Walking with Jesus: A Help

August 11, 2021
Tim Lien

God’s Word is how we see/hear the self-revelation of God. And yet. Bible study alone should never be equated to intimacy with Jesus. There’s an appealing trap there: we can workbook, BSF, and Bible-in-a-Year ourselves into thinking that we are walking with Jesus. Enjoying Him. Knowing Him. Contending with Him (earnestly, of course, Jude 3).  

Spiritual maturity is not unlocked with mere knowledge.  

I read an account recently about an Oxford don who preferred to partner with mediocre students that displayed genuine affection and joy for the material. The high achieving geniuses, in his experience, viewed the material as something to be conquered and subsequently wielded. Enjoying Jesus is a different sort of exercise than dissecting Him.

A member of our community asked me to abbreviate Martin Luther’s tool (who took them from David the Psalmist King) for personal and private renewal. Personal, private renewal is a discipline that extends far beyond study, trivia, and knowledge. It is a helpful roadmap to deep, satisfying times spent with Jesus.

There are four movements or sections, and I’ll offer questions as prompts for your heart to respond to God’s Word.

1 The Teaching or the Truth

Q: What truth is being taught, asserted, claimed? (What is the purpose of this passage?)

Most often, all studies revolve around this. Almost all the study guides will attempt to draw out the truth of God’s word. Sometimes it is direct, blatant. Sometimes it takes multiple sources to uncover its truth. This is wonderful; truth is better than foolishness, deceit, or superficiality. This is necessary; truth is a centering reality. This is edifying; snacking on truth is builds strength better than the empty calories of falsity. A great deal of Christians stop here, however.  The Bible-in-a-year plan helps them accomplish it like gulping down multivitamins with fiber supplements and carrot juice. They did it; they know more. Amen. But private renewal cannot subsist solely on knowledge acquisition. Remember, every demon would get better scores on a theological exam than you. Do not be surprised if bible study leaves you unmoved, dead, cold, and unresistant to temptations. This necessary movement must flow into the next.

2 Adoration  

Q: What elicited awe, marvel, wonder, joy, amazement, thrill about the person of God?

This isn’t study, but it’s connected to the study. This is where the demons cannot tread. They cannot be humbly amazed and overjoyed that God is like that!?! They cannot effusively love that God is like that. This is not prayer, but it will feed the prayer. This will not allow you to study God’s Word in abstraction or theoretical thought play. This necessarily intersects with your heart—your affections. This begins to move your heart to reflect and meditate on the truth, not just store its ideas in your cloud drive. You are asking your heart and mind to listen and to respond to the assertive greatness of God. You won’t be allowed to non-plussed or ambivalent. God becomes greater, sweeter, kinder, and more faithful than you had thought before. His greatness was already great before you noticed it, but your estimations of Him increase, swell.  This necessarily moves to the next section.

3 Confession

Q: What leads to me to conviction, confession and repentance?

Like Isaiah, when we perceive God to be better and greater, we suddenly realize that we are wearing ripped jorts, forgot to put on deodorant, and our halitosis reeks of limburger cheese spread thinly on mid-July roadkill. This cannot be skipped. There is deep honey in the Rock (Psalm 81) here. Yes, the contrast is severe. Yes, it will make you cringe, at first. But when shame meets the Cross, there is a brilliant orchid-like flower that blooms nowhere else. When failure is met with achievement, there is a deep grateful relief that emboldens loyalty. Frigid, ice-encased hearts melt here. Walking with Jesus, in a sense, must always begin here—even in a daily way. These three initial movements lead us to communication, or prayer.

4 Prayer and Request

Q: What do I now ask of God?  

His Word reached out to me, now I am responding back to Him. You might have noticed something strange in your own times of personal renewal. Praying at the end of bible study as opposed to praying after these movements result in very different-sounding prayers. One prayer is usually a checklist of things you’d like to God to get working on, stat. The other prayer is a mixture of praise, confession, wrestling, and struggle for His will and His desires. One prayer dictates, the other prayer responds. One prayer is demanding, the other contains plea and hope to be shaped into something better. One prayer is like talking to a highly rated, Yelp-reviewed vendor, the other is like talking to a Friend that didn’t stop being your friend when the scandal broke. If you’ve always wanted prayer to have more depth, walk through these movements before prayer. You’ll find it enriching. Renewing, even. Full of pleasure. Because that’s where all the jewels are: “At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16)

I hope this helps your times of private personal renewal.

2021 The Way Church
of San Gabriel Valley