Four Ways to Grow in 2014

The new year is upon us. In just over two weeks we will be enveloped in all the hustle and bustle of 2014. Now, you may think a New Year’s post like this is a bit early, but do read on. Assuming you plan on making New Year’s resolutions, I have a four suggestions here that require a bit of preparation. If you are anything like me, you want to begin on time with all the resources you need, so below find four resolution ideas with support material. These are all great ways to grow in the faith so make use of one or more.1

READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR

What more beneficial resolution could you have than to spend the year in God’s word, from cover to cover—soaked in the word, picking up the full story line, coming to grips with the redemptive-historical message? Here are some recommended tools:

  • Bible Eater: This is my favourite Bible reading tool. It is a Bible reading plan with a flexible format, has readings from both Testaments each day and highlights the historical-redemptive passages of Scripture.
  • M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan: This is an older well know reading plan. It brings you daily readings from the Old and New Testament as well as the Psalms or Gospels.
  • Chronological Reading Plan: A straight up reading plan, from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Personally I don’t think it’s the easiest or way to read the Bible, but if you are looking for hard way to get through the Bible, this is probably for you.
  • Still haven’t found what you are looking for? There are a few more plans here.

READ WIDELY IN CHURCH HISTORY

Recommended tools include the following:

  • Canon of Theologians: Dever has a suggested reading plan that you can use for one year or more. He directs our attention to the most significant authors and works from various points of church history, ranging from the first century till the modern era; moving from era to era from month to month. This is a brilliant reading plan that helps prevent historical ignorance and chronological snobbery. If you have a problem sourcing any of the books, drop me a message and I’ll see how I can help. Make sure you have the books before the month is upon you, otherwise you will end up struggling to keep up with the plan.

READ CALVIN’S INSTITUTES IN A YEAR

Karl Barth, the most influential theologian of the twentieth century, once wrote: “I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.” Packer explains that Calvin’s magnum opus is one of the great wonders of the world:

Calvin’s Institutes (5th edition, 1559) is one of the wonders of the literary world—the world, that is, of writers and writing, of digesting and arranging heaps of diverse materials, of skillful proportioning and gripping presentation; the world . . . of the Idea, the Word, and the Power. . . .

The Institutio is also one of the wonders of the spiritual world—the world of doxology and devotion, of discipleship and discipline, of Word-through-Spirit illumination and transformation of individuals, of the Christ-centered mind and the Christ-honoring heart. . . .

Calvin’s Institutio is one of the wonders of the theological world, too—that is, the world of truth, faithfulness, and coherence in the mind regarding God; of combat, regrettable but inescapable, with intellectual insufficiency and error in believers and unbelievers alike; and of vision, valuation, and vindication of God as he presents himself through his Word to our fallen and disordered minds.

Recommended tools (note that both are based on Battle’s edition):

MEMORIZE A CATECHISM

The English word “catechize” simply means to teach biblical truth in an orderly way. In his introduction to The Baptist Catechism, John Piper explains the biblical support for a pattern of doctrine: there is a “pattern of teaching” (Romans 6:17), a “pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13). This used to be a normal practice in the church—to learn the catechism—and it will be deeply beneficial and helpful for you to do the same. The two that I am suggesting today are made to be used in a year; they are neatly broken up into 52 weeks. This make it easy to learn one a week. Recommended catechism tools:

  • The New City Catechism: New City Catechism is a wonderful new Catechism based on and adapted from Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism. A good next step would be to learn either Westminster Shorter or Heidelberg. It consists of 52 questions and answers so the easiest way to use it is to memorize one question and answer each week of the year. Because it is intended to be dialogical it is best to learn it with others, enabling you to drill one another on the answers not only one at a time but once you have learned ten of them, then twenty of them, and so on. The Bible verse, written and filmed commentary, and prayer that are attached to each question and answer can be used as your devotion on a chosen day of the week to help you think through and meditate on the issues and applications that arise from the question and answer. Best of all it is available on different platforms. Thus making it very accessible: It’s on AndroidAppleWeb-browser and Downloadable pdf.
  • The Heidelberg Catechism: The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity in the Palatinate, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well. It is a remarkably warm-hearted and personalized confession of faith, eminently deserving of its popularity among Reformed churches to the present day. Like the New City Catechism above, it fits neatly into 52 weeks, however some week have more than one question, so you will be doing slightly more memorizing if you pick this one. This is also available on various platforms: AndroidAppleWeb-browser and Downloadable pdf.

ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP

Now best of all, I will be providing Accountability Groups, for those of you tech-savvy enough to be on Facebook. Join a group and interact with others who are taking part in the same resolution as you. Hold yourself accountable to the group by sharing whether or not you completed the task on a weekly basis. You can also swap tips and discuss how the week’s task went for you. Also share insights you picked up that may be a blessing to others. Sadly, I will only make groups to cater for the first options on all the above resolutions (these are the ones I deem to be the best); but don’t despair if you wish to do another one; you can still join as there will be much overlap. If you plan on doing one of these resolutions and want to join the Facebook group, drop me a mail. (Feel free to share this post on social networks so more can join in; the more that join the merrier.) Links to the Groups are as follows:

  1. Originally posted by Tyrell Haag, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, at his personal blog on 16 December 2013.