October 19, 2017
A GODLY LIFE
They see us. They do not under-stand how God loves us. But they see what we do. And they judge our moods and speech.
The peoples of the world have us in their sight. What do they say about us? Is it good or bad? That is a reasonable question for us to ask.
What should the peoples of the world see? Let us begin with a saying of Jesus Christ. He said that we are to let our light shine; people are to see our good works (Matthew 5.16).
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (John 1.9f; 8.12). He does not just show us the way to God. He also teaches us the way of God. If you want to know how God wants you to live then learn from the teaching of Jesus. He teaches us how to live with God and for God.
However more than listening is needed. The reason why that is so is because without Christ we have no power to do God’s will. Without me, he says, you can do nothing (John 15.5). What more is needed? We need to be united to Jesus. We need to abide in him and he in us (John 15.4).There are two essentials needed if you would know Christ living in you and you living in him. They are repentance and faith.
First, there is the need of a new attitude towards Jesus Christ. By nature, we see him as no more than a man who led a group of followers for some three years. Yes, some amazing events have been attributed to him. And yes, he taught people about God as well. But we resist all talk of him ruling our life. We do not want to let go of the control we have of ourselves. As Paul puts it, we are hostile to God (Romans 8.7). That needs to change. We need a new attitude towards Jesus Christ.
What can bring about a change? God uses his word. He uses the record of what he said and did through prophets and apostles. We read about them in the Bible. We also read in the Bible what Jesus Christ said and did. It is the message of the Bible we need to hear. We need to see whether our ideas about Jesus Christ match what God has made known about him. Therefore we need to do some checking. Are our ideas true or false? If they do not cohere with what we read in the Bible they are false. And false ideas are better ditched. Logic tells us that.
Secondly, there is a need of a new attitude to sin. We often see sin as a failure or temporary lapse. We do not see it as serious. Yes, we may feel a bit guilty. And we may even feel ashamed of ourselves. But we quickly try to quieten such feelings.
Each and every sin is serious, very serious. Why? Because it is an act of defiance. We defy God. We rebel against him. We break his law. We ignore his will. Sin, says the apostle John, is lawless-ness (1 John 3.4). It is to behave as though there is no law. It is to say that God’s law for mankind does not matter. But it does matter. It matters very much. God says that the person who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18.4). That moral law is no dream. It is not the fanciful idea of some religious teacher. It is a fact revealed to us by God.Sin, then, is very serious. We begin to see that is so when we compare our ideas with the teaching of the Bible, God’s Word. The more we discover how serious sin is the more we realise that our own sins need to be dealt with if we are to be reconciled with God.
Those who deserve to die for their sins need to be saved or rescued from their desperate plight. We cannot wash away our guilt. We do not even have the power to stop sinning.
Thirdly, there is the need of a new attitude to Jesus Christ. He says that no one can get to God except through him (John 14.6). He says that he and the Father are one (John 15.30). And he says that he is the person who gives eternal life (John 15.28). Such are great claims. They are either true or false. There is no other option. His resurrection from the dead demonstrates that they are true. Jesus Christ is unique. No other teacher has made the claims he made, done the miracles he did, or died and been raised. And he who rose is even now in heaven preparing a place for all who put their trust in him for forgiveness of sin and acceptance with God.
What is faith? It is not a blind leap in the dark. It is grounded on the truth concerning Jesus Christ. What the Bible tells us about him is true. It entails accepting what the Bible says about Christ. But it involves more than knowledge and assent. It also includes trust. The sinner who sees he is a sinful person who needs saving, and that Jesus Christ alone can save him, entrusts himself to Christ. In so doing he comes to know union with Christ.
Those who are united to Jesus Christ through faith are, by virtue of their union with him, made the light of the world (Matthew 5.14). As a result they live for God in the world. They heed his call and let their light shine. But what is the light that shines?
It is the new way of life that a Christian lives. He or she is made clean by the word of Christ (John 15.3). Their idea of right and wrong is moulded and shaped by God’s Word. They no longer assume that their thoughts and desires are acceptable. Instead they allow God’s word to dwell in them richly (Colossians 3.18). And they let it bring their every thought captive to the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10.4f).
One fruit of this great change is that they have a new attitude to the law of God. Before they came to faith God’s commands were ignored and broken. They sinned with a high hand of defiance. As they were drawn to faith they found that the law condemns them. It was like a school-master correcting them and showing them their guilt. But now they have come to faith, and are united to Christ, believers delight in God’s law. It is no longer their enemy but their friend.
To illustrate the point we can turn to Psalms 19 and 119. In Psalm 19 we discover that it converts the soul and revives the heart. And in Psalm 119, we read of a young man who knows God’s Word as a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. It makes him wise, even wiser than his teachers.
The author(s) of these Psalms lived by faith. He did not espouse a works religion. A religion, that is, by which he tried to make himself right with God. No, as a man in a right relationship with God through faith he sought to live the obedient life God calls his people to live. Believers know that the unmerited favour they enjoy as they trust in Christ trains them to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives (Titus 2.11). Such a life includes loving what God and Christ command (John 14.15).
The Bible puts before us a dynamic trio: faith, repentance and obedience. Those who believe, forsake sin. And those who forsake sin, delight in and obey God’s commands. They lead a godly life. Such is the fruit of God’s grace alone.
George Curry 21 May 2017