By Jack Kelley
Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (1 Cor. 10:23-24)
Having shown the Lord’s clear promise that once we became a believer all the sins of our life were forgiven, we now turn to the logical follow up question. How should we respond to such an incredible gift? How shall we live?
Paul devoted much time to describing the appropriate response to the free gift of eternal life and it’s summed up in his admonition to “Only let us live up to what we’ve already attained” (Phil 3:16). By the wording he used we know this is not something we do to achieve or maintain our salvation. He said we’ve already attained that. We do this as an expression of our heart felt gratitude for having been given this gift. Because there’s no doubt it, before receiving it we were “dead in our transgressions and sins” and “objects of God’s wrath” (Ephes. 2:1-3).
To illustrate this, in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 Paul said, “Do you not know that the wicked (literally, unrighteous) will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Then he differentiated the past from the present, acknowledging the fact that since we’ve become new creations we no longer fit any of those descriptions.
“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11)
Notice the past tense of these statements. We were among the wicked, but then we were washed, sanctified, and justified. I think the phrase “some of you” was giving us a big benefit of the doubt. Spiritually speaking, the sinful thought is as bad as the sinful deed and who among us has not had a thought about at least one of these things at one time or another? But Paul takes pains to say that’s the way God saw us before we were washed (cleansed), sanctified (set apart) and justified (rendered righteous). Now, because of the cross, we’re a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), having attained the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21) by faith in His completed work (Romans 3:21-22). Now God sees us as if we have never sinned, as if we’re as righteous as He is.
Well if that’s the case, why does it matter how we behave? As we’ve seen, where our salvation is concerned, it doesn’t. We were saved because of what we believe not because of how we behave. When we were dead in our sins, God made us alive in Christ and forgave all our sins (Colossians 2:13-14). We now belong to God and no one in Heaven or on Earth can ever change that (Romans 8:38-39). And though we still sin, when we do God attributes it to the sin that dwells in us and no longer counts our sins against us (Romans 7:18-20). No group before the Church was ever given this blessing, nor will any group after us.
The point of changing our behavior is to express our gratitude to Him for the free gift of salvation. Every time we choose to “live up to what we’ve already attained” instead of yielding to the temptation to sin, we’re saying “Thank you Lord, for saving me.” Of course, we’re not perfect. Only Jesus was tempted in every way, but did not sin (Hebr. 4:15). So when we do sin we confess and are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean again, and we’re purified from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
With that introduction, let’s see what the Bible says about how believers should live in light of the unique blessing we’ve been given.
The Practice Of Christian Living
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godâ€”this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2).
Everything about the practice of Christian living is within our control. We don’t have to behave like everyone else. We can be transformed and it begins with choosing to behave differently.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24)
For the most part we think and act the way we do because that’s how we’ve been taught, and it all happened before we got saved. Here we’re told we don’t have to be like that any more. We can learn to think and act in a way that’s pleasing to God.
Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephes 4:25-32).
In effect, Paul taught that while we can’t always control the circumstances of our life we can control our response to them. We have such a glorious future awaiting us that we don’t have to worry about gaining the approval of others by acting the way they do. Our primary goal is pleasing the Lord.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:37-38)
Choosing to become more tolerant, forgiving and generous will have such a remarkable effect on our life that others will want to know what has happened to transform us. Instead of stuttering and stammering through an embarrassing attempt to “witness” to friends and neighbors we’ll find that our very life has become a witness to what God can do, and people will be drawn to us.
The practice of Christian living becomes easier when we remember Who we’re living for. Remember Jesus said that He came so we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Great blessings come from “living up to what we’ve already attained.”
The Bible says when we focus on His kingdom and His righteousness, He will see that our needs are met (Matt. 6:25-34). We’re not to let what Paul called the light and momentary troubles of this world get us down. We should no longer fix our eyes on the temporary things we can see, we should focus on the eternal things we can’t see instead (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). This is even more urgent for us than it was when Paul wrote it, because very soon we’re going to step out of this world and into the next one where the eternal things we’ve only been able to dream about will suddenly become our new reality.
For our home life the Bible says, Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:18-21).
Where our work is concerned, it says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)
And as for the people around us, Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18)
We who’ve been given everything don’t have to worry about anything.
The Privilege Of Christian Living
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4-7).
Because we’ve become God’s children we can rejoice in everything that happens to us because we know that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We can always be at peace, even when our world seems to be crumbling around us. We fear nothing, we pray about everything, and we’re thankful for anything.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Even though we are children of God, the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Nowhere does the Bible promise us a trouble free life. What it does promise is victory over any enemy we choose to engage (Joshua 10:25). The Lord is our over comer and because of that we are privileged to be at peace. No matter what.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2).
Think about that. We can engage our Father in conversation any time it suits us. He’s always in, we never need an appointment, and he’s never too busy for us. Whether it’s asking for a parking place on a crowded street or guidance on whether to pursue a career opportunity, He’s always there for us.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor. 9:6-11)
God has given us the privilege of distributing His endless resources to those in need. He so loves cheerful givers that He has promised to make them rich in every way so they will always have more than enough for themselves with sufficient excess so they can always be generous to others. Next to the gift of eternal life there’s no more remarkable promise anywhere in Scripture.
The Power Of Christian Living
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he’ll flee from you. (James 4:7)
Although Paul called him the God of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), Christians needn’t fear the devil because of the power we’ve been given.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
Jesus showed us how to do this in the wilderness temptations (Matt. 4:1-11). Using nothing but Scripture He demolished every one of the devil’s arguments and sent him packing. This same power is available to us. We just have to know the Bible well enough to activate it.
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).
As is the case with everything James wrote, this is a clear promise without exception or equivocation. The Bible doesn’t promise we won’t get sick, but it does promise we can be healed. It’s a power the Lord died to give us.
“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, â€˜Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:23-24)
And it’s not just healing. With sufficient faith we could literally move mountains. But faith is like our physical muscles. The more we exercise it the stronger it becomes. This is a case where the American lifestyle has become our enemy. It’s been too easy to get the things we want without the Lord’s help. As a result many of us have much more than we need. Maybe the Lord is stripping some of those things away now to help us practice living by faith.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines (1 Cor. 12:7-11).
Many charismatics misuse their gifts in immature excesses of self glorification while some fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge they even exist. But if the gifts of the Holy Spirit were ever used in the manner Paul described, the world would not be able to stand against their power.
Each of us has been gifted and could use the power our gifts contain to have a significant effect on the little corner of the world we inhabit. Romans 12:1-8 tells us how to discover and use our gifts.
The Protection Of Christian Living
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 1:21-22).
So we come full circle. Never let it be said that although God has the power to save us, He lacks the power to keep us.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).
A US insurance company says we’re in good hands with them, but believers enjoy the ultimate example of being in good hands. Our policy is paid in full and our coverage can never expire. Not even we ourselves can snatch us out of their hands.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephes. 6:10-12).
A soldier’s armor can only protect him when he wears it, and he would never think of going into battle without being fully protected. We’re aliens behind enemy lines and as such are combatants in an ongoing battle. We’ve been given impenetrable armor, but in order for it to protect us we have to put it on and keep it on.
The Promise Of Christian Living
All this leads to achieving the goal we all want most in life. Earlier I said that after becoming saved, our primary goal becomes pleasing the Lord. But when we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart in return (Psalm 37:4). By following these instructions for Christian living we can finally achieve complete personal freedom. Although we are still in the world we will no longer be of the world. Living the Christian Life frees us of all the negative emotions that have afflicted us in the past. No more worry, no more stress, no more feeling out of control. We no longer have to be concerned with having enough money, or getting ahead, or keeping up. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
The uncertainties of life that so preoccupy the thoughts of others won’t bother us any more. It doesn’t matter who gets elected to what office, or how bad the economy is getting, or whether the government will continue to break its promises. We’ll finally understand the full meaning of the Lord’s words, “When the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36) Praise the Lord. 02-01-14