Having just come fresh from the Ligonier 2012 Conference in Orlando, FL, my husband and I are stuffed! Not with food, but with spiritual food that has enriched our souls. The topic of this year's conference was "The Christian Mind" and how humbling it was to learn at the feet of some great theologians of our day. Not only were we encouraged but we were challenged to "think".
One of our favorite speakers was Dr. Sinclair Ferguson who raised an issue near and dear to our hearts. His topic was "Losing My Religion" based on Psalm 119:97-100 which reads: "Oh how I love your Law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts."
As he opened his talk, Dr. Ferguson pointed out that we tend to blame the world when things go wrong in our lives and often, the church is blamed. Sadly, he noted that today Evangelical Christianity is "a mile wide and an inch deep" when it comes to depth of prayer, study, and meditation on the Word of God. While the New Testament church devoted itself to prayer, and fellowship, our modern churches are often empty for prayer and many services. Our passion for God has wained. We are not willing to spend the time to grow in our faith. "Half an hour on Sunday will do just fine" is the attitude of some, but it will not carry us through the hard places in life. He then cited Hebrews 5:11-12: "About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, since he is a child." The whole purpose to which we are called is to grow, mature and develop a passion for God that comes from knowing Him. This happens with study, prayer, fellowship and hearing the Word of God preached.
These words stirred my soul deeply as I heard them. Both my husband and I have a passion for teaching the doctrines of grace and seeing people grow. However, even in our own fellowship, not many come to Sunday School class. Only a small minority out of our 700 members attend these extra times of instruction. We are content to press on for God's glory, and welcome all who come, but we pray for the many who do not make time. Jesus told the scribe who asked Him what the greatest commandment was:
"....Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:29b-30). The key emphasis of Dr. Ferguson's talk was that we need to love God with all our mind. Our faith is not built on emotion. Emotions come and go, but what is stored in the mind can then reach our heart and this is how we grow.
What are we feeding our minds today? Even at this wonderful conference, we witnessed people texting on their "smart" (?) phones or checking their email while one of the speakers was giving his address. Could they not wait? Some even talked on their cell phones during the meetings. My heart is troubled that we are more devoted to our cell phones, computers, IPADS, and IPODS than we are to God. As Dr. Ferguson said, if we are only willing to spend half an hour on Sunday to hear God's Word, we are selling ourselves short in terms of growth. Our lives here are short compared to the eternity we will spend with our Father in heaven. Shouldn't we get to know Him? The knowledge of God is what has the transforming power to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ and set us on the path of holy living.
Dr. Ferguson suggested some strategies for spiritual maturity. First, we must place ourselves under a preaching, living ministry of the Word of God. T.V. ministers do not fulfill this need we have for accountability. He pointed out that in Acts 6:7 it was the Word of God that increased which led to the growth of the church not the other way around. This is the central call of the church is to preach and teach the Word of God, and we need to be a part of that as students. Secondly, we must be willing to dig into the Bible for ourselves. There is no substitute for daily reading and meditating on God's Word. Finally, we need to pray. Corporate and private prayer over the needs of our community, the unsaved, and our church fellowship is a an important part of our worship.
In order for us to have a renewed mind, we must study to show ourselves approved. It takes effort, but we are called to love the Lord our God with ALL our mind. We must take advantage of the freedom we have to worship in our country and to attend opportunities like Sunday School and church worship to advance our knowledge of God. If we do not develop a passion for God, I fear that what Sinclair Ferguson said will be true of us as well....that we are Evangelicals who are a mile wide but an inch deep.
For myself, I want to plumb the depth of the riches found in His Word and grow in the knowledge of my God. I invite you to join me on this great adventure of knowing Him. We are never too young or too old to sit as His feet and learn. Selah!
Your thoughts and comments are precious to me. Please leave them to encourage others and share in this conversation.