How on Earth is A Christian Supposed to Live?
So and so is not behaving like a Christian, or their character opposes the Christian faith... Oh, he does not act like he goes to church, or is that what they teach you at church? All these comments and questions were thrown at me in a volley...ouch! How is a Christian supposed to live or what are the character traits of those that claim to be Christians who attend church every Sunday? I was supposed to have answers and have them pretty quickly but since I’m trying to be principled and wise in things of the spirit, I delayed the answers as I wanted to do a research on this subject centered on the biblical vs. worldly perspective. I believe that the Holy Bible should be the map or repository for all rules and regulations by which a Christian should live. However, this book can be complicated if one reads it without revelation and can also be used against me in a kangaroo court in my neighborhood. My neighborhood in this case happens to be my workplace where I spend most of my day and this is where I got this challenge.
1. Who is a Christian?
Perhaps the first question that should be asked is who is a Christian? Can anyone who attends church on Sunday be called Christian? I will try to answer this according to the way I was taught at the age of 11. Some bible teachers came to our township in the ghetto and really took time to acquaint us with the Christian faith. Using one’s five fingers we would recite some biblical truths about the process of becoming a Christian as follows (verses taken from the New Living Translation):
- Thumb (I have sinned): Romans 3 v 23-“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” This verse makes us all understand our shortcomings due to our fallen state and that in such a state we are not recognized in the kingdom of God.
- Index finger (God loves me): John 3 v16- “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” So the key here is that even though we are all sinners God loves us; all we are being asked to do is to believe in the son of God, Jesus Christ. The word Christian is derived from Jesus title i.e. the Christ. So it’s already obvious that if someone does not believe in Christ and what he stands for, even if they go to church, they can never be called Christian.
- Middle finger (Jesus died for me):Romans 5 v 8-“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” What the verse teaches is that Jesus died so that we could be forgiven our sins. This is why for one to become a Christian, one has to ask Jesus to forgive them and to cleanse them by his blood. So if someone has not gone through this step, they cannot really grasp the essence of the Christian faith. Some people grew up in a church because they were dragged along by their parents but have never really accepted Jesus as having died for them and formally become a Christian. Such people are religious, going about it as a ritual but not really committing to a Christian life.
- Wedding ring finger (I have accepted him): Romans 10 v 9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So a further step is to accept him as Lord and savior since God raised him from the dead. Making Jesus the Lord of one’s life means dying to self so that he can direct your life through his spirit, the Christ. This is what will open the way for the Holy Spirit to start his work as the helper, the teacher and comforter. The Holy Spirit will not force himself upon someone who has not surrendered himself.
- Small finger (I am saved): Acts 16 v 31-“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” So the conclusion of this process of acknowledging sin, believing that Jesus died and rose again, confessing sin and surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus, results in the salvation of the soul. Salvation from eternal death and condemnation. The spirit is born again; the old become new, meaning that one starts a new life as a Christian.
So this was a very simple and straightforward way in which this message of salvation was taught to me at that tender age. What the preachers did not further explain was that before I could go to heaven, there was life to be lived on earth and this is where all the growing up needed to be done and eventual maturity before seeing the Kingdom. Also that, one had to face the reality of life on earth and had to now rely on the Word of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and trust in the Love of God in order to overcome. I’m sure a lot of people have also been left hanging there clutching at the promise of heaven upon death and not knowing what to do in the mean time. They have been preached to but have not been properly discipled. I was however, fortunate that as I grew older and got exposed to different teachers of the word, that I grasped what it really meant to be a Christian and how to live a successful life. I cannot claim that I have fully mastered the art but can safely say that I’m sure I’m on the right track!
Why People go to Church
2. The two common reasons why people go to church or attend church.
I think before going into much detail about the Christian life, perhaps it is good to take a detour and examine the reasons why people go to church. It will shed light later on when examining why people fail to match up to the expectations of those around them. In one of his sermons, our senior Pastor identified a few reasons why people attend church. He said that, the church is actually a gathering in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, according to 1Thessalonians 1 v 1. However, people rarely come to church to worship God and to be disciplined followers of Jesus. Instead the majorities come to be entertained or to have their needs met.
By entertainment, he meant a show or concert whereby someone comes into the auditorium, sits in the chair or pew and expects the people on stage to entertain him. Thus someone would comment that; today’s service was boring or the songs were not good enough. In other words they did not come to make God the audience but they were the audience as in a concert. In terms of having needs met, these could be: financial assistance; politics; to find business contacts; to be prayed for and to be healed; or even to find a mate. So many people attend church but it should be noted that it is for different reasons, therefore it would be incorrect to think that everyone who goes to church is a Christian or righteous .However, there is also that percentage who attend because they are Christians, want to worship God and are willing to be disciplined as disciples of Jesus.
3. The growing trend of Christian on Sunday and worldly the rest of the week
It is also prudent to observe that it is easier for one to be at their best behavior on Sunday as they go to church. They say all the right things including the amen’s and the bless you’s and are true Christians as far as doing what is expected, but this behavior only lasts as far as the church gate after service. It is like a ritual that has to be performed for those few hours and is soon discarded after it has served its purpose. The rest of the week, these people become their true selves and display all the signs of being worldly. For these people it is difficult to keep up appearances or the show of the previous Sunday. The question is whether these people qualify as true Christians.
4. Difference between spirit filled and carnal (Sinful or fleshly) Christian
This brings us to another dimension of Christianity that helps to explain things more. When Jesus was still walking on the earth, one of the religious leaders of that time wanted to know how a man could be born again. Jesus replied that; “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”(John 3 v 5-6). So we can rightly say that, unless someone is born again by the Spirit of God, that person remains carnal or led by their flesh. To be born again involves repentance or turning away from sin or fleshly desires and surrendering to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as alluded to in the 5-finger process.
However, if someone has gone through the steps and still finds themselves under the control of their own flesh, it is a continuous process. They should ask the Holy Spirit again to take control of their life and start paying attention because the Spirit can lead them through their conscience. If someone ignores their conscience each time it nudges at them, it will eventually stop and the flesh takes over. The Spirit leads in so many ways which I cannot go into here as they need another full article but the conscience is one good example. Say, you become angry at someone for not following instructions and immediately you feel bad about it, this is the conscience saying, hey exercise self-control! Apostle Paul is my authority here, as he has done a good job of teaching on this subject. In his letters to the Christian community starting with the Romans, he goes to great length to explain and teach how to live a spirit filled Christian life. In his letter to the Romans in chapter 8 v 5, he goes on to differentiate those that are controlled by the flesh from those that are controlled by the spirit. The carnal Christian seeks to gratify his fleshly desires while the spirit filled Christian seeks to please the Holy Spirit.
5. The fruits of the spirit
So then what is it that the Holy Spirit does to a Christian? Here I will just pull out a whole section of Galatians 5 from verse 16 to 23 where Paul was explaining how to live by the power of the Spirit:
“16.So I say let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.17. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18. but when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the Law of Moses.
19. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear:
· sexual immorality,
· lustful pleasures,
· 20. idolatry,
· outbursts of anger,
· selfish ambition,
· Wild parties and other sins like these.
Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:
· 23. gentleness,
· And self-control. There is no law against these things.”
This is quite challenging because it lays bare what is in man’s heart, what is directing or controlling a Christian; our own flesh or the Spirit of God. It is also not wise for me to add or subtract from the above lists as Paul did a good job of highlighting most of the stuff that Christians battle with. No wonder why those people watching get so baffled by the behavior of those around them and cannot understand why a Christian would do any of the above.
6. Conclusion and recommendations
Now coming back to the question of how on earth is a Christian supposed to live? I think the answers have been dealt with in this article. First of all, one needs to make sure they are a true Christian by making sure that they have followed the steps of salvation and have been born again, of the spirit. Merely going to or attending church does not make one a Christian, so those who are watching should be certain of who they are assessing or trying to apply Christian standards on. People go to church for different reasons.
Being born again is not the last step in the Christian walk as there is a lot of work and responsibilities before qualifying for the Kingdom of God. One should surrender to the Spirit of God, so that they are not led by their fleshly or carnal nature, for one can be Christian but carnal, but so that they are led by the spirit of God. Those that are carnal do not have power over fleshly desires or weaknesses outlined above but by the power of the Holy Spirit, one can overcome the flesh and live a righteous life that will cause God to be glorified by those watching.
Christians that are not walking by the Spirit of God can easily fall prey to demonic spirits such as: spirit of anger, spirit of unforgiveness, spirit of Jezebel or sexual immorality etc. If one is struggling to control their temper, or just throws temper tantrums at the slightest provocation or have a controlling spirit, they need to check themselves and seek deliverance by the Spirit of truth and holiness, i.e. the Holy Spirit.
No one is perfect and everyone has their demon that they are struggling with but what makes a difference is how one is dealing with the issue, for God is a loving God and he is patient with us while we work at these things. Perhaps, seeking help from other Christians or the leadership of one’s church is also one way of dealing with one’s character flaws. Remember also that “we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities, of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”(Ephesians 6 v 10-12). Further verses in this chapter advise the Christian to put on the full amour of God, with such things as reading the word of God to be educated about rights and responsibilities, praying in the Spirit etc. This is meant to help safeguard against falling into the carnal nature.
My last advice is to those who are watching, in Mathew 7 v 1-2 Jesus said: “Do not judge others and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” So be gentle and sensitive to the plight of one who is trying to work out their faith.
Mosline Farawu is a blogger and comments about real life situations.More articles can be found on: www.mosfarawu.com