I received this letter from a reader:
Dear Mr. Randy Alcorn,
My name is Aidan. I am a senior in high school. I am a student, a fellow writer, and a follower of God. For a religion assignment, I had to find a Christian online who practices the four non-negotiables of our faith: have private morality, practice social justice, have mellowness of heart and spirit, and attend church with vigor and a desire to learn from it.
The second part of our assignment was to write a letter to you asking how to be an exemplary Christian like you, preferably through living the four non-negotiables. If you could take time out of your life to give some advice to someone just starting on their path to God, I would deeply appreciate it.
Here was my response:
Great to hear from you as a fellow writer, and most importantly, as a fellow follower of Jesus.
My best writing advice to you is to immerse yourself in God’s Word, and study sound doctrine and good theology. (One great book, for reference or to read all the way through, is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, or his abridged version, called Bible Doctrine.)
If God’s Word is daily at home in your heart and mind, your writing will take on a perspective, and an air of solidity and permanence it won’t have otherwise. God promises His Word won’t return to Him empty, without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). He does not promise that about our words, but His. If we want our words to have lasting value and impact, they need to be touched and shaped by His words—and that won’t happen without a daily choice to expose our minds to Scripture.
You mentioned four nonnegotiables of the faith, and asked how to live those out. Here are my thoughts:
1. Have Private Morality.
I would rename this category as “character.” Image is how we look on the outside to people who don’t know us. Character is what we are in the dark when no one but God sees us. Character is what we really are.
Who you become will be the result of the daily choices you make. The key to spirituality is the development of little habits—Bible reading and memorization and prayer—which will develop into life disciplines. Through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and minds. However, don’t just read your Bible out of guilt; do it to find great joy in Jesus! David said of God’s words, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).