Thursday, July 04, 2019

Growing As A Christian

I want to expand on something Steve recently wrote about preventing the diminishing of our faith over time. I'll mention some of the things I've been doing, which may be helpful to other people.

You ought to start with your relationship with God (Matthew 22:37-38). How you view God will shape the rest of your life. I don't know of anybody who's done better work on these issues in our generation than John Piper. I've often recommended his work, especially his book Desiring God.

Several years ago, I began reading a couple of pages from the church fathers each day. I got the idea from William Lane Craig. I'd been reading the church fathers for many years before that, but sporadically rather than as a daily pattern. You don't have to read the church fathers. You could read some other source, but I'd recommend reading sources prior to our generation (more on that below).

Around the same time, I began keeping a record of God's providence in my life, a practice I heard Gary Habermas recommend. The record I keep includes answered prayers, coincidence miracles, and other events that seem to be paranormal. I don't keep a record of everything, but I try to at least write down many examples of what I experience in these contexts.

Set significant objectives, not just trivial things like losing weight or getting a promotion at a trivial job you work. Instead of waiting for other people to do something that's been neglected in apologetics, evangelism, missions, the local church, or some other important context, do it yourself. If there's an issue in philosophy, history, science, or some other field that you've struggled with or have seen other people have problems with, do the work yourself rather than looking for somebody else to do it. Even if you're just working at one portion of a multifaceted problem, that's better than doing nothing. There should be contexts in your life in which you're breaking important new ground or doing significant work to popularize things that are in desperate need of popularizing. Take the time, money, imagination, and other resources that people typically waste on the American Dream or some equivalent and use them to pursue a Christian dream instead. Read Ephesians 3, with its references to "the unfathomable riches of Christ" (verse 8) and how God does "far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (verse 20). Then consider the implications of what Ephesians 4:1 says about walking in a manner worthy of your calling.

The last three recommendations above address the past (reading the church fathers or other sources of past generations), present (keeping a record of God's providence in your life), and future (setting objectives). And there's some overlap among them. They also cover a large variety of groups and contexts (people in the past, what's happening in your life, future generations). If you do things like what I've recommended above, you'll be covering a lot of ground. It expands your view of and appreciation of life. It gives you additional motivation to persevere, for the benefit of other people. The next recommendation I'll make here is one that connects these things. Don't limit your prayers to what people typically recommend. Pray for past generations. Pray for future generations. Pray about apologetic issues. Set aside time to pray for particular individuals, groups, issues, and situations beyond what you're typically told to pray for. There are Biblical parameters that our prayers need to stay within. But people often retain an immature view of prayer that they received early in their Christian life, without developing it much over time, and that's one of the reasons why they don't mature much as Christians.

And you need to grow intellectually. Here's a post I wrote about the subject earlier this year, which discusses the importance of apologetics and addresses a lot of misconceptions and objections related to the role of the mind in the Christian life.

5 comments:

  1. I began keeping a record of God's providence in my life, a practice I heard Gary Habermas recommend. The record I keep includes answered prayers, coincidence miracles, and other events that seem to be paranormal. I don't keep a record of everything, but I try to at least write down many examples of what I experience in these contexts.

    This is just phenomenal, if you pay attention to it.

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    1. Yes. A point Habermas made when I heard him discussing the subject was that people often forget more than they think they do in these contexts. The more significant events will tend to be remembered, but the lesser ones are often forgotten. And we even forget some of the details involved in the more important events. There's a lot of value in keeping a record and reviewing it from time to time. It's also something that can be passed on to future generations if appropriate. They're dependent on the records we keep. They don't have our memories.

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  2. Jason, thanks for that post; your recommendations are excellent. I am not familiar with the idea of praying for past generations, for people long since dead. Is this a kind of retroactive prayer, and is part of the idea to change the past and thus the present and future? Thank you.

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    1. Praying about the past can take a lot of forms. We thank God for something that's occurred in the past or a person who lived in the past, we ask that the work somebody did will have a particular effect, etc. There are many past events we're ignorant of (e.g., what thoughts a person had in the closing moments of his life), so that we can ask God that one event happened rather than another. The past doesn't change at the time when the prayer occurs, but that future prayer was taken into account before the event in question happened (e.g., Isaiah 65:24). We often refer to prayer being answered in that manner. The first of two individuals needed to be in the right place at the right time to become a means of answering the prayer of a second person, and the first person was in the right place at the right time by what seems like a providential means prior to the time when the prayer was offered. Or a prayer for the funding of something is answered later that day by some money that arrives in the mail, though the money was sent before the prayer was said. We have many posts in our archives discussing this subject, and it's been widely discussed elsewhere.

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