Mar 5, 2012
I believe the Christian life is to be lived by faith — trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus.
But there are other approaches.
Many of them emphasize some truth. But in my opinion, none of them emphasizes as much truth as the approach of living by faith.
So here’s some other popular approaches — with my take on them.
Believing your Gospel-identity — who you are in Christ.
It’s crucial to understand that through faith alone in Christ alone you are
- completely forgiven (Luke 7:47),
- clothed with Jesus’ perfect righteousness (2Cor 5:21),
- adopted into God’s family (Eph 1:5),
- passionately loved by God (1John 4:19),
- freed from sin’s power (Rom 6:6),
- a new creation (2Cor 5:17),
- and destined for the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:1-3).
This is essential, because an unbiblical self-image will undermine our attempts to live the Christian life.
But it’s not enough to find your identity in Christ, because the joy that satisfies my heart and produces love and empowers obedience does not come from seeing who I am — it comes from seeing who Christ is (2Cor 3:18).
So get your Gospel-identity straight — and then set your heart on trusting all that God promises to be to you in Christ Jesus. That’s what will produce peace, joy, love, and obedience.
Obeying out of gratitude.
None of us are thankful enough to Christ for all that He has done for us. We all need to nurture more gratitude, as taught in Luke 17:15-16; 1Thess 5:18; and Col 3:17.
But even though gratitude is essential, the Bible does not teach that it motivates the Christian life. What motivates the Christian life is faith. Faith is the power fueling love (Gal 5:6), joy and peace and hope (Rom 15:13), obedience (Rom 1:5; Heb 11:8), and victory over sin (1Joh 5:4).
So nurture gratitude as an expression of worship, but pursue faith as the motivation for obedience.
Relying on the Spirit’s power.
This is crucial, because apart from the Spirit’s power we can’t even pick up the bat, let alone hit a single (John 15:5; Rom 8:13; Gal 5:22-23).
But too often when we talk about the Spirit’s power it’s just a cliche — just a Christian way of describing our own will-power. Here’s what I mean —
Let’s say I’m struggling to love someone. I know as a Christian I have the Spirit, and the Spirit enables me to love. So what do I do?
For too many years, at that point I would just use my own will-power to try to be loving. Then, if I was able to muster up some love for this person, I figured it was the Spirit.
But is that what’s meant by the Spirit producing love? I don’t think so.
The question is — what does the Spirit actually do to empower the Christian life — and how do I access this power?
The main thing the Spirit does is overcome my indwelling sin so I can see and feel the love of God and the glory of Jesus (John 16:14; Rom 5:5; 2Cor 3:18).
When He does this my heart changes — I’m loving Jesus more, feeling more joy in Him, and that increased joy causes an increase of love for others. It’s not just me willing myself to be more loving — He’s supernaturally changed my heart.
That’s what the Spirit does.
So how can we pursue this work of the Spirit? Through faith (Gal 3:2,5), which comes through prayer (Luke 11:13), and earnest meditation on God’s Word (John 8:31-32; Eph 6:17).
The Christian life can only be lived by the power of the Spirit. But don’t let that be a cliche — fight the fight of faith until by the Spirit you see and feel the glory of Jesus and are truly filled with joy, peace, and love.
Just one or two cylinders
These approaches can maybe give some benefit — like if your car is only firing on one or two cylinders.
But why settle for one or two cylinders? When you live by faith, fighting to trust God’s promises, all your cylinders will be firing.
You will quench every flaming dart of the evil one (Eph 6:16), overcome the sinful pull of the world (I John 5:4), live in bold obedience (Heb 11:8), and walk in love (Gal 5:6).
So be like Paul, who described the whole Christian life as living by faith (Gal 2:20).
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(Picture by Billy Alexander found at stock.xchng.)