Monday, February 23, 2009

Practically Speaking – Part 2 of 3

Exhortation and admonition are wonderful words. Exhort: "To urge by strong, often stirring argument." Admonish: "To reprove gently but earnestly; to counsel against something to be avoided; caution." Unfortunately, as with the word “discipline,” in many cases the church has made these into very legalistic words that they use to manipulate people and try to keep them under control. But those are not the reasons the Apostle Paul exhorted, admonished and encouraged the people he wrote to, as he built them up in who they were, and in what the Christian life looked like in action. And you know what, if you don’t want to use those words, that’s fine. The point is that Paul spoke practical words to people that showed them what life in Christ looked like when lived out, and it was a really good thing!

Paul made sure that the people of the church were rooted, grounded and established in grace and in their identity in Christ. Paul made sure the people knew that it wasn’t about their efforts at pleasing God. It wasn’t about them striving to be good. Paul is the one who showed us that we have died, and the life we live in the body, we live by faith, not by our own flesh-produced works! I believe he also showed us what this looks like by speaking practical words (practical: “capable of being used or put into effect”) that would aid in stirring up the inward Christ-life and getting it out.

One wonderful truth that has helped me in my Christian life is the idea that God initiates and we respond. In other words, it’s not about us going and looking for things to do, and principles to follow, but as we rest in Christ, God gives us the thoughts and ideas and He works in and through us to make it happen. I believe there are myriads of ways in which God does this, and one of the many ways is through our communication with one another. As we encourage one another, and speak words of edification and admonishment and exhortation to one another, we stir one another up. We dig into the Christ-life that is within each other and we spur one another on toward love and good deeds. It’s all God’s doing, and in these instances He does it by speaking to us through one another.

Again, I don’t believe it’s a matter of us going around trying to find principles to follow and I also don’t believe it’s a matter of a preacher coming up with a new set of generic principles to preach each week. I think it’s more a matter of, in the normal course of life, God’s children communicating with one another, and in the proper times and seasons speaking words to one another that come from our own life experiences and from biblical truth that fit the given circumstances, and that will help us to grow in grace and in the living out of who we truly already are in Christ.

I’ll give some ‘practical’ examples in the next post to show where I’m coming from.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

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