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InVerse Theology

InVerse 148 - IVT Explained, Part 5 (Practical Theology)

The first believers in Thessalonica startled their neighbors with the dramatic difference believing in Jesus was making in their lives.

It was clear to some of the people in that important Roman center that the “Christians”, as they had come to be called, were out of step with the rest of the community. They were accused of “practicing another king” whose name was Jesus (Acts 17.1-8). In doing so, they had apparently left off some behaviors designed to make it clear their allegiance was to Rome, because, as their detractors insisted, they were “all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar” with the result that they had “turned the world upside down”. And not just a few folks, like Paul and Silas, who were leading them. But “a great multitude of the devout Greeks” along with members of the Jewish community and “not a few of the leading women.”

The Greek phrase, πράσσουσι βασιλέα ἕτερον λέγοντες εἶναι Ἰησοῦν, “they practice another king, saying [Him] to be Jesus” makes it clear that, unlike the various sects of other religions and the adherents to the cult of Caesar, these people were not content to keep their religion within the confines of their private meetings. They were actually “practicing” Jesus as King in their daily lives. They had heard the preaching of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and they understood that He was exalted to the right hand of God as Savior and Lord. Consequently, they believed that nothing in their lives could remain the same. Thus, as we see in so many of these early Christian communities, they began being part of one another’s lives, sharing their homes and possessions, taking meals together, doing good to their neighbors, and talking to everyone about Jesus. Their theology, contrary to the merely social religions of the day, affected their daily lives in ways so dramatic, that it seemed to the people of Thessalonica that the world was being turned upside down.

These Thessalonian Christians understood that sound teaching—the theology of the Gospel—has practical implications for everyday life, and what those implications are, and how best to practice them, is the focus of practical theology, the fifth window of glory through which God reveals Himself and His will.

Practicing Jesus in time
Christianity is a practical religion; that is, it affects every aspect of our lives—how we see and conduct them in all our everyday situations and relationships. The burden of practical theology is to help us think through the implications of Jesus’ rule at the Father’s right hand so that we might practice the Kingship of Jesus in line with His purposes and will.

Another way of saying this is that Christianity impacts the time of our lives—how we regard it, how we use it, and how we can improve it. This requires learning to see the Lord of all time at all times, so that His will and plan guide us in all our daily work. As we wrote in our InVerse Theology Project series, “Vantage Point”:

We practice Jesus as our King, just as
those first believers did, and this requires
that we look unto Him, Who never tires
of looking down on us. For Jesus has

us in His sights at all times, and we must
reciprocate. For, as we see Him, we
can know where we have come from, what will be
our destiny, and how we ought to trust
Him in the present.

In the time that God grants us day by day we practice the Kingship of Jesus as we take up the calling He has appointed for each one of us. 

Practicing Jesus in our calling
We can think of the Christian life—our daily existence in and use of the time God gives us—as a calling from the Lord. He calls us to follow Him in all the “as you are goings” of our lives so that we will glorify God in all we do. In our series, “Poetry Calling”, we explained why calling is a better way of thinking about our life in Christ than, say, merely waiting for the Lord to return or taking up some specific mission:

Less frequently we hear the Christian life
referred to as a calling. Right away,
however, this view makes us think about
some special class of Christians, those who have
received some “calling” from the Lord to preach
His Word or undertake some other form
of “full-time ministry”. A “calling” comes
from God to those He sets apart unto 
Himself, that they might consecrate themselves,
prepare, and follow Him into the work
He has made ready for them. Such a view
acknowledges that God calls people out
of one condition or one way of life,
and sets another course for them, a course
involving dedication, discipline,
and sacrifice more than the normal lot
of Christian folk. And yes, there is some truth
in this as well, but not the truth which will
by prayer and further study come to light.

For calling, even more than mission, gets
at what the Christian life is really all

We carry out our calling from the Lord in all the situations and times of our life, and this requires that we practice the teaching of Jesus concerning all our words and deeds and every aspect of our lives.

More than “practical theology”
It’s possible that when we think of “practical theology” as a window through which God reveals Himself certain specific practical disciplines may come to mind, such as preaching, child-rearing, making a Christian marriage, or even managing our money as good stewards. These are certainly valid and necessary as part of our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God. But Jesus rules as King over all of life, including all our lives. And practical theology helps us learn how to “walk” with Jesus in all the time of our life.

In our series, “An Essay on Preaching,” we looked at William Cowper’s view of Christ and our duty toward him as we culled it from his lengthy poem, “The Task”. Cowper insisted that Jesus being Lord of all life, all of life must be consecrated for and devoted to serving Him. We observed,

Religion in our day—I mean by that
the true and Kingdom-seeking faith to which             
all Christians have been called—while it has not
entirely lost its grip on culture or
on life, has nonetheless relaxed it so,                                   
that evidence of righteousness and joy
is daily in eclipse. Our witness to
the Lord has forfeited the public square
to secular concerns, and hardly do
our conversations ever come around
to Jesus. We have lost the heart for bold
and joyous witness. Far from filling all      
the world with Jesus, we can scarcely find
Him in our churches, so intent are we
to have ourselves discovered, entertained,
affirmed, and reassured by what we do
there. All around us truth and virtue fail,
and we seem powerless to do much more
than shake our heads, lament the loss, and
wonder where this downward drift will take
us in the end. Have we forgotten what
the Scriptures teach about our Savior and
our King? The poet William Cowper knew:
“Thou art the source and centre of all minds,
Their only point of rest, eternal Word!
From Thee departing, they are lost and rove
At random, without honour, hope, or peace.
From Thee is all that soothes the life of man,
His high endeavour, and his glad success,
His strength to suffer, and his will to serve.
But, oh, Thou Bounteous Giver of all good,
Thou art of all Thy gifts Thyself the crown!
Give what Thou canst, without Thee we are poor,
And with Thee rich, take what Thou wilt away.”

Thus Jesus reigns to bless us in every aspect and all the time of our lives, in all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities.

Yet in our day Christians are failing to practice the Kingship of Jesus in all their practical situations. We need more insight and instruction in the practice of our faith, and this is where the discipline of practical theology can help us make the most for Christ and His Kingdom in all the time and opportunities of our lives.

The use of practical theology
The great benefit of practical theology is that it addresses the question of how the Kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven. For the Kingdom that has come to us by the grace of God comes to the world through us by that same grace, in all the everyday situations of our lives, where, whatever we are doing at any moment of time, we are committed to bringing glory to God. Thus all the everyday activities and duties of our lives can be a channel through which righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit come to the people in our Personal Mission Field with life-changing grace and power.

Practical theology thus addresses our stewardship of the various “talents” God has entrusted to us: a marriage, family, property, work, relationships, responsibilities, resources, and more. How do we practice the Kingship of Jesus with all this vast investment of time, talents, and opportunities with which the Lord has entrusted us? What return on investment are we seeking? How can we prepare, and what are the standards by which we manage the time and activities of our lives for the Kingdom and glory of God?

Practical theology teaches us how to think with the mind of Christ, walk in the Spirit of Christ, and live as witnesses for Christ and ambassadors of His Kingdom in all we do. We learn that God is at work within us to will and do according to His good pleasure; that He makes all things new in our lives so that He can spread His grace and reveal His glory through us to the world.

The more we bask in the light of divine revelation through the windows of Biblical, creational, historical, and systematic theology, the more we will discover the uses to which the knowledge of God and His glory can be put in our daily lives. Practical theology shows the outworking of the knowledge of God gained through all the windows of divine revelation.

Support for The InVerse Theology Project comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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