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Tuesday, January 26, 2021 other day's devotionals

Today's Devotional Reading
Practice, Practice, Practice

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He [Christ] replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice (Lk. 8:21).

I once had a Christian friend tell me that the Sermon on the Mount was an ideal, but nothing we are to try to live up to because we would most certainly fail. I was not quite sure I understood what he meant. But what I think he was getting at was that he believed that Christ was presenting us with the truest standard of measure by which we would have to live in order to please God--a standard of righteousness and purity that is beyond us.
The people of the Jesus' day were trying to live up to the Law as their religious leaders had interpreted it. Needless to say, over time the interpretations of the Law fell prey to human reasoning and religious rhetoric. Jesus, however, brought forth from the mangled misunderstandings a clearer representation of what the Law was intended to be.
My friend's understanding was most likely founded in an understanding of God's grace in his own life. A grace that goes beyond the Law in that we are not able--without the grace of God--to live up to the standards of truest righteousness. To see the Sermon on the Mount as the ideal of what should be, yet cannot because of our inadequacy, leaves us depending on nothing of our selves but entirely on the merciful grace of God. My friend would more than likely contend that what Christ was drawing us to was not so much the unreachable standard, as He was drawing us to an understanding of our complete dependency on the grace of God.
But to stop there would be inconsistent with the message of the Scripture. For although we are inadequate and therefore under grace, we must never give up striving toward the righteousness Christ spoke of. The apostle Paul knew the struggle with sin and selfish desire (Rom.7:15-20), yet he states "I press toward the mark for the prize. . ." (Phil. 3:14). The writer of Hebrews similarly encourages, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:1-2). The truest Christian Ideal is that we realize the ideal is one that may elude us from time to time, yet we strive for the goal of righteousness found in Christ and through His strength alone.
The ideals of the Sermon on the Mount may be difficult to understand, swallow or practice, yet Christ ends His sermon with the illustration of the foolish builder and the wise builder. He tells us:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. . .But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. . ." (Mt.7:24-27).

An Olympic Ice-skater must practice very hard every day. Rest assured that person does not hit the ice perfect the first time. Many setbacks occur--and lots of falling down. Yet the skater is determined to get back up and press on toward the goal. Christ wants us to put into practice the words in the Sermon. He knows full well we will fall down a number of times, yet He encourages us to get back up and keep at it. The more we practice, the fewer setbacks we are likely to experience. We will discover the blessings of perfecting God's will in some areas of our lives, while we gain a greater awareness of His grace each time we fall down and He reaches His hand to us to help us up--and to help us try again.

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