Practicing What You Preach

Someone once told me that, when you’re studying the Bible to teach it, God will make you practice what you preach.

That’s the truth.

In my Bible class at school, I’m going through Philippians with the kids.  The following verses have sparked some interesting conversations with my sixth graders.

“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:8-11, ESV

We talked about the old saying of “garbage in, garbage out” and how we have to be careful of the things we put into our mind through our eyes and our ears.  You can imagine the glowing reception such talk gets from  pre-teens who know more about the entertainment industry than Mary Hart.  They look at me like I have three heads, and inevitably, in every class, I got the same question:  “Are we really supposed to do that?  That’s impossible!!!”

Well, it’s not impossible, but it ain’t easy.  When Paul tells us to use discernment, to approve what is excellent, he was writing from a Roman prison/house arrest.  He was surrounded by a culture that was just as corrupt as ours.  Even a cursory look at his letters to the Corinthians or the Galatians will have you thinking of present day America.  So Paul was familiar with temptations abounding, with corruption all around.  No, he didn’t have the internet or TV, but temptation is temptation, and sin is sin, no matter the century.

So as I told my kids all this, I kind of knew I’d have a chance to use “discernment and approve what is excellent.”  Yep.  I’ve got quite a collection of music at my house.  I worked at a record store in high school and college, and accumulated a large number of CDs.  When we moved last year, I came across the boxes of those CDs, and every once in a while, I’ll pull a few out to listen to again (first time in 15 years or more for most). Today, I found a CD that I used to wear out and thought “man, that was a great album!  I’ll check it out!”  I was listening along, and this line came up:

“So stand up and fight for your rights.  No surrender or no compromise.”

Nothing wrong with that, right?  I mean, I’m an American!   But as I listened on, I got the message that is so popular on every magazine, book stand, and commercial today:  It’s all about me.  Do what makes you happy.  Whatever you want, do it!

Trouble is, I read my kids 1 Cornithians :

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

You catch that?  My kids did.  It means I have no rights, apart from what Christ gives me.  I’m His.  I’m a “doulos”, a slave for life, when I give my life to Jesus.  I must die to those rights I want to exercise, and submit to God in Christ.  My kids got this.  They admitted their first impression was not to like it.  After all, that would mean that I can’t listen to what I want, watch what I want, do what I want when it doesn’t line up with what Jesus wants for me.

So back to the CD.  I kept scanning to the next song.  Then the next.  Then the next.  The idea of “discernment” kept coming back to me.  Would I use it?  Would I care, or would I get lost in a good hook, good melody, and ignore the fact that what I was listening to, though many would see nothing wrong with it, was not in line with the Gospel?  The worldview that I must have if I belong to Christ did NOT line up with the one being preached to me from my speakers.

So I ejected it, and when I got home, I threw it in file 13.  Crazy?  Maybe, by many standards.  But that’s ok.  I’ve been down that path before.  Don’t really care to go again.

What about you?

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