July 2017 Pastor Pen
As summer comes upon us, and our involvement in church sometimes slackens, it’s good to be reminded of what I like to call the ‘basic Christian practices’ that establish and maintain our faith.
As Lutherans we put our emphasis on the fact that we are justified by faith apart from works. Our salvation is made sure, not because of our efforts, but because of the glorious work of Christ. But does that mean that all the works we might do – especially those connected with our spiritual life – are unnecessary or unimportant? The answer to that is a definite, ‘No’!
When it comes to living our faith as Christian, there are some basic regular places we go, along with some basic regular things we do, that both keep and express the grace that God has given us. That is, there’s a whole set of basic Christian ‘practices’ that help us receive and express God’s grace on a regular basis. Some of the ‘most basic’ or these are: weekly worship, daily prayer, Bible study, regular communion, financial giving, serving others, and Christian fellowship.
Why are these ‘practices’ so important? Well, first of all, these practices have been an integral part of the Christian faith since it began with the apostles of Jesus. Some of them, such as daily prayer, giving, or weekly worship (one of God’s commandments), were part of the life of God’s chosen people long before the time of Jesus. By an ‘integral’ part of our faith, I mean that they have been, and still should be, as basic and common to our life as eating, sleeping and breathing
Secondly, these practices both maintain and build up our relationship with God and our relationships with fellow members of the Body of Christ. They involve the main places we go, and the main things we do, to receive and give the grace of God.
Thirdly, as a set of things we do regularly, these ‘practices’ keep us on track in our faith. They help us persevere against the challenges of life that seek to tear it down. For instance, Hebrews 10 encourages us, simply for the sake of holding onto our faith together, to never to give up going to church as some people in the early church started to do:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
As Christians we certainly receive, rather than earn, God’s grace. But we also need to put ourselves in positions to receive and keep that grace. God’s grace doesn’t come to us out of the air – it comes through God’s Word. And neither does the grace we receive stay in our hearts under lock and key. It’s always something we share with others. It’s these ‘basic practices’ – gifts of God themselves – that help us become functioning Christians in both receiving and sharing our faith.
We could say – they help us practice what we preach. Let’s not neglect them.
God’s Blessings, Pastor Carlton Andersen