Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

Staying Spiritually Sharp

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Clutching the packet of paper-wrapped knives, I walked to my car. It felt good to get them sharpened—a task that had been on my “to do” list for far too long. As I’d chatted with the man who had done the work for me, I asked, “How often do you suggest getting knives sharpened?”

“Oh, I’d say every six months or so, depending on how much you use them and how well you care for them.” I smiled to myself realizing I hadn’t been quite that diligent. The last time I had my knives sharpened was sometime during George W. Bush’s Administration.

I’d heard for years that a dull knife was dangerous. With a little research I found out why this is true from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. In a short demonstration video, kitchen tester Bridget Lancaster explains that a dull knife is “an accident waiting to happen.” She goes on to say, “A dull blade will require more force to do the job. That will increase the chances of slipping and missing the mark.”

Her use of the phrase “missing the mark” caught my attention since it is one of the definitions used for sin (taken from a term used in archery). The experience with my dull knives also reminded me of a favorite verse:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Our faith journeys always involve sharpening one another with spiritual truth. Sometimes we do this through sharing and encouraging, other times we do it through challenging others to reach higher or to confront a hard truth they’ve been avoiding. When other Christ followers are missing the mark, we need to come alongside them to point this out with love, gentleness and truth. This is the call to hold one another accountable.

The need to do this can arise for a number of different reasons, but the basic goal is to draw a fellow believer back to the heart of God and into closer alignment with biblical truth. The apostle Paul says it this way:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

Let’s break down the words illustrating the usefulness of Scripture and examine why each is important:

Teaching: The Bible provides instruction concerning the things of God. Quite simply, it is the place to learn about who God is and how He wants us to live. The Bible is not a reference book, but a living text.   God intends for us to study it consistently and to apply what we learn over the course of a lifetime.  We also do this by engaging in Christian community where we learn and grow from the sound teaching of others. This keeps us sharp in our faith and aligned with the Spirit.

Rebuking: The Bible is used for reproof. When we spend time in God’s Word, we read truth. It exposes sin and convicts us when we are making choices that do not honor God. When we stray from God and Scripture reading, we are more likely to grow dull and to become complacent about sin.

 Correcting: This involves restoring someone to an upright state. It refers to improvement of life and character. It is literally making something straight that was crooked. Part of keeping a knife sharp and functioning properly includes regularly steeling the blade. This process involves realigning the edge of the blade by passing it along a cylindrical metal rod. Similarly, we remain sharp through regularly “steeling” ourselves with the Word of God and giving others permission to hold us accountable.

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Training in Righteousness: Staying engaged in the Bible nurtures Christian discipline that regulates our characters. The more we learn the Bible’s teaching and apply it to our lives, the more we make ourselves available to be used by Him. This enables us to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

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Why is being sharpened necessary? A spiritually dulled Christian is as dangerous as the dull knives that I used daily for many years. When we become complacent, we start making decisions based on the standards of the culture around us rather than based on the Word of God. Our witness is no longer effective and we prevent the Spirit from working in and through us.

Two Types of Sharpening

The process of sharpening a knife involves grinding the metal edge against a hard, rough surface. Translated into our spiritual lives, this is a crucial, but painful process at times. No one likes to be corrected by God or others, but this is essential for maintaining a healthy and growing walk with God.

-Staying Sharp Personally

If we want to stay sharp, we must maintain teachable hearts. Have you invited a few trusted people to hold you accountable? All of us need godly friends to speak the truth to us when they see us engaged in sinful actions or attitudes. If you’re feeling convicted, take time to pray and ask God to show you what He wants you to do and how He is calling you to change course. Ask a wise friend for some biblical perspective and invite the Holy Spirit to guide you as you submit yourself to God’s sharpening process.

“7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.“ (James 4:7-8, James 5:16, NIV)

-Helping Others Stay Sharp

Pointing out sin in the life of another person takes prayer and courage. Still, we are called to reprove others lovingly when we see them straying into actions or attitudes that lead to sin. If you are feeling convicted that you need to talk with someone who needs spiritual sharpening, pray and ask God to equip you with the wisdom and gentleness that you need. It is crucial that you approach the fellow believer with love from the Holy Spirit, not judgment and criticism from your own opinion. Remember, a dull blade requires more force because you’re using your strength instead of the sharpness of the blade. When you involve the Holy Spirit, He uses your words of reproof to cause change, not hurt. A person with a teachable heart may be defensive for a moment, but eventually she will be grateful you cared enough to say something.

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20, NIV)

The best way to stay spiritually sharp is to keep God’s Word as your standard rather than following society’s cues or fearing what others will think.   When we run toward God, we flee from the darkness of the world into the blessing of His light and love. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

Click on the link to be inspired in your daily “sharpening” by listening to “Forever Reign” by Hillsong United.

America’s Test Kitchen Video: http://lifehacker.com/5968985/keeping-small-knives-sharp-and-why-dull-knives-are-more-dangerous-in-the-kitchen)

Strong, James; Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible; Thomas Nelson; 2001

Vine, W.E.; Vine’s Expository Dictionary; Thomas Nelson; 1997

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Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at marybethmccullum.com.

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