As I have come to discover writing about practical steps to shine His light over the last several weeks, I have discovered (as is always the case) that the most practical approach to being more Christ-like is right there in His word. The Sermon on the Mount is a step-by-step guide to living the Christian life. My last post mentions two really good books on this Sermon if you would like to study it beyond the Sermon in the Bible.
Do you play a musical instrument? If you do or ever have, then you understand the kind of practice it takes to get any good at it. The same can be said of playing sports, crafting, or even writing. Anything you want to do well, you need to practice and repeat, practice and repeat if you expect to get good at the skill and stay good at it.
Take this concept a step further. For those of you who used to play an instrument well, what happens the first time you take up that instrument after a long period of absence? Do you sound like Mozart or clunk around a little? In the privacy of your own room, maybe how great or how terrible you sound wouldn’t matter so much to you. But, what if you had to make your first such performance in front of all the people you most want to impress in the world?
Staying in practice to live the life Christ wants for us should be like making that once-in-a-lifetime performance every day. Yet, too often, we let days slip away where we let our interactions with other people and with God idle on automatic, paying little or no attention to the being part of our Christianity because we think we are too busy just trying to remember what groceries we need to buy for that evening’s dinner. In other words, we treat life like a dress rehearsal instead of the real performance.
One person who, despite his reputation for stumbling in some of the ways of Christianity, understood the importance of being perpetually thinking about bettering his own actions was Benjamin Franklin. You may remember him as the guy who “discovered” electricity with a kite, string and key, but he also was a prolific writer. His “Poor Richard’s Almanac” includes countless wise sayings, advice on practical living.
Despite Franklin’s tendency toward wit, he took self-improvement very seriously. Did you know that he kept lists of goals to improve his speech, his personality, etc.? He also took the time to track his progress. Practice, practice, practice. No matter how hard it is to look at ourselves with high scrutiny, how else do we expect to know when to bend our knees before the Father in true repentance? Without repentance, how can we expect to become more Christ-like?
For those who drink tea, nothing is more impressive than a highly polished silver set, so bright that you can see your own reflection. If you own such a silver set, you know how much “elbow grease” it takes to make the silver shine.
Shining the light of Christ is so much more valuable than a shining silver tea set. But, the glory of it all is that we have help with this journey! Christ says that He will give us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us when we accept Him as our Savior. He also assures us that His “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
So, the end of this series on Practical Steps is actually a beginning because the wonderful thing about God and His mercy is that His forgiveness is always available to those who truly repent, as many times as it takes. As Nicole Nordeman sings in another of her great songs, “His mercies are new every morning.” Thank YOU, Jesus, for Your sacrifice and for the privilege of shining Your light.