Continuing my arranging of notes by Dr. John Hannah, from our recent spiritual life conference. [See previous post.] Now his section on "vivification", or what God gives us and what we do related to the new life being manifested in us:
8. Vivification: How do you get good thoughts into your mind? How do I determine what is right to think about since the spiritual life is so connected to mental activity? This is vivification, doing those things that promote and help us to grow. A healthy spiritual life is the result of healthy thoughts. But, how do I get healthy thoughts in a God-opposing world?
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, what ever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
a) Right thoughts require virtuous input: This is the place of the Bible. If you desire to think correct thoughts, you must good ideas in your mind. You simply cannot avail yourself to what is not there.
1) It not about the length of time in reading daily; it is about frequency.
2) It is not about remembering what you read. Remember that growth is only seen over time with time-lapse photography.
3) Slowly and carefully read a verse or paragraph, but read daily until it becomes a habit.
4) If reading is hard, get tapes or a CD and listen. Most drive to work; use the time to think good thoughts.
b) Right thoughts require the mental expression of good ideas; good ideas come from good input.
1) Meditation, thinking about God intentionally. Try to think about the passage of Scripture you read for the day.
2) Memorize Scripture.
3) Prayer, verbalizing your thoughts to God.
• Make a list of prayer needs.
• Pray through portions of Scripture (the phrases of Psalm 23 or Matthew 6, the Lord’s model prayer).
• The posture of prayer is not important.
• The place of prayer is at your discretion.
• The length of prayer is not the point. Is it sincere and God-focused?
• Some people pray best with another or others. Join a prayer group.
4) Hearing, listening to thoughts about God.
• Regularly attend to the preaching and teaching of the Bible.
• Reading good books; listen to tapes or CDs, such as…
Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (NavPress, 2003)
Ken Gire, The Reflective Life (Chariot Victor Publications, 1998).
Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 1978).
• Get into a Bible study.
• Attend the Lord Supper meeting regularly.
5) Right Thoughts require good company.
• Engage with Christian friends and fellowship.
• Make a friend so that you can share your thoughts.
• Become active in your church.
• Experience the Lord’s Day as a time of rest and refreshment.
6) Right activities promote right thoughts.
• Consider assisting a teacher in a Sunday School class.
• Think about a short-term missions trip.
• Engage in a serious class at church.
• Find a widow or orphan to help, become a surrogate parent.
c) Concluding thoughts on vivification:
1) Growth is a process; a tree does not become mature in a day. The spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint; it is a life-long process.
2) None of us can do all these things. We must have limited, reachable goals for ourselves. We must endeavor to do what we can rather than too much. Remember the goal is progress, not perfection.
3) When you stop doing what you should, start over again. When we fail, simply start over again. Henry Ford said it well, “Success in progressing from one failure to the next without a loss of enthusiasm”. You may fail, but do not quit! The chief characteristic of the saints’ life is not how well we are doing, but what we do when we are not doing well.
4) The Lord is more interested in the development of our lives as spiritual mirrors than we. Therefore, He brings things into our lives both negative and positive events to shape and mold us. Pain and disappointments are wonderful surgical tools in the hands of an infinitely wise, all-powerful, and deeply loving friend (Gen. 49:20, Ex. 3:10, Judges 6:3).
5) There are several positive ingredients of a maturing Christian walk, though there are no hard and fast rules about frequency, posture, location, or duration. These include Bible reading, meditation, and memorization; prayer; Christian fellowship; attendance to preaching and the sacraments; and expressing faith in service to others.