THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
GOD'S ORDER OF THINGSWithin the Christian life there is a divine order of things. We must align ourselves with these principles. Too many Christians get things out of perspective. The order in which God expects us to fit everything together is:
RELATIONSHIPS NOT RULESThe most fundamental difference between true Christianity and "formalised Religion" is that Christianity is based entirely upon a relationship. There is no way in which we can gain favour with God by obeying some set of laid down rules.
Coupled with this, we see that rules (disguised as doctrine ) have lead to the mass slaughter of millions of faithful Christians through the ages. Since the conversion of Constantine in 312 AD more Christians have been killed in the "Name of God" than ever lost their lives under the Roman Empire. The numbers are in millions, all because of man made rules laid down by "Organised Religion".
The laws which were given by God to Israel were to show mankind our sinfulness. God knows that it is impossible for us to obey His laws. He designed them that way. They were set in place so that we might be directed to the love of God as shown in the person and sacrifice of Jesus.
This same principle applies today. We have not been called to follow a set of religious rules. We have been called to follow a person, Jesus. We will fail, we will falter, we will show our weaknesses, we will have triumphs etc., the same as his disciples of old did. Jesus knows this. We do not have to fear His rejection. He loves us just as He loved Peter who denied Him. Just as He loved Thomas who doubted Him. Just as He loved Judas who betrayed Him. Just as He loved the Centurions who crucified Him.
Our salvation does not rely on us fulfilling a set of regulations, but in us trusting in the finished work of Jesus. Faith is based on knowledge. Knowledge of who Jesus is and how He feels about us. As Paul wrote " For this reason I also suffer these things, for I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day" (2 Timothy 1:12).
What Paul had committed to Jesus was:
The same principle applies to our relationships with each other. Jesus called us to "Love one another". It is that simple. Love is based on relationships, not on expectations.
Church life is meant to be community life. The Church is to be a group of people who mutually support one another, not just on Sunday, but all the time. There should be no need within the Church. Those who have should provide for those who have not, with no thought of gain for themselves. What we have, whether spiritual or physical comes to us from God. It belongs to Him, not to us. Therefore it must be available for Him and His people to use as is needed.
But we will hurt each other at times. This always happens when imperfect humans come together. But we have the greatest power available to us - Forgiveness. If we are able to forgive each other, then any rift in our relationships can be repaired. We will still feel the hurt, but the damage will not be lasting.
DIVERSITY NOT CONFORMITYAnother factor in the Christian life is our uniqueness. We were created "different". No two people have the same finger prints. No two people have the same eye retina pattern. No two people have the same brain wave pattern. We are different and we should rejoice in our difference.
We were not meant to conform to a stereotype model. If God had wanted us to be the same we would reproduce by "cloning". He made us different so that He might have a unique relationship with each of us as individuals.
We are also different in our function within the Body of Christ. Each one of us has a different gift from God. Even within the gifting there are different endowments. There should be no stereotype "Christian". We are different, let us celebrate this difference. Let us not try to conform ourselves and others to any pre-conceived idea of what "a Christian" should be. There is no such thing.
Church history has been strewn with the victims of those who fought for conformity. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us into conformity (Romans 8:29), and the image to which we are being conformed is that of Christ, not to any human image of a "Good Christian".
We must remember that Jesus was one of the most unpredictable persons ever to walk the earth. At times He showed great compassion, at other times He showed great zeal, at other times He stood up and rebuked those around Him and yet at other times He was silent. Jesus did not conform to any particular pattern that His disciples were familiar with, yet He was the Son of God, with out sin.
A LIFE OF PURPOSE NOT CONFUSIONJesus came to give us "Fullness of life" (John 10:10). Fullness and purpose come hand in hand. In Christ we are free to do what ever we wish, but not all things are good for us (1 Corinthians 6:12). For example, a watch is designed to show us the time. If it were used to hammer in a nail it would be destroyed.
So it is with our lives. True freedom is realised when we are fulfilling the purpose for which we have been called. We are called to fulfill the "Eternal Purpose of God". Anything short of this is like using a watch as a hammer.
As we have seen from our studies, God's purpose is for us to reign with Jesus through the ages to come. To this end God is preparing us for this purpose, for we know that "all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Every experience we have in our Christian lives in some way or other is preparing us for or testing us to see if we are able to fulfill God's Eternal Purpose.
It is this over riding sense of purpose which has allowed countless saints through the ages to endure the savage persecution they have received.
TRUTHAs Christians we should be free to speak the truth to each other. As humans we learn to be very "diplomatic". This word has two meanings:
Let us learn to be open with each other. We may find it is more productive than we think.
OUR ATTITUDEOur attitude is of the utmost importance in the Christian life. If our attitude is wrong then our life will be spent to no effect.
By way of example let us consider the attitude of two of Jesus' disciples, James and John. At one point they desired to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in His Kingdom (Matthew 20:20-29). Jesus used this as an opportunity to speak to His disciples about their attitude.
He said "Are you able to drink the cup which I must drink, and are you able to be baptised with my baptism" (Matthew 20:22). We know that Jesus was speaking of His coming death when He spoke of these things, for later in the garden Jesus prayed "O Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, thy will be done" (Matthew 26:42).
So we see in Jesus an attitude of obedience.
Jesus went on to speak to His disciples about servant hood. "Who ever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:27-28).
So we see that our attitude is important. We are to be obedient even to death and we are to be servants not masters. Both of these attitudes were in Jesus, but not in James and John. James and John saw only their own glory, while they should have been looking to the good of those around them.
We can be like this too. There are three things which bring many Pastors down. They are "Gold, Glory and Girls". Probably the most subtle of these is glory. Too many Pastors have become filled with their own self importance. Too many congregations worship their Pastor instead of the Lord.
Attitude is extremely important.
OUR EXPERIENCEChristianity is an experiential faith. We can not simply study God. To know about salvation will not save us, we must personally experience His grace in our lives to be released from sin.
God is presently calling out and preparing a special group of people from every nation on earth to share the great task of ruling all creation with His Son Jesus in the Kingdom to come. This group is known as the Church.
By its very nature the Church is a "supernatural" phenomenon. Its members are "born again" into the "Divine Nature". They are "anointed" by the Spirit of God and with its glorious Head, the whole Body of Christ is counted as the Messiah of God.
For the Church to be fully prepared for its role in God's Eternal Purpose it is vital that we experience every aspect of the Christian life:
WHERE ARE WE GOINGThe Christian life has only one destination - The Cross. As a part of the Body of Christ we have been called to share in the sufferings of our Head, Jesus (Romans 8:17). We too often think of the cross in an abstract way, but this word is literal. We have been called to "offer our bodies as living sacrifices .. to the Lord " (Romans 12:1). "Whoever seeks to save his life will loose it, and whoever looses his life for Jesus sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39).
The Word of God could not be more clear. We are expected to lay down our lives, literally. This is the ultimate test of faith. Are we going to trust God at His word ?
OBEDIENCEAll that I have said until now is the "milk" of the Word. The "meat" of the Word is in putting it into action in our own lives. "To obey is better than sacrifice .. for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
As we learn to "hear" the word of the Lord for our circumstance and "act" upon it we will begin to experience great freedom in our lives. When trouble comes, as it usually does, we will be able to stand fast on the "rock of our salvation" (Matthew 7:24).
Obedience to the word of God brings results (John chapter 20). For example when the disciples had fished all night without catching anything, Jesus came and commanded them to lower their nets on the other side. When they obeyed his direct word they caught more fish than they could carry.
It is the same with us. We can be busy doing what we think the Lord wants us to do with little result. When the Lord "directs" us and we obey his voice we will get results beyond our imagination.
The purpose of God is to establish his kingdom in us. This happens when Jesus is the Lord of our lives.
"There is one Lord, one faith one baptism. One God the Father of all who is above all through all and in all..." (Ephesians 4:4-6). There is one truth which only the Holy Spirit can reveal. The truth is Jesus.
Created: 23 - Jan - 1997.