Summary: We don’t always know how to go about conforming to Christ or being spiritually formed. Here are some action steps to implement along the path to healthy spiritual formation.
In my last post, I discussed what Jesus does in our salvation. But there’s not a lot of teaching on how to begin spiritual formation in your life. Pastors give you three steps when you come to Christ. They tell you to pray, read your Bible, and come to church.
But those are just the beginning. There’s so much more to following Jesus. Most people don’t know how to pray when they start following Jesus. They don’t know where to start in their Bible reading, how much to read, and how long to read.
Even more difficult is finding a “good” church to attend. These three quick action steps are helpful in one way, but not another. I will elaborate in this post action steps that go along these lines. And in the next couple of posts, I will give you more detail on these and other action steps to build your spiritual formation. Let’s get started.
Devote Time to Bible Reading and Prayer
A thoughtful and active approach to spiritual formation, to growing in Christ and being conformed to Him, requires time. We don’t grow in an instant. A child grows taller over many years. And spiritual, relational, intellectual, mental, and psychological growth takes a lifetime.
Just like setting goals and achieving them through daily, weekly, and monthly tasks takes time each day, we must devote ourselves to spiritual formation each day. You can’t do everything all at once.
The most common daily tasks that promise spiritual formation over the long haul start with little time each day. The exact time you spend should start small and grow with more experience and greater enthusiasm.
Bible reading and prayer are two spiritual disciplines you should do every day. Spiritual disciplines are actions you do to grow closer to Christ. We call them disciplines because they require routine and dedication. They don’t give you immediate results, but work over time into maturity in Christ.
As you read your Bible, a new believer should start in John, James, or Ephesians. Why start in the New Testament? It will help you get a good foundation in Christ. Just because the Bible starts in Genesis doesn’t mean you have to. There will be time for that later.
Read one to three chapters each weekday. I find reading not more than one chapter in Proverbs on Saturdays and one to three psalms on Sundays keeps me balanced. You get weekly wisdom on Saturdays and prayer and worship starters in the Psalms on Sundays.
Prayer is the most important thing you will do every day. You can concentrate anywhere from 10 minutes for beginners to 30 minutes or an hour as you learn how to pray. But you don’t have to stop praying. Paul tells us in several places to pray continually, and to remain in an attitude of prayer throughout our day. I will cover prayer and Bible reading in greater detail in later posts.
Be Contemplative with Bible Study
Another spiritual discipline is to go deeper than your daily Bible reading. The more you read the Bible, you will have questions. The best way to answer these questions is to study your Bible in depth.
In a later post, I will talk more about Bible study. Bible reading and study is part of your intake of God’s Word. There are many ways to study your Bible. More important than your method of Bible study is contemplating what you discover.
Every Christian should have at least basic Bible study tools and resources. I will discuss these in a later post. Don’t just gather information to remember. The Bible covers many years and cultures. God spoke to people in the past as He wants to speak to you today through His Word. That’s why we call the Bible God’s Word.
To hear the Lord in your Bible intake, you must contemplate what you’ve read. Don’t just read it. Think about it. What’s different from that time to today? What’s the principle of your passage? How does it apply to your life? What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you? How can you apply what you’ve read?
These questions help you take what you’ve read and use it in your life to glorify Jesus. Bible study will help you answer these questions even better than Bible reading. The more you study the Bible, the more you will apply your Bible reading to your life.
Listen in Stillness and Silence, Then Obey
Reading and studying your Bible is not enough. As you read your Bible, you must listen to what the Holy Spirit wants you to glean from what you read.
God wants to speak to you through what you read. He wants to speak to you in your prayer time. Think of Bible reading and prayer as a conversation. When you speak to the Lord in your prayers, listen to what He has to say. Don’t be the only one talking.
As you read your Bible, take in what you read. Listen for the Spirit to point out things you can apply to your life. You can’t take action on what you read if you don’t pay close attention to your passage and the Holy Spirit.
Once you understand what you have read, you need to apply it to your life. You need to obey the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you through your Bible and prayer. Some people listen to worship music when they read their Bible and pray.
But you should also have times of stillness and silence. These allow you to hear God’s voice clearly. Sometimes taking certain postures in prayer and Bible reading help you be receptive to the Holy Spirit’s voice. Kneeling or sitting in silence are two examples of postures. We will discuss these more in later posts.
When you hear from the Lord, you must respond in obedience. When you read about a Bible character, see a command in the Scriptures, or hear from God in prayer, obey His Word. Put it into action. And you will not go wrong.
Find a Mentor
Pastors counsel you to find a Bible believing church and attend. But don’t just attend. Get involved. One of the first things you should do is find a mentor in the faith. I will describe how in the later post on how to find a mentor.
Your mentor in the faith should be a more mature Christian who can help you with questions, quandaries, hold you up in prayer, and minister to some of your needs. This person will not be your one-stop shop for godly advice.
No one Christian can do everything for another. But we can all build one another up and hold one another accountable. This spiritual mentor will hold you accountable the more you open yourself up to him or her.
Briefly, your mentor should be of the same gender. He or she should be more mature in Christ than you. Your mentor should be a good listener. This person should have your best at heart and love you in the Lord.
Listen to the Wisdom of Others
Along with the guidelines for your mentor, listen to godly men and women who have the gift of wisdom. They will help guide you as you grow in Christ. They can help you with everything from doctrine to practice.
These are people who have been through life’s situations. They understand the battles you face, the problems you have in relationships, and the trials and temptations ahead. God has given them the skill to minister their wisdom to the body of Christ. And you should take full advantage of it.
Find a Place to Volunteer for Jesus
One more place to get started in practicing your faith in Christ and growing in Him is to volunteer. It’s important to grow in your understanding of the Bible, your faith, and your knowledge of God. But it’s another to put it into practice.
You cannot follow the commands you find in the Scriptures if you are not involved in people’s lives. Volunteering in your church and in parachurch organizations gives you a way to live out your faith and minister to others.
You should minister to the Christians in your local church. But you can also minister to those who do not yet know Christ, to strangers, and to those who need the ministry of Jesus. Find places in ministries in your church and local community to reach out to others.
There are many other practices we will talk about as we expand on spiritual formation. Within the next two weeks, implement three practical steps you’ve just read about. Pick ones you have not already been doing.
Now that we have discussed practical action steps you can put in place to be more productive and thoughtful about your walk with Jesus, look for the next spiritual formation post on why the next step after salvation, water baptism, is essential to growing in Jesus.