I’d been a squash player for many years, though I had never had a coaching session in my life, until…
‘Steve!’ boomed the voice of George, the squash club’s professional coach, as he peered into the court half way through a game I was probably losing. ‘You’re holding that racquet wrong!’ Hmm! ‘What do you mean? How else would I hold it in my hand?’ The next five minutes were a revelation as he explained that I needed to turn my wrist some 45º or so, bringing more of my forearm muscles into play. Like changing your golf swing or a bad driving habit, it was not easy to adjust. ‘But unless you do, you’ll never get any better than you are now,’ he assured me.
The institution I have the privilege of serving as Principal, Moorlands College, nestled between the glorious New Forest and seven miles of golden sands in historic Christchurch, Dorset, has been teaching the Bible and theology for over sixty years. You will discover from our Web Site (www.moorlands.ac.uk) that we offer ‘applied theology’ courses, not merely studies in theology. There is a subtle difference that goes right back to the Bible itself.
Recently, in my College’s weekly chapels, we have embarked on a short series based on the last three chapters of Paul’s mighty epistle to the Ephesians. We have been keen to point out the huge gospel indicatives in the first three chapters: here is what the Lord has done for us to rescue us, at infinite cost, and incorporate us into his church, the body of Christ. Typically, in the light of all that the Lord has done, a ‘therefore’ (ESV; ‘then’, NIV) appears in Ephesians 4:1, spelling out the gospel imperatives that flow from being new in Christ, people with a new identity and destiny: ‘therefore…live a life worthy of the calling you have received.’ And what does such a worthy life look like? Illustratively, though not exhaustively, the apostle spells out his ‘applied theology’. With due humility and gentleness, we are to keep the Spirit’s unity (4:3); we are no longer to live as once we did, but keep a check on our anger, our tongues and our sexual appetites, whilst not giving the devil a foothold in our lives. Rather than grieving the Holy Spirit, we want to be full of his gracious life (4:30 & 5:19). When we are, we discover that it applies to all our relationships: to those nearest and dearest to us, especially if we are married and have children, and on into the workplace. In addition, we will aim to keep our armour on and bright for Christ. Have a slow, prayerful read of chapters 4 – 6 and you will find many other applications from the rich theology of Ephesians.
As the old saying goes, when there is a ‘therefore’ in our Bible, it is ‘there for’ a reason. The Word of God is a book that has to be learned, of course. That is why we teach it in our Sunday Schools, House Groups and churches (hopefully!). But equally, the Bible is a book to be lived. If we have tasted the sweet grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, its effects are to be life transforming, making us like Jesus. However, like my squash playing, if we hold ‘the racquet wrong’, we may thrash about a good deal but without much improvement. We need to listen attentively to our ‘Coach’, learn from what he says, and make the necessary adjustments to our strokes in life. I almost hear the Lord echoing George the squash coach’s words: ‘unless you do, you’ll never get any better.’ So…is anyone for squash lessons?