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Christian Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth

CHRISTIANITY
By: Neville Fowler

It is often thought that Christianity is just one of many “ways to God”. Alongside Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, New Ageism, and countless other religious ‘isms’, it is considered to be a possible source of  “spirituality”. That is not what Christianity is. Nor is it merely a moral code or system of ethics, though it does embrace such standards. And though it is clear in condemning the evils and injustices of the world, it is not a manifesto for political action. There are many who prefer to see it as one or other or all of these, rather than accept it for what it really is.

Essentially Christianity is about God’s way of dealing with sin. It is because of the sin or disobedience of human beings almost since our very origin that the world is full of unhappiness of every kind; sickness, sorrow, and death. There was nothing we could do to help ourselves out of this situation. Any attempt to do so would be like a man attempting to lift himself by tugging at his own shoelaces. So God sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from our predicament by living a life of perfect obedience, a life free of sin, and yet dying the shameful, unjust death of a criminal. As one writer has put it: Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed”. (E.G. White, Desire of Ages).

God has promised that all who have real faith in what He has done through Jesus are assured of a place in His Kingdom when the present world system comes to an end. The only condition is that they are to persevere in that faith until the end of their lives. “He who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22. Not only do Christians have this assurance, but they also receive from God the power of His Spirit to enable them to endure and to overcome the inborn human tendency to sin. Jesus described this as a new birth, being “born of the Spirit”. John 3:8. “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3.  This is effectively a birth into a new life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

After being born again the new Christian begins a life-long process of spiritual growth nurtured by God’s Holy Spirit. Change takes place in the interests and behaviour, bringing a person more and more into conformity with God’s standards. This change is not just in outward appearance; it is a change that springs from the heart. A true Christian is inwardly motivated by the Spirit to put the love and service of God at the centre of his or her life. Genuine love for the Lord Jesus is evidenced by obedience to His teaching. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” John 14:21.

The work of God’s Holy Spirit is to sanctify men and women and make them holy, obedient, suitable for God’s service. The gift of the Holy Spirit we owe entirely to Jesus. It is just as He promised His disciples. “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.” John 14:15-17. As Peter preached at Pentecost: “This Jesus has God raised up . . . Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” Acts 2:32,33. Salvation from sin is ours through the Holy Spirit.

Salvation from death is also ours. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.  Whilst the proof of salvation from sin must be evidenced here and now in the present life of the Christian, the proof of salvation from death will not be seen until Jesus returns from Heaven to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. “The hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.” John 5:28,29. “We shall not all sleep [in death], but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51,52. Whether we are amongst those who have died in the faith and ‘sleep in Jesus’ or amongst those still living at that time who will be changed, we will receive eternal life and dwell forever with the Lord. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2.

This coming, or ‘parousia’, of our Lord is the supreme desire of Christians. It is the ‘Blessed Hope’. We eagerly look forward to the coming of the “Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom.” The establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth will be the fulfilment of His great Plan of the Ages that has been unfolding since He first created our world and its inhabitants. Jesus taught His followers to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9,10.

If God had created the world and then totally destroyed it in the time of Noah, His work of creation would have been in vain. If He had called Abraham to go into Canaan and then had failed to give him the promised offspring, that would have been pointless. If God had nurtured the Jews through generations, revealing sacred truths, giving them the Law, the sanctuary and the sacrificial rites, but then had not in due time sent Jesus to be born of the young Jewess Mary, to be His own Lamb of Sacrifice, His work and the Jews’ history would have been futile. If Jesus had come but had lived just another careless human life, that would have been far worse than useless. It would have been the greatest tragedy of all time. Even if Jesus had lived a perfect life and then at the last had fled from the prospect of torture and the cruel death nailed to a timber, that still would have been total loss. And though Noah and his family, our ancestors, were saved in the ark, though Abraham did indeed become progenitor of a chosen nation, though Israel did receive God’s teaching, and Jesus was born of Mary, did live and die in utter obedience to His Father, if He had yet remained dead in the tomb, all would still have been hopelessly lost. “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile.” 1 Corinthians 15:17. BUT, praise God, Jesus was raised from the grave, He ascended to heaven, He sat down in glory at the right hand of the Father, and He poured out the Holy Spirit on His followers. It was necessary that God should fulfil all his promises. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” said Jesus to the two on the Emmaus road. Did you not know that it was necessary for all things to be fulfilled? “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:25-27.  “One jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18.

Why did Jesus send the Holy Spirit? Was it just so that His followers could rejoice and be happy? Certainly they have much to be glad about, and the Holy Spirit is rightly called the ‘Comforter’. But that was not the main reason for the gift. It was to give the disciples the strength and the abilities needed to accomplish the task that God has given them to do, to go out into all the world and preach the good news of God’s coming Kingdom to all people of every language and every tribe. The fact is that God’s scheme for the rescue of the world has not yet been completed, nor will it be finished until the task allotted to His people has been carried out. Then Jesus will return in power and glory, as He has promised. Until the task is done and the bridegroom returns no one is entitled to think that the Christian life is one of pure unalloyed rejoicing. The suffering of the world continues. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and for the troubles coming upon the world. Can we do less? “The devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. We still must wrestle with spiritual wickedness which holds this world in thrall until our Lord returns. There can be no doubt that all which God has promised will come to pass, but He has given us the privilege of playing a part in it. That is the duty, and the joy, of every Christian.

“Lift up the trumpet, and loud let it ring,
Jesus is coming again!
Cheer up ye pilgrims, be joyful and sing;
Jesus is coming again!

Echo it hilltops; proclaim it, ye plains:
Jesus is coming again!
Coming in glory, the Lamb that was slain;
Jesus is coming again!”

FRIENDS OF CHRIST, THE OLD VICARAGE
LLANGYNOG, CARMARTHEN  SA33 5BS

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