“Learn to do well.”

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This is how we are to learn to live. We are to have the right pattern. That pattern is Jesus. We are to have power, and that power comes from Jesus. And then we are to take the light and leading that Jesus gives, and we are to act up to the last limit of it, we are to practice it to the last chapter, and then we will learn to do well, and we will be doing well.

George W. Truett, “An Essential of Victory,” from On Eagle Wings: Fourteen Messages on Old Testament Themes

Truett’s text for this sermon was a select portion of Isaiah 1:17, which in the King James Version is rendered, “Learn to do well.” Other translations say learn to do good, or right.

Truett observes that we must not only learn to avoid evil, but to enact the good. He says, “There are two great aspects to the religious life. The one is negative and the other is positive.” We can mistakenly emphasize one over the other, obsessing over the avoidance of evil and refraining from actively doing good, or zealously seek to do what is right, while neglecting the renunciation of actions that run contrary to God’s will. In choosing the way of Jesus, we remain on his path. Other avenues are forsaken. Learning to do well involves gaining wisdom to distinguish good from evil, and to consistently desire and choose that which is of God, rather that that which is not.

Like many good preachers, Truett helps us remember how we are to learn to do well by using alliteration. Learning to do well involves a pattern, power, and practice. We look to Jesus as our model, but he is also our teacher and our helper, and we, being his students, are given opportunities to put what we learn into action under his loving and watchful eye.

Jesus made a claim in the gospels, spoken in various ways, that after he died and was raised from the dead, he would remain present with his followers. He will be with us always. When he departs, the Spirit would come. Jesus is the pattern. He supplies the power. We take up the practice. Let’s add one more word that starts with “p.” In learning to do well, his presence remains with us. For that, we can be thankful.

Discern, then Respond

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