About 9-a-day

What is 9-a-day

Nine-a-Day: Becoming Like Jesus

The challenge

John Stott  (who founded the Langham Partnership) often said that one of the greatest problems in the church today is ‘growth without depth’. He went on to say, ‘While we rejoice in the evangelistic growth of the church around the world, there is shallowness and immaturity everywhere.’

In The Cape Town Commitment produced by the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, in Cape Town 2010, we read:

‘The rapid growth of the Church in so many places remains shallow and vulnerable, partly because of the lack of discipled leaders, and partly because so many use their positions for worldly power, arrogant status or personal enrichment. As a result, God’s people suffer, Christ is dishonoured, and gospel mission is undermined….. We long to see greatly intensified efforts in disciple-making, through the long-term work of teaching and nurturing new believers, so that those whom God calls and gives to the church as leaders are qualified according to biblical criteria of maturity and servanthood.’[1]

That is precisely the longing and the goal of the Langham Partnership and the motivation behind this 9-a-Day initiative.

 

Our Langham vision

‘Our vision is to see churches worldwide equipped for mission and growing to maturity in Christ through the ministry of pastors and leaders who believe, teach and live by the word of God.’

 

Our convictions are

  1. that God wants his church to grow up in maturity, not just to grow bigger in numbers;
  2. that the church grows through God’s word; and
  3. that God’s word comes to believers mainly through biblical preaching and teaching.

 

‘If these three convictions are true,’ John Stott would say, ‘then the logical question to ask is, “What can we do to raise the standards of biblical preaching?”’

Our three Langham ministries are equipping a new generation of Bible teachers – whether that teaching happens in a church (Langham Preaching), in the pages of a book (Langham Literature), or in a seminary classroom (Langham Scholars).

Our goal is greater biblical maturity and our method is to inspire better biblical teaching. We want people to become more like Jesus by being better fed on God’s word.

 

The Fruit of the Spirit

But what does biblical maturity and Christlikeness look like? ‘We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ’ (Eph. 4:15, NRSV), said Paul.  Biblical maturity is not just a matter of growing up, but growing more in Christ and growing more like Christ. So in many ways, ‘maturity’ and ‘Christlikeness’ go together. As we grow more mature in the faith, we do in fact grow more like Jesus.  Such maturity and Christlikeness are the work of the Holy Spirit as he bears fruit in our lives.

In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists nine qualities that he calls ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. Each of these can be filled out from other Bible texts, including the teaching of Jesus. Together they make a rounded cluster of qualities that will become more and more evident in a growing Christian’s life and character.  A beautiful cluster of fruit.

For years we have all been urged to eat ‘Five-a-Day’ fruit and vegetables for the good of our physical health! Nothing could be better for our spiritual health and growth than to digest the meaning of the fruit of the Spirit, ‘Nine-a-Day’.  John Stott had the habit of praying every morning that these qualities should be seen in his life. So it is not surprising that many people have said that he was the most Christlike person they have ever known.

 

Our ‘Nine-a-Day’ campaign

For each of the seven months beginning in January 2013 we will take one of the qualities listed by Paul as our focus. We will provide an article that explains from the Bible what it means, and gives some practical illustration and application. We will share video stories from around the world that show the Holy Spirit in action producing these fruits in the lives of believers in all kinds of situations. And we will show how the three ministries of Langham Partnership are working to help people grow to maturity in these ways, through faithful preaching and teaching of the Bible.

 

The Nine Fruits

1. Love: ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Eph. 4:3).  ‘And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity’ (Col. 3:14).  Christ’s ‘new commandment’ was that his disciples should love one another. Repeated three times in John, and five times in 1 John, this also constitutes a powerful engine of mission – ‘by this shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

2. Joy: a theme mentioned by Paul 21 times, and a hallmark of mature faith. It is picked up by James and Peter, as well as Paul, as a mark of maturity, specially when facing difficulty. It is remarkable how this is characteristic of believers in situations of acute poverty and persecution, whereas apathy, cynicism and complaining often characterize Christians living in relative ease.

3. Peace: ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Eph. 4:3). Peace includes reconciliation and forgiveness between Christians, and also seeking peace (as opposed to taking vengeance) in situations of conflict. A very prominent theme in Jesus and Paul. When Christians fall out easily, divide into factions, support their tribal heroes, etc., it is a sign of great immaturity. Paul condemned the Corinthians for this and said they had not grown out of spiritual infancy  (1 Cor. 3:3).  Conversely, mature Christians struggle hard to overcome difference and to exercise forbearance, acceptance, and mutual love.  They learn well the complex and detailed lessons of Romans 14-15.

4. Patience: ‘being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience’ (Col. 1:11). Perseverance is a clear quality of Christ-likeness (1 Tim 1:16). The New Testament was written against a background in which persecution was normal and expected.  The same is true for the majority of Christians in today’s world.  So growing to maturity includes being able to stand up under pressure and opposition, to go on confessing Christ and living for him, even when it means hostility, ostracism, physical threats, or even death itself.

5. Kindness: This includes how people respond towards those in weakness or human need, and includes generosity. Paul sees the generosity of the Greek Christians towards the needy in Jerusalem as a proof of their obedience to the gospel. (2 Cor. 9:13). ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 cor. 9:7). Kindness and generosity are the antidote to the idolatry of covetous greed. Tragically, the poison of the ‘prosperity gospel’ has turned greed into a virtue and generosity into a marketing opportunity. The spiritual immaturity that thrives in that environment is frightening, and pastorally disastrous.

6. Goodness: ‘we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work’ (Col. 1:10). Christian maturity is a matter of practical living, with the emphasis on ‘doing good’ (a term Paul uses many times).  We are not saved by good works, but we are saved in order to live changed lives that live out the goodness of God in daily life.  Christian maturity involves living by God’s standards – not just in negatively in the things we ‘don’t do’, but in positive exercise of compassion, kindness and generosity.  Jesus, ‘went about doing good’ (Acts 10:38). Christlikeness has to involve the same.

7.  Faithfulness: This includes faithfulness to the truth (through deep understanding and trust in the Scriptures), and also faithfulness in service throughout one’s life and through all kinds of temptations; and faithfulness towards other people. It speaks of a life that is both trusting (in God) and trustworthy.

8. Gentleness: This is sometimes translated ‘meekness’, which Jesus highlights in the Beatitudes. It can link with humility, or a servant-spirit ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love’ (Eph. 4:2).  ‘All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”’ (1 Pet. 4:5). The example of Jesus is one of constant self-giving servanthood. And his gentleness, born of humility, gave dignity to those who usually had it ‘rough’  (children, women, the sick, tax-collectors, etc).

9. Self-control: This can refer to a variety of ways in which mature Christians respond to temptations with discipline and strong resistance:  e.g. to laziness,  or sexual temptation, or to selfishness and greed. It is particularly important in cultivating integrity. Paul addresses a range of such issues in Col. 3 and Eph. 4-6. So much shallowness in Christian commitment, and so much indulgence in corruption, falsehood and deceit, are simply the result of inadequate Bible teaching and lack of self-control.

 

[1] The Cape Town Commitment, IID.3.