Following Christ – What Does It Mean ?
How do you know if you’re ‘doing it right’ and going in the right direction as a Christian ?
Well, there’s two indicators and they are intimately linked. The first is growth toward holiness in speech and conduct in your daily life. This process is called sanctification. When a person becomes a Christian, God puts His Spirit in them not simply to have them with ‘fire insurance’, but also to give them NEW life. God, through His Spirit brings to the awareness of the believer, a new awareness of holiness, a hatred of sin and a desire and ability to live holy. Romans 8:29-30, Phil. 1:6 and dozens of other passages tell us that God will continue to work in the lives of His people to bring them to practical holiness in this life. Passages such as Phil. 2:13-14 both command believers to ‘work out their salvation with fear and trembling’ AND reminds them that ‘it is God who works in you, both to desire and to do for His good pleasure’. Believers are responsible for their own growth, but ultimately, God is behind it. Such growth is the inevitable result of the Spirit of God dwelling in a person, just like a grape vine is guaranteed to grow grapes.
The second is a growing sensitivity to sin. A true believer will become more aware and more sensitive to sin (in general) and to their own sins (personal) as they grow in Christ. The closer you get to Jesus, the more you see how UNJesus-like you are. A good look at the holiness of God in comparison to the unholiness of man can be very humbling (and it’s meant to be). The more you spend time in the scriptures daily, the more you realize the high view of God that is given there (markedly different from the stuff you see on most ‘Christian’ tv networks)…. and one of the things presented at length is the issue of God’s holiness. God is absolutely Holy – not only does it mean that He is ‘sinless’, but it means that He is the standard of being separated from sin. Being Holy is just as much a part of Who God is as having XX chromosomes is a part of being a woman. And knowing this, you come to realize (as David did in Ps. 51), that sin isn’t just ‘breaking the rules’, but personally offending the One who is the rule.
A good teacher I listen to named R.C. Sproul once put an illustration up to show the holiness of God in comparison to man. He said something along the lines of ‘Let’s take Mother Theresa, Hitler and Jesus and put them in the same room….Hitler of course, representing as ‘unholy’ as you could get, and Jesus being the standard.
Where would you place Mother Theresa ?
If you were honest according to the Biblical record, you’d place her right next to Hitler… practically hugging him.’
Some of the greatest theologians in history, if you read their personal journals (like Jonathan Edwards or Charles H. Spurgeon), constantly were dissatisfied with their prayer lives (for example) and though they weren’t out in bars getting drunk, they were more aware of some of the subtle and dangerous attitudes that folks with a lot of spiritual ‘knowledge’ can develop over time… and it pained them at times and sent them running back to the cross daily. Spurgeon is the man who wrote one of the greatest daily prayer devotionals still in use today – Morning and Evening.
Questions to ask are: how do you react to sin ? How do you react when you sin against others (in word, attitude or deed) ? Do you feel sorrow for it and immediately run to set things right (or as soon as possible run to set things right) ? God commands this. Whereas, when you were a new believer and you spoke harshly to someone, and then the Spirit of God awakened you internally to the ‘wrongness’ of your sin hours or days later, such conviction should come sooner as you grow. Further along in your Christian walk, you shouldn’t take you days to set stuff right with folks.
All of the New Testament epistles to local churches (especially Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians) are very instructive on how believers should gauge their spiritual growth in Christ over time. There are specific commands given in these books for the believer to engage in and these things foster growth as a Christian. Read especially through the book of 1 John. There are some very strong statements in there on exactly what a believer should look like.
Anglican pastor, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) wrote a book called Holiness near the end of his life. You can find the whole book online here.
Here’s a quote from him on sanctification:
1. Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian. “He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit” (John 15:5). The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of Godâ€™s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith works by love. It constrains a man to live unto the Lord from a deep sense of gratitude for redemption. It makes him feel that he can never do too much for Him that died for him. Being much forgiven, he loves much. He whom the blood cleanses walks in the light. He who has real lively hope in Christ purifies himself even as He is pure (James 2:17â€“20; Titus 1:1; Gal. 5:6; 1 John 1:7; 3:3).
2. Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He who is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life. A regeneration, which a man can have and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture. On the contrary, St. John expressly says that “He who is born of God does not commit sin,” “does righteousness,” “loves the brethren,” “keeps himself” and “overcomes the world” (1 John 2:29; 3:9â€“14; 5:4â€“18). Simply put, the lack of sanctification is a sign of nonâ€“regeneration. Where there is no holy life, there has been no holy birth. This is a hard saying, but a Biblical truth; whomever is born of God, it is written, “cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).
Those two things are basic ‘indicators’ of how you’re doing I should also add in that a growing love and appreciation for God’s word and a growing knowledge of is something that you should cultivate over time. God’s word is the primary tool that He uses to guide His people. No believer will grow if they don’t spend time in the Word.
What happens if you are not as passionate as other seem, but are doing exactly the same thing? Does this mean you are doing something wrong?
Depends. The church is called the body of Christ – all of the members of the body have different functions. So the part of the body that may be encouraged and desirous to teach and educate others about the great truths of scripture (usually pastor-teachers) may not be as gung-ho about serving, say, in helping and administration. God didn’t gift them in that area…… but He did gift the extremely hyperbubbly church secretary and she keeps the daily affairs of the church office running like clockwork and loves her job so much that she’d work for free if you didn’t insist on paying her. She’s an arm… he’s a head. Both are necessary.
But both spend time in the scriptures daily. I don’t think you can be a Christian and not be passionate about something in relation to the body of Christ and serving others.
Are we as Christians supposed to be consumed by the Word and talk about the Word in every conversation to show that we are living Christ Like?
No, not every conversation. But at the same time, our conversations aren’t supposed to be on just every and any topic. I believe that Christians should be conversant with the culture – the Puritans were. In fact, some of their detractors used to criticize them for ‘knowing too much about current events’ and ‘dressing too well’ Yet, they also had a desire to serve God and live lives well-pleasing to Him, which is why folks like Lemuel Haynes (a BLACK puritan), Jonathan Edwards, John Owens, William Whitacre and others wrote volumes and volumes on every area of the Christian life. They were passionate – and yes, they spoke of Christianity in their daily speech with folks often. There’s something wonderful about meeting up with others of precious like faith and discussing the things of God, whether it be simple theological discussions, complex ones, or just what the Lord has been doing in your life lately.
And prayer. It’s something wonderful that I really can’t put into words…. if you’re a Christian, you’ll know what I mean.
Is there a balance? How does one incorporate Christianity into daily life?
Christianity becomes not just a ‘belief system’, but an entire worldview. Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper once said: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” And this is true. ALL of our life is to be governed by Christian principles, all of our life is to be brought into submission and viewed through the ‘filter’ of scripture. So while the rest of the world debates on same sex marriage, for example, believers should align their opinions with what God has already said on the subject of homosexuality and marriage. Our convictions should be shaped by scripture (Romans 12:2). Our spending, our use of time, etc…. Jesus wants- COMMANDS- ALL of it (Luke 9:23).
What’s the difference between a person living as a Christian and not discussing Christianity ‘out of the blue’ and someone living as a Christian and speaking about it with every breath…
Time, opportunity and cultural upbringing. But… believers are called to actively share their faith with others…. and sometimes that does mean ‘bringing Christianity up out of the blue’. If the God of the universe truly did save you from the worst possible place in existence (Hell), then it would be weird to not occasionally, if not frequently, bring Christianity up out of the blue to folks. If a person truly does now ‘love God’ (1 John 2:4), I don’t see how they could not talk about them. Married folks (especially the newly married) talk about their mates frequently – most of the time out of the blue. How much more the God who saves!
People are different. Some people will only discuss Christianity on Sunday morning….. and the rest of the week, live like God doesn’t exist. Now scripture (and not me) says that such a person more than likely ain’t a Christian. What would you say of a man who, newly married, on the day of his marriage, made all of these wonderful vows to his wife, extolling her virtues and traits……. and then the next day, walks and lives his life as though she doesn’t exist, except in the few moments per day their paths cross ?