WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE?
Tonight we are continuing on with our series on WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE? In our first two lessons we learned that The Christian life is a life of:
Tonight we will be adding to this list.
The Christian life is a life of self-denial.
Many in the world think this is a horrible thing because it means that you must deny yourself of certain pleasures that the world has to offer. They cannot understand why anyone would want to do that, but a dedicated Christian understands that self-denial is part of the Christian life.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Living the Christian life is about making choices. We can either choose to serve our Lord and stay committed to His ways or we can embrace the way of the world. God will not stop us because He has given us a free will. However, if we are truly a Christian who follows after Christ, then we must be willing to deny ourselves and live for the Lord.
As Christians we are representatives of Christ. People are supposed to be able to see Christ living in us. If we are living like the world then we are not living the life of a faithful Christian. Notice what Paul teaches us in:
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
The faithful Christian understands that worldliness and righteousness are like oil and water, they do not mix. Though worldly pleasures can bring us much pleasure, we understand that these passing pleasures of this life are temporary and that we have something far greater to look forward to that will last for eternity. Jesus gave His life for us, so we could have the hope of heaven. Again, Paul says:
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
We are not live according to the carnal flesh, we are to live spiritual lives toward God. As Paul says:
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Yes, the Christian has to make sacrifices in order to live by the spirit instead of by the desires of the flesh. Please understand that these fleshly desires to live like the world and to enjoy sin will always be there, but we must choose to change our way of thinking. We must transform our minds daily to be more like Christ. Denying ourselves of sin is something that we must continue to do throughout our Christian lives. We cannot let our guards down because as soon as we do, we give the devil an opportunity to sneak into our lives.
As faithful and dedicated as Paul was, he struggled with the flesh, but he did not allow it control him. The way he controlled himself is found in:
1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
As part of living the Christian life, we must examine ourselves often and make sure that we are living for God and not for ourselves or for the world. Again Paul says:
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified.
A great example of a church that picking up their cross and following after Jesus is found in:
2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
These Christians were commended for the great giving, but no matter what work is being done, the greater thought here is that last verse:
, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
This is what is what self-denial is all about. It is about giving yourself to the Lord first because He is our master and we are His servants. It is not always easy to deny yourself certain pleasures especially when times get rough, but we should never forget the following words from Paul:
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
So, let us never exchange our soul for the pleasures of this world. Instead, let us hold strong to the hope we are promised through Jesus knowing that is far greater to spend eternity in heaven then having to spend eternity in hell to enjoy the temporary pleasures of the flesh.
The Christian life is a life of good works.
As Paul says:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
We were created for good works. As I mentioned in our first lesson of this series, the good works are not works of merit, they are works of obedience. Good works are part of the Christian life. Notice what Paul says as he is giving his defense before King Agrippa in:
Acts 26:19 " Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 "but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
One of the main messages that Paul was preaching everywhere he went was for them to repent, turn to God and do works befitting repentance. We see him writing more about doing good works:
Titus 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work,
Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
Titus 3:14 And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
I could list more verses that teach the same thing, but these are sufficient to show that we are to be working Christians not lazy Christians. If we find an opportunity to do good, and we capable of making it happen, then we should make it happen. It is easy to do nothing. Everybody can do nothing, but a Christian is to be a doer. Whether it be helping someone do something, buying a meal for a needy person, evangelizing, or any other work, these are the kinds of works that we can do for the Lord.
We can encourage ourselves to do good works by reminding ourselves of what Jesus said in:
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Also, what Paul writes to the Corinthians should encourage us as well:
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
As Christians, we can know that the works we do on this earth are not in vain. Though they cannot earn us salvation, they are necessary to show our love to God and to show that we are obedient to His will. Without works of obedience, we can lose our salvation. When we choose not to do good works for the Lord by not being a living breathing epistles for the Lord, we are an essence telling God that we are not interested in Him, His Word, or the salvation He offers us and everyone else. When we chose not to do good works, we choose not to be a light for the Lord, we choose not to glorify His name, and we choose not to be a vessel for Him.
Just being a Christian in name will not get you into heaven. This is illustrated with great detail in parable found in:
Luke 19:11 Now as
they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near
Though this parable has a similar message to the one found in Mt. 25, it is a different parable. The similar message between the two parable is that God gives His servants responsibilities to use what He has given them. If we simply take and hide our talent, and we do not use it for the furtherance of the kingdom, then God will not be pleased. We will not be allowed into heaven.
So, I hope that if you have been blessed with something in your life that you can use to bring glory to God that you will use it and not hide it. It does not matter if someone else can do you what can do better, that is no excuse for a Christian not to use their talent for the Lord. If we were allowed to use this excuse to exclude us from using our talent then no one would be doing anything for the Lord because we can always find someone that is better at doing what we can do.
Let us never forget that
we will be judged by how we labor in the
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
The life of a Christian is a life of joy and gladness.
In Acts Chapter 8, we learn about the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch. It is believed that this man was a Gentile proselyte. He traveled hundreds of miles to worship God so he could get as close as he could get to the temple. He had two strikes against him. First, if he was a gentile, he would not be able to go any further than the gentiles were allowed to go which was outside the temple area. By some slim chance, if he was a Jew, he still would not be able to enter the temple area because he was a Eunuch.
Deuteronomy 23:1 "He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.
Under the law of Moses, this man could only get so close to the temple. However, under the system of Christianity, this all changed. Christianity broke down the walls that were separating Jew and Gentile and made it possible for all Christians to have equal access to God, whether they are man, woman, healthy, sick, Jew or Gentile. Notice what we read about the Eunuch in:
Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" 37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
This dedicated man of God understood what freedom Christ had brought him. He would no longer have to travel hundreds of miles to worship God just outside the temple area. Now, he would be able to worship side by side with other Christians having full access to God no matter where he was. Of course, he understood what a great blessing he received through Jesus by having his sins removed. This is why our text says that he went on his way rejoicing.
While the world may view Christianity as being too strict and limiting, only Christians can understand what joy and gladness Christ brings into our lives. Yes, we must limit ourselves from sinful pleasures, but we have a pleasure that the world cannot have or experience because we have Christ in our lives and we understand what that means to us. A Christian is one who can find something to smile about even in a dire situation because we have Christ.
When Paul was warned that
he was going to face great hardship if he went to
"And see, now I go bound in the spirit to
Earlier, when the other apostles were beaten by the council of Jews and told not to preach the Christ, this was their response:
Acts 5:41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
So, part of the living the Christian life is keeping your head held high even during difficult situations because you know that you have God in your corner. With God in your corner and knowing that He is there for you will cause you to be joyful and full of gladness. As:
Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
In this lesson, we learned that the life of a Christian is one of self-denial, good works and joy and gladness. My hope is that as we look at these different aspect of the Christian life that you will be reminded of things that you should being doing and enjoying throughout your Christian life. If you find an area that needs work, then by all means work on it so that you can grow closer to God and be the kind of Christian that God wants you to be.