wise and biblical to think about where one is in his or her walk with the Lord (2 Pet. 1:10), and then to adjust accordingly. So we begin…
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
Sound basic or fundamental enough? I call this the ‘Great Commandment’, in that the Lord Jesus Christ quoting from the Levitical law, summarizes all of the Torah and all of scripture’s teaching for that matter, with the two greatest commandments from God to his people, which is to love him and other people as themselves.
This love for God and man, from which our church derives its slogan, Love God, Love people, can only come from a regenerated or born-again heart. If we strive to love our perfectly holy, pure, just creator and sustainer of life with everything we have and are, through the love of his Son whose crosswork and resurrection saved us, then we will be empowered by his Spirit to do everything else his will and word commands of us.
As a practical means of grace, the single best way to rededicate or resolve yourself to loving God more, is to dine with him or eat Bible, (below) which means to be in the word in order to hear God’s voice in and through your heart and mind.
This is how we better know God, and to know God and Jesus is to love him more, as we focus on his beauty, character and attributes.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:39-40)
It simply stands to reason if we are obeying God’s first great command to love him, we will be led to love others- including our families and ‘neighbors as ourselves’ (Lu. 10:25-37) as a result of being loved first (1 Jo. 4:10).
This love of God that has been “shed abroad in our hearts”, will spill over into our lives- both in attitude and action, meaning that we will sacrificially serve others- beginning with doing the ‘one anothers’ for our church family and then extending outwards (Jo. 13:36; 1 Jo. 4:11, 14, 16-18) to those in our sphere of influence, which will include the willingness to speak the truth in love as we show and share Christ to the lost (Eph. 4:25).
Are there exceptions as to whom we love? Not in God’s eyes, if we’re speaking of true, God-like ‘agape’ love of unconditional service which extends to our enemies- those who have wronged us as impossible as that may seem (Matt. 5:43-48).
Love the Bible
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. (Psa. 119:33-35)
This love of the Bible is not a mere intellectual assent to it being the inerrant, infallible word of the living God. I definitely hope you do know and believe that to be true. But believing that and loving the Bible aren’t always the same thing.
Resolving to love the Bible means treasuring it as Jesus did when he spoke of the word as his food or “daily bread.” That means prayerfully resolving to meet with God in his special and specific revelation to his people more than you love checking your latest social media notifications, looking up stats for your favorite sports team or how the stock market did yesterday.
Ask yourself if you love the Bible more than your favorite TV show or music download? How do you know that? Like anything else, the greatest treasure of our hearts is what we spend the most time with and think most about.
To truly and appropriately love the Bible is to think of it and treat it as the love letter to you that it is and being the word of the living God that it is, you treasure it as the all authoritative and wholly sufficient word for your walk with Christ and GPS for your life.
How to? Read the Bible everyday by yourself (find a good Bible Reading Plan), with your family, with your small group, with your friends and co-workers, and with anyone else who might be willing to read it with you- think of an unbeliever in need of Christ. The word of God has power to give and transform life. Why would we even hesitate to take it up?
Love the Church
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God… (Eph. 5:2, 25b-27)
It’s always wise to love that which Jesus Christ loves. He loves his church so much he prayed (Jo. 17) and died for it.
When we’re talking about loving the church, the Lord is not referring to its programs, buildings or budgets. Rather, he is referring to his body of believers in the universal and local church which he purchased with his own blood.
Again, the question for you as you think about resolving to love your church this new year may be how? Or, what does that look like? Do you have to be involved in every ministry or every event your church does? No. You probably couldn’t if you tried.
But if your church meets regularly on Sunday mornings and a mid-week night- go to all of it, or as much as possible. Be committed to small or community groups where real body life happens. Invest your life and the life of your family in the local church. I understand that other things will have to take a back seat if you are committed like that. Guess what? It’ll be worth it and God expects it.
Moreover, seek to cultivate and develop relationships and fellowship outside of the church’s regular gatherings. As another writer put it, “Quit dividing your ‘church life’ from the rest of your life. As much as you can, blend those two areas. Enjoy your church family.”
Discipleship happens when you go to the beach or picnic or partake in an activity with them. Be more hospitable this year and invite church members over for supper. Go make disciples (evangelize) together. Go serve together. Don’t wait for your pastors to schedule something in order for you to spend time with your church family, to do ministry and to disciple. Make all of that a habit this coming year.
We don’t know what lies ahead in the coming year of our Lord, 2019. Wouldn’t it be great if he returned this new year? Shouldn’t we cry out for that as the apostle John did in the book of Revelation?
We do know that there are always things about our lives to change and that we are to grow and improve our spiritual health while he has us here. Why don’t we resolve to work out our spiritual condition this new year (Phil. 2:12-13)? Why don’t we resolve to?:
- Love God
- Love People
- Love the Bible
- Love the Church
You won’t regret improving your spiritual health this new year.