Sermon: How to Stay Focused on the Source No. 2:
It’s What We Do. Developing a Rule for Faith and Life
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Pres Fort Lauderdale
Date: February 4, 2018, Communion Sunday
Our scripture this morning is from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. Turn to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Listen to the Word of God!
1 Corinthians 9.24-27
24Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.
Today we are picking up in the second message in a series on how we are to stay focused on the Source of our Faith, Jesus Christ. Last week, we noted ten stones of basic Christian knowledge each of us are to lay to build a strong foundation for our faith. At the very minimum, we heard that we each need to know something of the Bible, the nature of God, the human condition, Jesus, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Church, Christian vocation, the spiritual world, and the Future. This foundation creates for you and me our understanding of orthodoxy, or better yet, our good beliefs. The problem with orthodoxy is even the Devil understood what sound beliefs were. It’s one thing to know the right thing; it’s entirely different to actually do it and live it out.
This morning, we are going to look at what we build upon that foundation, that orthodoxy we know, and these are the ten basic expressions of living our faith out in daily lives. These ten basic Christian practices are tangible ways you and I can enflesh our faith and make it real. These practices are designed to take us out of our heads with what we know and throw us into the world, so we express what we know through what we do! Good orthodoxy generates active orthopraxy; in other words, our good doctrine generates active practice in our daily life.
The Winter Olympic Games are about to begin in Korea this week and there was an article on the Norwegian ski team’s training regimen. After hours of lifting weights, skiing, and training, they finish their day with refreshing ice baths! It’s not exactly how I would want to finish my day on the slopes; but the athletes realize that in order to be competitive and stand a chance against others, they have to take charge of their body and make it yield to their purposes. In order to live out their physical prowess, they have to become disciplined and intentional with what they do with and to their bodies. It’s not enough to know how to ski well; unless they practice what they know the skiers will never be any better than anyone else.
This is what the Apostle Paul is getting at in our message today. Yes, he knows Jesus. Yes, he has faith. Yes, has the Spirit. He has the pedigree of being a Hebrew of Hebrews. He has the knowledge and critical understanding of the Jewish Law and Torah. Yet, Paul realizes that unless he trains how to apply his knowledge of Jesus, his faith, and all of his vast theological head knowledge, he is no better off than before. Paul knows that he knows that he knows that good orthodoxy, good thinking leads to orthopraxy, good practice.
Paul realizes that good, sound orthodox knowledge about God is nigh worthless if that knowledge is not enfleshed and put into practice. Again, I go back to Jesus’ temptations after his baptism. The Devil knew all the right answers and could quote the Bible as good as any Southern Baptist from Georgia; the problem was he did not practice what he preached!
Paul is reminding the Corinthians that in order to live the Christian life, they need to hit the spiritual gymnasium. It’s not enough to know that God is love; it requires us to figure out how to express that Godly love to the most ungodly people around us. That takes practice.
A market report showed that last year, Americans spent over $52 billion dollars on sports equipment and gym memberships. I don’t knock anyone who has done that as I wish all the sports I competed in did not ruin my hips so I could go to the gym; I simply mention it to ask how much are we Christ-Followers investing in going to our spiritual gymnasiums? Is it comparable? Have we become spiritual consumers that practice our faith when it’s convenient and works well with the Little League schedule? Do our spiritual disciplines and practices compare to the time we are spending at LA Fitness?
Centuries ago, the ancient church fathers and mothers developed the notion of a spiritual rule for faith and life. Essentially, a spiritual rule for faith and life would be like a training schedule a trainer would give you when you went to work out in the gym. Instead of telling you to run this far, do this many sets of weights, and stretch these muscles, a spiritual rule for faith and life is a way for a Christ-Follower to outline what spiritual goals they want to accomplish. It outlines their plan to stay spiritually fit and applying the knowledge they have acquired.
My rule for faith and life, for example, means that six out of seven mornings a week, I commit to prayerfully reading the scripture with the lectionary and having prayer for one hour before I leave the house. I worship in community at least once a week. I give back the financial blessings I’ve been given so that others will be blessed as well. My goal is to read 40 books a year to stretch my theological muscles. I share what Jesus has done and is doing in my life with others I meet at restaurants or in other social gatherings. I attempt to get away alone three times a year for a few days to really focus on my relationship with God in prayer. These are some of the items I strive for in my spiritual rule for faith and life. What is on your training schedule for your rule of faith and life?
What we know impacts what we do. Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy. Over the course of our time together, we are going to intentionally learn about and practice ten basic Christian practices that will serve as your spiritual gym membership routine. What are those ten practices?
- Worship in community and alone
- Christ-Followership imitating Jesus
- Bible Study
- Advancing our faith and the Kingdom through personal Retreat
- Caring for others in Biblical Community
- Trusteeship of Our Spiritual Gifts
- Active Christian Service and Mission
- Winsomely sharing our faith
- Trusteeship of Our Finances and Possessions
Beloved, what is your spiritual rule for faith and life? How are you putting what you know about God in Christ to work in faithful Christian practice? Which of the ten basic spiritual practices are you willing to put on your daily regimen to help you live out your life of Christ with your neighbor?
The late Greek Orthodox staretz or holy man, Porphyrios once said, “When people are empty of Christ, a thousand and one other things come and fill them up: jealousies, hatreds, boredoms, melancholy, resentment, a worldly outlook, worldly pleasures. Try to fill your soul with Christ so it’s not empty.”
Friends, our spiritual practices and rules for faith and life are not meant to be shallow acts of works righteousness; they are instead a way to fill ourselves up with Christ and exercise what we know about God. Our practices help us learn how to better express God and His purposes to those around us. As a pastor reminded us at presbytery yesterday, there can be no growth, no change without a little pain. Spiritual practices and rule for faith and life are not easy to keep; they are not meant to be. They are designed to help us grow deeper, grow stronger.
Today we experience a practice Jesus himself practiced. It’s a totally self-emptying for the benefit of others through the Lord’s Supper. In this meal, he is broken and given to you and me so that we might become fuller of the love, grace, and peace of Jesus Christ. As it cost him to practice his faith, so too does it cost us. What’s your rule for faith and life?
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Pres Fort Lauderdale
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2018 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 $100 billion — that’s how much Americans spent on sports over the past 12 months, Published: Sept 12, 2017, 4:25 p.m. ET, by Steven Kutz, Market Watch. Posted on https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-much-americans-spend-on-sports-in-one-chart-2017-09-11 and accessed on 2/4/18.