Feb19TueFebruary 19, 2019
In his own words, author Darryl Dash summarizes chapter five:
- Spiritual growth involves mastering the basics: knowing, worshiping, and obeying God .
- Knowing God involves learning about Him and knowing Him relationally. Knowing God helps us know how to live well.
- Worshiping God involves learning to love and value Him above everything and everyone else.
- Obeying God involves avoiding sin and obeying His commands.
- We grow best in community.
Dash clearly states his goal for the chapter writing, “My goal in this chapter is to give you the basics: the three basics that form the basis of our growth as we apply the gospel to all of life.” And if the idea of “the basics” bores you, Dash is quick to remind you that “Spiritual growth is complicated. But we can grow, without understanding all of the intricacies of how growth happens as we focus on the basics: knowing, worshiping, and obeying God.” Talk of “back to the basics” shouldn’t bore you, but rather it should bolster your resolve. Even though spiritual growth is a complicated thing to dissect, analyze, and hypothesize about, it doesn’t have to be complicated in terms of everyday life. That’s encouraging.
In regards to the basics, I love that Dash ends the chapter by focusing on the corporate nature of spiritual growth. The basics are, certainly for the long term, barren apart from community yet bountiful when practised in relationship. Dash insists, “We can try to grow spiritually by ourselves, unencumbered by the quirks of and demands of others. But if we want to go far in our growth, we must grow in community. Biblical community is one of God’s most powerful tools for growth.” This is the context of the Christian life, therefore this is the context of Christian growth. Well-known theologian, pastor, and author John Stott made this clear in my favourite quotation from his writings: “An unchurched Christian is a grotesque anomaly. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person.”
Knowing God is to be done in community. That doesn’t mean we can’t read our bible or books by ourselves; of course we can and we should. But a healthy and necessary component of learning more about God is the presence of other believers to support, encourage, and protect you as you do so. I love learning in community. I have been reading books in community for the purpose of knowing God better for a long time. In fact, three of the resources dash mentions in the chapter—Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy, Chalmer’s The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, and Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation—I read and studied with other believers. This is an important aspect of knowing God as a basic approach to growth.
The necessity of communal learning may not have been obvious but I expect the same can’t be said of worship. All Christians know that at least part of our worship of God must be in community. Nevertheless, this is a truth many know but do not practice. I read regularly that in our day and age a “committed worshipper” attends church about two Sundays a month. Furthermore, the practice of having “church” at home in front of a screen is becoming more common. The corporate necessity of worship is found throughout the New Testament. But let me draw your attention to the last book in the Bible; the book of Revelation highlights the importance of worshipping God in community. Consider Revelation 5:6-13,
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
The elders, the angels, and “every creature in heaven and on earth” are praising God. Without prolonging the discussion, I’ll simply suggest that if in the very presence of God we will be worshipping corporately, then we need that to be a part of our worship on this side of glory.
Finally, community has a massive positive impact on obedience. I’m encouraged to obey when I see others obeying. I learn how to obey by watching others obey. I am corrected and admonished and called to repentance when I am in disobedience. Dash explains that obedience is viewed positively and negatively; we obey by keeping God’s commands and we obey by avoiding sin. Both of these things are strengthened as we walk together with other believers.
I’ll finish this post with the encouragement Dash finishes his chapter with: “The Christian life involves knowing God better, worshipping Him and loving him more, and growing in our obedience. As we work on these basics in community, we will experience change.” We. Will.