Bread – Practice

February 12, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, February 12, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 27:1-29; Rom. 12:1-8; John 8:12-20; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120

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When I was in the band and orchestra in high school, I had the same teacher-director. In fact, I had him all the way from seventh grade through my senior year. He had a saying which he repeated every day until I was sick of it, but I did remember it. It was – “Practice makes perfect, but only if it is perfect practice.”

When we are born anew by the power of God into His salvation, by the exercise of His grace in our lives, we are essentially re-born as spiritual babies. We go from drinking milk to eating meat by practicing. We grow in the Christian walk by practicing, but we are perfected in our walk only by practicing “perfectly.” How do we do that?

Well, today’s reading from Romans actually contains some of the secrets to practicing our walk with God perfectly.

In Romans 12, we read: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I way to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned….Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them …” Rom. 12:1-3,5

The elements of perfect practice are: (1) renew our mind so that we know the difference between what God wants and what the world wants (essentially by studying God’s revelation to us, His Scripture and Jesus), (2) practice what we know in real life (test God’s instructions by using them), (3) evaluate ourselves honestly, and (4) and use our gifts. To reorganize these into a time sequence of behavior, (1) know what to do, (2) do it, (3) using our gifts in faith, and (4) evaluate how we are doing.

In order to have “perfect” practice, we must first of all know what the standard is that we are trying to achieve and we must pick from the best practice materials to practice from. Our standards given to us by God is His Word in Scripture. Not only is this the source of standards, but Scripture is itself the best practice material (we often make a mistake in assuming that our best practice material is something like Bread, a writing about Scripture, but the best is always the source material itself). Once we have gone to the best source of practice materials, we must practice, which is a constant testing of the best, a constant trying to do the best. But we must be fair to ourselves; this testing, this doing, is done according to the faith we have been given, according literally to the talent God has given us. But we must use all of our God-given talent, our “gifts” of the Holy Spirit. And then, having actually used our gifts, applying the best practice materials we have to life, we then need to constantly ask ourselves soberly, how are we doing? This self-evaluation is done honestly and soberly, “not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.” In other words, perfect practice has an edge to it. If we are truly the best, perfect practice will make us better. If we are truly the worse, perfect practice will make us better. Whether or not we are the best or the worse, the beginner or the professional, the untalented or the talented, perfect practice using God’s Word, His power, and His gifts, will make us all better.

Why practice at all, much less strive for perfect practice? One answer is that we have been told to and we are trying to be obedient, but that is not particularly motivating. Another answer is that we are merely being grateful for the gift of salvation we have been given – obedience not arising from duty but from gratitude. That is a better reason, perhaps, because it may for some be more motivating.

But what about this one – because it gives us pleasure?

Think about when you have had your greatest pleasure in life? Was it really when you closed the big business deal or bought a Cadillac or bought your first big house? Or was it when you came to Christ, when you love your spouse or your children, when you gave the last dollar in your wallet to someone who needed it more, when you walked for a few minutes with Jesus and He smiled upon you, when you watched while someone accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, when the person who had nothing and got something gave it away, when you were dog-tired at the end of a long day and went to bed knowing that someone was living better tomorrow because of what you did today.

We practice music because we want to participate in music. We practice sports because we want to participate in sports.

Do you want to participate in Christ? Practice, perfectly. Every day.

And you will get better.

________________

© 2014 GBF

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