- It is never commanded
- Christians need to be taught the Bible
And #3: The Christian life is never meant to be mainly “personal”
This could get “personal” for some of you. But I hope it is biblical. Before anything else let me be clear: the only way anyone becomes a Christian is by personally responding to the gospel with repentance and faith. Our relationship with God is a personal relationship through Christ. No doubt.
But then what does the Christian life look like after entering into a personal relationship? Consider the following:
Acts 2.42, after 3000 personally responded to the gospel: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Acts 4.32: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
Acts 20.20, 31: “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house...remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.”
Romans 15.14: “you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”
Ephesians 4.15-16: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Hopefully that gives you a taste of the corporate nature of the Christian life. And I would challenge anyone to find the kind of emphasis on personal Christian walk in the Bible that would all of a sudden make personal devotions such a trademark of spirituality. Some implications:
- We have all probably been too quick to make personal, individualistic applications of passages, rather than corporate, local church applications. It does not need to be either/or, but I suspect for many it has only been the former instead of the latter.
- Personal quiet time is not more spiritual than family quiet time or married couple quiet time or church quiet time
- There is no better way to be of one heart and one soul with your church than to regularly read the bible and pray together.
- If anything, there is much more emphasis on the corporate nature of the Christian life than the individual nature in the Bible. Therefore, there may be greater humility and accuracy in seeking to grow as a member of your church rather than just abstractly as a Christian. In other words, “Jesus loves me” probably should be replaced more often than not with “Jesus loves us.” Too much “Jesus loves me” apart from the church really starts to become a man-centered gospel after a while.
So with that, keep reading your bibles as much as you can!
My aim in these posts is for Christians to stop making traditional quiet-time-consistency a measuring stick for spiritual maturity. I am not discouraging anyone from reading the bible day and night! I am trying to discourage you from making quiet times a measuring stick for Christian maturity. The single mom who devotes herself to the public reading of Scripture, exhortation, and the teaching each Sunday and applies that to her life throughout the week, but never has a traditional quiet time through the week, may be more mature than the Christian who does not hear good preaching on Sunday but has a great read-thru-the-bible-in-a-year plan and never misses a day.
Really, I am trying to help clarify biblical maturity. And as I said in the last post, the bible never commands daily devotional readings. The bible commands us to meditate on the Law day and night. And regularly meditating on the Law will lead you to meditate on the gospel. And meditation upon God’s Word can come in all shapes, sizes, time frames, and contexts.
A second reason I want to discourage you from asking people “how’s your time with the Lord” to gauge their spiritual life is because Christians need to be taught the Bible. Christians need to be fed by pastors and teachers. In other words, the Bible does not emphasize our need to feed ourselves during our quiet times.
Consider these passages:
“Do you love me…feed by lambs…do you love me…tend my sheep…do you love me…feed my sheep.” (John 21.15-17)
“he gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, to equip the saints” (Eph 4.11-12)
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers.” (James 3.1)
- there is no guilt in always wanting to be taught by your pastors and sunday school teachers the meaning of different passages
- using commentaries and other helps to understand the bible gets you to the exact same place as when you read a passage yourself and understand it; there is no more virtue in studying the bible with just your bible than there is in studying the bible with a commentary on hand
- When you ask someone, “how’s your time in the Word going?” what you should mean is “how is the preaching of the Word on Sundays affecting your life?” before you mean “how is your daily bible readings affecting your life?”
- What if someone has bad methods of interpreting the bible? A daily quiet time in the traditional sense could be disastrous!
- Humble yourself, Christian. Stop thinking you need to teach yourself. There’s nothing wrong with teaching yourself. But wouldn’t you rather have John Calvin and Matthew Henry and D.A. Carson and your pastors teach you? They are gifts from God to you
I wonder if personal quiet times are more a product of 21st century individualism than true, Christian piety. More on that next time