Christian living must be Christ-centered. It is determined by a vital, redemptive relationship between believer and Christ. Conversion is the process whereby the believer establishes contact with this glorious person. Christian living is the normal result of the functioning of this vital relationship.
The Christian walk includes activities such as prayer, Bible study, overcoming temptations, church attendance, being a good citizen, being strangers and pilgrims, witnessing for Christ, etc. A person is not a Christian, however, simply because he prays, reads the Bible, attends church, and is a good citizen. A person is a Christian because he is properly related to God through Christ. Although one prays, reads his Bible, and attends church services, he is not a Christian unless he has the redemptive relationship with God through the sacrifice of Christ. The various factors included in the Christian walk should be viewed as flowing forth from the vital relationship the Christian has with Christ.
Believers present their bodies as living sacrifices, walk in newness of life, and are zealous unto good works as normal responses to the vital contact they maintain with their risen Lord.
Christians live in righteousness and are careful to maintain good works not in order that they might be redeemed, but because they have been redeemed. They do good not in order that they might be justified, but because they have been justified. They walk the Christian way not in order that they might stand on holy ground, but because they already stand on holy ground. Good works are not the purchase price of salvation; they are the thank offering. We love God because He first loved us. We live for Him because we have experienced His grace and mercy. What Christ has done for us becomes the motivating influence for us to perform what we should do for Christ.
The Christian walk includes every area of one's life. "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and Man" (Luke 2:52). Our Lord's growth was mental (wisdom), physical (stature), spiritual (favour with God), and social (favour with man). The believer also should experience this fourfold growth. The child of God should become like Christ in every area and relationship of life.
1. Relationship With God. The Christian's relationship with God includes the important factors of worship, prayer, Bible study, love for God, trust, obedience, and humility.
2. Relationship With Himself. As he walks the Christian way, the believer sees himself as a child of God. He belongs to God; therefore he seeks to glorify God in his body and mind. (1 Cor. 6:19, 20.) He gives his body the proper care through food, rest, exercise, and cleanliness. As a child of God, he has a proper self-respect. He seeks to develop his mind and personality and seeks to use his time, talents, and possessions in the right manner.
3. Relationship Toward Sin. In the Christian walk, the believer faces temptations. Temptation is not sin itself. Temptation becomes sin when one yields to it. The believer can overcome temptation through filling his mind and heart with the Word of God, depending upon the overcoming power of Christ, and crowding out temptations with works of righteousness. The Christian should confess his own sins and forgive the sins of others. Sins of Christians are forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Advocate. (1 John 2:1, 2.) The Christian's responsibility is to confess his sins to God and to accept His forgiveness. (I John 1:7-9.)
4. The World. Christians are not "of the world" (John 15:19; 17:16). The world is crucified unto them. (Gal. 6:14.) They "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2: 15). (John 8:23; Rom. 12:2; Eph. 2:2, 12; 5:11; Phil. 3:19, 20; Col. 3:2; Jas. 1:27; 4:4; I John 2:15-17; 4:4; 5:4, 5, 19.) "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17, 18). Christians are strangers and pilgrims in the world. (1 Pet. 2:11; Heb. 11:13-16.) Christians are hated by the world and persecuted by it. (John 15:18-20; 16:33; 17:14-16; 1 John 3:13; 4:4-6.)
5. The Mass of Humanity. The Christian, in relation to the mass of humanity, seeks to "do good unto all men" (Gal. 6:10). He becomes a channel through whom Christ can show His love for mankind. The child of God seeks to relieve the suffering, hunger, ignorance, and loneliness which the mass of humanity experiences. He has a compassion for the lost. He becomes a personal evangelist, a witness for the gospel. He obeys the Lord's command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark. 16:15). The Christian is the "salt of the earth" (Matt.. 5:13), and the "light of the world" (Matt. 5:14-16; Phil. 2:15, 16; 1 Pet. 2:9). He is a "living epistle" read by men (2 Cor. 3:2, 3), an ambassador for Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20)
6. Earthly Governments. Our Saviour taught the separation of church and state when He said, "Render, therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's (Matt. 22:21). The Christian will be a good citizen, will pay his taxes, and will pray for those in authority. (Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-15.) "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (I Tim. 2:1, 2). When the laws of men conflict with the instructions of God, the Christian must obey God rather than men even though he must die for Christ. (Acts 4:19; 5:29.)
7. The Christian Home. In relation to his family, the believer who walks the Christian way will seek to maintain a Christian home. Christ will be exalted as Head of the home. Teachings of the Bible will determine the basis and nature of family life. Worship, prayer, and Bible study will occupy an important place in the home. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled" (Heb. 13:4). The unmarried state, contrary to the Roman teaching, is not superior to the married state. Paul warned that in "the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats" (I Tim. 4:1-3). He who is married can attain as high a degree of spirituality as he who is unmarried. Sex, as expressed in marriage, is not sinful; it is God-given. It is a means for expressing true love between husband and wife. In walking the Christian way, each member of the family will follow instructions given in the Bible concerning himself. The Bible gives instructions for husbands (I Pet. 3:7; Col. 3:19; Eph. 5:25, 28-33; 1 Cor. 11:3; 7:3-6), for wives (1 Pet. 3:1-6; Col. 3:18; Eph. 5.:22-24; Titus 2:4, 5; 1 Cor. 7:3-6; 11:7-12), for parents (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21; 1 Thess. 2:11; 1 Tim. 5:8; Luke 11:11-13; 2 Cor. 12:14; Prov. 13:24; 22:6; 29:15; 1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12; Titus 1:6; Heb. 12:7; Psa. 103:13), and for children (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20; Ecvl. 12:1).
8. Fellow Christians. Christians will encourage, exhort, and be examples for one another. (1 Tim. 4:12.) They will love one another. (John 15:12; 1 John 3:14.) They will forgive one another. (Eph. 4:32.) They will bear one another's burdens. (Gal. 6:1-5.) "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:1-4). Believers will recognize themselves as members of one body. (Rom. 12:3-13; 1 Cor. 12:12-27.) "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love," believers will seek "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:2, 3).
9. The Church. The believer who maintains the Christian walk will attend church services regularly. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb. 10:25). Christian love, fellowship, and service can be found in the social relations which are expressed in the services, activities, and work of the church. The believer will contribute "as God hath prospered him" to the financial support of the Lord's work. (I Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:6, 7.) The Bible presents the tithe (one tenth of the increase) and offering basis as the systematic method for supporting the Lord's work. (Gen. 14:20; Heb. 7:2-6; Gen. 28:22; Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; Mal. 3:8, 10.) The believer will use his talents willingly in the service of the Lord. (Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:7, 11-16.)
In relation to God, Christ, and man, the Spirit-filled life is love. Love is the chief of the fruit of the Spirit and summarizes all spiritual graces. In response to sorrow, sadness, and suffering, the Spirit-filled life is joy. In response to unrest, confusion, and turmoil, it is peace. In the believer's relation to persecution, difficulties, imperfections in others, and factors which cannot now be changed, the fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering or patience. In response to irritation, injustice, and insults, the Christ-directed life is gentleness or kindness. In response to the needs of others, it is goodness or generosity. In the believer's relation to truth, justice, and the Lord's work, the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. In one's attitude toward himself and others, it is meekness or gentleness. In one's relation to temptations and God-given instincts, the Spirit-filled life is temperance or self-control. Proper self-control results when one is Christ-controlled.
(Adapted from Systematic Theology, by Alva Huffer, published by Church of God General Conference, Oregon, Illinois 61061, U.S.A.)
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