Have you ever been challenged to “practice what you preach”? I have, so let me tell you how it came about recently.
As a teacher in our local adult Bible Study class, I had just completed a three-month focus upon what we value in our church. Our resource material was comprised of a selection of 10 discourses highlighting our denominational values which was written by a variety of authors. I will simply list our values to give a sampling of the high standards by which we strive to live as followers of Jesus:
We value the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
We value the Bible as God’s authoritative Word, study it together, and build our lives on its truth.
We value heartfelt worship that is God-honoring, Spirit-directed, and life-changing.
We value wholehearted obedience to Christ Jesus through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
We value integrity in relationships and mutual accountability in an atmosphere of grace, love, and acceptance.
We value an active and loving witness for Christ to all people.
We value serving others at their point of need, following the example of our Lord Jesus.
We value all human life and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and non-violent resolution of conflict.
We value uncluttered lives, which free us to love boldly, give generously, and serve joyfully.
We confess our dependence on God for everything, and seek to deepen our intimacy with Him by living prayerfully.
It was a challenging exercise to unwrap each of these values over the course of the study. If you carefully read the above 10 statements you will agree that, collectively, they produce a ‘mighty tall order’ for anyone to pursue let alone to achieve!
The greatest challenge came when the study was concluded and I was evaluating what had been achieved. As I reflected on these topics of Christian beliefs and practices it was as though a strong inner voice screamed to me personally: "Are you actually practicing what you preach? Yes, our church declares these to be our values but are they YOUR values?"
For instance, can I say I value wholehearted obedience to Christ Jesus (#4) if I’m aware of some known sin or moral failure in my life? May I declare my strong support for value #6 (witnessing) if I’m not actively and lovingly presenting Christ to people groups of all races and classes? Can I profess my commitment to non-violent resolution of conflict if I’m harboring resentment or a grudge against my neighbor who committed some offense against me? Can I ‘preach’ how much I value an uncluttered life if I’m so busy gathering ‘stuff’ to make me feel secure and comfortable that I can’t give generously to the work of God’s kingdom because there is so little time, energy, and resources left over? You get the picture!
The Apostle Paul challenged his Jewish brethren along the same lines in Romans 2. There he alludes to their heritage and knowledge of what God values as given in their law and implies that they were professing more than they were performing. In essence, they were preaching more than they were practicing. The little book of James in the New Testament (Chapter 2) reinforces this thought that we can’t get by with just knowing right and declaring what is right; we need to DO right. We need to practice what we preach by God’s grace and help (see #10)! I’ve been challenged and stretched to do just that. Perhaps reading of my experience also challenges you as well!