Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. (Philippians 4:9)
The old phrase “practice makes perfect” expresses the idea that the regular exercise or practice of an activity, skill, or discipline is the way to become increasingly proficient in it until we reach the level of perfection. Of course, no matter how much we practice anything, we never actually perfect it, because there is always room for improvement. So inasmuch as the goal is perfection, the real result we hope to achieve is progress.
The same is true for living the Christian life. As the apostle Paul closed out his letter to the Philippians, he exhorted them to “Put it into practice.” He had already instructed his Christian brothers and sisters to follow his example in living the Christian life (Philippians 3:17) . . . whatever they had learned or received or heard from him, or seen in him. What Paul declared with his lips and demonstrated with his life was to serve as a living epistle for the Christians at Philippi . . . and for you and me today. Paul’s words should encourage us to practice, practice, practice in order to live a life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to others.
What did the the church learn, receive, and hear from Paul, and see in him? I would submit that all Paul learned, received, heard, and saw in Christ through the Holy Spirit can be summed up, just as the Law can be summed up, in a single word: LOVE. The most important and God-glorifying practice in the life of the Christian is the practice of love. The more we put love for God and love for our neighbor into practice, the more we will be like Paul; and the more we are like Paul, the more we will be like Jesus. “Follow my example,” the apostle wrote, “as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:11).
And so I’d like to devote the rest of this week to unpacking two pillars of practice that are rooted in 1 Corinthians 13 — the “love chapter,” as it is often called called — which was penned by Paul. I’ll include a portion of that passage here so that you can begin to meditate on it as you prepare to practice . . . practice . . . practice it.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!