Focal Point of the Christian Life
The term “Christian life” within this commentary means to effectively live for Jesus Christ in accordance with His Word, as opposed to living in contrast to His Word. It is a two pronged issue centered specifically in and on Jesus Christ— its focal point, consisting of (1) self-denial (i.e., dying to self) and of (2) following Christ.
(Although this document endeavors to clarify the two essential issues necessary for living the Christian life, it is critical to understand that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is indeed the embodiment of the “focal point” of Christianity. Any doctrine that diminishes the importance of Jesus Christ as the most important aspect [or Person] of Christianity [i.e., minimizes His deity, reduces the significance of His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, or in general shifts the focus from God the Son to God the Father] must be avoided at all costs. All such efforts are born of Satan. For a review of the deity of Jesus Christ, please review the document at the following link: http://bibleone.net/deity0fJC.htm)
A Christian has a beginning followed by a period of spiritual growth (or stagnation/decay), which will end when he passes on from this temporal life. This will be followed by an appearance before Christ at His Judgment Seat, where every Christian’s works will be judged, to either be rewarded or to suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10) — a determination that will be efficacious only during the soon coming Messianic Era, the 1,000 year (Millennial) reign of Christ over the earth (Revelation 20:4).
(This commentary does not address the various aspects and/or eventual developments of the Christian life. For that commentary please read the book by Arlen L. Chitwood, Salvation of the Soul, which may be accessed at the link http://bibleone.net/SOS.htm.)
The purpose of this commentary is to focus on the two issues, pointed out in the first paragraph, which result in a (true/biblical) Christian life.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whoever desires to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake will find it.
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:24-27)
Denial of Self (Taking-up One’s Cross)
Life is a series of choices. From the moment a person rises each day to the time he falls asleep, he is faced with multiple-hundreds of choices. Throughout his temporal life, he is subject to and executes multiple-millions of choices. One of the strongest inclinations a person faces has to do with staying alive. The need to remain alive affects many of the choices with which a person faces during his lifetime.
Just as any person’s physical life is important, a Christian’s spiritual life should be more vital. The two are actually linked. This is to say that a Christian’s spiritual life is intrinsically connected to many of the decisions he makes regarding his physical life. But unfortunately, a person’s life, be it physical or spiritual, is often affected by one’s pride. And of all sins defined within the Word of God, the issue of pride is the most egregious and sinister.
Of the seven sins most hated by God, the sin of pride ranks first.
These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil,
a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD . . . . (Proverbs 16:5a)
Pride was (and continues to be) the sin of Satan.
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.”
(Isaiah 14:12-14; cf. 1 Timothy 3:6)
Pride deceives the heart (Jeremiah 49:16) and hardens the spirit (Daniel 5:20), which will most certainly bring the judgment of God.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:18; cf. Isaiah 14:15; Obadiah 1:4)
So it is most natural in this life (in alignment with the “god of this age” [2 Corinthians 4:4]) to think of one’s self first, to elevate one’s self-interest and wellbeing always before all else. This is in fact the approach of Satan, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), toward all occupants of earth. And there is nothing more devastating and damaging to one’s spiritual life than to be ruled by one’s pride — to make one’s life-altering decisions in accordance with this most ruinous trait — to live a life of self-gratification.
Therefore, to deny one’s self is to reject one’s pride, which is a key component in the exercise of the Christian life. This was reiterated by Christ when He instructed each of His disciples to “take up his cross.” The cross symbolized death, and death conveys a separation. In context Christ was stating that to live a Christian life, one must separate himself from pride and all with which this aspect of human nature is associated, i.e., personal appeal, friends, ambition, desires, goals, and, even family (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). Essentially, a Christian is instructed to put Christ and all that Christ represents first in his life — before and above everything else.
Just as a person who is lost must make a decision to place his trust in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation (Acts 16:30, 31; Ephesians 2:8, 9), a Christian must make a decision to place Jesus Christ first in all his concerns and activities in order to live the Christian life. But unlike the decision for eternal salvation by one who is lost, which is a one-time and unalterable transaction between a person and God, the decision by a Christian to place Christ before all else is a continuing, daily matter (i.e., one which he may “take back” at any time…but with eventual and grave consequences).
To follow Christ is a dual matter involving (1) absorption of and adherence to the written Word of God and (2) faith. Each is of vital importance and must never be minimized.
Absorption of and Adherence to the Written Word of God
Scripture clearly teaches that spiritual activity at every level must not emanate from a Christian’s own inner resources (i.e., from “self”), but from the Holy Spirit who resides within the Christian, who may empower the Christian for service, and who has sealed the Christian as the guarantee of his inheritance until he is redeemed (1 Corinthians 2:4; 3:16; 6:19; Ephesians 1:13, 14; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
In light of this the apostle Paul directed all Christians to be filled with [controlled by] the Holy Spirit.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation [excess]; but be filled with [controlled by] the Spirit,
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is not a secondary transcendental experience to be achieved by Christians through some elaborate and emotional spectacle, as some Christian denominations believe. When properly studying the Word, comparing spiritual truths with spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2:13), it becomes clear that there is a distinct link between being filled with (controlled by) the Spirit of God and being filled with the Word of God. This may be seen by comparing Ephesians 5:18-20 (above) with Colossians 3:16, companion passages of Scripture, each shedding light on the other.
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly [abundantly] in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossian 3:16).
The comparison of these two passages, both addressing the same issue (i.e., being properly influenced and controlled by God), reveals that when one allows the Word to dwell richly (abundantly) within him, he is then filled with the Holy Spirit, i.e., in a position to be influenced by the Holy Spirit in making appropriate spiritual decisions in all situations.
The correlation between being filled with the Spirit of God and the absorption of and adherence to the Word of God is unmistakable. Instead of an emotional gyration, accompanied by some outward quasi-spiritual display (e.g., speaking in some “unknown” language), being filled with the Spirit of God is actually the progressive ability of the Spirit to influence a Christian by means of (utilizing) the Word of God. Conversely, there can be no influence by the Spirit if the Christian remains ignorant of God’s Word.
This being the case, is it any wonder that there is so little Spirit-led activity throughout Christendom today? But then this should not be surprising to the student of God’s Word, which reveals that the spiritual condition of mankind that precedes Christ’s return for His Church will be dismal (2 Thessalonians 2:1ff). Throughout Christendom the emphasis is not on the study of the meat (solid food) of the Word; rather, it is on its milk (2 Corinthians 3:1, 2; Hebrews 5:13, 14) and various emotional and feel-good activities.
To follow Christ it is necessary to know Christ — the Living Word that is uniquely expressed by the Written Word. Indeed, all of God’s written Word (both the Old and New Testaments) is about Jesus Christ.
This is often not understood by Christians relative to the Old Testament, a fact that is dispelled by Christ in His revelation to the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-27). God expects His children to study all of His Word, for through it runs richly the lessons and examples (types vs. antitypes) that will guide them (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).
(In studying the Word, it is suggested that the reader will be well-equipped to do so by reading the book, The Study of Scripture by Arlen L. Chitwood, at http://bibleone.net/SS.htm)
It should be clearly understood that one of the fundamentals of the Christian life is the absorption of and adherence to the written Word of God.
The other essential in following Christ is found in the following verse of Scripture.
As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord (i.e., “by faith”), so (in the same manner, by faith) walk in Him. (Colossians 2:6)
In fact, this can only be accomplished when one is “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), a reference to that which has already been discussed, the absorption of and adherence to the written Word of God (the revelation of the Living Word).
To live by faith is most certainly what the apostle Paul meant when he stated, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is indeed one of the fundamentals of the Christian life. Not only is it a key factor in one’s spiritual birth (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Ephesians 2:8), it is also a key factor in one’s spiritual life (Hebrews 10:38).
This essential may also be found in example and in statement within the Old Testament, to wit:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5, 6; Psalm 37:3, 5; Genesis 22:1ff; etc.)
One cannot ignore this fact if he reads chapter eleven in the book of Hebrews, the great chapter on living by faith as demonstrated by various individuals throughout the Old Testament.
The sum of this matter (and this study) is given at the end of this account in chapter eleven, in the beginning of chapter twelve, wherein the writer of the book of Hebrews states:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us [i.e., denial of self, taking up one’s cross], and let us run [by faith] with endurance the race that is set before us [i.e., the Christian life], looking unto Jesus [i.e., by absorbing and adhering to the written Word — the true reflection of the Living Word], the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1, 2)
These then are the essential components of the “focal point of the Christian life”— denial of self and following Christ. For further study in this matter, please read the following two books by Arlen L. Chitwood:
Salvation of the Soul at http://bibleone.net/SOS.htm
Let Us Go On at http://bibleone.net/LUGO.htm