“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9
The airwaves are filled with all kinds of infomercials urging people to purchase their product for quick weight loss or to get fit with their instrument of torture. My favorite is the “P90.” I just saw a revised and updated version. I think it was “P25.” I switched channels. If they keep getting the date down to a shorter time period, I may have to try it. Where’s the Food Channel? Can I get a witness?
Practice is the one thing that physical fitness, athletic success, mental development, and musical skill have in common. It should come as no surprise that spiritual health is based on the same concept. For the development of spiritual fitness, there must be consistent practice.
A practicing Christian is not a person who is making it up as they go along. It describes someone who is being guided and mentored by The Master. In early days before law schools, med schools or seminaries, disciples would attach themselves to a master who was well known for their acumen and skill in a certain field. The result was the concept of a person beginning under the tutelage of another, but then continuing a life of practicing medicine, or practicing law.
Unfortunately the concept of practicing Christianity has not been so well received. Many people believe that when they ask Jesus into their heart, they need not engage their mind or their body. They seem to be lulled into believing they have entered into a foggy fairyland, not The Kingdom of God.
When someone asks Jesus into their heart, their brains don’t fall out. No one in their right mind wants to be operated on by a doctor or represented by a lawyer who cheated through school or skipped it entirely. It is perfectly acceptable to obtain the services of a profession who practices medicine or practices law. Christians shouldn’t expect any less of themselves, or accept having any less said of their character.
What does a “Practicing Christian” look like? Paul gives a clear practice regimen in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Christians at The Church at Philippi.
1. Stand fast in the Lord v. 1
2. Be of the same mind in the Lord. v. 2
3. Help others to be in harmony with one another. v. 3
4. Rejoice in the Lord always. v. 4
5. Don’t panic in the face of Jesus. v. 5
6. Don’t worry about the crisis. Give it to God. Pray! v. 6
7. Receive and keep the peace of God. v. 7
8. Dwell on what is praise-worthy. v. 8
9. Repeat all the above. v. 9
WARNING: No amount of practice will produce fruit unless it is connected to the root. The Fruit of The Spirit is rooted to The Lord Jesus Christ. The Fruit is the character of Jesus. Where Jesus is Lord, His fruit is produced. Without Him there is only barrenness, or imitation fruit. The Christian cannot survive on the first, and the lost world will not be satisfied by the second. The pursuit of The Fruit begins at The Root.
These nine precepts of The Practice precede the development of healthy Christians and healthy churches. Without practice The Body of Christ falls into flabbiness, and never rises to the level of fitness that brings honor and glory to The Lord Jesus Christ. The Practice is all about walking with Jesus and working out one’s salvation in consistent companionship with Him, responding in repetitive obedience to His voice.
Practicing Christianity, like learning a language, begins with trust. When a child learns to speak, they do not study the principles of grammar. They point to what they want, and look to the one they trust the most to get it for them. It is simple word association. The child points at what they want. The parents speak the word that represents the object or the desire. In time the child repeats the word, and learns to speak. IT TAKES TIME AND TRUST.
In God’s plan, loving parent help a child learn to the language of the family. At their earliest stage of development, a child wants only to be fed and to be changed. Children scream, unable to point out to their parents exactly what or where the problem is. The loving parents eventually figure it out, meet the need, satisfy the child and wait for the next outcry. Wise parents potty-train a child as soon as possible. This practice enables a child to develop beyond a screaming mass of immaturity to become a productive person in society, able to avoid messes, and to properly communicate with others.
Prayer is the evidence of a practicing Christian. The content of the praying reveals if a Christian has moved beyond unhealthy, prolonged childishness towards healthy, productive child-likeness. The Practice outlined in Philippians puts the maturing process in motion. Once The Spirit of Christ moves into the life of a believer, The Practice begins. As Paul states, the practicing Christianity beings with Jesus and it continues with Jesus. Prayer matures a Christian from a bare, draining sapling into a fruit-bearing branch, as the relationship with Jesus is maintained and sustained by The Spirit.
Note to self: Don’t be a sap. Be filled to over-flowing and fruit-bearing.
“For I am confident of this very thing. That He who began a good work in your will perfect it, until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Prayer may begin in panic, and with a point and a cry. Believing prayer develops beyond childish tantrums to child-like communication. Don’t’ take my word for it.
“God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.” John Wesley
“Prayer is the intimate communication between the Heavenly Father and His child.” Don Miller
Prayer is the language of the practicing Christian. Become a life-long learners with Christ in The School of Prayer. Start earning your Ph.D.*
*Pray Hard! Daily! TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!