Once again research has proven that the number one factor influencing Christian spiritual growth is time spent reading and meditating upon scripture. I would hope that this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone within the Christian community. There are so many scriptures dealing with cleansing one’s mind with the word, letting the word light your path, and meditating on God’s law that I almost can’t decide on which I prefer for this conversation. I’m going to choose Psalm 119. As the longest chapter in the longest book of the Bible, Psalm 119 stands out. for example:
Psalm 119:1-6 (NLT)
And that’s just the first six verses. Psalm 119 reiterates and expounds upon the importance of valuing and memorizing God’s commands. Needless to say, there are a plethora of scriptures that extol the value and critical importance of getting God’s word into one’s heart so that it might be cleansed.
The danger, one among many, is that so many Christians become desensitized to this daily task through multiple scripture reading and meditating inoculations. Everyone has experienced a “good run” and spectacular failure. I think I’m safe in declaring that there isn’t one Christian on the planet that hasn’t struggled, at some point, with devotional consistency. Still, regardless of the mind numbing, cliche like, painfully over preached and hammered nature of this command, it remains an unshakable truth and a vital element for Christian spiritual growth.
Reading and meditating upon scripture accomplishes many, many, miraculous things in the life of a growing Christian, but for the purpose of this short conversation I’m only going to focus on one: cleansing. Time spent in the word of God is crucial to the soul scrubbing, habit and failure cleansing process of being transformed into the image of Christ.
Allow me draw a simple parallel. How often do you take a bath or shower? I would venture to guess that most people, excluding reluctant dirt loving children, take at least one bath or shower every day. Even if you and I don’t do anything overly active, the odors of various environments and natural body oils that build up over the course of a day need to be cleansed. If you or I don’t bathe, shower, or wash ourselves physically somehow every day, we quickly discover that others begin to physically distance themselves from us. Basically, we begin to stink. The need to remain physically clean, in most modern cultures, while also a mind numbing, over preached, and cliche like value, isn’t one that most people struggle with. We recognize the value of cleanliness on many levels. Physical cleanliness impacts our basic health, and all of our established and potential relationships.
In the same way, even though our failure to scrub may not be as physically repellent, showering our souls and spirits with scripture reading and meditation is no less vital to every aspect of our lives. While it is obvious that scripture reading and mediation is crucial to our individual spiritual growth, potentially less obvious is its direct correlation to the health of all of our established and potential relationships as well.
Again, just as physical cleaning our bodies makes our presence more palatable to others, scripturally cleansing our souls and spirits makes us more palatable to others as well. Devotional time transforms agitated and abrasive attitudes and conversations into more peaceful and less stressful encounters. People in general and family members specifically notice the spiritually centered and cleansed nature of someone who has spent meaningful devotional time in the presence of Christ. Furthermore, with regard to our Christ given mission to create disciples and become the body (active community) of Christ, getting devotionally clean is equally important. People don’t like to hang around other people who carry and spread an odoriferous pile of personal and attitudinal spiritual baggage around them. Such baggage makes evangelism, discipleship, and membership in dynamic Christian communities difficult.
Yes, again we come full circle. Once again we are convinced that we need to shoulder the seemingly impossible burden of becoming more stable and consistent in our scripture reading and devotional times. And again, we face the never ending battle: the spirit is willing and inspired, but the flesh is week.
The solution I offer is this, and it’s not original: find a community of Christians that will keep you accountable, get involved with such a community (a small group sized community), and don’t drop out no matter what happens. We are designed to live life together. We are all fallible. Don’t fight and fail alone. Link arms with a passionate community of Christians who will challenge you and openly question you with regard to your personal spiritual disciplines. Experience the power and benefits of showering regularly spiritually. In case you hadn’t heard, cleanliness is next to godliness.