“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
What glorious and precious truths are contained in those two sentences! As I chatted to some visitors after a morning service recently, I heard about how they were saved through a pastor coming to their house to perform an exorcism. Yes, you read that correctly: an exorcism.
They had the idea that there was an evil spirit in their home at the time and so they called a pastor to come and deal with it. One thing led to another and they were confronted with the gospel and saved into a Charismatic church.
But then they began to read the Scriptures and very soon they realised that they needed a church where they could grow and came into contact with Reformed theology.
A few years ago, I worked with an Eritrean man who had come to South Africa to study dentistry and was saved while studying here. During his studies, there was a coup in Eritrea and Christians quickly got a target on their foreheads. (Eritrea is actually the most dangerous place to be a Christian after North Korea! Did you know that?)
Instead of returning home, he and his wife remained in South Africa as refugees. I remember having very interesting conversations with him, because at the time he was attending a Pentecostal church and, as he was reading his Bible, he was seeing all sorts of inconsistencies in the way his church did worship and the pattern in Scripture. He was concerned by the man-centredness of the church. Furthermore, he was digging into Romans and beginning to have his mind blown, as Romans is apt to do.
Many of you, in fact were saved into nominal, shallow, or downright heretical churches, but here you are today.
The point is this: Growth starts to happen when believers read the Scripture. In fact, this is exactly what the Holy Spirit used to give the Protestant Reformation traction five hundred years ago. Up until Luther, the Scriptures were available exclusively in Latin, and were therefore only accessible to the clergy. But as Martin Luther began to read the Bible himself, he realised just how far the church had strayed. He got to work translating the Bible from Latin to German and, once that happened, the truth spread like wildfire!
Living entities grow. In fact, growth is one of the scientific requisites for something to be defined as “living.”
The passage I quoted above from Romans 8 speaks to the inevitability or certainty of Christian maturity and growth. Those whom Christ saves will grow. Some grow fast, while others grow slowly. Some yield a hundred-fold while, in the case of others, you’d need to observe them for ten years or more before you see any significant growth. But all those who have been born again grow.
One of the fundamental ways in which Christians grow, as I’ve noted through observation, is as they read and study the Scriptures. Do you want to grow? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)? Come further up and further in by reading and loving the Scriptures.
Here are some practical suggestions for doing this.
First, read the passage to be preached before the service. Do this multiple days in a row if you can, and write down any questions that arise. These questions will either be dealt with by the preacher, or you could raise them during the discussion at Grace Group. If you are unsure about the passage, check the order of service or the weekly roundup. You could also message the preacher, or else just read the chapter you anticipate being preached, as well as the preceding and following chapters.
Second, set aside time every day to working through Scripture systematically. Commit to this. Select a realistic goal, whether it be time-based (“I am going to read the Bible for ten minutes each day and pick up the following day where I left off”) or volume-based (“I want to read two chapters every day”). Commit to this and don’t let a day go by without doing it. Do you willingly go through a day without eating any food? Probably not, so don’t willingly starve yourself of the bread of heaven (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Third, consider listening to Scripture, instead of a podcast, while you exercise, drive, or clean up. As you do so, consider listening to the same passage or book of the Bible repeatedly to become really familiar with it.
Fourth, ask questions of the elders and other church members when you don’t understand something. But before doing so, meditate on it carefully to see if the Lord reveals anything to you. This will make any answers you get from fellow believers more meaningful and memorable.
Fifth, try to see how you can pray the Scriptures back to God. Is there a command you’ve read that you need to obey? Ask God to help you. Is there an attribute of God you can praise him for? Use it to fuel your worship. Is there something from old covenant Israel that Christ has fulfilled? Praise him for it.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15, and Peter in 1 Peter 2:2, to “grow up” into Christ and salvation, and we cannot do that without the Scriptures. May the Lord bless you as you seek to plumb the depths of Scripture to the glory of God!