10 ways to grow deeper
In Sunday’s sermon we looked at the road to Emmaus, and why Jesus “plays dumb” with the two disciples along the way. I suggested then that Jesus’ intent was (and is) to draw His disciples deeper. He could have given them pat answers and been on His way—surely the newly-resurrected Lord has a full to-do list! And yet He takes the time to trek 7 miles with these wayfarers, unfolding to them the mysteries of God’s kingdom.
Jesus plays dumb to make His disciples smart.
This particular tactic isn’t necessarily part of His M.O. today, but make no mistake—the Lord still endeavors to have you grow deeper in faith, and not be content to stay a superficial believer. As St. Paul puts it, the Lord won’t rest “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4.13).
I challenged God’s people here at Beautiful Savior to strive to grow deeper this year. Let me suggest several concrete ways in which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you might deepen your devotion to Christ.
1. Attend worship more regularly.
Perhaps this is a no-brainer, but still it must be said. The Divine Service—worship—is where we receive God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament. It’s where you are fortified in faith among the fellowship of the Baptized. It’s where you are equipped to go out into your vocation renewed and ready to carry out your daily labor in His name. If you have gotten into a habit of sporadic attendance—change it! Put worship on your calendar. Let your morning coffee be a reminder that you could be joining the people of God. Come!
2. Participate in Bible study.
For many folks the next step to growing deeper is participating in Bible study, whether it be our Sunday morning study or another. Now is a great time to join in. This past weekend we began our study How Not to Be a Heretic, about what modern Christians can learn from ancient heresies, but it will only really ramp up this coming Sunday. We’ve also got Roots of Faith starting up again on September 30th. In any event, there is no time like the present. Start attending Bible study. Be spurred on by your fellow believers to dig more deeply into the Scriptures. Which brings me to…
3. Practice Daily Prayer.
By Daily Prayer I mean what some Christians call “quite time” or “devotions.” It’s your time to meditate on passages from God’s Word and offer prayers and supplications for yourselves and others in need. Making this a regular habit can be more difficult for many people even than getting daily exercise. I get it. That’s why in our worship folder we have daily readings (drawn from the Daily Lectionary in Lutheran Service Book) from the Bible, as well as a psalm. Start with just a brief amount of time—10-15 minutes to get started. If you want more practical tips, download my e-book.
4. Join the choir for a season.
Yes, you! Look, it’s possible that your voice is worse than nails on a chalkboard, but I would venture to guess that with a little bit of practice and a good teacher (which is what we have with our multi-talented Music Director, Floyd Czoski) you could start making a joyful noise unto the Lord. Choir enables you to grow deeper by learning wonderful texts joined to music that will fill your soul and lift your spirit. Give it a try for just a season—if you don’t care for it, no big deal. But you may found that music gives you more delight than you knew.
5. Take the chalice.
Don’t literally steal it. I mean that when we receive Holy Communion opt for the chalice (aka “common cup”) instead of the individual glass. How does this help you to grow deeper? The chalice is a beautiful expression of what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding the bread of the Lord’s Supper:
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16–17 ESV)
When we receive the common cup, it’s an expression of the communion that we have not only with God but also with one another. To paraphrase: “because there is one cup, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the common cup.”
6. Read a spiritual biography.
One of the most enriching and too-oft neglected exercises for faith can be to read about the life of a great Christian saint. Learning the stories of an Athanasius or a Tyndale or a Corrie ten Boom can bolster your confidence in the Lord of life. Our church library has plenty of options. To start, I might recommend Here I Stand, Roland Bainton’s classic biography about Martin Luther, or Suprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis’s personal memoir. Peruse our library, and grab me and ask for more recommendations based on your interests. Happy to oblige!
7. Increase your charitable giving.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.21). We know this verse all too well…but do we take it to heart? The simplest way to practice this more fervently is to increase our charitable giving. Review what you give to the church or to other charities and non-profits. Has the amount changed in accordance with your income? Consider adding a new organization to support—the ones that we at church partner with, such as Concordia Seminary, Cup of Cool Water, and Mission Community Outreach, are a great place to start. The less our hearts are wrapped up in earthly treasure, the deeper we grow in faith. It’s that simple.
8. Invite a neighbor over for dinner.
Eating food helps you grow deeper? It does if you do so with a mission-mindset, with an attitude of expectation that the Holy Spirit can work in such neighborly relationships. As Greg Finke is fond of saying, “God can do more with two people who are talking to each other than two who aren’t.” That doesn’t mean you blitz them with an evangelistic pitch the moment they take off your shoes. It means you intentionally seek to foster relationships with the people that God has placed in your way. Ask questions. Listen. See if there isn’t a place where the balm of the gospel might be applied to wounded hearts. But especially at first, just be friendly.
9. Make some “blessing bags” for the homeless.
It’s a challenge for us all: what do you do with the panhandler on the corner? Our Christian intuition does not want to just ignore the person, but we also know that just giving a few dollars may actually do more harm than good. Enter the ingenious idea of the Blessing Bag. Make a few of these (even involve the kids) and keep them on hand in your car for when you come across someone on a street corner. Joined with a word of blessing or prayer, this is a much more effective expression of mercy than merely giving $5.
10. Take Jesus to work.
In his book Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller notes that “perhaps not since the Protestant Reformation has there been so much attention paid to the relationship of Christian faith to work as there is today.” This stems from a deep desire to integrate our faith with our vocation(s). Inasmuch as much of our life is occupied with vocational pursuits—not only our career but also our vocations in the family and the civic realm—we need this integration in order to grow more deeply in faith. Don’t check your Christianity at the timecard; take Jesus to work.
These are but a few ideas for how you can grow deeper in faith over the next year. We are all on the journey of faith; no one of us has yet arrived. As Jesus said: “Let’s go!” (Mark 1.38).