Cultivating a “God-Centered” Heart
A Plan for Spiritual Growth
“When life cuts us, we want to bleed God’s Word.” J.D. Greear
When Christians talk about their faith, one of the terms we often use to describe the experience is “getting saved.” Using that language, we might think about a person stranded in the middle of the ocean… strength is failing… barely able to keep his head above water. When suddenly, a boat appears on the horizon. Hope comes. He begins swimming toward rescue. He reaches out for salvation.
This is NOT a biblical picture.
According to the Bible, we were “dead in our trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)
The better illustration is a funeral parlor. Body laid out in a casket. Absolutely no hope. Jesus walks up to the lifeless corpse, leans over and says, “Get up!” And, the person in the casket opens his eyes and steps out of death into life.
THAT’S THE POINT! “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Where does this faith come from? “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Salvation is the impossible work of God, given freely by Jesus on our behalf, so that we might become something entirely new. Jesus changes us… and Jesus continues to change us. This is what He does.
So, if you are a follower of Jesus, is He still working on you?
The obvious answer is, “YES!” But He has a plan for your salvation and spiritual growth. He has invited you to relationship with Him through His Word and the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Our “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
This means our salvation and growth are dependent on the Bible. We must be hearing the Word and living accordingly.
A PLAN FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
So, how do we begin? If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, the place to begin is belief and confession of faith. For more information on this, click here.
If you are a Christ-follower, then my suggestion is that you make a commitment to DAILY time with God. We often call this a devotional or Quiet Time.
We would like to encourage you to take 45 minutes every day and commit that time to God.
Yes, this is a bold commitment. In our busy lives, it’s easy to believe we don’t have this kind of time to give. But think about your day. Where is the priority of your time given? I might suggest there is no greater priority than the time you devote to God each day.
Here’s a suggestion for a daily commitment to God through a personal Quiet Time:
15 Minutes—Begin with 15 minutes reading the Bible. “Where?” you might ask. Well, that can be as personal as you desire. Some have chosen to read through the Bible from beginning to end. Others start in the New Testament. You could find any number of Bible reading plans on the internet. You could focus attention on a specific book of the Bible. (My current preaching series is in the book of Hebrews. I encourage every member to give extra attention to that great book in the coming weeks.)
The key here is that you commit to reading in the Bible in some kind of consistent and intentional way.
15 Minutes—Take the middle portion of your time with God to pray. Ask God to give you understanding of His Word. Pray words of adoration and praise to God. Pray specifically and intentionally about the things you are struggling with and the sin you have committed. Pray for family and friends. Pray for the church and God’s Kingdom. Make a list. Makes notes about how God answers prayers.
You think it might be hard to pray for 15 minutes, but the more you pray, the hard part will be keeping it to just 15 minutes.
15 Minutes—Read other good devotional books from trusted Christian authors. When we became Christians, God put us in a community. He has gifted some Christians with a natural talent to explain His Word and to encourage others through their writing. You will be blessed, when you see the wisdom God has given to others who then pass on their thoughts to us.
Never forget that nothing replaces the Bible in importance for our attentive reading. But many Christians have found enormous encouragement in their walk with Christ through Christian books.
Here is a list of some of the most trusted Christian authors I have been reading. You may find books by these men and women to be very encouraging:
Kay Arthur David Jeremiah Francis Schaffer
Randy Alcorn Tim Keller Lee Strobel
Mark Batterson C.S. Lewis Chuck Swindoll
Gary Chapman Max Lucado Sarah Young
Francis Chan John MacArthur Ravi Zacharias
Matt Chandler John Maxwell
James Dobson Beth Moore
Billy Graham John Piper
Kyle Idleman David Platt
Chip Ingram Thom Rainer
This is obviously an incomplete list. There are some authors I have intentionally left off. (Beware of “popular” authors who dilute the Word of God or focus on encouragement that is not biblical. If you have a question about a particular author, I would be happy to discuss what I know in a private conversation.)
I have a copy from just about every one of the listed authors and those who live nearby are welcome to borrow my books. Just ask!
A FINAL ENCOURAGEMENT
“45 minutes! You’ve got to be kidding! I just don’t have that kind of time!”
My first response (and maybe not very helpful) is: “We make time for what’s important.”
That being said, I know how busy my own life can be and getting that kind of time is still difficult. (And I get paid to spend time reading and studying!) So, if you can’t commit 45 minutes… How about 30? (10/10/10)
How about 20?
I promise you… the time is there for you to get a start somewhere.
And I promise this, as well, “… My word that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
You WILL grow spiritually, if you take time to stay in God’s Word and pray. That’s God’s promise, not mine.