By Joe Chesser
Practice makes perfect! That’s why professional sports teams have their training camps. That’s why gymnasts and ice skaters work on their routines over and over and over again. That’s why training seminars have role playing. That’s why musicians practice hours each day. To be the best you can be at any given endeavor requires lots and lots of practice. This also includes Christian living.
God expects us to practice our faith. There is no short cut or any other way to grow to Christian maturity. The danger of not putting into practice what we learn from Jesus is that we will not develop beyond the baby stage. That’s what the writer of Hebrews was concerned about (Hebrews 5:12-14). These people had been Christians long enough (some up to 30 years) for them to be teaching others. But instead, they still needed to be fed milk. The mature, he tells them, are capable of eating solid food and are constantly putting into practice what they are learning. Food and exercise. It’s not complicated, but it is necessary for becoming the best you can be as a Christian. Living for Christ should become the customary, routine, way of life. When you see a Christian who is weak or sickly, you can count on the source of their problem being connected somehow to what they are feeding on and/or how they are using what they have learned. So, it’s critical to routinely feed on the word of God and to routinely practice what you learn.
But don’t let the routine become the goal. That’s what the Pharisees did. They studied the word of God thoroughly. They knew it backwards and forwards. And they were extremely concerned about applying the word of God so precisely that their routines became their faith. How they developed, defined and defended their faith became, for them, more important that what God actually said (see Matthew 15:3-9). It got so bad that their routines, their traditions, boxed them in. They couldn’t do what God wanted them to do because their routines became their goal in life. What should have been a means to an end actually became the end itself. Because of that they actually ceased walking with God. Jesus called them hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, snakes and vipers (Matthew 23)!! They had, over time, allowed the applications of the principles of God to supersede the word itself. They were no longer open to spiritual growth for themselves or for anyone else. Since they had it figured out, anyone who differed with them about their routines was wrong.
So, on the one hand we need to routinely put into practice what we learn from the word of God. Growing to spiritual maturity demands that. But on the other hand, we cannot allow how we practice God’s word to become more important than the word itself.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.cofcfruitland.com/