BUILDING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
By Larry White
When we become Christians we need to set some goals for ourselves. What is our long-range plans in serving God?
Jesus likened the building of the Christian life to a man starting to build a building. He's got to sit down first and see what it's going to take to complete the building. He's got to have some plan and some goal to meet in order to complete what he's started. This isn't just true of the Christian starting out in his new life, but also true of the Christian who's been around a while. We all need to give some attention to a continued growth, so that we don't stagnate and quit growing. There needs to be a purpose for our lives. Why are we doing what we're doing? What does God have in mind for us? What should I be doing to reach my goal?
I would like to cover four points that will be suggestive of things on which we need to concentrate. (These are 90% of the main points in my sermons to date)
1. KNOW YOUR GOAL
What is our goal? To be like Jesus here in this life and after our resurrection, to live with him and share his glory forever.
Paul said in Gal.4:19, that as an apostle, he labored in birth pains until "Christ be formed in you". Having Christ formed in us is the idea of having his spiritual mind and his godly character as ours. Our goal is to walk as he walked and live like he lived. Paul exhorts us to put on Christ.
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make provision for the flesh, to [fulfill] the lusts [of it].
"Put him on" is the idea of being holy as he is holy - being spiritual as he is spiritual - not walking in the desires of the flesh.
Eph.4:20-24 has the same idea.
But you have not so learned Christ; If so be that you have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That you put off concerning the former behavior the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Another possible translation would be "corrupt according to the lusts of the deceit" and "created in righteousness and holiness of the truth".
We used to live in "the deceit" which is characterized by lusts. That was us living like the corrupt old man. Now we live in the realm of "the truth" which is characterized by holiness. This new man is what we are becoming by being like Christ - developing his image in us.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new [man], which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all.
By our faith we see another model of behavior for a man. We see in ourselves a new identity, a new definition for ourselves; a noble and serious perfection of mind and character to which we can aspire. Of course, Christ created us and this image of Christ is his holiness, his spiritual understanding and wisdom, and his love. As we continue to study God's word, we look into the face of Jesus Christ and we take on his image and his glory. We, as created beings in God's own image, look into the mirror of Jesus Christ and reflect his image.
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] freedom. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Having Christ formed in us is the work of the Holy Spirit through the agency of the church - you and me, we all help each other to grow into his image.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we [from now on] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:
If we are wanting to be God's sons, then we need to more and more put on the character of God's son. Jesus is our example in everything. He's the prototype of a new man that God is creating and eventually we will look just like him. This happens ultimately, according to my current understanding, when we pass on to be with our Lord.
Look, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know him. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
As the old age passed into history and the new day dawned of the coming age, Paul and his readers looked and waited for the unveiling of the sons of God - the glorious liberty of the children of God. This happened after the general resurrection of all those who were waiting to go to God and become like Jesus.
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected [the same] in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body.
Paul says that this is his goal and describes the attaining we do here in this life and the attaining in the one to come.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
Pressing on is keeping our goal in mind and pursuing it without giving up. If we keep our reason for living in mind, then we won't stray from our goal.
2. TRUST GOD
Another thing that we need to concentrate on is developing our faith in God.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and do not lean unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
We come to trust God to guide us in our life - believing what he says is the best way, even though the way may be dim to us. We believe that he knows best.
We need to develop our faith in what we can't see. This is what faith is - a conviction of things not seen.
Now faith is the foundation of things hoped for, the firm conviction of things not seen.
Paul tells us that the things that are seen are temporal or temporary, the things that are not seen are eternal. (2Cor.1:18) We need to develop our faith so that the things of God are real to us, not just stories from a book that have no relevance for today's world.
All the great men and women of the Bible were people of faith. They believed what God told them and then acted upon it as fact.
* The way we are justified is by faith in Jesus Christ - that he died for us and that we have life in his name.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and triumph on hope of the glory of God.
* We draw near to God by faith.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
* We please God by faith.
But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
* We overcome the world by faith.
For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, [even] our faith.
It's the one most indispensable thing the Christian has. It's the beginning and end of our Christian lives.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry [land]: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with them that did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and [of] Barak, and [of] Samson, and [of] Jephthae; [of] David also, and Samuel, and [of] the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, did not receive the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
* Our faith can grow.
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other abounds;
* We all know how faith is built. (Rom.10:17) ...and I might add, being diligent to apply that word to our lives and do the word.
* Peter says that our faith is precious.
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
* It's the most precious thing that we have and we need to guard it and build it up.
But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
* Our goal to be like Jesus can be had by faith - because that is how he dwells in us.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
To have him dwell in our hearts by faith is to be constantly aware of his will and mind, and to be in constant communion with him as an ever present ally; to walk in the earth as he walked and to look to the Father moment by moment as he did.
3. LOVE GOD
Another thing we need to concentrate on and develop is a love for God. The love that we need for God is expressed by the Greek word AGAPE. That's not the emotional affection you have for someone, but it's an intelligent and decisive commitment to care about God and be concerned about the things of God. A love that we need in particular, is to develop a concern for what God says in his word and have a commitment to keep his word.
Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
Jesus said, "He that keeps my sayings, he it is that loves me" To love God has to involve a guarding of his word and a healthy reverence for what God says on any subject. There seems to be a direct correlation between how much we love God and how much we reverence and love his word.
Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart stands in awe of your word. I rejoice at your word, as one that finds great spoil. I hate and abhor lying: [but] your law do I love. Seven times a day do I praise you because of your righteous judgments. Great peace have they which love your law: and nothing shall offend them. Oh Jehovah, I have hoped for your salvation, and done your commandments. My soul has kept your testimonies; and I love them exceedingly. I have kept your precepts and your testimonies: for all my ways [are] before you.
David was a man who loved God intensely, and here you see how his love was expressed - the keeping of God's word.
Loving God and having the love of God in us is also the way of reaching our goal to be like Jesus, because Christ's life was totally characterized by selfless, committed love both to God and to his neighbor. To love God and to be like Jesus, we need to love each other.
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that says, I know him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
How did Jesus walk? In love for his father by keeping his word and love for the children of God.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
As God is, so are we in this world. God is love. So if we want to hold the image of Christ, we need to love each other. This is what Peter exhorts the new Christians to achieve and put on.
Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, [see that you] love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever.
And so all our lives as Christians, we need to concentrate on this command to love each other.
We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also.
SUM: So we need to know our goal - keep in mind what we are striving to attain and not lose sight of it. We need to have faith in God and rely on him with trust in our hearts to see us to the goal - we need to build up our faith in conforming our lives to the image of Christ, so that he might dwell in our hearts - to walk and talk like Jesus. We need to be like Jesus in our love for God and our keeping of his word, and in our love for our brethren. If we love God, we'll love what is born of God.
My fourth point is that we need to be vigilant - we need to watch. Satan is going to try to destroy your faith or to subvert your will - your commitment to God. We need to keep awake and be sober and watch for dangers - in our own lives and also in the church.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle [you].
We need to be steadfast in the Faith, because that's what he's after. He'll try to cast doubt on what God has said, or he'll slander the church and seek to draw you away from it. If that doesn't work, he'll try to discourage you by personally attacking your character and reputation and by trying to destroy your influence. He'll try to make you feel silly about the faith that you have in the almighty God - the ALMIGHTY God. He'll try to make you feel backward and ashamed of the clean moral stance you've taken for Christ.
He'll try to subvert your will away form God by enticing you to sin, and carry on the life of the old man that you have put off. He'll entice you to go back into the world and live it up again. He'll try to divide your heart, so that you won't give it all to God. We've got to remain totally committed to keeping God's will - to offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and not letting anything come between us and our faith in and our service to Christ.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
If we give our hearts completely to Christ and be totally devoted to doing his will, then resisting the Devil becomes easy. He only has a way in where we lack in our resolve to belong to God - to give our lives to him. James said, "resist the devil and he will flee from you"
Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
Have you resolved in your heart to reach the goal of becoming mature in Christ? Are you making preparation to gain the victory of faith? Are you setting your heart to love your God and seek him with your whole heart? Are you keeping watch over your faithfulness to Christ and keeping Satan out of your life?
If not, then let's start today - and with God's help and tender grace, he's able to make us stand and see us to our goal of living with him forever. We can't do it alone. It's our faith in him and his strength that can make us succeed.
If you've never obeyed the Gospel - we want to extend to you the invitation of Christ to come and give your heart to him, believing in his power to save you, repenting of your sins and being baptized in the grave of water and rising to walk in a new life.
Our resolve to serve God starts here, and through faith, grows every day until we are completely mature in Christ and are one in fellowship with him.
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point OR. August 26, 1984)