During the Fall Ohio Bible Fellowship Conference, Pastor Gordon Dickson spoke about Discipleship in Service. Over the years, he has developed five daily habits that have helped people to grow as Christians. The following notes are based on the outline he shared then.
Before we get into those five daily habits, consider a question. What five things would you suggest that a new believer add to his daily schedule to grow as a Christian? You might think about Bible reading and prayer but what else? Maybe evangelism? These are good things to do, but how does a new Christian do those things and find benefit in them without someone guiding them. These principles, if they are followed, will eventually lead to spiritually maturity because they point toward the source of what God wants for us—the Bible.
- Scripture Reading (Psalm 119:105; 2 Tim. 2:15)
In Psalm 119:105, the psalmist reminds us that the words God has given us are like a light that illuminates the path before us. In other words, the Bible contains inspired statements that will show us how walk through life in the right direction.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul exhorted Timothy to become someone whom God approves, a worker who won’t be ashamed because he is correctly handling God’s truth. In other words, Timothy was to “set forth truthfully, without perversion, or distortion”1 what God had revealed. As he did this, he would be approved by God and not ashamed.
One of the most important parts of discipleship is teaching the other person to read the Bible. As noted above, God has given us the Bible to guide us, but it takes time to not only read but to accurately understand what God has said. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Scripture reading? I would tell him that it is important to not just read but to study what God has said3 as if it is important and life-changing. When someone does that, he will soon begin to understand what God is saying and it will make a difference in their life.
- Word-based Meditation (Psalm 1:1-3; Josh. 1:8)
In Psalm 1:1-3, the psalmist shows the benefits of delighting in and meditating on the law of the Lord. Those who do will stay away from ungodly influences and will become established people. In other words, meditating on the Bible will led to spiritual growth.
In Joshua 1:8, God told Joshua to meditate on the Book of the Law so that he would observe what God commanded and obey those commands. This would lead to good success. In other words, meditating on the Bible leads to knowing and doing what God desires.
Meditation on the Bible is something that will help every believer. It is not an emptying of the mind but a filling of the mind with God’s thoughts as revealed in the Bible. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Word-based Mediation? I would tell him to go for a walk and think about what he has read in the Bible. It takes time to meditate. And as you are thinking, ask God to help you to understand accurately what He is saying. When someone chooses to meditate on God’s truth, his mind will become filled with and tuned to what God wants for him.
- Exhorting/Encouraging Believers with the Word of God (Deut. 3:28; Acts 15:32)
In Deuteronomy 3:28, God told Moses to command, encourage, and strengthen Joshua because he would be Israel’s next leader who would lead them into the Promised Land. In other words, the job ahead of Joshua would be difficult. So, part of his discipleship needed to be encouragement to be, do, and lead as God intended.
In Acts 15:32, Judas and Silas had just delivered a letter to the church in Antioch that corrected the erroneous teaching that new Christians had to obey the Mosaic law. After delivering the letter, both men exhorted and strengthened their Christian brothers with many words. In other words, they used their words to encourage2 the believers toward further faithfulness to God’s truth.
Exhortation and encouragement are two sides of the same coin. Exhortation is a focused push toward doing what is right. Encouragement is the same thing by showing that it is possible and beneficial. Both of these must come from what God says in the Bible. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Exhorting/Encouraging Believers with the Word of God? I would tell him that his personal Bible study and meditation should easily lead toward this. The more you are reading, studying, and thinking about the Bible, the more encouragement you can be to other Christians.
- Evangelizing Unbelievers with the Word of God (Isa. 55:10-11; Luke 24:27)
In Isaiah 55:10-11, God told Isaiah that His words would be like the rain that causes the plants to grow. When spoken or written to people, they would accomplish the goals intended by God. In other words, God has empowered the Bible with the ability to accomplish His intentions when it is heard or read.
In Luke 24:27, Jesus was walking with two disciples who did not recognize Him. They were disillusioned by Jesus’ death because they were expecting Him to redeem Israel. Jesus took the time to point them back to all that the Old Testament Scriptures said about Him. In other words, He used the Bible to explain what it said about Him.
Evangelizing unbelievers is best done with what the Bible says. There are many methods that have been proposed over the years, but it all must come back to what God has revealed in the Bible. That is where God’s truth will be found. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about Bible-based evangelism? I would tell him that God’s truth is powerful and is the means by which God can pierce the hearts of unbelievers. If you will rely on what God has empowered, you will see Him working in other people.
- Prayer using the Word of God (Matt. 6:6; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-14)
In Matthew 6:6, Jesus pointed out the problem of praying in public to be noticed by others. Instead of doing that, He told the disciples to find a quiet place where they could be alone to pray to God the Father. In other words, praying in a quiet place eliminates distractions that would hinder God’s blessing on your life.
In Philippians 1:9-11, Paul prayed that these Christians would grow in their love, knowledge and discernment. He wanted them to learn to know what was good and to live without offense. He also wanted to see the fruit of righteousness in their lives. In other words, Paul wanted these people to become mature in their understanding of God’s will so that their lives would bring glory to God.
In Colossians 1:9-14, Paul told the Philippians that he was constantly praying for them to know God’s will. Among other things, he prayed that they would live lives that pleased the Lord, that they would have God’s strength and patience, and that they would remember what God the Father had done for them through Jesus. In other words, Paul wanted these people to mature in their understanding and fruitfulness for the Lord.
Praying using the Word of God involves praying for the same things that God deems important in the Bible. Paul’s specific prayers for the Philippian and Colossian churches is a good template for praying for others. If you were working with a new believer, what would you tell him about prayer using the Word of God? I would tell them to use what they learned in their Bible reading to pray for others. If you have read about persevering through trials, this would be a good thing to pray for others. In this way, you would be truly praying “in Jesus’ name” because what you requested would be what Jesus wanted because it is based on the inspired Bible.
I believe that the things mentioned above can be very helpful for a new believer. As they study the Bible, meditate on it, exhort others with it, evangelize with it, and pray with it, they will be filled with joy and become fruitful for the Lord. But these things are not just for new Christians. These are truths that apply to all believers.
Have you become an effective, listless Christian? Have you lost the spark that drove you when you were newly saved? Perhaps the reason for this change is that you have been neglecting the things mentioned above. Why not take this week to incorporate these things into your daily routine. If you do, it will surely make a difference.
1 ὀρθοτομέω as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/orthotomeo on 10/15/2023.
2 παρακαλέω as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/parakaleo on 10/5/2023.
3 I recommend getting a small notebook for taking notes while reading the Bible. As you read, you should ask yourself three questions about that portion of the Bible. (1) What does it say? (2) What does it mean? (3) How does it apply to me? Answering these questions patiently and in order will keep you from misunderstanding the Bible and misapplying it. It will also deepen your understanding and love for what God has given us.