How to keep from being an unbalanced Christian
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John Stott said that one of the most valuable things in the Christian life was balance. A statement like that can be misused. But it is also true in a number of ways.
1. Let God’s Word rub off on you in the way God intended. I want you to imagine a slice of a big old oak tree. That you have a large piece in your hands and that you hold it up to your eye level with the help of a friend or two! What would you notice as you looked along it? The warp and weft of the wood. The grain of the wood. The knots in the wood and the nature of the cut. As you rubbed your hand over it, you would have the transference of the contours of that wood through your fingers and you would read with your hands the wood for itself. As someone who loves trees and recently read a book on oak trees, what an exhilarating experience! Far better than hearing about oak trees second hand. And it is the same with God’s Word. We need to take it in our hands and read it for ourselves in a systematic way. Don’t just read the parts that you like. But read through the Bible in a year if you can, using one of the reading plans recommended by Ligonier Ministries https://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/ . That way you will be a balanced and Bible shaped Christian.
2. Surround yourselves with good people, but don’t idolise them. I have a number of people who have been mentors to me. Some of them, without even thinking about it. Some of them at a distance, because I got to watch their life and only had a few conversations. I am SO grateful to them! But no matter how awesome they are, they are frail humans and they will get stuff wrong. So don’t idolise them and don’t be afraid to think differently out of your own convictions on God’s word. (1 Corinthians 1:12, Paul warned of hero making.)
3. Walk closely with accountability partners. A person or people that you share you are open about your sin and temptations with and who will speak Christ into your life. Galatians 6:1-5: ‘Restore’ each other. ‘Bear one another’s burdens.’
4. Readers are leaders and leaders are readers. That said, anyone who wants to grow should try and increase their capacity for reading good books and NOT JUST leaders. Read something old and something new, let ‘the breeze of the centuries’ blow through your heart and mind, as C.S. Lewis said. Be neither a creature of your age, or a dusty book worm. Read both old and new and mix Christian biography, mission stories, theology, something on serving, discipleship issues, and something you disagree with now and again.
5. Be teachable and humble- Matthew 5:2-12. Understand that there could be a grain of truth in the criticism of your enemies. Know that you don’t have it all sorted, but at the same time be sure of your convictions and the truth of God. 2 Timothy 1:12-14.
6. Keep the main thing the main thing. Stay Jesus- focussed, Gospel- centred and Bible- centred. Well, you were expecting that weren’t you. But it is true. Knowledge on its own puffs up, but the person of Christ connects us with the life of God. I think it was what Paul was getting at when he said: ‘we preach Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). We love to get fascinated by Christian fads, but we need to be wary that even ‘good’ things can distract.
Community is God’s design for us
7. Stick with community. Come to church even when you hate it. You were expecting that too weren’t you! I kept coming to church in a season when I did not want to and it was God’s means of grace for getting me back to health. Even ‘difficult’ people are God’s way of refining us and not just the ones we like. He invented the church and we are not designed to be isolated, because we lose a sense of balance. Usually when we wander from church, it is entirely related to wandering from the truth. In most cases when a person gives up on Christ, they gave up on church first. We must make sure we are not ‘neglecting meeting together, as is the habit of some…’ (Hebrews 10:25).
8. Pray. Ask God to shape you by his Word and to give you a soft heart. Repent of sin, praise, ask, give thanks. It is by spending time WITH God that we become like God.
These are some of the key things I think will keep us healthy in God’s great goodness as they lead us to Him. I would love to hear of any other suggestions you may have. May the Lord bless you as you seek to be a Biblically balanced Christian, bearing the contours of the Maker. Peace be with you!