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December 23, 2015

Study

Just to recap, I've been commenting this month on the book The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard.I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to practice spiritual disciplines. Willard is now moving from disciplines of abstinence to a discussion on the "disciplines of engagement." As we engage in disciplines of abstinence, we must counterbalance  and supplement them with disciplines of engagement. Willard says "Abstinence and engagement are the out-breathing and in-breathing of our spiritual lives, and we require disciplines for both movements." He says "Abstinence makes way for engagement." This makes perfect sense because growing in Christ is about denial of self in order to be filled with Christ. If we take time to empty our hearts and minds through solitude silence and fasting, then we must fill ourselves with study, worship, and prayer.

The study of God's Word is critical to the life of a believer. Its not possible to survive spiritually through occasional devotional reading of the Word and Sunday sermons. I believe many Christians think it is possible because they're following the crowd, not Christ. Today is no different that in Jesus day. We still have crowds of people following along because they want something, or feel its the right thing to do, or its their religious duty. Whatever the reason, they compare their lives to others, their influenced by circumstances, and they experience little growth in Christ. To grow we need the Word, we need to study the Word, meditate on it, and digest it for spiritual nourishment. You don't have to be a Bible scholar or have a degree. All that's required is an open, teachable spirit and a commitment to spend time with the Word. Willard says a "relationship with God, as with any person, soon requires a contribution from us."

I like to put Bible study in the frame of Matthew 7:7 where Jesus tells us to ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be open to you. God's Word is the same way. Its full of promises and truth sitting on the ground just waiting to be picked up or received simply by asking. The Word goes deeper though and one has to dig for it, spend some time seeking after truth. God promises that when we study and seek him in His Word, he will be found. Then there are times when we need to be persistent, knocking, knocking, knocking. We need to wrestle with the Word, overcome our hindrances to learning, and remove any roadblocks to relationship with Christ. Only then will the door to some truths be opened.

I will also add that this discipline needs to be a regular part of our lives personally and corporately. We need time to study alone with God, and we need to be in a community of disciples who desire to dig into the Word. Willard says "We should also make every effort to sit regularly under the ministry of gifted teachers who can lead us deeper into the Word and make us increasingly capable of fruitful study on our own." This spiritual discipline of engaging in study of the Word is one we cannot ignore if we desire to truly follow Christ.