Thursday, March 31, 2011

"How To?"

The Internet contains millions of "how to" websites. You can find written or video instruction for just about any human endeavor, including a recent discovery of a simple and old fashioned way to make coffee that beats any modern device I've ever owned (I'll send details to anyone interested).

The Bible addresses the matter of "how to" regarding the living of the Christian life. "How to perform that which is good I find not" wrote the Apostle Paul (Romans 7:18). The verb tense of this statement is the present active indicative of the original Greek, literally rendering Paul's words as "how to perform that which is good I am not finding."

This is a shocking confession from a man considered by many to be the most faithful and effective believer who ever lived. Certainly of all Christians, the Apostle had discovered the secret of living a godly life of faith, obedience, and self sacrificial devotion to God and others. Did he not affirm at the end of his life that "I have finished my course; I have kept the faith?" (II Timothy 4:7). Why then would he seemingly bemoan in so important a doctrinal treatise as Romans his ongoing failure to find the method or means of consistent godliness?

The answer is that there is no "how to" for living the Christian life. There is rather the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself "the way" (John 14:6). "Who?" rather than "how to" must form and inform our seeking of the means for faithfulness.

"To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

"Christ Jesus... is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30).

Viewing Christian faithfulness as a matter of method inevitably leads to fleshly attempts to produce that which only the indwelling Spirit of the Lord Jesus can accomplish. "The Spirit giveth life" declared Paul, who also exulted in the glory that "Christ... is our life" (II Corinthians 3:6; Colossians 3:4). The Christian life is a matter of the life of Christ revealed to us, in us, and by us. We therefore begin, continue and will culminate our earthly life of faith and obedience by "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). Any other means or method leads to "how to perform I am not finding" because we are not meant to find a mere technique for genuine godliness. God has rather given to us the Spirit of His Son to lead, motivate and enable us to trust and obey Him. "Without Me ye can do nothing" said the Lord Jesus. "I can do all things through Christ" wrote Paul (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13). Christ and Christ alone supplies our hope for the godliness of this moment, this day, this lifetime and this forever.

"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6). That which began our Christian life is that which perpetuates it. Just as the Lord Jesus fulfilled the "how to" of birthing us into relationship with God, so does He fulfill the "how to" of "performing that which is good." Our calling is to trust Him no less for living the Christian life than we did in receiving the Christian life. Or as Paul exulted in proclaiming the all sufficiency of so great a Savior and so great a salvation...

"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
(Romans 5:10)

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