May 24, 2014

Practice May Not Make Us Perfect – Philip Strong

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:52 pm by sranderson0103

But it usually makes us proficient- especially when practicing sin. The word “practice,” like many words, can be used as either a noun or a verb. As a noun, “practice” refers to an activity that is repeated until it becomes a habit. As a verb, it refers to the repeated rehearsal for the activity itself. Thus, sin can become our “practice” (noun) if we “practice” (verb) it diligently and consistently.

In Ephesians 2:1-2, Paul included himself when he described some who “walked according to the course of this world” and “lived in the lusts of our minds, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” to such an extent that they became “by nature children of wrath.” Becoming “by nature children of wrath” clearly does not refer to a genetic predisposition to sin, or some otherwise inherited sinful nature, because he emphasizes personal activity and indulgence as being the cause. So, there are sinful choices being made and practiced. What is being highlighted in the text is the principle that repeated indulgence of fleshly desires through sinful practices changes our habitude (native or essential character). We do not become sinners by being born that way, cf. Ezekiel 18:20ff; we become sinners when we chose and “practice” the “works of the flesh” over the “fruit of the Spirit,” Galatians 5:16-26.

The more often that we make the choice to “practice” (verb) sin, the easier and faster it becomes our “practice” (noun). Just like any other activity, repetition leads to proficiency. Whether turning a double play on the baseball diamond, or baking a cake in the kitchen, repetition makes us better at performing the activity. It is no different with sin. By repetition, we learn what “works” best for us. We learn how to better hide the activity from those we know will disapprove. We learn how to better salve our consciences with excuses and justifications. And, we learn how to better mitigate any concerns of spiritual conscience, and minimize the physical consequences that may accompany the sinful practice(s). Thus we become proficient at sin by practice. And since we typically enjoy and indulge in the activities at which we become proficient, sin becomes easier, and therefore also becomes more and more the “practice” (noun) of our lives.

But thankfully, the same principles of practice apply in the other direction too. Just as we become more proficient at sin by practice, so too we can become more proficient at righteousness by practice! When we first decide by faith and repentance to live godly rather than sinful lives, the “practice” of righteousness is decidedly difficult. Like a baby learning to walk, there are many falls, bumps, and bruises along the way. 1John 1:8-10 makes it clear that sinful mistakes are just simply part of the process of learning to “walk by faith” (2Corinthians 5:7). But just like practicing sin, practicing righteousness leads to proficiency, and proficiency makes our walk of faith easier. There is no trick to it, and there are no short cuts. It just takes “practice”- diligent, repetitive, consistent, and concerted practice.  The good news is that anyone can do it. If we genuinely want to please God by turning from the “unfruitful deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:10-11), are willing to study and learn the playbook (Ephesians 3:3-5), and are willing to really dedicate ourselves through diligent “practice” (Ephesians 4:11-16), then we can “walk no longer as the Gentiles walk” and “be renewed in the spirit of your mind” and “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:17, 23,24).

1John 3:4-10, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He appeared to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” Our “practices” (verb) determine our “practice” (noun).



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