What should the Christian life look like?
There are many ways to answer that question, and I cannot tackle them all here. But I have been pondering some of the extremes of Christianity in recent days. This follows on from my thoughts on Christian Worship in last weeks post – Christ is… Enough?
To illustrate, here are two verses.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (ESV)
If you were to flick through the typical Christian TV channels, then there’s a chance you will find someone extolling the blessings of God, promising healing, financial prosperity and success in every area. Alternatively, you might look to more traditional settings and learn that life is difficult, even with Christ, and you should just hang on tightly until you get to the other side.
Both can’t be true.
In a small way, the verses above demonstrate how such extreme views can happen. The verse from Ephesians tells us we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing! And it’s my belief that “spiritual” is because it is a gift given by the Spirit, not that it is spiritual in nature. Christmas gifts are given at Christmas, not because the gifts themselves have anything in particular to do with the season.
Then, Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel tells us that we will certainly have trouble in the world.
My point is this; one extreme says we are blessed and should never have a problem in life. The other suggests that Christianity makes little difference to life on Earth aside from a free ticket to heaven one day.
So, which is true?
The reality is rather more complex, and the truth can be found between these two extremes.
I am adamant that God has indeed blessed His people beyond anything they can imagine, and stand firm on the promise offered by Ephesians 1:3. But I would be a fool indeed if I took that to mean I will never have another problem.
Similarly, I am very mistaken if I believe that my Christian faith is meant only for life after death. In fact, I cannot see how anyone who really knows God the Father would be able to live like everyone else in the world.
Deception can be found in the extremes.
Such an example can be seen when talking about finances and what is often called the “Prosperity Gospel.” Some Christians believe we ought not to be rich, while others follow the “Name it, claim it!” regime where they believe they can use their faith to obtain virtually any material blessing.
I have read the Bible many times, and really cannot see an instruction for believers to be “poor.” There are plenty of warnings against the dangers of being rich of course, but this does not equate to meaning all believers should have nothing.
Equally, while the Bible does talk about God meeting our needs and receiving blessings, I also do not see anywhere where it says we can use our faith to get whatever we want and wallow in luxury all of our days.
Again, deception lies in the extremes.
Poverty is not a good thing, but neither is it a sin. Very few of us living in the West can really claim poverty. To us, poverty might mean owning only one car or not being able to take foreign holidays. This is not what most of the world would describe as poverty.
Wealth has clear dangers. God must and should be the primary things in our lives, but wealth can become a “god” to us. Instead of relying on and trusting in Jesus, we can place our trust in our bank balance instead.
So, returning to our original question: what should the Christian life look like?
Being a follower of Christ must make a difference, both in this life and the one to come. If it does not, then we must ask if we really know the Lord. We cannot claim to follow Christ without actually following what He has told us to do.
Christians should have different priorities than those in the world. Our ultimate aim in life is not to make money and retire early, but to serve God in our communities. How that is done will differ for all of us.
Christians, I believe, ought to be more focused on eternal things than the things of the Earth. Now don’t get into the extremes, as I am not saying we should not engage with the world or have possessions or anything like that.
We must be led by the Holy Spirit. What He has planned for me is no doubt different to what He has in mind for you. A certain possession might draw me away from God, and so He does not allow me to have it. For you, such a possession might not affect your relationship with God at all, and so He can allow it in your life.
There is a great deal more to say about what a Christian life should look like – and I’m referring to general principles of course. What’s right for me, may be wrong for you and vice versa.
My thoughts turn to the narrow path that Jesus spoke of.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
Matthew 7:13 (ESV)
Jesus wasn’t exactly addressing the same issue as I am today, but the picture is a helpful one.
When on a narrow path, you can stray off to one side or the other. Say there was a ditch running down either side, it would matter whether you went right or left of the road, you would end up falling.
Having Jesus is our lives is not just critical for the life after this one, but also for the every day here and now. Knowing Him and His surpassing greatness, cannot help but leave us changed forever.
It is helpful to think about what we believe from time to time and ask if we have wandered off of the narrow path.
Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and He will lead you into all truth. Study God’s Word in the Bible and it will act as a mirror showing you what might be wrong. Renew your mind in the Scriptures and stop thinking as the world does.
What does your Christian life look like?
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