If you have ever done much evangelism, one thing that you quickly realize is that you can't just flip a switch to make someone believe. I've looked at several different evangelism methods and as great as many of them are, none of them can make someone believe the Gospel. Some are better than others but still the conclusion we come to is "salvation is of the Lord." If it wasn't for the Lord opening our eyes we would have no chance of seeing His glorious kingdom.
All evangelicals subscribe to that doctrine but after salvation sometimes that idea can be lost. Without Him we really can't do anything of eternal value. Yet the Bible and any decent preacher will tell you there are things you should be doing. So, which is it? Is it true there is nothing we can do to bring a full revelation of God to our lives? Or are there lots of things we can do? The answer to both questions is "yes." There is a sense in that we can't just flip a switch and have an deep understanding of God's truth. Then there is a sense that there are things we can and should be doing. How could we possibly reconcile that?
Going back to the evangelism example we remember that we can't just say certain phrases or give someone a list of things to do so that they believe. This is true for the unbeliever but is it also true for the believer? Let's think about it. Have you ever dealt with something such as worry? You know what the Bible says about it but you still struggle. You know that what you really need is a deep revelation but it just doesn't seem to come. What can you do? You have read books, listened to sermons, and haven't found the "magic switch" to make it go away. Can you do anything? Yes. Is it only something God can do? Yes.
I was thinking about this and the following thought came to mind: Labor to bring to God the materials needed for Him to build your house of faith. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. We didn't begin it in our own strength and we can't live it nor finish it that way either. Make it easy for God to reveal Himself to you. We would do this with the unconverted, right? You might share with them the truth, give them books or tracts to read, or bring them to church. And you do all this knowing none of those things in themselves are the key but you want to surround them with the truth. This is what we have to do with ourselves too. Yes, it's true we must simply believe but God first must reveal himself. The biblical pattern seems to be God reveals Himself and then we respond in faith. That's not something we can control by saying a few things or following a to-do list.
An example of this is how justification works. Justification can more or less be equated with forgiveness of sins. We can't forgive our own sins and then be right before God nor can we do some good deeds that erase our past sins. Only God can justify as only He has the authority and position to do that. Yet according to the Bible we must believe in Jesus Christ for that to happen. There is something that only God can do yet there is something we must do. We can put ourselves in a position that is conducive with what can only be God's work.
Let's stay with this house/ building materials analogy. Imagine you needed a house build but didn't have the skill or understanding to do it. You would do everything you could to make sure the builder had all the needed materials and most efficient tools, right? So, what are the tools we know God has historically used to reveal himself and help believers grow into maturity? I don't have anything new here but each one of these are basic things that every Christian should be involved in and especially when we are aware that we need a deeper revelation of God in a particular area.
The Bible. When I mention the Bible I'm not referring to merely reading it. Studying it and thinking through passages are the power tools used to build. Just reading through it might be likened to using a hammer while study and meditation is more like a nail gun. You can build a house using a hammer but it's going to be much faster with a nail gun. However, I'm not going to tell you if you look at and study a certain passage that a light bulb will automatically turn on. What I will say is that it's one of the most efficient tools God uses to reveal himself. Again, make it easy for God to reveal himself. You're the building God is working on. If you want it efficiently and quickly built, have your mind and time filled with the word of God. And as the proverb says, with all your getting get understanding. Seek to know deeply and understand the scriptures.
Prayer. You can give several definitions of prayer but the most basic idea is communication with God. Prayer is where you can get direction from the Lord and commune with Him. In every building project, there will be someone who is directing it. Everyone involved in the construction site should have at least some communication with the one in charge. God doesn't merely want you to leave sticky notes on his desk when you happen to think of something. He wants to have a face to face meeting with you. This takes time but it's what pleases him. Should I say it again? Create an environment where God can easily reveal himself to you. This might mean you have to remove certain things in your life to make time for prayer. It is well worth the sacrifice. Do what the director wants and the house will be build quickly.
Fellowship. Rarely do you see a building built with only one person. If you want it built in any timely manner, it's going to take several people. What you would want is a group of people who have experience in building. It's the same thing spiritually. If you want to grow, you put yourself around a community that has experience with God and His truth. When you spend time with others who are devoted to something you are going to gain wisdom and insight from them. The Spirit puts us in the body. He doesn't just put us on a deserted island with all the necessary tools to live. He puts us in Christ's body, a place where the life of Christ is manifest and flows freely. God has made it so that we do this together. Make a practice of fellowshipping with other Christians and especially seek to learn from those who are mature in the faith.
These things aren't some magic key that if your conscience doesn't condemn you in how to integrate them into your life ,then you will know God in a real, deep way. This is the part where in a sense we are helpless. Only God can reveal Himself to us and truly correct our lack of understanding. But let me tell you something: He delights in revealing himself to us. "What is man that you are mindful of him?" asks the Bible. Well, I have wondered that before but it still stands that God is mindful of us. He does care for us and delights in saving sinners and seeing us brought to a full, mature faith. We can rest assured that if we do the things He asks, He will do what He can. Who is going to stop the God of all creation from fulfilling his promises? No one. And most definitely not when you have fulfilled the requirements He has set in place for you to receive them.
As I wrote this post, the first verse of the old hymn Take Time to be Holy came to mind. I'll end with quoting it below.
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
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