by Jim Allen
As one who turned his life over to Jesus Christ over 66 years ago, I still find myself asking about my own personal discipleship.
”How far have I come?”
“How mature am I, really?”
Hebrews 5:11-14 has long been the “carrot” that God has held before me in response to those questions:
“…For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
According to this, a mature person is one who has spent enough time in God’s word to be able to discern between good and evil...truth and error.
Well, just like I wished back when I was in school, I wish I could put the Bible under my pillow at night and have it enter my mind by osmosis – but try as I may, it just doesn’t work that way.
Psalm 119:9,11 bring this into a proper perspective:
“How can a young man keep His way pure? By keeping it according to Your word… Your word have I treasured in my heart that I may not sin against you.”
Maturity in the Christian life is directly related to the infusion/inclusion of God’s Word into my life.
Many writers today speak of a “growing Biblical illiteracy” that is creeping into our churches. The answers to that "problem" are about as plentiful as the number of those who write about it, but one principle does tie them all together: a true disciple follows and desires to be like his teacher… and a genuine follower of Jesus Christ wants to obey, imitate and reflect Him to others.
II Timothy 3:16,17 brings all of this into clear focus:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (Emphasis: mine.)
The real challenge from this truth is that all “would-be” disciples need to be steeped in the word and that all “would-be” disciple-makers need to keep the Word as a central focus in their relationships with those they wish to influence for God.
BACK WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL
The greatest illustration of this in my own life began while I was in high school. Orville, a man I knew well, approached my best friend and me with an invitation and a challenge. He asked if we would be willing to meet with him and his friend weekly to memorize Scripture. Orville “took on” my friend, Kyle, and assigned his friend, George, to meet with me.
Orville had compiled a list of Scriptures under various topics – God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Sin, Salvation, Sanctification, etc – and challenged us to learn 10 new verses every week. The only rule was that you had to say all the “old” verses before you could say the “new” ones. We learned Scripture from both Old and New Testaments over the following two years, really having no idea as to the impact it would make on our lives years later.
When I was in my late 30s, I most vividly felt the impact of these years of Scripture memory.
I had parked my new car in front of a friend’s home where we were visiting. Looking out the window I saw a young boy riding his bike, not really paying attention to where he was going and he rode right into my new car. I jumped up and ran out the door thinking about all kinds of things I wanted to say to this careless youngster when, suddenly, into my mind popped...
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as it good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
I had not thought of that verse in some time but it certainly changed my response when I got to the boy who was slowly getting up from the street. My concern became more for his welfare than for the cosmetic welfare of my car.
That experience, plus the countless times God brings specific verses from His Word to my mind when I am teaching, preaching or just talking with a friend, has convinced me of the importance of God’s word being implanted into one’s mind, even when one’s life is not necessarily reflecting all that much maturity or godliness.
I learned years later that the friend Orville had invited my friend me me to join, was an alcoholic whom Orville was seeking to help grow as a fairly new believer. That in and of itself has been a valuable, constant reminder that God used His word through a man who was very much struggling in his own faith and with his own self-control. I don’t know what ultimately happened to George, but as long as I knew him, he was in church, was in the word of God and was spending time with Orville.
Then, seven years later, God gave me an added bonus by allowing me the privilege of ministering to Orville’s son, Gary, when I returned to the same church as youth pastor. Gary, who at that time had a serious stuttering problem, later became a very effective pastor and student of God’s word. Orville's investment in me had come full circle, and I had the joy of experiencing the pleasure of pouring God's word into this young man.
SEEING & SHARING THE BIGGER PICTURE
Besides committing portions of God’s word to memory, there is also great merit in just simply reading through the entire Bible. This has helped me, more than anything else, in grasping “the big picture” and seeing how things fit together.
We don’t just read bits and pieces of other books, so why not take a close look at the whole of God’s word?
My personal goal is to read through the Bible every third year, while doing another study on the other two years. My wife reads through it every year and I am amazed, and thrilled, at the things that she is learning and sharing with me. Even if you can’t read the four chapters per day (required to get through it in one year), why not take the challenge to get all the way through it in two or three years? I really do think you'll be amazed at the connections you make in God's big story.
Another great opportunity for disciple-making is to read His word with your children. A children’s story Bible can help or just reading Bible stories from the word and encouraging them to repeat the story to you. Children love stories, so, as one of my college professors said: “When it comes to teaching children, start sooner.” Also children can memorize verses, and even chapters, of the Bible. Encourage them…and model for them.
With God, all things are possible, but when Scripture is part of my life and thinking, there is so much daily influence that helps me.
“…take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” II Corinthians 10:5
As a disciple, and as one who wants to be a disciple-maker, I cannot avoid the importance of God’s word. It must be the final authority of truth and that, which guides my personal life. To fail to put it at the center of my thought process will leave me making decisions based on my personal preferences and/or public opinion.
“…but as for me and my house, we will serve (bow down to; give priority to; obey; respect) the Lord.” Joshua 24:15c
And for that, I need His Spirit to empower His word to guide my Life, and to give me the material to share with you so that we both may ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” II Peter 3:18