Thursday, February 5, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 23

Day 23 How We Grow

Let’s go back to that garden we planted. If we never water it—or we plant it in a place where the sun never shines directly on it—what happens? Not much, right? That garden doesn’t grow.

If you buy a piano so you can take piano lessons, but you never practice your lessons, what happens? Your skills don’t get much better—and you have spent good money on an odd piece of furniture.

If you receive a weekly news magazine by mail, but you never read it, what happens? You don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world around you.

All these examples require some kind of effort. They take time and planning and discipline. You must do them on purpose. That’s the point of our 40-day journey—living intentionally on purpose.

This is why we talk about practicing hesed. You don’t faithfully keep covenant just by saying the word hesed. It takes practice. And so, in the Community Life Series, we talk about target practice when we talk about hesed.

Growing more “like Christ” is to be the result of being “in Christ.” That is what we’re aiming to do. The image here from the Hebrew is about archery—of aiming at a target. That target is righteousness—being right with God. The nearer you are to the center, the closer and more intimate your relationship with God. The farther away you are from the center, the more distant and impersonal your relationship with God.

Our actions, then, are arrows aimed at this target. When we miss the mark (don’t hit the target), the archery term is “sin.” In tennis, the umpire calls “out” when a ball goes over the line. In archery, they shout “sin” when an arrow misses the target. So now you know why you hear about sin as missing the mark—they are images from archery!

The life that is “like Christ,” then, is one that practices to improve its aim in order to consistently hit the target of righteousness. Maybe not dead center, but as close as possible.

In each circumstance faced, a person that is working to be “like Christ” selects the proper arrow (right action) from their quiver. Those arrows are to be opportunities to serve, to submit or to lead. And fletches (feathers) that help guide the arrow are love, grace and mercy (right attitudes). The target of righteousness is basically what we call God’s will—right actions with right attitudes directed toward God and our neighbor.

If we use good arrows, aim well and keep our focus, we have a very good chance of hitting the target. If we choose poor quality arrows, aim poorly and lose our focus, we are likely to “sin”—missing the mark and breaking covenant.

The image of archery is dynamic because it is a skill that requires discipline and practice. You have to work at it. It takes time.

And that is what discipleship is—the process of growing more and more like Christ:

  • Filling our quiver with quality arrows—rejecting behavior that is not like Christ.

  • Verifying the location of our target (our “divine appointment”) with the Holy Spirit.

  • Shutting out all distractions.

  • Placing our arrow on the string.

  • Pulling it back.

  • Focusing on the center of the target.

  • Letting it fly!

The more we practice, the more we allow the Holy Spirit to make us strong, the more we will be transformed into expert archers. Now that’s really cool!

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:12,13 (NIV)

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 3:11-4:6. While you’re reading, look for possible targets—good ones and poor ones, too!

Keep Breathing!

This fourth week, then, we’re going to work specific muscle groups. We’re going to ask you to turn to God as your first reaction to every situation – so he can help you respond with righteousness.

Think of one problem circumstance—one that usually gets you off track. Maybe it’s poor drivers or other examples of rude behavior. What kind of arrow have you been using?

Today, ask God to help you select your arrow, steady your hand on the string, take aim and hit the target of right actions and right attitudes.

You’re getting the idea!

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