Sometimes you have to look at the piles of theology books, Christian self-help books, Christian memoirs, Christian history books – and go back to where it all started.
Raj Ashok was 45 when he came to faith. He was born and raised in the Hindu religion, and he considered himself a Hindu. At 45, he became reborn in the Christian faith, and he now considers himself a Christian servant-leader fulfilling God’s mission.
He begins with the basics. Increase Your Faith: 75 Powerful Teachings of Jesus Christ for Your Spiritual Growth is a series of short, concise messages straight from the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. You can read them all at one sitting, but Ashok advises against it. Instead, he suggests, read them slowly, because that’s how faith and understanding develop – slowly.
He includes the seven “I am” statements from the Gospel of John; 43 statements from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 5 to 7); and 25 other powerful statements from all four of the Gospels.
The example of the “do not judge” statement from the Sermon on the Mount shows how Ashok discusses each statement. In Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus says not to judge, “that you be not judged,” because the standard you use to judge will be the standard applied to you. Ashok first discusses how the verse is misunderstood and misapplied, especially how we misapply it when we’re confronted with questionable behavior – we use that verse as a shield. What Jesus was actually aiming at here, he writes, was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were so quick to point out the sins of others while not holding themselves accountable under the same standard.
So, do we ignore questionable or sinful behavior? For that answer, Ashok turns to Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (6:1-2), which addresses how to reach out and restore in a spirit of gentleness and bearing one another’s burdens. Motive and attitude matter.
The 75 selections of Increase Your Faith can easily be used as a daily devotional series. The first two groupings of the “I am” statements from John and the statements in the Sermon on the Mount are particularly helpful for thematic study as well.
Top photograph by Ben White via . Used with permission.