May 13, 2013
The Christian Life -- A Practical Application
By Anthony Wade
How to apply what God is saying to our lives today...
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. -- Colossians 3: 16-17 (NLT)
When the Bible speaks about being a new creation in Christ, what is that supposed to mean for us practically? Sometimes we can speak to no end about doctrine and interpretations, or context and ancient languages, without realizing that all people want is application. How does what God instructs fit into my life? How does it apply within my day to day grind? I think this is the first level of problems within the faith. Too often we are trying to fit Christianity into our worldly existence instead of living our new life for Christ. The key verses today however, provide an excellent source of practical application for us to consider in our lives. About how to be that new creation. About how to live for Christ in a world gone wrong.
The first lesson Paul is teaching us here is what we need to fill our lives with. In this age of mass media and digital distraction, we see a new generation raised up whose lives are filled with dis-reality. The more advanced we have become; the further apart we have grown. As the moral underpinnings of our society continue to devolve and unravel, we see a coarsening amongst the people to what is right and what is wrong. But throughout all of the chaos and uncertainty there remains one constant. One thing that retains all of its power and richness. That is the message of Jesus Christ. And just what is that message?
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power. -- 1Corinthians 2: 1-5 (NIV)
The message of Christ is that He came to take away the sins of the world. That He died a horrible death upon a cross so that our sins might be forgiven before a holy God. That He paid our penalty and because of this, we now have eternal life. This is the Gospel beloved. This is the message about Christ. This is what we have to fill our lives with. Only this message has the power we need to navigate this world. Only this message has the assurances from God that we have been made right with Him. Only this message guarantees us that we will have life beyond this chaos and uncertainty.
Yet what have we turned to instead in modern Christianity? What have we filled our Christianity and thus our lives with? When we trade in the cross for social relevance, what are we filling our lives with? When we trade in a frank discussion about our sins and the need for repentance, what are we filling our lives with? When we trade in the realities of a holy God for the moral relativism of the world, what are we filling our lives with? A bloodless Christianity makes a horrible mockery of the sacrifice of Christ. When Christianity becomes about making this life your best life, then by definition there is no eternal life. The nature of leaven is to spread beloved. When you allow a little here and a little there, eventually the leaven spreads throughout the entire batch. We cannot continue to fill our Christianity with compromise and expect that it retains the power we need. As Paul said, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That is all we need because that is the Gospel. That is the richness we need filling our lives daily. It reminds us of the sacrifice made on our behalf. It reminds us of our place as sinners before a holy God. It reminds us of our victory in Christ over the spiritual powers of wickedness in this world. That is what we need. The modern church however is built on the seeker friendly purpose driven agenda which consciously downplays the very things about Christ that provide the richness and power we need. There is no power if Jesus is just our friend. It is in His Lordship over our lives that the true power of God is found. Practical application number one is to fill our lives with the true uncompromised Gospel message about Jesus Christ.
Secondly, besides our vertical relationship, God expects us to have productive horizontal relationships as well. Note that this letter is written to the members of the Church at Colossae. Not just for the elders. Not just for the pastors. Not just for the leaders. Everyone in Christianity has a role to play. We are supposed to teach and counsel one another. Quite frankly, I am sure we all know some in the church who do this too often! The key to this verse however is the qualifier. We are not just supposed to teach and counsel each other but to do so with all the wisdom God gives us! That is a different matter! The wisdom God has given us is His Word. We are supposed to teach and counsel each other with the Word of God. There is nothing like spending a few hours in fellowship with like minded believers and simply having sound Biblical conversations. I remember taking a class on Genesis once and in the first class I answered a question the teacher asked. It was a good solid answer filled with the wisdom of man. No one could disagree"except the teacher asked what verse I was using to back up my opinion. I froze and he said, "I want to know what God has to say."
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. -- 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (KJV)
The entire Bible was given under the direct inspiration of God. It returns a profit unto us in the area of doctrine -- so we know what teaching is from God and which is not. The profit continues in the areas of reproof and correction -- to guide us back when we stray. The profit concludes in the area of instruction in righteousness -- so we understand how we are supposed to live. The sad truth today is that too often we base our teaching and counsel on human wisdom and not the Word of God. I have heard some of the most carnal excuse making coming from Christians -- even pastors. I have heard the most ridiculous abuses of Scripture from pastors who are trying to justify their own carnality. God wants good healthy horizontal relationships within the church. There are plenty of verses about the importance of unity. But the unifying principle has to be the Bible, not the church. The practical application for us here is that God gives us all the same access to His wisdom beloved. Some choose to embrace that wisdom and explore it daily. Others choose to treat it casually and live within the wisdom of the world. Some entire church movements are based wholly on secular wisdom and carnal logic. That is not how God wanted it beloved. He wanted us to develop good healthy peripheral Christian relationships based entirely on the wisdom He has given us in His Word.
The third area of practical application is living a life bowed in thanksgiving to the one who created us and saved us. Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. I find the fact that Paul differentiates between these three as very telling. First of all we should be singing Psalms. We should be singing the Word of God itself! Our fundamental level of thanksgiving before God always starts with His Word. Why is this so important? Because it reminds us what God has already said. It reminds us of what He has already promised. What are we thankful for today? What promises are we thankful for? Are we thankful that He has promised us eternal life through Jesus Christ? That we have overcome through the world through Him? That God is working all things for our good? How much power is there in the promises of God that we casually throw away because we simply do not know them?
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. -- 2Corinthians 1: 20 (NIV)
There is no doubt in what God has said. I view hymns as songs attesting to what God has already done. They may be partially based on the Word too, but singing How Great Thou Art serves to remind us of the great things He has already done in this world and in our lives. As Christians we fall for the lies of the devil way too quickly because we forget what God has already done. David remembered how God delivered him from the bear and the lion, so when he saw Goliath he still had an overcoming faith. We see the giants in our lives and we may want to cower in fear like the fighting men of Israel. We need to remember all that God has done. When Elijah heard Jezebel wanted his head he despaired. He despaired so much he told God to take his life! How many of us can relate to the lies Elijah must have bought from the enemy to lead him to such a place? This despite the fact that God had just slew the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This despite the fact that God had ensured the oil would never run out during the famine. This despite the fact that God used Elijah to raise a child from the dead! What dead things has God raised in our lives? Can He do it again? Do we have faith that He can do what He has done before? Do we remember? Does our praise unto God every day take into consideration all He has already done? Or have we fallen for the modern "worship" landscape which seeks an emotional experience over a spiritual one? For petulant songs demanding blessings from a God that has already blessed us bountifully. In the continuing application lessons, we need to live lives that praise God for what He has already promised and what He has already done.
This leaves the "spiritual songs" from the key verses. While Psalms deal with what God has said and hymns deal with what God has done, I view spiritual songs as what God is doing right now. Right now, in each believer the Holy Spirit is at work. Everything is not in the past tense. God is constantly working inside of us. We need to be more cognizant of the Spirit of God inside of us and learn how to tap into that power and His presence. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells inside of us! Are we actively thankful for that? Are we actively deferring to that Spirit? We are raising up a generation of spiritually illiterate Christians. People who do not understand the war they are in because it is not properly taught to them. People who the enemy has a field day with because they constantly try to fight spiritual battles with carnal weapons. When we try to sing spiritual songs unto the Lord we are tapping into the spirit in the here and now. We become more aware of what He is trying to do in our day to day-moment to moment lives. We have the Spirit of He who spoke the entire universe into existence inside of us! We need to be singing songs unto God from out of that Spirit!
The caveat for these three modes of praise is that they need to be done with a thankful heart. While that sounds simple enough, far too often praise is not understood or taught anymore in the church. God inhabits the praises of His people -- not the preaching of His people. A thankful heart protects us from the number one weapon the enemy uses -- pride. A thankful heart recognizes who deserves the glory for everything. A thankful heart understands all that God has said. All that God has done. All that God is currently doing. The practical application for us is to develop and cultivate that thankful heart inside of us. We can avoid the despair of Elijah and the fear of the fighting men of Israel if we would grow that thankful heart. Lastly from the key verses, we must remember our new occupation:
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. -- 2Corinthians 5: 20 (NIV)
The dictionary defines an ambassador as an authorized messenger or representative. Whatever we do or say, we are to do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus! We are an ambassador for Christ! For some people beloved -- you might be their only chance to see Christ! It has been disappointing at times to see the behavior of Christians outside and inside of church. Inside, gossiping about the brethren, causing division, sowing strife. Displaying little forgiveness, excessive bitterness, or jealous envy. While some do manage to play the part well in church, the mask quickly comes off in the world. You cannot wear Christ on your sleeve if you have no compassion for people. It damages the witness for Jesus. The Bible teaches us that three things are required of us by God. To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God. I have seen some unjust, unmerciful and proud Christians in the marketplace. As ambassadors, we are supposed to represent Christ in everything we do.
How are we representing Him today? Are we meeting people at the point of need with the love of Christ or the morality of Christianity? Are we offended easily? Do we give up too easily? Do we see the sins in the world and pass judgment upon the very people we are supposed to represent Christ to? After Paul and Silas were set free from prison by the divine earthquake the guard was going to kill himself. To Paul and Silas this guard was still the same guy who had clamped them in the stocks in the inner dungeons. He may have been one of the guards who had beaten them with wooden rods! Yet when the time came to turn their noses up to him -- they showed him Christ instead. We need to stop valuing this life over the eternal life. We need to look at the people God puts in our paths as divine appointments. They insulted our delicate sensibilities? They are blind and going to hell unless someone shows them the grace and mercy of Christ -- just like someone once showed us. The final practical application for us today is that our life is no longer ours to live. It belongs to Christ who died for us. There are plenty of people who are staring at an eternity in hell unless someone shows them heaven. Wait a minute Pastor; you don't know how bad this person is"I do not have to know. We all fell short of the glory of God. Can they be any worse than those in the capital city of the Assyrian Empire? Nineveh was home to one of the most ruthless regimes ever known on this planet. They routinely massacred even the people of God yet in the Book of Jonah we see that God still wanted to offer them the chance to repent; much to the displeasure of Jonah:
But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left--and also many animals?" -- Jonah 4: 10-11 (NIV)
When it comes to God, this world does not know its right hand from its left. We need to stop worrying about the little comforts we enjoy and get back to the business God saved us for. There is a work to do and we need to start applying the lessons God has given us in His Word to our lives. We need to fill our lives with His Word. We need to teach and counsel each other within the trusted confines of His wisdom. We need to cultivate a thankful heart in our lives to protect us from pride. Thanking God for what He has said, what He has done, and what He is still doing today in our lives. Lastly, we need to remember in everything we do -- we are representing Jesus Christ. Apply these things today and watch the power of God explode in your life as a new creation.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- May 13, 2013
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.