“For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works” (Titus 2:11-14, HCSB).
In 1976 theologian Francis A. Schaeffer published How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. The book (and subsequent documentary film series) traced the history of Western civilization from Ancient Rome until the time of writing (1976). Schaeffer’s central premise was that when a social order is based on the Bible and on a personal knowledge of the infinite God, it provides an absolute standard by which people can conduct their lives.
These four verses from Paul’s letter to his protege Titus not only declare the gospel but also explain how Christians should live as redeemed human beings, but a little more concisely than Schaeffer’s treatise.
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV).
The Book of Romans provides several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Convictionless Christianity), we learned that God’s Law is, in fact, relevant and binding on our lives as Christians. So, we serve God through adherence to His commands!
In Romans 12 Paul admonished Christians not to live in conformance with this world but live according to God’s Law and God’s will. Then, in Chapter 13 this admonition about godly living became a stern warning about corporeal Christianity. Because of the immediacy of our salvation (Christ may come or we may die), we must not live out our lives in this world trying to fulfill our human desires.
Paul said salvation has brought light to our darkened souls so we must cast off the works of darkness–drunkeness, sexual immorality, quarreling and jealousy–and put on the armor of light.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8, ESV).
The Apostle Peter indicates in these verses that Christians can be ineffective! I’m sure you’ve heard of an ineffective employee or an ineffective manager, but an ineffective Christian?
“Ineffective” simply means not producing results, not productive–or as Peter defines it for Christians, not fruitful.
An ineffective employee doesn’t produce results. An ineffective Christian doesn’t bear fruit.
“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8, ESV).
To prepare for a modern wedding, the bride-to-be starts weeks or maybe even months in advance to select a wedding dress, shoes, jewelry and other attire to wear at the wedding ceremony. Before the ceremony the bride-to-be will go to the beauty salon to have her hair done and have a facial and manicure so she can look especially beautiful for the groom at the wedding ceremony.
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT).
These words are the response given by John the Baptist when questioned by his disciples why everybody was following Jesus instead of him.
John had a clear understanding of his mission: “I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him…Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success” (vs. 29-30).
“Train yourself in godliness for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, HCSB).
In this verse the Apostle Paul is explaining to his protege, Timothy, that we live our present life in preparation for eternity. Paul says that we should live our lives in anticipation of eternal life!
“This is what the Lord says: Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT).
God, through the prophet Jeremiah, chided the people of Israel and Judah to repent and warned them of the terrible consequences that awaited them if they refused. He admonished them to follow the tried and true ways of God’s laws, which would lead to rest for their souls.
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, much of the focus for discussion is often on the first part of the Sermon containing the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.
In fact, the last admonition of Jesus in Chapter 6: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (vs. 6:33, HCSB), somehow seems to conclude the Sermon.
But Jesus provided many instructions for His disciples in Matthew 7 as well! The Golden Rule that we all learned as children is vs. 12.
The behaviors Jesus identified in these additional instructions in Matthew 7 were taught in the context of eternal life.
In other words, these are instructions we should live by in our present life in preparation for eternal life.
When Jesus said to treat others the way you want to be treated (the Golden Rule), He meant the criteria you apply when making judgments about other people could be the criteria God applies in determining your place in eternity.
So here’s some additional instructions from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 that will help us live a life focused on God’s Kingdom and eternity:
- Pardon and forgiveness (Matthew 7:1-5). While these verses seem to be saying do not be judgmental or critical toward others, the real message is to be abounding in pardon and forgiveness toward others as God is toward you. If God is exceedingly merciful toward you, then you should certainly be the same toward others.
- Discretion (Matthew 7:6). While admission to God’s Kingdom is available to all human beings, it cannot be and should not be forced either directly or indirectly on anyone. While this admonition is certainly not meant as a condemnation of any class, race, educational level, or socio-economic class of any human beings, Jesus’s disciples should direct their efforts at proclaiming the Kingdom of God to those people—individually or collectively—with whom their efforts can be productive and not argumentative.
- Mutual loving relationship with God (Matthew 7:7-11). The basis for establishing a personal and intimate relationship with God is based on the interaction of giving and receiving. Jesus is saying that the Heavenly Father wants to give you all aspects of abundant and eternal life if you are willing to receive it. We know this is not hyperbole because Jesus says that even people who do not know God love their children and love to give them gifts. In Luke’s version of these verses the “good gifts” are the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Heavenly Father gives His Own Spirit to dwell in the His children.
- Respect for humanity (Matthew 7:12). Known as the Golden Rule, this verse sets the universal standard for getting along with others. You have to start with a basic respect for human beings.
- Convictions/principles (Matthew 7:13-14). Know what you believe and stand up for your beliefs because it is always easier to follow the way of evil (through the wide gate) than it is to follow God’s way (through the narrow gate).
- Discernment (Matthew 7:15-20). Following the instructions of Jesus will sharpen your senses so that you can better recognize what proceeds from good and what proceeds from evil. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit (or no fruit). It is the same way with people, so determine what kind of fruit a person is bearing and you will know what kind of person he or she is.
- Obedience (Matthew 7:21-27). By obeying the instructions of Jesus you will fulfill God’s will for your life. When the challenges of life confront you, you won’t fall apart because your faith is built on the absolutes of God’s will and God’s truth and reality.
“Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The Apostle Paul tells Timothy that godlines requires training in the same way that one would train the body for a competitive sport. With godliness training a person receives eternal benefits–eternal life–while physical training only benefits a person in the present life. However, godliness training like physical training is rigorous and requires exercise and practice: “For to this end we toil and strive and suffer reproach” (vs. 10). So let us undertake the development of godliness in our lives with the same discipline that an athlete undertakes physical training.