Dear Colleyville Family,
As believers, we know that time is not an arbitrary human invention, but the Lord himself put the lights in the heavens “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen. 1:14). And indeed, the turning of the calendar to a new year is a natural time to pause and take stock of our lives, and consider the year to come.
In fact, I would encourage you to take an evening or two in the next week or so, alone or with your spouse if you are married, and ask yourself a couple of questions – 1) What has the Lord been teaching me in the last year? 2) What are my hopes (and resolutions!) for the year to come?
As your pastor, I am not very qualified to give you advice about losing weight or balancing your checkbook, but when it comes to your spiritual life, I would like to give you some counsel. If one of your desires in 2019 is for increased spiritual growth for yourself and your family (and I hope it is!), I would urge you to consider the central role of the means of grace that God has given to you. The spiritual life is just as prone to gimmicks and marketing as any other area of our modern lives (if you don’t believe me, just pay a visit to your local Christian bookstore). But growing spiritually is not a mystery or a complicated matter.
Our Shorter Catechism addresses this topic well in question #88:
What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
“The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.”
In other words, growing spiritually isn’t a matter or searching for new and exciting experiences. Growing spiritually is simply found in spending time availing yourself, daily and weekly, of the means of grace that Christ himself offers to you by his Holy Spirit: the Word, sacraments, and prayer.
Practically speaking, this is what this means:
1) The single most important thing you can do for yourself and your family to grow spiritually in the year to come is to commit yourself to attending Sunday morning worship every single Sunday in 2019.That’s it. It’s really not that complicated.
The reality is that the authorized preaching of God’s word, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the gathered prayers of God’s people are not means of grace that you can participate in outside of Sunday morning worship. And these means of grace, especially as they are found in gathered Sunday worship, are the primary ways in which God himself has promised to communicate Christ to you in the year to come. If you are looking to other means for your primary spiritual growth, you are looking in the wrong place. It really is that simple.
The reality is that each of us will either make the decision to attend Sunday worship once (i.e. we will decide once to always be in worship), or we decide every single Sunday whether should attend worship based on how we’re feeling, how busy our schedule is, what other responsibilities we might have, etc. I would strongly encourage you now to make the decision once to attend Sunday morning worship every Sunday in 2019, rather than leaving that decision to Saturday night or Sunday morning each week.
Will there be times that you or your children are seriously ill and must miss Sunday worship? Of course. But I would encourage you now to decide that unless you providentially hindered by illness or some other serious matter, you will make participation in the weekly worship of the church (and the means of grace offered there) a non-negotiable commitment in 2019. For me to speak so strongly about weekly gathered worship is not legalism – it is simply common sense – and a genuine desire on my part to submit to the rule and reign of Christ, who is the one, of course, who ordained these means of grace for his Church in the first place.
2) Perhaps the second most important thing you can do to grow spiritually is to pursue a life of daily Bible reading and prayer. This is a topic about which I’ve written to you before, and I’ll plan to send out those letters again this January. If you like, you can read them now here:
I would also remind you that each month I put together suggested Bible readings for you to use if you would like. They are available for you to pick up in hardcopy form on Sunday mornings, and are also always available onlinehere (feel free to bookmark this page!). There are also a number of other good Bible readings plan available, of course. Ligonier has put together a great list for 2019 here.
3) Another important way in which you can avail yourself of the means of grace is by meeting regularly with God’s people to study his word, and to pray together. Our church offers a whole host of opportunities for you to do this. The most important is probably Sunday School, but we also offer regular evening meetings for men, women and youth, as well as weekly Bible studies and other retreats and conferences. I would encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities in the year to come!
I will again be sending out pastoral meeting invitations to each of you in the year to come during your birthday month (apologies to those of you I missed in 2018 – I fell behind at one point and missed some of you), but if you would like to schedule a meeting with me to discuss your spiritual life, or to talk and pray about anything on your mind, you can always do so by using this link: https://calendly.com/pastorjosh/