Posts Tagged With: Of the Imitation of Christ

First Sunday of Advent: One Year, One Thing

“If every year we would root out one vice, we would soon become perfect men. But now oftentimes we perceive it goes contrary, and that we were better and purer at the beginning of our entrance into the religious life than after many years of our profession” (Thomas a’ Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chap. 11).

By Liesel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year!

No, I am not confused about the date or accidentally posting an article one month early. Today is the First Sunday of Advent, which begins a new year on the church calendar. Over the next few weeks, churches that follow a liturgical calendar will have Scripture readings and songs looking to the coming of Christ, which we will celebrate on Christmas. At the same time, we are reminded that He has already come and He is coming again. We should also remember that He is still with us (Matthew 28:18-20).

Many Americans will wait until January 1 to make New Year’s Resolutions. If the secular world can recommend New Year’s Resolutions, to be announced in a drunken stupor shortly after midnight on January 1, perhaps Christians can make spiritual resolutions on the First Sunday of Advent.

In a recent post, I listed Of the Imitation of Christ as one book that all Christians should read. Brother Thomas’ quote above, found early in the book, really spoke to me. There are areas of my life where, to be honest, I am not as holy or righteous as I was a few years ago. In some areas, my life looked more Christlike before I became a Christian.

I know I am not alone. I know people who admit that they have developed bad habits after becoming disciples of Jesus. Perhaps they overcame a drug or alcohol addiction and got hooked on pornography. Maybe they stopped cursing and became self-righteous, judgmental gossips. If this sounds like you (maybe your sins are different from mine), let’s take a stand together in the coming church year.

Take a look at that quote. Imagine if you could overcome one sinful habit per year. Maybe you have five or six sins that you keep falling back into. Can you imagine overcoming those five or six sins within five or six years?

So, here’s the challenge I am placing before anybody who desires to draw closer to Jesus:

  • Pick one sin that you struggle with. Ideally, it will be the one that causes you the most difficulty. Maybe there is an addiction that is destroying your health and family. Maybe you have a bad temper that has gotten you into trouble. Write that sin down.
  • Bring that sin before Jesus in prayer. Thank Him that He has already forgiven you. Confess that it is sin. Ask Him to give you victory by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Take a look at the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of those fruit is the most direct antidote for your sin? Pray for the Holy Spirit to manifest and grow that fruit in your life.
  • Believe and expect God to do this! If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit already dwells within you. The fruit of the Spirit is already available to you. If you are not living in victory, it is because you have neglected some fruit that is available to you. Claim it!
  • If there are resources available for addressing your sin, use them. You may want to follow the Twelve Steps, originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous but adapted by numerous other organizations to address other life-controlling problems. A copy of the Life Recovery Bible, available from https://www.tyndale.com/p/nlt-life-recovery-bible-second-edition/9781496425751, will help you work the steps over your struggle.
  • As part of the Twelve Steps, you will be challenged to conduct a personal moral inventory. Do not be afraid: It can be intimidating to dig up all that dirt, but it will bring freedom. Recovering addicts will often say, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Share your findings with someone you can trust: a priest (if your church has sacramental confession), sponsor (if you are in a Twelve-Step Program), or a close friend or mentor whom you can trust to keep your confession private. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23-24, English Standard Version).

Throughout the coming year, we will come back to this challenge from time to time. I may mention it within other posts, or I may devote special posts to it. This may be in conjunction with other special days on the church calendar (I will follow the calendar of my denomination, the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church).

May we all find victory in the coming year. Let’s find that one sin that holds us back and cast it aside as the Holy Spirit works in our lives. Imagine if we can find victory over one sin per year, without taking on a new one. Where will we be in our walk with Christ one year, five years, or ten years from now?

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Character and Values, Christian Life, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Books Every Christian Should Read (Besides the Bible)

After almost 20 years in our current residence, my wife and I are preparing to move. We have already filled a lot of boxes (I have lost count) with some of our belongings. Quite a few of those boxes are filled with books (again, I have lost count). We are only a fraction of the way through our books. We realized we have books in almost every room of our apartment.

A few books from my collection.

We love books. When we first met, we hit it off over the fact that we are both fans of C. S. Lewis. I think my wife and I both love reading almost as much as I enjoy writing (maybe more so). Books have played a major role in my life and great Christian authors have shaped my faith significantly.

With that in mind, I would like to offer the following list of five books, besides the Bible, that have influenced my relationship with Christ. I would encourage all Christians to read them at some point:

  • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis—Lewis is one of my favorite authors. Early in my relationship with Christ, several people encouraged me to read this book. Lewis provides a simple, concise, intelligent defense and explanation of the essentials of the Christian faith. For someone who prides himself on being an intellectual and independent thinker, it was refreshing to read a book that shows that you do not have to lock your brain in a corner when you become a Christian. You can be a thinking Christian and a sincere believer.
    • Honorable mention: Another of my favorite books is The Screwtape Letters, which imagines a series of letters where a senior demon tries to mentor his protege. A few other great Lewis books include The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, and the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia children’s books. Lewis wrote in numerous genres, so you are likely to find something by him that suits your style.
  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence—I found this little book among my father’s belongings after he passed away. I still have his copy. Brother Lawrence was a seventeenth-century monk who concluded that a committed Christian life primarily involved a continual acknowledgment of God’s presence at all times. Whatever you do, wherever you are: Keep your mind on the Lord, remember He is always with you, and rejoice in His love for you. It is a very brief book; each of its chapters (my copy contains 26: four conversations, 16 letters, and six brief “spiritual maxims”) can be read in less than five minutes. A book like this is best read by reading one chapter at a time and then allowing yourself time to reflect on its message throughout the day.
  • Of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis—Another monastic spiritual classic. Kempis was a fifteen century monk with a view of the Christian life that complements Brother Lawrence’s. As the title suggests, Kempis urges his readers to imitate Christ. Is book is somewhat longer than Lawrence’s, but the chapters are likewise very brief, allowing the reader to devote time to reflection and meditation on their truths throughout the day. It is actually four books, with a total of 114 chapters: “Admonitions Useful for Spiritual Life,” “Admonitions Pertaining to Inward Things,” “Internal Consolation,” and “A Devout Exhortation to the Holy Communion.” While both Brother Lawrence and Thomas a’Kempis write from the perspective of men cloistered in ancient monasteries, their writings will provide insight and encouragement for those of us living twenty-first century lives.
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer—“When Christ calls a man, He bids him ‘come and die.’” Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, and seminary professor whose ministry coincided with the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. The Cost of Discipleship is probably his most easy-to-read book, most of it being a devotional commentary about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Living at a time when it was impossible to be a committed Christian and a loyal supporter of one’s government, Bonhoeffer could relay some of the conflict between Jesus’ teachings and the mindset of the world. He would eventually be executed for his involvement with “Valkyrie,” an attempt to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime.
    • Honorable mention: Bonhoeffer wrote prolifically during his brief life. I have not read his Letters and Papers from Prison but understand that this book is quite popular. Life Together examines Christian fellowship and the church from the perspective of his seminary, which was forced to live and study “underground” after it was outlawed by the Nazis.
    • I strongly recommend the biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. It examines Bonhoeffer’s writings and thoughts in the context of German history at that time. One would be wise to read it to see the conflict a Christian may face as his nation gravitates toward tyranny. I believe there are lessons there that modern American Christians need to learn quickly.
  • Anything by Andrew Murray—I have read many of Andrew Murray’s books; all of them have blessed, inspired, and challenged me; and I really cannot pick a favorite. I have quoted him several times on this blog, most recently when The True Vine inspired parts of my recent series on “Abiding in the Vine.” Some of this nineteenth-century South African pastor’s other works include Abide in Christ, The Deeper Christian Life, The Master’s Indwelling, The Ministry of Intercession, The Spirit of Christ, and The Power of the Blood. All of Murray’s writings are full of wisdom and zeal for the power of the Holy Spirit to be seen in the lives of Christians. Most of his writings address the subjects of prayer and the Spirit-filled Christian life. His books are generally brief, written to an audience of ordinary churchgoers. They are not overly complicated or hard to read, but they are spiritually deep. Read thoughtfully and be challenged to go deeper with Christ.

These are just a few of the books that hold a permanent place on my bookshelf. I would love to hear some of your favorite picks. What would you count as “books every Christian should read”? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: