Are You Growing in Grace? - page 2


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From the Summer 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Are You Growing in Grace?

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director, Washington Area Fellows Program

 

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The Apostles’ Teaching

  Originally, the apostles’ teaching referred to what the apostles preached and taught orally about Jesus. His words and deeds, especially His atoning death and resurrection, were the focal point of their teaching. This drew on parts of the Old Testament (the only Bible they had at the time) to explain Jesus’ identity, life, and ministry. Eventually their teachings were put into written form in the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. If we want to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching today, we should focus first on Jesus as He is presented in the Gospels and further explained in the Epistles and the Old Testament.
  What are some practical ways to do this? First, we should regularly attend a church where the Bible is honored as God’s Word written and is faithfully preached and taught. In addition, we should regularly, preferably daily, read the Bible. (There are many resources for this: The One Year Bible takes you through the Scriptures in a year. You can find a number of other Bible reading plans at YouVersion.com.) Reading the Bible will raise questions that require some study, so you’ll want to have at hand some basic reference tools, such as a good study Bible (ESV and NIV study Bibles are very good), Bible dictionary, concordance, and commentary. Bible study groups that focus on a particular theme can be helpful. Memorizing and meditating on key Bible verses is a valuable part of the transformation process, helping to integrate what we grasp with our intellects into the rest of our hearts (emotions, wills, desires).
  The goal of devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching is not simply to gain information, as critically important as that is, but to know God, which is the essence of eternal life (John 17:3). Through the Scriptures, we learn of God’s character, His great deeds, His love for us, His will for us, His ways, His promises, and so much more. The Holy Spirit uses these truths as a major part of the process of transformation—of becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
  For this to happen, it is important to pray before we read or study the Bible and ask the Spirit to open our minds and hearts to understand the meaning of His Word and how it applies to our lives (Ps. 119:18). The Holy Spirit’s illumination is essential for us to rightly grasp and receive God’s word into our lives (Matt. 11:25–27; 1 Cor. 2:12–13). As we earnestly seek God in this manner, He will communicate with us in very personal ways. In addition to receiving the Spirit’s illumination, we must bring to the Scripture an essential attitude of heart: a settled intention to obey whatever God shows us to be His will. Failure to do this will lead to increasing self-deception (James 1:22–25).

Fellowship

  The second means of grace is fellowship, a translation of the Greek word koinonia, meaning “association, communion, fellowship, close relationship.”3 In this context, koinonia means active participation in the community of believers through sharing of one’s life and resources. True koinonia develops Christ-centered friendships that lead to sharing one another’s joys and sorrows, bearing one another’s burdens, and generally supporting one another spiritually, emotionally and materially in the ups and downs of life. The material aspect of sharing is seen in Acts 2:44–45 and 4:32. These texts highlight the voluntary sharing of material possessions among believers to meet personal needs. However, such radical generosity is just one expression of their common faith and love in Jesus and the corporate life it produces. The small house churches of the early Christians provided a congenial environment for such relational growth.

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