Foodfor Growth'23

3 Food for Growth

When I was a child, back in those years when I was still known as "Pee-Wee,"I wanteddesperately to grow. My mom would periodically measure my height against the wall in my room, and I would stretch as hard as I could to be a little taller. As I later becamea parent, I saw my own children do the same thing. Every child, it seems, wants to grow up by the day after tomorrow, but it can't be done. That is a frustratingthingto learn when your name around the neighborhood is "Pee-Wee." "But I want to get bigge4" I would protest. "How can I make myself grow?" As a wise adult, what you would probably say is, "Son, you can't make yourself grow. Growing up takes time. But here's what you can do:You can eat goodfood, exercise, and enjoy being an eight-year-old. Don't be so worried about becoming a grown-up. Have fun right now being who you are. You'll grow up soon enough." I frnd Christians who are worried and bothered to the point of making themselves absolute emotional wrecks, worried over the progress they think they "should" be making in their' 22

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Christian growth. Howeve4 you cannot make yourself grow spiritually any more than you can make yourself grow physically. We forget that it is God who is in the businessof conforming us to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). We forget that it is ".EIe who began a goodwork in you [andl will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1;6). This is not to say that we have zo decision to make or role to play. After all, the Bible says that we should "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). But we need to be clear on what that passagemeans. After saying in verse 12 that we should "work out" our salvation, Paul says, "for it is God who works in you to wiII and to act according to His good purpose." So once again we find that in the Christian life, God initiates and man responds. In fact, my working definition of "responsibility" is "my responseto God's ability." You cannot make yourself grow physically, but you can "eat good food, exercise, and enjoy being an eight-year-old." In our spiritual lives, we cannot make ourselvesgrow in grace, but we can do somethings: We can eat good food, exercise, and enjoy walking through life as a child of God as He grows us in His time. But what do I mean by "eating good food and exercising"? This is where I want to addresspersonal Bible study and our relationships within the body of Christ. These subjects have often been terribly twisted. We have taken these activities which shouldbe natural and enjoyable overflows ofour

24. Boh George

Food Growth'25 for Nobody told me I hadto study the Bible, and I'm glad they didn't. I simply openedGod'sWord and read it, becausethat is what I wantedto do more than anything on earth. Let me pass on to you some tips that have helped many people discover the great experience ofpersonally digging into the Word of God. First, read the Bible in order to get to know Christ , notjust to learn Bible facfs. We have been called tn a relationslzip. Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent" (John 17:3).Paul wrote, "I consider everygreatness thing a loss comparedto the sur.'passing of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord' (Philippians 3:8). Don't make the same mistake I did,later, when I strayed from my personal relationship with Christ into dry knowledge and barren service. Don't get on that terrible treadmill of the "search for something more." Don't fall for the deception of believing that we start out with Christ, then "graduate" to the "deep things" of God. Jesus Christ is everything. There is nothing "deeper" than knowing Him intimately! That is what we will do throughout eternitydiscover and enjoy the wonders of Him. We'll never get to the end of all that He is. I have learned that if I go to the Bible merely to learn facts, I'll get those dry facts, but nothing else. However,if I go to the Bible desiring to meet personally with the Lord, He will open my heart to know Him, and teach me biblical facts at the same time.

life in Christ and our personal relationship with Him, and turned them into disciplines.There is no greater way to ruin these wonderful privileges we have as children of God or to rob us of our joy in knowing Him than to view them as disciplines-things you haue to do "in order to be a good Christian." When I was born again in Christ, I came to Him as a 36-year-old man who knew absolutely nothing of the things of God. I had no religious teaching in my background to speak of. AII I knew the day I received Christ was that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believesin Him shall not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). I was simply overwhelmed with the idea that God actually loved rze!And I openedup my Bible to learn more. In fact, over the next couple ofyears I buried myself in God's Word to the point that my wife, Amy, thought I had a black leather face! Naturally, I did not understand it all. There were many parts of the Scriptures that were mysterious to me, and, as many young Christians do, I came up with somefanciful ideas and interpretations that seem silly to me today. But God did reveal Himself to me, and He did teach me a solid understanding of His Word over time. I look back at those early years of my Christian experienceas someof the mostjoy-filled times of my life. I truly came to God "as a little child" and leaned totally on my heavenly Father to teach me.

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26. Bob George We are not dealing with a reluctant God

Foodfor Growth.27 while on a long trip overseasyou write me a long letter. After many months away, you arrive home,and frnd me waiting for you at the airport. I look terribly confused and worried, as if I had been in that condition for a long time. After greeting me, you ask me why I seem so distressed. "It's this letter you wrote me," I say. "I've gone practically crazy trying to understand what you are talking about, but it's a total mystery to me." I pull out of my pocket several pages of the tattered letter. ' You are genuinely puzzled, not aware ofanything in your letter that was confusing. "What in my letter don't you understand?" you ask. "It's this part on page 4i'I answer. As I show you the letter, you can see that the page is coveredwith lines, notes, and different-colored highlights. I continue explaining: "I've been trying to frgure out this sentencehere, but it doesn't make any sense!I've looked up all the words in the dictionary and written out the optional definitions. I consulted English grammar books, and I diagrammed the sentence. I've asked all my friends, and even made an appointment with my old English teacher to ask her opinion. But nobody can really satisfy me. I've been sitting on pins and needles, waiting to ask you personally." You give me a hard look, and ask me slowly, "Bob. That sentence is on page 4. Did you read the rest of the letter?" "No," I arNiwer."I've just been studying this sentence!"

whose arrn we must twist in order to get His attention. He earnestly desires us. He wants to pour out to us life in abundance and joy beyond measure. The possessionof God's Word is an unspeakable blessing. What a tragedy it is for someoneto see Bible study as a "discipline," a drudgery, and an unrewarding duty that we "have" to perform! 'Second, study dependently. We must study God's Word with the firm conviction that we cannot understand spiritual truth on our own. Spiritual understanding is something that must be revealedby the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). Only by His power can you understandhow wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpassesknowledge-that you might be frlled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18,19). Anybody, including the lost, can learn theology;that is, what the Bible soys.But, if we truly want to know God and to understand what the Bible means, we must approach the Word in total dependenceupon the Inrd to reveal Himself and His truth that sets us free. Remember that "God opg)ses the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Third, read the Blble normnlly, and in lnrge contexts.Imagine that you and I are friends, and

28. Bob George What would you think of me? You would think I was a little strange, to say the least. Nobody would read a letter that way. When you read a lette4 you start at the beginning and read until you get to the end. You cannot take a sentence and interpret it out in the thin air. It has no meaning apart from its total context. A sentence needs all the other words, sentences,and paragraphs that surround it to make up the entire message. But how do people often read their Bibles? They start with chapter 5, paragraph 2, verse 3then wonder why they can't make sense out of God'sWord! Yes,the Bible is unique in its origin and inspiration, but it is constructed in the same way as all other written works. It too is made up ofwords, sentences,and paragraphs organized according to the ordinary rules of grammar. When you read, for example, Hebrews chapter 9, the writer assumesthat you have read and followed his thoughts for the first eight chapters. Though there are difficult portions ofScripture, people will frnd most of the questions they raise about verses of the Bible answered, if they will only keep reading. There is certainly a place for methods such as word studies or topical studies; they can be enjoyable and profrtable. But these should be supplernentary methods, not our main type of study, or we will not have a balanced and full understanding of the Scriptures. When I was a new Christian there were many things I didn't understand, but I didn't let that

Foodfor Growth'29 stop me. I didn't expect God to teach me everything in one day! I also remembered that Jesus told His disciples on the night before His death: I have much more to saY to You' more than You can now bear. But when He, the SPirit of truth, comes' He will guide You into all truth (John L6:t2,L3). If the men with whom Jesus walked for three

means." And I would continue reading' In most a .cases few chapters or perhaps a few books later in the New Testament I would find the answer' That was always a thrill, as I would say, "Aha! There it is!" and write in my Bible the crossreference from the question to the answer' Over time, as I kept reading, God frlled out my understanding ofUibti""t ttottt, while I enjoyedspend-

reading! A fourth point that I believe is crucial, especially for people who are just beginning to study

30. BobGeorge the Scriptures, is to emphasize the New Testamznt in you.rstudy. This is commonly misunderstood."r{re you saying that the Old Testament is not God's Word?" people ask. "You're throwing out half the Bible!" others accuse.No, let me say directly: All of the Bible-Old and Niw Testaments-is the Word of God. 'All Scripture is God-breathedand is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). However,we live in the age of the New Covenant, and it is essential that we clearly understand the covenant under which we actually liue. Only when you have gotten a firm handle on the provisions of the New Covenant are you able to properly interpret and apply the Old Covenant. Last, but not least, major on the majors and minor on the minors.It sounds strange, but not all of the tangents into which Christians stray away from Christ are unbiblical. We can actually get off on biblical truth. It is absolutely imperative that we not only teach the Bible, but that we teach biblical truths according ta the giuen to them in the Scriptures. proper emphases As a counselor, for example, I have faced many hundreds of individuals who are dealing with serious personal problems and tragedies. In all that experienceI have never had someone say to me, "Bob, my husband has died. I'm just heartbroken. Tell me: What do you think is my spiritual gtft?" Nobody has ever said to me, "Bob, I just lost my job, and my wife and I are going through terrible marital problems. Tell

Foodfor Growth'31 me, I've just got to know: What does'666' signify in the book of Revelation?" Those subjects are certainly in the Bible, but they are not "majors." Do you know what someonehaving serious, realJife problems wants to know? He's crying out, "Is there really a God out there? A God who really loves me, who knows what's going on in my life, who cares,and who can do somethi4g for me?" That's what you want to know when real life smacks you in the face. So what are the "majors" in the Word of God? Jesus Christ. Knowing Him in a personal way. Learning what it means that He not only laid down His llfe for you, but that He now lives in you, and learning how to let Him live out that lilfe through you. Learning how to live a life of dependencyon Christ's love for us, and concentrating on the priority left to us by the Lord: A new command I give You: Inve one another. As I have loved You, so You must love one another' All men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34'35). God has told us in no uncertain terms what His priority is. He did not say that "aII men will know you are my disciples by your bumper stickers." Nor that "all men wiII know you are my disciples by your knowledge of prophecy." Paul warned pointedly that we can speak with the and angels, know all mysteries tongues Lf -"tt

32. Bob George and have all knowledge, have mountain-moving faith, give away all that we own or even our own lives-but have it all be worthless to God: If we have not love, we gain nothing (1 Corinthians

Foodfor Growth'33 Word, and not merely a hearer (James I:22)God will be developingyou into a man or woman of conuiction. These are just some of the ramifications of following Paul's exhortation: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed'by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).This will happen as we give our minds to God to be renewed according to truth' When we "abide in His'Word," we discover that truth does indeed set us free!

13:1-3). The Bible givesgreat emphasis and volume to teaching the Person and work ofJesus Christ, the correct purposes and distinctions between law and grace, walking by faith in the living Christ, and loving one another just as He loved us. Those are the things I want to emphasize in my study and thought. Other scriptural issues that are of minor importance merit a minor amount of my study time and concentration. If you will go into God'sWord seeking to meet with the Person of CMst, studying dependently, reading in order and in large contexts, emphasizing the New Testament, and "majoring on the majors," you'll find that the Bible is not nearly the mystery book you had thought. You'll find that being personally taught by God is the most exciting experience on earth, and nobody will have to frgure out a way to motivate you to do your Bible study. Don't be intimidated by the Bible. It is full of good newsabout God, and what He has done and will do for you in Christ! Remember that the sameHoIy Spirit who inspired men to write the Scriptures liues in you, and will illumine your mind to understand the truth of God as you approachHisWord as a humble, teachable child. As you frll your mind with the Word of God and put it into practice-becoming a doer of the