What is the Christian life? It is likely that some of the more common answers from born again Christians would contain the following concepts.
“The Christian Life is living my life for Christ. In return for what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for me, I will devote my life to live for Him as Lord and Master.” (That seems right and good!)
“The Christian Life is dedicating my life, my talents, my abilities, time and energy to Him. Because the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of all honour, praise and glory, I dedicate all that I am and hope to be to the Lord Jesus Christ.” (That seems very sacrificial and good!)
“The Christian Life is for me to try to serve the Lord and to obey all His commandments. The Lord Jesus Christ has set the example of living a holy life before God. The Christian life is to do what He would do in all phases of my life.” (That seems honourable and good!)
“The Christian Life is finding and fulfilling His plan and purpose for my life. God has a perfect will for my life. To the best of my ability, I should measure up to His expectations and thus fulfil His plan and purpose for me.” (That seems noble and good!)
“The Christian Life is having the Lord Jesus Christ at the centre or on the throne of my life. Because the Lord Jesus knows best, I will allow him to control me by being at the center of my life, and ruling over me. I will submit to Him always, as the Lord of my life.” (That seems very majestic and good!)
“The Christian Life is for me to follow the Lord Jesus all the days of my life. As a disciple of the Lord Jesus, I will follow Him. I will listen to Him, I will talk to Him, and I will walk with Him. I am to go wherever He would want me to go, say what He would want me to say, and be what He would want me to be.” (That seems devoted, sincere and good!)
All of these are good, very good, and while they seem to be good, all of them unwittingly, conceal what the real Christian Life is. Our complicated explanations of the Christian Life have a major flaw. There is too much of me, my life and my effort in them.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17: 24-25).
God, as our Father, wants to give life to us, and this life is in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said: “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the LIFE” ! JESUS CHRIST IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE! “I have come that you might have Life, and that you might have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Jesus Christ is the Only One Who can live the Christian life, because He is THE LIFE!
God never intended that we should even try to live the Christian life. It is not only difficult, it is impossible for anyone to do it. Only by totally yielding in full surrender to the indwelling Christ, can a Christian know what the Christian life is. Trying to live the Christian life results in repeated re-dedications of my life and repeated re-commitments of my life. This is living proof that there is too much of my life in the way.
It is God’s intention that Jesus live His life through me. “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2 :13). Jesus often said; “In and of myself, I can do nothing,” Yet many Christians today, try to do what they can to please God. They unconsciously see Jesus as being their helper rather than their life source . They are still trying to do it, trying to be like Jesus, and have Jesus help them. (Check out your prayers and see if it isn’t so.) Failure is the inevitable result.
Peter on the day of Pentecost, declared to the holiday throng: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). If we understand this statement clearly, it was God Who fed the five thousand, it was God Who turned the water into wine, it was God Who raised Lazarus from the dead, and it was God Who did everything that men saw the man Jesus doing.
Jesus attested to this principle many times. He said: “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” “I do nothing of my own initiative, I only do what I see the Father doing” (John 14:9; 5:19). It is with this principle in mind that Jesus also says: “As the Father has sent me so send I you” (John 20:21). We are not to try to do as Jesus would do. We are to let His abundant Life live in us.
The disciples asked Jesus: “What must we do to do the works of God?” Jesus’ answer was very direct: “The work of God is this, that you believe on the One Whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29). It is certain that every born-again Christian has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. It is not quite so certain that all born-again believers are believing on the Lord Jesus Christ to do the work of God through them.
Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branch, without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). How much can a branch do without the vine? Nothing!! It does not choose what fruit to bear, how much to bear, nor when to bear it. It can do nothing but abide in the vine. How much can a branch do with the vine helping it? Nothing!! The branch does nothing but abide in the vine. The vine does everything. The life is in the vine, it brings life from the ground, through the vine, thence to the branch, and then the fruit appears on the branch. All this happens because of the vine, nothing of the branch. The branch just becomes the conveyor.
Paul the Apostle said it other ways: “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, (by faith) continue to live in Him” (Col. 2:6). “We walk by faith and not by sight” (knowledge, feeling or intellect – II Cor. 5:7). “How much more, having been reconciled, shall we be (being) saved by His Life” (Rom 5:10). “When Christ Who is Our LIFE!!” (Col. 3:4). “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).
It is not up to us to go on saving ourselves by our efforts, but rather that we simply depend by faith on the LIFE of the Lord Jesus to be in such a position of Lordship, that He Himself in His power, keeps on saving us moment by moment. By faith we believe that Jesus Christ has taken away our sins and saved us from eternal separation from God. In the same way by faith we are to allow the living Christ to keep us in victory, cause us to bear fruit, and live above the circumstances that otherwise crush us.
Of course there is one villain in the way of this process–ourselves. Until we abandon all hope and trust in our own self efforts to do anything of eternal value and merit, we will continue to struggle in self effort. That only leads to destruction. The Old Testament refers to this kind of living as “our own way that seems right to us but leads to destruction” (Prov. 14:12; 16:2,25).
Jeremiah, in chapter 17 and verse 9, declares that “the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (KJV). It takes a work of the Holy Spirit to reveal the bankruptcy of our own efforts and our own ways. The NIV says it this way, “it is beyond cure.” Yet, many Christians have a tendency to trust in their own self effort. How deceptive! Time and time again, God calls His people to forsake their wicked ways, and to repent of this self sufficient way.
It is only the truth of Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:6 that provide the power to release us from our self efforts to live our version of whatever we think the Christian life is. “I have been crucified with Christ,” …. “we know that our old self was crucified with Christ.” It is only as the Holy Spirit makes that truth real in our experience, and as the believer allows that truth to be operative in him moment by moment, that Jesus Christ can live the Christian Life in us.
May the power of the Holy Spirit restore us to New Testament Christian Life, where once again we can know Christ and the power of His resurrection LIFE, becoming like Him in His death so as to somehow attain to the resurrection from our dead selves (Phil 3:10-11).
Father, I see that I have unknowingly been trying to live the Christian life in my own resources. I repent of my foolishness, and choose now to trust Your living Son for daily LIFE AND VICTORY. Forgive me for trying in my own efforts to live the LIFE that you have provided for me in the mighty matchless resources of Your Own Precious Son.
Don Higgins is Director Emeritus of Crossways to Life in Kitchener, Ontario. The current Director is Ross Gilbert. Their web site is http://www.crosswaystolife.org