Plenty of families know the trauma and expenditure of seeing an orthodontist or an orthopedic surgeon. One straightens teeth, the other sets broken bones right. Orthodontists and orthopedists put things back into correct alignment; they reform smiles and straighten crooked limbs. Braces and broken bones were part of growing up in our house; I think I bought a new car for each of my ortho-doctors as my kids made their way to adulthood. But we’re thankful for straightened teeth and correctly re-formed limbs.

Ortho is a Greek word that means “right, correct, or straight.”  We use the word orthodoxy to refer to correct teaching or right doctrine. If one is orthodox, it is because she correctly believes the true doctrines of the faith. When she lives in accordance with those orthodox beliefs she demonstrates orthopraxy. Orthopraxy refers to “right practice” or “right behavior.” Orthodoxy + orthopraxy = integrity, sincerity, and maturity. Christians who affirm orthodox truths about God and live according to those truths are those who walk the talk and practice what they preach.

Being informed about right doctrine is not enough; we must be FORMED by that truth through the work of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of our spiritual habits to make us more and more like our Savior. Jesus once condemned those who had the right teaching but didn’t live up to it. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice,” Matthew 23:1-3.

None of us get it perfectly right all the time, but this is the aim of our life: to believe in Jesus and to be like Jesus. According to Romans 8:29, God saved us that we would be conformed to the image of his Son. The Apostle Paul once described his entire toil-filled ministry as the ongoing struggle of preaching and teaching to present everyone mature in Christ. He pleaded with the Philippians to practice the things that they had learned and heard and seen from him. To his protégé Timothy, Paul demanded that he devote himself to the Scriptures (orthodoxy) and to practice these things (orthopraxy), immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. It is in believing and in practicing that we are FORMED into greater Christ-likeness.

We are all—intentionally or unintentionally—being FORMED into something by something. Our personal habits and spiritual disciplines will promote character, virtue, Christ-likeness or they won’t. What are the practices that align with orthodoxy? This will be the subject of our summer series called, FORMED. How does it happen? How do we participate? What is the role of God’s Spirit? Join us this summer as we learn to practice the habits of Jesus.

Summer will go by quickly. How great would it be this fall to look back on the summer of 2024 as a season in which we all grew in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.                                  

With you on the journey,