What Do You Practice?

Peninsula community Church

June 10, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ – What Do You Practice?

2 John 2:2:28-3:9

1 John 2:28 – 3:9
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

As we read this passage one of the key words that stand out is the word practice. I always have a little chuckle at the idea of doctors and lawyers practices. We have always heard the joke about doctors and lawyers that practice and ask the question of when will they ever get it and stop practicing. The fact is, however is that we are all in essence on the practice field because the life we live here is only preparation for our future life with Christ.

The idea of practicing something is that we will continue to get better at what we do. In this regard a couple of illustrations come to mind. First of all, while living on Long Island I had the opportunity to go to the US Golf Open at Shinnecock and then a few years later at Bethpage. We had a great day watching the pros make some amazing shots. I one the players we were following at Bethpage was Phil Mickelson. Phil had played the 18 holes of practice and we thought that he was on his way to the club house when he turned and when to the practice range where he hit another 1000 golf balls. Why? His goal was to improve the areas of his game where he was weak so that he would be ready for the match over the weekend. While these guys were pros and they could hit the ball with such great precision and power, they realized they could always improve their game and needed to have ongoing practice to improve their skills.

A second illustration is the upcoming summer Olympics in London. I don’t know about you but I look forward to watching the various events represented through the Olympics. But again one of the things that have amazed me is the amount of time each athlete practices to maximize their skills so they will be in the position to win their events. I read of one gymnast that will spend 4 hours in practice in the morning before school and then another 5 to 6 hours after school. And they do this up to 6 to 7 days a week.

How does this apply to us? John says here that we will either practice righteousness or we will practice lawlessness. It is our choice. But what we practice we will become good at. In essence, this passage is about working on our game; it is the game of life. If we want to live righteously we will practice doing righteous things.

Once again time will only allow us to skim the surface of the depth of the passage but allow me to make a couple of observations.

As we are living life we must first understand that this passage deals with the conflict we experience between the reality of the new life found in Christ and the sin we often experience. The fact is Christ has come to forgive us of sin and by accepting Christ into our hearts we ask that all sin past and present be forgiven and removed. Once the blood of Christ has been applied we are made whole and we are set free from the power of sin. There is no sin not impacted by the power of Christ’s forgiveness.

The problem that exists is that while we have been forgiven of all sin past and present and we have become a new creation we continue to be impacted by the power of sin that exists in this world. This can be difficult because we often battle the failure of sin in our lives. As we experience life, we understand that we will sin and fall short of God’s desire for us. The result can be that we feel guilty and saddened about our failures. But we all sin and come short of God’s glory. Like the game of golf we can aim for the target and miss it. And when we do we reset and aim for the next target.

The second observation to be made here is that we are known as believers not by what we confess but by how we live and as passionate followers of Christ we will not willingly allow habitual sin to exist in our lives. The question at hand here is the concept or idea of habitual sin.

It is here that it behooves us to understand that when we speak of sin we understand that there are two extreme views. For one there are those that believe that once we become a believer in Christ that we will never sin again. This extreme view has been called sinless perfection but there is only one who deserves or merits that honor and that is Christ. While it might be an admirable goal to never sin, the fact is it is not possible. The second extreme view is that because of grace we do not have to worry about our sin because God will show us grace but one who does not recognize their sin and seek forgiveness for their sin cheapens the idea and concept of grace.

We should also note that habitual sin is not defined by the magnitude of the horror and repulsiveness the sin elicits from the self-righteous Christian. It can be any sin that we are unwilling to give to Christ. Do you lie to cover up your failures or weaknesses because of pride? Do you live in a state of self-deception because of pride or false humility? Do you say you tithe when you don’t? Do you say “I will pray for you” when you don’t? Do you cheat on your taxes? Do you cheat others? Do scam the system?

Sometimes habitual sins are not easily dealt with because they provide for us a sense of security and self-protection. For example people may go to pornography hen their self-esteem is low or they have a lack of self assurance. Thus we see the willful accumulation of patterns and practices of sin.

Habitual sin can also be a result of learned ways to deal with issues in our lives. For example, a child that learns that lying is ok from their parents can struggle with lying when they are adults.

Too often we want to rid ourselves of habitual sins so that we will feel better about ourselves rather than from an understanding that health and wholeness comes from walking in liberty and freedom.

The third observation is in reality a solution for habitual sin and a lifestyle that is contradictory to the life Christ desires for us. As we abide in Him, His Word and as we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives we will be better equipped to resist the temptation to habitually sin.

We must understand that there is a cacophony of voices and mindsets that pull on us. At times there seems to be an endless sound of ideas and standards that create confusion and failure in our lives. It is for this reason that we need to have the Word of God active in our lives. It is the standard that we live by. It becomes the new compass by which we direct our lives.

The truth of the matter is that we can in reality do very little to change peoples minds. However, the Word of God combined with the Spirit of God can do more in five seconds than we can do in five years. So to bring change into one’s life we bring them into contact with God’s word and with His principles of life and that will bring change.

To be honest the brain or the mind must be rewired for a new set of commands or actions. For example, if I have a plane that is on auto pilot and it is headed north, if I try and turn the plane around manually I am going to have great resistance because the auto pilot is going to try and take over. OS it is with our minds. We have been ingrained with certain mindsets and ideas that must be changed in order to be guided in the right direction.

Just as much as a golfer goes to the practice range to unlearn and improve their swing we must go the word to improve our game.

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