The way life was meant to be lived.
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
The tragedy of contemporary Christianity is that we have made popular what deserves rebuke. And this is at the root of our lacklustre faith. Let me explain
Every Christian who has come to believe in Jesus Christ will agree that a burden is lifted. In Christ our past is forgiven, our future is secure, and our present is promised to be fruitful. However, for many, the present is anything but fruitful or beautiful. Is it because we have put the cart (of expectations) before the horse (of obedience)?
Jesus warned his listeners to be doers not just hearers of his word. He cautioned them against building their homes on the sand. But, alas, many have. Crisis has a way of testing our foundation and the winds, rain, and floods of crisis has brought many a 'christian house' down.
This, I believe, is because we have unceremoniously sidelined the purpose for which we are saved. Yes, it is by grace that we have been saved - that's the cost. But let us be clear, grace is not God-given new means for our old desires. It is his means for his purposes in our lives.
To say 'I believe' in Jesus is to agree to live life his way, by his power now!
And that is how the Christian life is supposed to be lived. To dismiss the question of why we are saved, or ignore the answer, will only set us up for a life of deep disappointments and distress. Have we forgotten what Paul said to Titus? Grace not only saves us from our past, and secures for us a future. Grace teaches us to say no to sin in the present (Titus 2:11).
To ignore the purpose of our salvation is a sure way to lose the joy of our salvation.
Paul not only understood this truth, he was gripped by it. The once chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) neither lost sight of how he was saved, or why. This is why, even when he suffered much (2 Cor. 4:8-11; 12:7), he did not lose heart. He journeyed through the valley of the shadow of death and he triumphed. He remained confident that he could do all things in Christ Jesus because for him to live was Christ and to die was gain (Phil 1:21; 4:13).
Paul not only preached the need to workout our own salvation with fear and trembling, he persuaded and pleaded with everyone he loved and cared about whether an individual, or a congregation, to live as it was meant to be lived - in his grace and for his glory (Phil 2:12; 1 Cor 11:1).
Christian living is both liberating and constricting!
This is because we are simultaneously, a sinner saved by the grace of God and a saint who is wholly committed to a holy God. This paradoxical truth must grip our hearts if we are to appreciate God’s goodness in loving us and saving us; and calling us to belong to Him.
To Timothy, a brother closer than a son, Paul wrote:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1Tim. 1:15-16)
And to the church in Philippi:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phi 3:12-14)
Salvation is not just about being spared death – the penalty for sin. Nor is it about only securing a pass to our eternal wellbeing – ‘heaven,’ as some call it. It is more than the decision we make, or the destination will will get to. Salvation is entering into, and flourishing in the liberty that Christ secures for all who believe in Him. Jesus spoke of this as ‘being born again’.
New birth assumes a new life and a new way of living (John 3). The biblical imagery of this new life is ‘liberated by love to be constrained by love.’ (John 3; Gal 5:13; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Pet. 2:16)
The Christian, then, is to ‘walk in God’s world in God’s shoes’ as Jesus did (John 17:18; 20:21). This is how we are meant to live, and nothing prepares us to plumb the depths of what it means to be ‘saved’ as Paul's words to the Galatians: “crucified with Christ.”
Faith in Jesus Christ is not divine means to personal gain or glory.
Did Jesus not say, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)?
Jesus calls us to come to Him, and learn from Him (Matt 11:28-30). Only when we do that – learn from Him (constrained by his yoke: love) will we find rest for our souls. To live the old way after we are ‘born again’ is to buy back slavery, paying for it with our freedom!
As Christians we readily acknowledge that it is by the grace of God that we are saved. We were walking down ‘personal roads to Damascus’, as it were, when God by the sheer compulsion of His grace alone opened our eyes to see Him, and liberated us to bend our knees to Him. However, we seldom pay attention to the fact that now, because we are saved, we cannot live as we used to. We must change, and we need grace to do so!
In his letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul wrote:
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1Cor. 15:9-10)
Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Church. He met Jesus on the way, and his life was unalterably changed. Saul was a religious leader, a Pharisee. That was his vocation. And after Saul, the Pharisee, was saved he became Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was still a religious leader. His ‘vocation’ did not change, he did! Paul’s ‘being’ (his identity) was God’s ‘doing’, and that made all the difference. Everything he did, now, was an overflow of what God was doing in him. As was with Paul, so is it with us, “We are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10).
What the Apostle Paul insisted the first century Christian understand, and live by, the twenty-first century Christian can ill afford to ignore. We are loved by God, called to belong to Jesus, to live in obedience to Him, constrained by love (Rom 1:5-7; John 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 5:14-15).
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20).
That, my fellow pilgrim, is the way life is meant to be lived.