CHRISTIAN ETHICS 3

 

Christ in YOU!

A lot of modern Christians look at the disciples with envy. They think that Jesus’ friends had a closer relationship with Him than we ever could because the disciples actually lived with Jesus; they interacted with Him on a daily basis in a way we can’t.

While it is true that Biblical characters had unique experiences with Jesus during His earthly ministry simply because they were alive at the same time, the fact is we should never “idealize” anybody alive during Biblical times. When Jesus ascended to the Father, He made it possible for every single believer to have virtually unlimited fellowship with Him thanks to the Holy Spirit’s presence in their life. And the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit was something the disciples never had while Jesus was alive in the flesh.

When Christ takes up residence in our lives through the Holy Spirit, everything about us changes. These changes, many of which can be seen by others, vary from person to person. Our age, personality, temperament, and other factors determine what those changes will be and look like. At our conversion, we become “new creations.” We begin to live new lives of holiness and purity. It is never easy, it is always a challenge, but we have the promise of Christ’s presence and power to help us.

The thing about this new life is that sometimes it is passive, reflected in the thousand and one things we do each and every day without thinking. Other times it is demonstrative; we are to demonstrate our faith by purposely making decisions that reflect our ongoing relationship with Christ. This may effect how we dress or the kind of entertainment we enjoy or the people we associate with.

1. Live in Christ’s presence

(a) Through obedience, John 14:19—24

It was Jesus’ final meal. Very shortly, Jesus would be arrested and crucified. Gathered together with His disciples, Jesus spoke of many things which left His friends confused and frightened as they faced an uncertain future. Imagine the difficulty of understanding this:

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. (verse 19a)

With this sentence, Jesus was putting forth a very profound idea: His followers would be markedly different than those who don’t follow Him. Followers of Jesus will continue to “see” the Lord while others would be unable to. Think of the privilege! With that singular privilege, though, came a solemn responsibility: strict obedience to the teachings of Christ.

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. (verse 21a)

Our love for Christ is linked to and evidenced by our obedience to His Word. Or another way to put it, our obedience to Christ is the means by which we enjoy and maintain a personal relationship with Him and experience His presence. There is no substitute for obedience. No number of words or declarations of love can take the place of obedience.

(b) Through unity, John 17:20—23

John 17 records a profound prayer of Jesus, in which He prayed for Himself and His disciples. Among the things He asked for on behalf of His disciples was protection:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (verse 15)

Verse 18 indicates exactly what He expected from His disciples:

As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

Jesus’ mission became the mission of His disciples, and ultimately ours. This is pretty heavy stuff! Jesus came into the world to save it. And that is our mission; to take the Gospel to sinners. Right in the middle this thought, Jesus prayed an interesting couple of sentences:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. (verses 20, 21a)

Jesus’ supreme desire for His followers—all His followers, through all the ages of time—is that they live in unity with each other as they fulfill their mission. This is pretty profound; our unity is to look like the kind of unity that exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That surely is not how the Church of Jesus Christ looks today! We are a fractious, divided, and divisive bunch, that’s for sure. What’s worse is that many Christians want unity as badly as Jesus wanted it but they are willing to sacrifice doctrinal purity for that unity. That should never be the case; our unity should be based on the solid teachings of Christ.

Why is unity so important? It is because our unity is a testimony to the world around us:

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (verse 23)

If we understood this, maybe we’d work a little harder at getting along with each other.

2. Put on the new self

(a) A new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:20—22

If there is one truth that sticks out like a sore thumb in much of Paul’s writings it’s this: As a Christian, the life you have today is far different than the life you had before you became a Christian. At least, it’s supposed to be different! Through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we are born again, we are new creations, we are regenerated, we once lived in darkness but now we live in His light. Whatever metaphor you may like, the reality should be clear.

Living as a new creation isn’t easy. In fact, it requires a Herculean effort some days! As Paul told his friends in Corinth, “the old is gone, the new is here,” but that’s just the beginning. He fleshed out this idea when he wrote to the Ephesians:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. (Ephesians 4:22)

That phrase “put off” means an effort is needed. Nobody can “put off” somebody else’s old self, we are supposed to be “putting off” our old self. It’s a effort.

(b) A new attitude, Ephesians 4:23, 24

Once we “put off” our old self, something else has to happen. It’s not enough to simply try living right! We are to “put on” our new self. And this starts, like most things, between the ears:

…to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:23, 24)

The Holy Spirit comes into our lives and sets us completely and gloriously free by dumping all the trash out of our minds so we may begin our new lives by thinking right; by having a totally new outlook on life. On the power of attitude, Winston Churchill observed:

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

It really can make all the difference and a lot of Christians are either unaware of the importance of the right attitude or choose to keep their old, worldly attitude, resulting in a stunted and immature Christian life. Do you find living for Christ hard or next to impossible? Then check your attitude!

In Philippians 4, Paul helps us understand how to think right by giving us a list of good things to think about:

[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

That takes a lot of work to do even though it sounds easy. Changing one’s habitual way of thinking is like giving up an old friend for some. It’s comfortable to think negatively all the time or to always see the bad and never the good. But that’s not God’s way. Thinking like God thinks is not an option! But thinking like God thinks can go a long way in making a godly life a reality and the norm.

(c ) A new direction, Colossians 2:20—23; 3:1—4

One of the tests of our “new life” is the direction we take. Do we continue to live life bound by man’s rules, regulations, and principles? A lot of Christians do and they never experience the freedom that comes from the “new life.” God doesn’t want you strangled by a bunch of made-up rules and laws for living based on nothing more someone else’s ideas. This is what Paul tried to tell the Colossians:

Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:21, 23)

Having the appearance of wisdom can only get a person so far. And there is a segment of the Church that loves “such regulations” because it makes them “feel” like they are something more than what they really are. In fact, living a holy life as prescribed by Christ has nothing to do with living a life full of negatives, like, “Don’t do this,” or “I won’t do that.” Christianity is not asceticism. Christianity is a life full of freedom and joy. It is a life distinguished, not by the things we don’t do, but rather by the things we do that set us apart from the rest of the world.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12—14)

How is this possible? The key may be found back in verse 3:

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Your death is a spiritual fact! It is an accomplished fact! If you are dead and still alive, then something must have happened to you; you must be something different than you were before. You are a “new creation,” and according to Paul, “hidden with Christ in God.” What does that mean? It does NOT mean we lose our individuality because of our new faith. It does NOT mean we lose our personalities or any of the things make us who we are. Rather, it means “who we are” and “what we want” is now tempered by Christ. Our lives—our essential beings—are hidden in Christ; that is, our lives are kept safe so that one day we will actually be with Him in reality.

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (verse 4)

Your new life is worth so much, it is being kept safe by Jesus Christ Himself! That alone should give us pause to consider how we are living this new life of ours. Since it is worth so much, let’s put forth the effort to live according to Christ’s will.

(C)  2011 WitzEnd

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