Christ our Life (Part 3)

Christ our Life (Part 3)

Christ our Life

(Part 3)

Serving Jesus

Frequently believers are referred to as slaves or servants of the Lord Jesus. Paul, for instance, called himself “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1; cf. Gal. 1:10). He referred to Epaphras as “a faithful servant of Christ” and “a bondslave of Jesus Christ” (Col. 1:7; 4:12). Timothy also was “a servant of Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 4:6). Since we are servants of the Lord, we must faithfully serve Him.

Even those who were physical slaves in the first century were directed to see beyond their earthly masters to Jesus Himself as their true and ultimate Master in heaven. Notice this emphasis:

“As slaves of Christ. . . . With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Eph. 6:6,7).

“With sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. . . . It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:22-24).

When you are on the job, look beyond your earthly supervisor to Jesus Himself. When you are working around the house, look beyond your husband or wife to your heavenly Master. Let your work and activity throughout the day be service to Jesus. Paul said that he was “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials” (Acts 20:19). So much of what we do has no eternal value. Many of our endeavors will pass away. But what of our service for Christ? It will reach into eternity!

One of the most comforting and encouraging promises to us is that our service for Jesus is not in vain. Paul writes, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Your service now may not be appreciated by any other person on earth, as the words of E. Margaret Clarkson so vividly describe:

So send I you to labor unrewarded,

To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,

To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing—

So send I you to toil for Me alone.

So send I you to loneliness and longing,

With heart ahungering for the loved and known,

Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one—

So send I you to know My love alone.

So send I you to leave your life’s ambition,

To die to dear desire, self-will resign,

To labor long and love where men revile you—

So send I you to lose your life in Mine.

If you are a servant of Christ, you may indeed need to forsake friends, loved ones, family, personal desires, long-held plans, security, and earthly comforts. But keep in mind that your service that is rendered in Christ’s name will not be in vain. Your reward will come–if you faithfully labor now for Christ Jesus your Lord!

Personal Relationships and Christ

Your relationship with other people is very much determined by your focus on Christ Jesus. The family unit, of course, is basic in this connection. The husband is not simply told to love his wife; he is to love her “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). The wife is not simply commanded to submit to her husband, but she is to be subject to him “as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22) or “as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18). She is to be subject “as the church is subject to Christ” (Eph. 5:24). Children are to be obedient to their parents, for “this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (Col. 3:20). And fathers are to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). All of the Biblical marital and family instructions are tied very closely to the Lord Jesus Himself.

When each family member recognizes Jesus as Lord and has his or her focus on Him, relationships within the family will be characterized by love, patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness. The wall motto says it well:

Christ is the Head of this house
The unseen Guest at every meal,
The silent Listener to every conversation.

Christ must be the very center of the home, the real focus of all relationships within the family unit. When this is the prevailing atmosphere, there will be a genuine Christian home:

God, give us Christian homes!
Homes where the Bible is loved and taught,
Homes where the Master’s will is sought,
Homes crowned with beauty Thy love hath wrought;
God, give us Christian homes;
God, give us Christian homes!

(Baylus B. McKinney)

Although this is the desire and goal of every believer, we must realize that often—probably usually—this blessed, Christ-oriented arrangement does not prevail. In fact, it must be rare in our age, especially among those who turn to Christ from a background in the world. Again and again, Scripture warns us that Christ brings conflict and division in family relationships. Jesus said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53). Jesus points out that marital relationships and family unity frequently will break down because of the commitment of one person to take up the cross and follow Jesus (cf. Matt. 10:21-22, 34-38; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:16).

We must not allow loyalty to another family member—such as a husband, a wife, a parent, or a child—to detract from our devotion to Christ.

Marriage is a bitter enemy of fulfillment Christ’s will that all should hear of Him. Marriage is God-given. But when it becomes a barrier to God’s will, it is misused. . . . Nothing–not even the God-given blessing of a life-mate–must hinder God’s purpose for one’s life. . . . Today souls die without Christ because loved ones have taken priority over God’s will (Wesley Gustafson, Called But Not Going, p. 10).

Our relationships with other believers must likewise be focused on Christ. For instance, within the community of Christ, we must “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). We are to be considerate and thoughtful of our brother because he is a “brother for whose sake Christ died” (1 Cor. 8:11; cf. Rom. 14:15). The more closely two believers are related to Christ, the more closely they will be related to each other. The more their characters are transformed into His likeness, the more they will resemble each other and live in sweet accord. The more a brother or sister departs from the ways of the Lord, the more the fellowship in His body will suffer.

Even our relationship to civil authorities is determined by Christ (or God): “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors” (1 Peter 2:13,14). Servants (or employees) are to work “as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23; cf. vv. 22-25; Eph. 6:5-8), and masters (or employers) are to have justice and fairness toward their slaves, knowing that they too “have a Master in heaven” (Col. 4:1; cf. Eph. 6:5-8). Notice that in all these relationships our real focus is on our Lord Jesus Christ. Interpersonal relationships are transformed when we belong to Christ and keep our eyes on Him.

Absolute Love for Jesus

Love should be paramount in all our relationships. Love of wife, husband, children, parents, and friends pervades Scripture. Paul admonishes, “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14). Yet there is a love that must far surpass every other legitimate love in life: love for Christ. Jesus Himself warned, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). The Lord made this point even more outstanding when He declared: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Our love for Jesus must be so intense, so consuming, so spiritually passionate that all other loves seem like “hatred” in comparison!

Even our service for Christ is lacking unless it is motivated by this supreme love. P.T. Forsyth remarked: “It is possible to be so active in the service of Christ as to forget to love him.” Another person commented: “Never allow the work of the Lord to crowd out the Lord of the work.” Let us serve, labor, or work—but let this be an expression of our absolute, supreme love for Jesus! Let it be loving labor for Him.

How can we grow in our love for Christ? By thinking hard and long on His love for us! Our love is a reciprocal love–it is a response to Christ’s prior love. Our love for Jesus is stimulated and nurtured as we realize that God in Christ first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:19). Christ loved us and died for us while we were still helpless sinners and alienated enemies (Rom. 5:6-11), while we “were dead in our transgressions” (Eph. 2:4-5). Because of this amazing love for us, displayed when Christ gave Himself on the cross (cf. Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16-18; Rom. 5:8; John 3:16), we ourselves are enabled to love–love God, love Christ, love our brothers and sisters, and love even our enemies. Let us cultivate this fervency of love by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), that we may be lovers of Christ our Redeemer!

Our love for Jesus must be so intense and fundamental that to fail to love Him is the greatest of offenses. Just as we must love God the Father with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), and this is considered the “foremost” command (v. 28), so our love for Jesus must partake of this same depth and fervency. Consequently, if we fail to love our Lord as he deserves, we commit the greatest of sins. This is why we read these sobering words: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Cor. 16:22). Eternal punishment awaits the one who does not love Jesus!

Enjoyment of Spiritual Blessings in Christ

The believer realizes that all the riches of salvation come to him through Christ Himself. They are not individual gifts, given indiscriminately from God’s bounty. Rather, Paul wrote that God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). God’s gifts come only in relation to Christ! Earlier we noticed that salvation is only through Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). For example, Paul writes of “the salvation which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:10), and John refers to eternal life which is in God’s Son (1 John 5:11). Notice several of the spiritual blessings or riches of grace that we experience because of our Savior:Forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; 10:43; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).

 

Justification or declared righteousness (Acts 13:38,39; Rom. 3:24; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9).

Reconciliation with God (Romans 5:1, 9-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:14, 16-18; Col. 1:20-22).

Redemption (Matt. 20:28; John 8:36; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Sanctification from sin to God (Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2, 30; Heb. 10:10, 14).

Eternal life (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; Rom. 6:23; 1 John 5:11-13).

Adoption into God’s family (Gal. 3:25-27; 4:4-6; Eph. 1:5).

New birth or regeneration (John 1:12-13; 1 John 5:1, 4, 5).

The Holy Spirit given (Titus 3:5, 6; Acts 2:38; Eph. 1:13, 14).

Newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4, 11; 2 Cor. 5:17).

All of these blessings of God are ours only through Christ and our union with Him. Since He is the mediator of these “salvation gifts,” our continual focus is upon Him as we enjoy their abundance and blessings. Someone has sought to capture this perspective in the following:

In Christ We Have. . .

  • A love that can never be fathomed;
  • A life that can never die;
  • A righteousness that can never be tarnished;
  • A peace that can never be understood;
  • A rest that can never be disturbed;
  • A joy that can never be diminished;
  • A hope that can never be disappointed;
  • A glory that can never be clouded;
  • A light that can never be darkened;
  • A happiness that can never be enfeebled;
  • A purity that can never be defiled;
  • A beauty that can never be marred;
  • A wisdom that can never be baffled;
  • Resources that can never be exhausted.

(Taken from The Sword and Staff, Vol. 28, No. 2)

Those who love and know the Lord Jesus Christ will find that He indeed does provide rich spiritual resources beyond our comprehension!

The Example of Jesus

One who is united to Christ and finds his life in Him, will want to pattern his life after this object of his love. This is exactly what Scripture says. It is not enough to profess a relationship with Jesus; we must actually be made like Him. John puts it this way: “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5b-6). How did Jesus walk? He walked in love and holiness, in righteousness and devotion, in purity and peace. Scripture says that He was “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). Jesus knew when to be bold and when to be submissive, when to be patient and when to be severe, when to be sorrowful and when to be joyful, when to love and when to hate. He was courageous, strong, compassionate, and untiring. He had entirely right priorities in life. The lover of Christ will want to be like Him.

Paul says that we must follow His example: “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Eph. 5:2). Peter adds this: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Paul said that the Thessalonian brothers “became imitators . . . of the Lord” (1 Thess. 1:6). If we are spiritually related to Jesus, we must follow His holy example.

In other places we are said to be created in the likeness of God the Father (cf. Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24) and are to be like Him (Eph. 5:1). However, since Christ is in the image of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3), we can see that we are not only to follow God’s example but also to emulate our Lord’s perfect example. Paul explains: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Although we will not be entirely conformed to Christ’s likeness until He comes again and we have glorified bodies (cf. Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2-3), even now we are being “transformed” into Christ’s image as we become more and more like Him through the work of the Holy Spirit.

This is a blessed experience! We have the privilege of becoming more and more like the Savior we adore! Our characters may be molded and fashioned by the Spirit of God so that we increasingly are conformed to the likeness of our Lover, Christ Jesus. Sometimes it may be difficult to follow Jesus’ example but with His help this can be our experience. This conformity to Christ’s likeness is actually God’s work in us, through the work of the Spirit (Phil. 2:13; Rom. 8:13-14; Eph. 3:16-21; Heb. 13:21), although we are very much involved in actively seeking to be like Jesus in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and deeds. We are transformed on the inside so that we may walk like Jesus on the outside. Christ transforms our heart and this is reflected in our entire life. We are inwardly renewed so that we outwardly obey the Lord in a practical way and “walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

If you are a husband, your Christlike attitude will be very evident in your relationship with your wife and children. If you are a believing wife, your Christlike disposition and responses will provide a spiritual atmosphere in the home. Sons and daughters, if you are like Jesus, your parents and siblings will know it by your loving, kind, and unselfish attitudes. If you are radically like Jesus on the job, your fellow-workers will see the difference in your speech, your attitudes, and your behavior. Wherever we may be, people should be able to see our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Our prayer should be:

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity,

May His Spirit divine all my being refine,

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

(George L. Johnson)

Sometimes a Christlike attitude will be manifested in patience and gentleness. On the other hand, if we are like Jesus, sometimes there will be the need to respond with courage, boldness, and strong opposition to open sin in the assembly, to flagrant immorality in the life of one who knows better, or to serious false teaching by those who would pervert the ways of God! We must seek wisdom to know how Jesus would respond in various circumstances (cf. Matt. 22:18, 29; 23:13-39; Acts 13:9-11; 17:16-17; Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:3-6; 1 Tim. 5:19-20; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:15).

Our Preaching is Christ-centered

In the early days of the gospel, the believers “kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). Philip, in the city of Samaria, began “proclaiming Christ to them,” and later encountered the Ethiopian to whom “he preached Jesus” (8:5, 35). Paul began “to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God,'” and “proving that this Jesus is the Christ” (9:20, 22). He later wrote, “We preach Christ crucified. . . . I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2). The center and heart of the proclamation was the crucified and risen Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-5, 12, 14, 15; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8). Paul marveled that he was given the amazing privilege of preaching “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).

We do not “go into all the world” to preach a philosophy, a theory, a tradition of man, a denominational doctrine, or a system of self-salvation. We preach a Person—Jesus Christ! Since the world is lost in sin, it needs a Savior who can rescue it from eternal ruin. Christ is that Savior (Luke 2:11; 19:10) and we have both the privilege as well as the responsibility of sharing the Savior with whose in spiritual need. The message we carry to friends, family, associates, and neighbors is one with Jesus at its center.


Richard Hollerman

(Please go to Part 4)

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