“… that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13
THE SECRET OF CHRISTIAN LIVING
This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
THE PROBLEM STATED
On four occasions the Bible declares, “The just shall live by faith”. (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38) The life God gives is only for the just – but who are the just? The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to the answer:
“For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecc. l7:20) “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. (Rom. 3:23)
GOD’S LAW DEMANDS!
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself”. (Luke10:27) By that standard we have all broken God’s law repeatedly and are condemned.
Nor is there any way that we, as sinners, could become just. Living a perfect life in the future (even if that were possible) could never merit the forgiveness for sins already committed or deliver from the judgment which God’s justice righteously demands.
Only God could declare a sinner to be “just” – but how could He, when His irrevocable law condemns us? For God simply to forgive the sinner by ‘sweeping his sin under the carpet’ so-to-speak would violate His own righteous law and character. God could be charged with being unjust.
THE PROBLEM SOLVED
Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, explains how God can justly justify sinners: “Being justified freely by his [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (mercy seat) through faith in his blood…for the remission of sins…that he [God] might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom3:24-26).
Forgiving the sinner and declaring him just comes only on the basis of Christ having paid the full penalty demanded by God’s justice against sin, and the sinner having accepted that payment on his behalf.
It cannot be bought through:
– good deeds
– religious imagery
– Church attendance
– religious festivals
– charitable gifts
– or anything else
Only the infinite God himself, coming as a sinless man through the virgin birth, could bear, in our place, the infinite penalty we deserved. We cannot even begin to “live by faith” while “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph.2:1), which is mankind’s natural condition. We must be made “alive from the dead” (Rom.6:13) by receiving God’s forgiveness in Christ.
The Christian life of faith is only for those who are “in the faith” (2Cor.13:5). Living ‘a good Christian life’ is not the way to become a Christian. Only those who already are Christians can live that life. Nor is it lived in order to earn heaven. Such a thing is impossible! The Christian life is lived out of gratitude to Christ for having paid the penalty for our sin.
A Christian has been “born again” of the Spirit of God (John 3:3-8) through “the Word of God” (1Pet.1:23) by believing the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and is a “new creature” (2Cor.5:17) in Christ, having been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph.2:10). If we trust Him to do so, surely God will open the right doors, guide each step of every Christian’s life, and provide the means of fulfilling the “good works” which He has ordained for each of us.
LIFE BY FAITH – LIVE BY FAITH – WALK BY FAITH
Clearly, one must first enter upon the Christian life by faith in Christ in order to begin to “live by faith”. Paul exhorts us, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Col.2:6). And how did we receive Christ? As helpless, hopeless sinners who could do nothing for our own salvation but had to look entirely to Christ to save us. In that same attitude of unworthiness and complete dependence upon God for His grace and upon Christ to live His life through us, we live by faith the Christian life.
STRENGTH MAKE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS
Christ told Paul that His strength was perfected in Paul’s weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). We must stop trying to be strong in ourselves, and “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10). The battle with the forces of evil, God assures us, will be won “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit…” (Zec.4:6). There is great joy, even in great trials, in trusting Christ and seeing what He can do. That the Christian life is to be lived by faith tells us that it comes supernaturally, not naturally, as we trust God and know and obey His Word. It cannot be by our own direction and strength but only under the leading and by the power of God, who alone is the proper object of faith.
EVIDENCE OF GOD WORKING IN YOUR LIFE – FRUIT BEARING
Yes, the Christian life is miraculous. Expect it to be! Beware, however, of the widespread unbiblical emphasis upon, and insatiable desire for, the miraculous, which foster delusion. The most powerful evidence of God’s supernatural work in our lives is found in the transformation of our character to Christlikeness.
The Lord Jesus told his disciples,
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the Vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me. I am the Vine ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing”. (John 15:4-5).
Just as the Vine wants to reproduce its life in the branches so God wants to reproduce the life of the Lord Jesus in us. The single most important thing in the life of the believer is an intimate abiding love relationship with the Lord Jesus. The fruit that God is looking for in your life is the moral likeness to His Son. The Apostle Paul says, the “fruit of the Spirit,” is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).
The “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21), no matter how exemplary, are not acceptable to God (Rom.8:8). To live the Christian life, we must learn to “live in the Spirit” and “walk in the Spirit” (Gal.5:25).
This is not to deny the benefit of education, diligence, hard work, prudent investment, experience and sound practice in earning our “daily bread” (Mt.6:11). Earthly success, however, though legitimate, is not the Christian’s goal in life. Christ declared, “…a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke12:15);“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,…
for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. (Mt.6:19-21).
THE TESTING OF FAITH
The fact that the Christian life is supernatural does not guarantee “financial success” nor that we will be free of trouble, sorrow or pain. When Paul was in prison he was able to write, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil.4:13); and in the same context he declared, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (v 11). The Christian life is too glorious to be easy. It must involve trials and testings. This was true of Christ himself as well as of the apostles and early church. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation (John 16:33)….The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (John15:19-20).
THE PURPOSE OF TESTING
The faith by which the Christian life is to be lived and which is described as “more precious than gold” must be tested by trials and difficulties. Why? So that when the faith by which the just live comes through the fire of adversity it will “be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Peter1:7). Of Christ, who “[left] us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1Peter2:21), it was said, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Heb.12:2). We are able to endure earthly trials because our hope lies beyond this brief life: “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2Cor.4:17).
Those who have trusted God through deep trial testify that their faith has been strengthened and their joy increased. Having to depend totally on Christ draws us closer to Him and increases our love for Him.
Any counsel, help or support we offer to those in distress should bring them through the trial of faith with their roots deepened in Christ (Isa.43:2), rather than enable them to escape the very challenges God intends and the work He desires to effect in their hearts. By putting us in seemingly hopeless situations, God intends to move us from mere intellectual belief to practical trust in His provision.
THE TRIALS OF LIFE ARE MEANT TO MAKE US BETTER NOT BITTER!
William Law writes, “Whenever a man allows himself to have anxieties, fears, or complaints, he must consider his behaviour as either a denial of the wisdom of God or as a confession that he is out of His will”. Many who call them-selves Christians say they have trusted Christ with their eternal destiny, but seem unable to trust Him in this life – a fact which casts doubt on their relationship to Him. God wants to test our faith now – and for good reason.
Moses told the Israelites, “The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deut.8:2-3). Oswald Chambers said, “God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings…. Faith by its very nature must be tried…. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). This is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole of the Bible.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me,” wrote David (Psalm23:4). He did not expect, much less plead, to be given another path that would bypass that terrible valley, but only that God would be with him through his trial. Living by faith involves confronting the difficulties of life, which indeed may have been allowed of God to test and correct. The Christian life includes learning where we have gone astray and being willing to be corrected and brought back into obedience to God and His Word. It is often in times of distress alone that God can break the hold of that which has drawn our affection away from Him, perhaps without our even knowing it.
PRAISE & WORSHIP
As we walk by faith and experience God’s faithfulness in trials, praise and worship well up within us. However, praise and worship is not merely singing repetitive words in an emotionally charged atmosphere. It is far more deeper than that. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and making melody in your heart to the Lord”. (Eph.5:19).
Sound doctrine, too, plays a vital role in the Christian life of faith. Paul’s life sets the example for us all. In describing his life to Timothy, he put doctrine first: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions….
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2Tim.3:10-12). He also warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (4:3). We live in a day when doctrine is despised and entertainment is demanded in its place.
JESUS IS COMING AGAIN !
In the meanwhile, our confident trust in our Lord through the trials of this life of faith demonstrate the reality of our trust in Him for eternity. Let us remember that He is coming back again to rapture every true believer out of this evil world – “and so shall we ever be with the Lord”. (1Thes.4:16-18).
May He give us grace to live by faith as true Christians; and may earth’s trials strengthen our faith, deepen our love for God, increase our fellowship with and joy in Him, and bring honour and glory to Him for eternity!