practice righteousness in order to transform
What 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)
Have you ever wondered, “What if grace isn’t enough to transform us?” Now, before you pick up stones, hear me out. I think we often mix up the idea of grace with the idea of forgiveness. If we think that receiving grace is synonymous with being forgiven, then grace doesn’t seem enough to transform. But, this isn’t really what grace means. Grace is God’s unmerited favor and, “God’s favor differs from man’s in that it cannot be conceived of as inactive” (Burton Scott Easton in ISBI). God’s grace is actively helping us grow, learn, and dig deep for change. God’s game plan is not to levitate our souls to improvement like some magician. Instead, God has designed us and resourced us to train or practice righteousness in order to transform. After all, isn’t that the point of practice – to get better at something?
In our text today, we hear Paul’s instruction to the church, “practice these things” (Philippians 4:9). He encourages followers of Jesus to follow his example and “practice” what he has taught them. For much of my life, I’ve read this and I thought I could be transformed by thinking the right theological thoughts. If I could only ascend to some lofty mental understanding, I could think my way to change. Yet, I know others who have thought they could feel their way to transformation by seeking out spiritually emotional interactions. Perhaps these feelings would motivate them to be different. But, it turns out, a well-lived Christian life is far more integrated then that. Transformation demands the active, coaching, disciplining, truth-speaking, encouragement-giving, sweat-producing kind of grace.
Now, the Philippians were able to “practice,” because they already learned what they should do (through education), received it (by believing it), heard it (because of it’s effect in others and in Paul), and seen it (by observing others living righteously). But, this holistic type of effort demands training. We must practice using the mind, the emotions, and the body. So, it’s time for us to practice. If you’re unfamiliar with how to practice faith, here is a great article to explore Christian disciplines. Sit down with God, your heavenly coach, and allow him to point out one discipline. That just might become the grace by which, he transforms you.
By Aaron Bjorklund