God’s Word, The Standard Of The Christ-Centered Life
By T. Stanley Soltau
We are all painfully aware that as a whole the moral standards of living have dropped considerably and are continuing to fall. As might be expected, under these circumstances, the standards which are usually regarded as the proper thing for Christians are also dropping very fast. I am constantly meeting people who are quite sure that inasmuch as they have what they call "believed on Jesus Christ," they have received salvation; but as far as their standards of daily living are concerned, they feel that they can do pretty much as they please and at the end will be certain of receiving forgiveness. To them faith in Christ is very largely a mechanical thing, involving no sense of responsibility in so far as their daily life is concerned. They look to the church, or to their Christian friends, or to the fact that they have been baptized, as a form of insurance that will somehow see them through, regardless of what their conduct may be. When I look at the Bible, however, I find no single ground for such an attitude, and I find on the contrary some very solemn facts which need to be thought through very carefully.
The Demands of a Holy God
In the first place I am brought face to face with the reality of God’s perfect righteousness and holiness. God, by reason of His nature, demands righteous and holy living on the part of all those who are His. He can be satisfied with nothing less than that; and He has made a perfect provision through the death of His Son and through the gift of the Holy Spirit for you and for me and for every true believer to lead a holy and godly life, which is well-pleasing to Him.
In a number of places in the Old Testament God speaks of Himself as a consuming fire; that is a picture of His holiness and the righteousness which He demands of His people. Again and again we find the command, "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy," in the Old Testament (as in Leviticus 11:44). In the New Testament we find the same command, "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1:16) and a similar one, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
Secondly, in His Word God has set standards for His people which He expects them to learn and to obey. He gave to His people of old the Law, including the Ten Commandments. These latter have been described as one of the most unique phenomena in all literature, because of the wonderfully complete way in which in ten statements man’s duty toward God and toward his fellow man has been set down.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ takes up those laws, which men had interpreted then as they do now, as referring only to man’s outward conduct, but which Christ showed referred equally to the inner thoughts of the heart. He that hath unclean thoughts toward a woman in his heart is guilty of adultery in the eyes of God, and he that hateth his brother is a murderer.
Thirdly, these standards apply to every phase of our lives. One of the remarkable things about the Mosaic Laws as given to the children of Israel was their all-inclusiveness. They applied to every part of the life of those people, both nationally and individually. There was an intricate ritual in regard to their religious life; but there were also many laws and regulations as to their family and social life, marriage and divorce, the kind of food they should eat, the style and material of their clothes, the manner of trimming their hair, and the like. Similarly, their industrial life was also regulated; debts and interest on borrowed money, the cultivation of their fields, the sowing of seed, the threshing of the crops were all subject to specific laws.
The intention was to reveal to them that their every activity as God’s chosen people was to be directed by Him, and was to be carried out in such a way that they would be well-pleasing to Him in every detail of their lives, and at the same time would be living lives entirely different and apart from those of the surrounding nations, who knew not God and were sunk in sin and worldliness.
What was true of God’s people in those ancient times should be even more true of us today who call ourselves His children. The Apostle Paul in the fourteenth chapter of Romans gives us three definite standards which we can apply to every action of ours: Does it injure or help me? Does it injure or help my brother? Does it glorify God? These three tests should be applied to any habits of ours of which we are uncertain as to whether or not they should have a place in our lives.
In two other of his Epistles, Paul gives us some other all-inclusive instructions which should set the standards of our conduct, of our conversation, and even of our thoughts in all things. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31); "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17). If we all habitually lived in accordance with the principles laid down in these two verses, how very different our lives would be – every act carried out to the glory of God, even in the matter of eating and drinking; and every word spoken and every deed done being in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in order to glorify Him!
Making Possible the Impossible
Of course, it is easy to pass such things off with the excuse that that is an ideal so high and so wonderful as to be quite beyond our powers of measuring up to it. All that is perfectly true. It is impossible for us in our own strength, but for the one who is living a truly Christ-centered life it can and will be made possible. The Lord often commands His people to do what is quite impossible from the human standpoint, but whenever He commands He also provides a way.
As we think along these lines it should be very clear to us that it is a tremendously important thing for us to get into the habit of really studying our Bibles to become familiar with God’s purposes and provision for His people; and then, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, to learn increasingly to apply things which we learn to our daily lives. I am sure it would mean a number of revolutionary changes for many of us and we would discover not only many wonderful things in the Bible of which we are at present ignorant, but we would also discover new power for living to the glory of God and a new joy in the experience of being well-pleasing to Him.
In the apostolic days, before the books of the New Testament had been written, Paul had to tell new Christians, "Be ye imitators of me" (1 Cor. 4:16). They did not know what the standards for Christian living were, and so he had to tell them to watch him and be guided by his conduct under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
We ought so to live, with the Lord Jesus Christ as the center of our lives and with our thoughts and desires so fixed upon Him, that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we may become living epistles, known and read of all men, to the glory and praise of God. If those who know us well should seek to imitate us in all things, what would be the effect on their lives and what would be the effect on the community? That is something worth thinking about! It would show us how self-centered we are rather than being Christ-centered. If we were less anxious to have our way, and were more concerned about His having His way in us day by day, there would be much more in us that would be a source of help and inspiration to others and a means of glory and praise to our God.
The psalmist of old must have been thinking of these matters when he wrote "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Psa. 119:11). May God give us grace to hide His Word in our hearts, His written Word and also His incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, that we, too, may be kept from sinning against Him.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, teach us, we pray, to keep our thoughts and our hearts centered on Thy Son, our Lord and Savior. May Thy Spirit so open up to us Thy Word, that more and more we may make our lives conform to its standards and so become increasingly well-pleasing unto Thee. In the name of Jesus Christ we ask it, Amen.
– From The Sunday School Times.