Going Deeper – The New Year

We’ve had a break in our Going Deeper study and as we re-gather for the remaining weeks we want to refresh… remind… all of us why we come to this place.

The five steps of faith we have studied and are going deeper into — Believe, Pray, Trust, Obey, Love — when practiced, increase our intimacy with God through Jesus Christ. This is the whole point of the exercise of faith: Growing a relationship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus, by way of the Holy Spirit.

“…And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. …” —Jesus

John 17:3 ESV

In the introduction to Sister Talk: The Journey we talked about the word testament, as in Old Testament and New Testament. Our English word testament is translated from the Greek and signifies covenant.

The Meaning of Covenant: The essence of covenant is to be found in a particular kind of relationship between persons. Mutual obligations characterize that kind of relationship. Thus a covenant relationship is not merely a mutual acquaintance but a commitment to responsibility and action. A key word in Scripture to describe that commitment is “faithfulness,” acted out in a context of abiding friendship.[1]

—Tyndale Bible Dictionary

The whole Bible, both Old Testament and New, are centered on our covenant relationship with our Creator, our Heavenly Father. This is the heart of faith. A committed relationship with God.

Let’s look forward to the rest of going deeper with this question:

Are you closer to God now than a year ago? have you gone deeper in your relationship with Him?

What would it look like for you to renew your covenant with God to grow spiritually this year?

When practiced regularly, these steps of faith — Believe, Pray, Trust, Obey, Love — may lead us to a place of experiencing God in the same way an eighteenth century British Methodist minister described:

“Almost every week, and sometimes almost every day, the pressure of his great love comes down on my heart in such a measure as to make… my whole being, soul and body, groan beneath the strain of the almost unsupportable plethora of joy. And yet amid this fullness there is a hunger for more… He has unlocked every apartment of my being and filled and flooded them all with the light of his radiant presence… The spot before untouched has been reached, and all its flintiness has melted in the presence of… Jesus, the One altogether lovely.”

—Daniel Steele, quoted by Timothy Keller in Hidden Christmas

Have you experienced anything like what he described?

Do you hunger for more of Jesus?

Charles Spurgeon went so far as to write:

If you do not long to know Christ more than you do not yet know Him at all.

Do you agree or disagree with his statement?

Faith in Christ is received and practiced in the ordinariness of life.

The Christian life begins not with high deeds and achievements but with the most simple and ordinary act of humble asking. Then the life and joy grow in us over the years through commonplace, almost boring practices. Daily obedience, reading and prayer, worship attendance, serving our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as our neighbors, depending on Jesus during times of suffering. And bit by bit our faith will grow, and the foundation of our lives will come closer to that deep river of joy.

—Timothy Keller, Hidden Christmas

Carol says:

I read Hidden Christmas during this past Christmas season. It is one of the best books I’ve read when it comes to summing up the gospel and the significance of the incarnation of Jesus. 

This is a read I’d recommend now, even though we’re past Advent. Often during the holiday season we’re too busy to take time to read and study the Nativity story. We’ve certainly had a superficial read of it, but most likely not an in-depth study of what His coming into the world as a Babe means. While Christmas is still fresh in your hearts I’d ask you to consider this book.

Christmas literally means Christ’s mass. Christ=Anointed One/Messiah and mass=Communion/Eucharist. Christmas is about communing with the Anointed One. Emmanuel, God with us. It is what faith is all about and should be an everyday event.

The quote we’ve shared with you is on the last page of the book. It captured my attention because Keller shares all the steps of faith we’ve been studying. And Yes they may seem every day and ordinary, something we can put off till we have more time. But they are the foundation of faith. Ordinary people following an Extraordinary God each and every moment of every day.

Stacy says:

As I complete another year I realize I have developed a habit of considering what focus my spiritual growth will take in the new year. Is God calling me to a new commitment? Or “resolution”? Last year I determined to do something I have never accomplished. In fact, I failed at it many times. I can’t tell you how many times I resolved to read the entire Bible… every word. I would begin… get overwhelmed… and never finish. In 2016, I did it. I read or listened to every word of Scripture and when I finished early December I had one thought. Something that Carol shared with me some time ago.

God called Moses to lead the people out of slavery and He promised Moses a sign:

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” —Exodus 3:12

This past year I set out to read the entire Bible, something I never accomplished. I tried, believe me I tried, but in my own strength or determination, or will power… I failed. Finishing was His sign to me He was in every word I read… even if there were times I questioned my commitment. Times I wondered if I could finish or if it was even worth it.

2016 was the year God sent me to read His word through and through. He is always faithful… faithful to complete His work in me… in you.

Have you considered where you are going this year? Did you make a resolution or commitment?

What about a resolution with a spiritual focus?

We introduced the One Word spiritual discipline on Sister Talk: Faith at the end of the year. It is a discipline we’ve practiced for several years, and the suggested spiritual discipline for the next five days of daily study. We have both asked God to reveal a word for the coming year to focus our spiritual growth on.

Have you considered this spiritual discipline or practiced it before?

Take time (15-30 minutes) right now, to pray. Ask God for a word or for a new practice of faith for the New Year.

When you receive a word or a spiritual discipline for the year, consider sharing it here with with us. We’d love to know what God is calling you to in 2017!

Faith is entering into relationship with God and trust is essential to any relationship. Our next step of faith we are delving deeper into is: Trust.

Father God, open our hearts to what you want to work into our spirit and lives. 

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Tyndale reference library; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 323.

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