12. Living the Life
We have seen that salvation is a personal experience based on a personal trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—quite different from observing the rituals of a religion. Personal repentance, personal faith and personal obedience are essential facts of the gospel; however, being a Christian is not a “lone wolf” experience. The very reverse is true, for the new Christian finds himself at once in a new “family” called the “church” which consists of all true followers of Christ everywhere.
Many people are attracted to the gospel because it guarantees assurance of eternal life through Christ; they hesitate, however, to take the step of faith because they are uncertain about the impact being a Christian will have on the daily life. There is a sense of fear, like a man might have who has to take a leap in the dark without knowing what lies ahead. All this is very understandable so in this lesson we shall look at some aspects of the problem. After his personal decision to receive Christ as Savior, the “new” Christian has an instinctive desire for the company of other Christians. This is why Christians so often engage in united activities. They have a spontaneous desire to praise God in singing and public worship. From the very beginning of the Christian church, hymns of praise have been sung; today thousands of hymns in scores of languages are used wherever Christians meet together. Now let us examine some of the essential features of daily Christian life.
Prayer is as natural to a true Christian as breathing! Just as the air we breathe is necessary for life, so prayer, the link between our souls and God, maintains our spiritual lives in a healthy state. But what form does Christian prayer take? The Bible does not prescribe ritual prayers. A Christian may pray to God in any language (it is not necessary to use a “sacred language”) for true prayer comes from the heart. A Christian may speak to God as a child or a son speaks to his father. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:9-13). God is not a remote unknowable Being, but a loving, gracious Father to His children on earth. A Christian may pray in secret, with his family or as part of his public worship. Here are some Bible verses on prayer: When they had entered Jerusalem, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James were there. All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts 1:13-14). They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer . . . . praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42 and 47). So Peter was kept in prison, but those in the church were earnestly praying to God for him (Acts 12:5). Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God (Philippians 4:6). First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
The Bible is the Christian’s source of authority, guidance and instruction. Therefore every Christian should read the Bible daily and meditate on its meaning. There is no merit in reading the Bible in its original language unless we understand its meaning. Parts of the Bible have been translated into thousands of languages so most people can read it in their mother-tongue. Reading the Bible is like partaking of spiritual food; it sustains and builds up spiritual life just as ordinary food sustains physical life. In the Bible instruction is given on all the important matters of life. Study of the Bible may be a private and personal exercise; it may be something the family does together; or it may take the form of the public teaching of its truths. A Christian may read, study and learn without the help of a religious teacher or priest. Where capable Bible teachers are available, however, we can gain great help from their knowledge and experience.
When Christians meet for prayer, worship or Bible study, no special or sacred buildings are necessary. They may meet together in homes, in schools or, if no other convenient place is to be found, they may meet in the open air.
FESTIVALS OR HOLY DAYS
The New Testament gives no rules for the observance of holy days. Throughout the world certain days are now set aside as religious days. (particularly Christmas and Easter), but the observance of these is not an obligatory aspect of the gospel. There is no merit in observing them, nor is there any de-merit in ignoring them. Christians can take advantage of these public holidays (which are in reality cultural festivals—encrusted with myths and exploited by commercialism) to emphasize the vital truths concerning the birth and death and resurrection of Christ, which are often neglected by the masses. Although there is no command to observe any particular day of the week for worship (every day is holy when we love the Lord and seek to please Him in our daily lives) yet it was the custom of the early Christians to meet for worship on the first day of the week, and this is still the normal practice. The first day was loved by the disciples because it was on this day that Jesus rose from the dead; it was on the first day of the week also that the Holy Spirit was given (Acts 2). A Christian in a non-Christian community may have no opportunity to observe Sunday in this way. He does not have to feel that he is failing in his religious duty!
The New Testament does not require pilgrimage of any kind, to any place. To the Christian, every place is blessed by the presence of God. It is true that millions of people make “pilgrimages” to so-called “holy places” in the Middle East and elsewhere, but this is simply custom and is not part of the essential teaching of the Bible. On the contrary, it is often mere superstitious veneration of sacred places and is quite contrary to the teaching of Christ. Some Christians do visit the Bible lands as tourists to gain first-hand knowledge of Biblical backgrounds and to see the places where Christ lived, died and rose again. Such expeditions are not compulsory or obligatory.
No laws concerning diet are given in the New Testament except that Christians must not participate at idol feasts. For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell (Acts 15:28-29). Am I saying that idols or food sacrificed to them amount to anything? No, I mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take part in the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or are we trying to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we really stronger than he is? “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person. Eat anything that is sold in the marketplace without questions of conscience, for the earth and its abundance are the Lord’s. If an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you want to go, eat whatever is served without asking questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This is from a sacrifice,” do not eat, because of the one who told you and because of conscience—I do not mean yours but the other person’s. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I blamed for the food that I give thanks for? So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:19-33). Jesus taught that no food defiles a man; it is sin which makes a person unclean. Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand. There is nothing outside of a person that can defile him by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles him.” Now when Jesus had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Are you so foolish? Don’t you understand that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him? For it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and then goes out into the sewer.” (This means all foods are clean.) He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evils come from within and defile a person” (Mark 7:14-23).
Christian marriage sets a very high ideal. Marriage must be honored among all and the marriage bed kept undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). Christians are to be monogamous—a man is to have only one wife, to whom he is married until parted by death. Divorce is not permitted except for adultery (Matthew 5:32). The widespread increase in the divorce rate in Western lands is not an indication of laxity among Christian people as many think. On the contrary, it is an indication of the extent to which modern society has rejected the teaching of the Bible.
For Christians, death is not a hopeless tragedy. The assurance of eternal life takes the sting out of death, although there is still the natural grief at the loss of those we love. The certainty of the resurrection makes death just a temporary parting for those who are true Christians. “Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). Christians ought not to have elaborate funerals, nor should they practice extensive mourning rites. The Bible teaches plainly that there is no virtue, merit or purpose in praying for the dead. No after-death ritual is practiced by genuine Christians. Normally, the body is buried with a simple ceremony consisting of Bible reading and prayers for the comfort of the sorrowing relatives. The Bible teaches that the body is simply a “house of clay” in which the precious soul lives. Extravagant expenditure at funerals is therefore a waste of money and contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Any Christian may conduct burial services—the presence of an official religious leader or priest is not required, provided all that is done is in keeping with the law of the land.
WITNESSING TO OTHER PEOPLE
Every Christian is a servant of God. He has an obligation to his Lord to tell other people about salvation through Christ. Witness to Christ can be the simple act of telling someone else how Jesus Christ has forgiven our sins, or it can be the public preaching of the gospel. The method may vary according to circumstances but the basic fact is that every Christian is a representative of Christ.
CHRISTIAN MORAL STANDARDS
The Old Testament and the New Testament teaching both give a simple definition of the moral standard God requires of men. Here it is, You are to be holy because I am holy. See Leviticus 11:45 and 1 Peter 1:15-16. Because God is holy, His followers and worshippers should strive to be like Him. The teaching of Christianity sets a higher moral standard than is to be found anywhere else in the world. A Christian may not attain to the standard set by the life of Christ who did no sin, in thought, word or deed; but He is the believer’s Example just the same. We should pray for strength to be like Him. To acquire some knowledge of the ethics of the Bible, begin by reading Ephesians 5 and 6 and Colossians 3 and 4.
Christian baptism is not a mystical initiation rite by which a person is somehow converted to the Christian faith. It is a public confession of the faith by which the convert has already become a child of God and a follower of Christ.
You will observe that, in all aspects of the Christian life, the central feature of the gospel is the personal aspect. Every individual person is important to God. God is not interested merely in communities, tribes, races, or religious groups; He has revealed His great love for each individual human being. Thus to be a Christian, a person must personally trust Christ as His Savior, and personally seek to glorify God by his daily life. As an individual a Christian prays for guidance and reads the Bible for his spiritual food; as an individual he asks the Holy Spirit to teach him the will of God day by day. This is very different from being part of a communal religion where personal identity is submerged in communal patterns of behavior. A Christian may live alone, without any other Christian and deprived of the joy of collective worship and service yet, on a personal level, enjoy fellowship with God and fulfill all the essential practices of the Christian faith.
In this chapter, we have touched on the most elementary aspects of these subjects. You can continue your study of these things by reading your Bible and, possibly, by obtaining other Emmaus courses.
Related Topics: Basics for Christians