One of the things the Gospel brings into our lives is change. Initially there is a decisive change. This then is followed by a process of change. Uneven perhaps, fitful even, but sure and certain.
That thought can make a secular world nervous. It sounds like a threat to our freedom and uniqueness. It is important therefore to understand that this change does no violence to us. It is first of all a ‘restoration’. In the story the Bible tells about us we have all lost something precious. Sin has intruded upon our lives and defaced the image of God in which we were originally made. The change the gospel brings is the restoration and recovery of this image as we discover and root out self-justification, unbelief and self-righteousness. Second this change is ‘fulfilment’. We are all, even at our best, only a shadow of what we could one day be. But grace restores nature. As a seed grows and blossoms into the full grown plant, so the gospel works to make us into everything we could ever be. If you are a Christian, this change and all that flows from it, is your life’s work.
The question then becomes ‘how can we move this forward?’ Our forefathers wrestled with this question more than is typical in our day. One of the main ways they fixed on was to meet together regularly in small groups to discuss where they were at in their Christian lives. It was pretty intense. Now you may or may not be up for that, but in these meetings, to help spark discussion, they would use a fixed set of questions. Tim Keller has updated them (you can find them on page 75 of his book ‘Center Church’) and I thought it would be helpful to make them available here. Maybe you know someone well enough for you to discuss these things together. Maybe you would be happier thinking and praying them through alone. Whatever (as we say nowadays). So here’s the list . . .
1. Do you have spiritual assurance of your standing in Christ? How clear and vivid is it?
2. How does the Holy Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you are his child? Are you conscious of a growing spiritual light within, revealing more of the purity of God’s law, the holiness of God, the evil of sin, and the preciousness of the imputed righteousness of Christ?
3. Is your love for other Christians growing? Do you find yourself having a less censorious, judgemental spirit towards ‘weak’ Christians, those who fall, or those who are self-deceived? Have you been cold to anyone?
4. Is your conscience growing more tender to convict you of the very first motions of sin in the mind, such as the onset of resentment; worry pride or jealousy; an inordinate desire for power, approval and material comfort; an over concern for your reputation? Are you becoming more aware of and more convicted about sins of the tongue, such as cutting remarks, rambling without listening, deception and semi-lying, gossip and slander, inappropriate humour or thoughtless statements?
5. Do you see signs of growth in the fruit of the Spirit? Can you give examples in which you responded in a new way – with love, joy, patience, honesty, humility or self-control – in a situation that a year or two ago you would not have?
6. Are you coming to discern false idolatrous motives for some of the good service you do? Are you seeing that many things you thought you did for God you are actually doing for other reasons? Are you coming to see areas of your life in which you have resisted the Lord’s will?
7. Are you seeing new ways to be better stewards of the talents, gifts, relationships, wealth and other assets that God has given you?
8. Are you having any seasons of the sweet delight that the Spirit brings? Are you finding certain promises extremely precious? Are you getting answers to prayers? Are you getting times of refreshing from reading or listening to the Word?