Tim Chester continues our discussion on growing in holiness:
7 Elements of a Reinforced Faith
These are ways in which God is gracious to us and by which he strengthens his work of grace in our hearts. They are the means God uses to feed our faith in him. This is what sowing to the Spirit looks like in practice.
1. The Bible — The Word of God is perhaps God’s primary means of changing us. “Sanctify them in the truth,” prays Jesus, adding, “your word is truth” (John 17:17). It’s the water by which we’re washed, the weapon with which we fight, the tool kit with which we’re equipped, and the milk by which we grow (see Ephesians 5:26; 6:17; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 1 Peter 2:2).
2. Prayer — We often complain that we lack time to pray. But everyone has twenty-four hours each day. People who pray more don’t have twenty-five-hour days. Our problem is that we decide other things are more important. But when we realize that God is the great change agent in our lives, prayer will inevitably move up the priority list. For some this will require “planned neglect” — deciding to neglect other activities.
3. Community — One of the reasons God has put us in Christian communities is to help us change. The church is to be a community of change. Here are some ways in which the church is a means of grace:
- We remind one another of the truth.
- We are taught the Bible by people whom God has gifted for this purpose.
- We pray together for God’s help.
- We model Christian change and holiness for one another.
- We see God at work in the lives of others.
- We remind one another of God’s greatness and goodness as we worship him together.
- We are given opportunities for service.
- We provide accountability for one another.
4. Worship — When we worship God, we’re reminding ourselves that God is bigger and better than anything sin offers. Worship isn’t just an affirmation that God is good. It’s an affirmation that God is better. In worship we don’t just call on one another to worship God. We also call one another away from the worship of other gods. We remind our hearts of God’s goodness, majesty, love, grace, holiness, and power. This isn’t just an intellectual recall. God has given us music to touch our emotions. We sing the truth so that it moves, inspires, stirs, encourages, and so transforms us.
5. Service — We often think of service as the fruit or sign of change. But it’s also a means of grace that God uses to change us. Sin is fundamentally an orientation toward self. Many of us suffer from self-absorption. We’re preoccupied with our problems and successes. We bring every conversation around to our favorite subject: me. Or we develop habits of self-centeredness in which we live for our own comfort and security. Serving God and other people can help redirect us outward, taking our attention away from ourselves. It’s a great prescription for people suffering from negative emotions.
6. Suffering — Suffering always presents us with a choice. We can get frustrated, angry, bitter, or despondent as our desire for control, success, love, or health gets threatened. Or we can take hold of God in a new way, finding our joy in him and comfort in his promises.
7. Hope — John Calvin commends what he calls “meditation on the future life.” We need to dream of the new creation. We need to remind one another of the “eternal . . . glory” that awaits us and that far outweighs our “light momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18; Romans 8:17–18). It means recalling that we’re pilgrims in this world, passing through on the way to “a better country” (Hebrews 11:13–16; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11).
Read part 1 of this two-part series on growing in holiness.
Adapted from You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions, by Tim Chester
Tim Chester (PhD, University of Wales) is pastor of the Crowded House in Sheffield, United Kingdom, and director of the Porterbrook Seminary, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. Chester coauthored Total Church and Everyday Church (Re:Lit), and has written more than a dozen books, including A Meal with Jesus.