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Practice What You Learn
by David Wells
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December 7, 2011 Ė Practice What You Learn

9 Practice what you have learned and received and heard in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you. Ė Philippians 4:9 AMP
I was always told as a child to practice what I preached. But hey, I wasnít a preacher, so it didnít matter. Later I learned this meant that I was supposed to live out examples to others based on things I said. But Paul here ups the ante. Not only are we to live our lives as examples to others, but we are also told to practice that which we learn and hear.

Before I go any further I want to make a clarification. Iím talking about the things of God here. Iím not talking about doing things that are illegal. As Christians we are told to flee from evil desires (2 Timothy 2:22). So if someone tries to teach you something not godly, donít listen. Christians have absolutely no business learning how to hot-wire a car or defraud someone in a business transaction.

So how do we model ourselves after Paul? Heís dead. He is not here to guide us every day. But his letters in the Bible as wells as his activities in the Book of Acts are there for the world to see. Paul lived it every day. Paul was ready to stand for his faith at any time. Paul would confront those who would oppose him at any time under any circumstance. He was even itching at the opportunity to speak to a bunch of tradesmen in the Ephesus amphitheater. This venue, which was likely filled with an angry mob of thousands, was the site of a near riot caused by Paulís preaching (Acts 19). Yet he was ready to win over a few more converts for the Lord. His disciples, however, feared for his life and did not permit him to address the raucous crowd. In todayís passage, Paul says to practice what you have learned from him. Practice what you have received from him. Practice what you have heard from him. And model your life after it.

Society is always looking for the next role model for themselves and for their children. I think many times they look for them not so others can follow their example, but so the media can expose anything they view as negative in their eyes. How many times have you heard or even said ďI knew they were a fake all alongĒ when you hear bad news about such people? There seems to be an obsession with seeing people mess up. And itís especially true when these role models are Christians. When supposed Christian role models are caught in their sin, it makes me wonder who their role model was. Was it Jesus? Was it Paul? Was it someone from church? Or was it that guy who used to do the commercials for Isuzu trucks years ago who played the part of a pathological liar?

Sure, Jesus Christ is a great role model, but letís face the facts. Jesus was perfect, and all of us are not only shy of perfection, some of us are not even close! Why should we set such lofty goals for ourselves? As Christians we are to strive to be more Christ-like, but being exactly like Christ is unattainable. If it were a goal we could reach, then as my wife Marlo says, I am quite sure God would have waited for us to come along for forgiveness of sins and kept his only son with Him in heaven.

What about Paul? Paulís a great role model. A former Christian persecutor, he became a traveling missionary for Jesus. He lived a godly life, and even openly admitted he had problems, something he called a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). These problems kept him humble. But amidst such confessions, he was never defeated. He never went around with a ďpoor old meĒ attitude seeking sympathy. He kept pressing toward the goal (Philippians 3:14). He lived destitute and also in luxury (Philippians 4:12), but he always kept his focus on God.

I think itís important to point out that this verse by Paul is not symbolic in its meaning. It doesnít say that congregations should model themselves after their church leaders. If you have leaders in your church living godly lives, thatís great. They could prove an invaluable resource when you need them. But Paul knew of the dangers of false teaching almost two thousand years ago. This holds true today as well. Today there are so many groups that have twisted the Word in so many directions that itís almost ridiculous. To such groups, the Bible has been reduced to one of two things. The Bible is either so symbolic in its meaning that only the spiritual leader of the group or one of his duly appointed subordinates can interpret it, or itís so historical that the leader discards its teaching and says that everyone goes to heaven as long as they are nice to each other. Such doctrines are destructive to the faith as a whole and dangerous to individual believers. All we can do to combat such atrocities in society is to check everything said against the Bible. Only then can we learn what the truth really is and put it into practice.

Where do you learn about God? Do you receive more of the Word at church or at home? Do you model your behavior after godly influences in your life? Do you practice what you preach as well as what you have learned? Do you stand up for your faith when circumstances arise or do you kowtow and hide? When all else fails, do you strive to be more like Paul than a modern day role model? Saying youíre living it is one thing, but doing it shows how much you practice what you have learned.

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