Matney: The difference between practices and doctrines
Recently, a friend shared that on her spiritual journey, she is more interested in the practices of religion than the doctrines. That challenged me to think about how we can experience the resurrection of Christ as a reality in our lives rather than simply as a doctrine in our Bibles.
In this article, I want to briefly explore that idea. The apostle Paul wanted that reality also. He wrote: I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).
Paul wanted to experience a spiritual resurrection out of the selfishness, pride and other diseases of the soul, and to experience the “newness of life” found in following Jesus. Let’s look briefly at the practices of meditation and prayer that can help us experience a spiritual resurrection.
Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:1-3).
In this verse, we’re encouraged to fill our minds with the laws of God. The whole universe operates by the laws of nature and of nature’s God. If we align our minds and hearts with the laws of the universe, through daily meditation on God’s word, we will experience greater productivity, power, peace and prosperity of every kind. Who doesn’t want that? Paul continued writing; Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things (Philippians 4:8).
This verse guides us into a more detailed understanding of the laws that govern the universe and upon which we are to meditate. God governs his creation by love and we are to fill our minds with the true, lovely and noble things around us as revealed to us in God’s word. The more we can do that, the closer we will come to experiencing the reality of the resurrected Christ.
Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Here, Paul guides us into the practices of prayer that can make safe, transcendent peace and clarity available to us. The practices of prayer revealed here are prayer, petition
“The Message” by Eugene H. Peterson and the J.B. Phillips translations of verses 6 and 7, give us further insights into the practices. From “The Message:” Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers. Before you know it, a sense of everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. J.B. Phillips: Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.
Other scriptures tell us to sing to God and about God, observe holy communion, give to the poor, do good deeds, attend meetings with other believers, follow godly mentors, be baptized, live a clean and honest life and share the good news with others. I have found these practices connect me to a higher power and a transcendent purpose for living. From the witness of history and the
Dan Matney is the pastor at New Life Assembly of God in Avon. Email him at email@example.com.