Spirit of Grace Ministries
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How Shall We Live?

By Dennis Pollock


Years ago, a brilliant man named Francis Shaeffer wrote a book he titled: "How Shall We Then Live?" It was eagerly embraced by evangelicals, mostly because of its insightful commentary about why our society and our world are moving further from the truths of Scripture, but also due to its attention-grabbing title. I will not go into the book's contents in this study, but I do want to take a look at that very question: "How shall we then live?"


Those who love the Bible consider that the non-Christian's great, pressing, fundamental, and paramount need is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and become a child of God. Until this happens, any and every other need he or she may have is as nothing compared to this one thing. A man drowning in the ocean may be a poor man, he may have a rocky marriage, and he may have a mouth full of cavities, but none of that really matters as he flails his arms and splashes in the water, desperate to be thrown a lifeline. After his rescue, he can go to the dentist, work on his marriage, and try to improve his financial position, but for now, those problems are irrelevant. He needs to be saved and he needs that salvation right now! And surely this is the case with the great majority of men and women in the world today.


They may buy self-help books in the hope of improving their personalities, they may attend marriage seminars in an effort to fix their marital problems, they may read books written by positive thinking gurus to try and improve themselves, but if they are unsaved, if they have never bowed their knees and their hearts to the Lord Jesus and received Him as their Lord and Savior, nothing else really matters.


What Now?


But once this does happen, and we become children of God through faith in Jesus and receive the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit and a guarantee of living with God in heaven forever, then the question: "How shall we then live?" becomes totally relevant and hugely important. Most of us are not going to die the same week we are born-again. Many people live for decades and even a half-century or more after entering the kingdom of God through Jesus. They have a lot of living to do and desperately need to know the answer to: "How do we live?" Does God expect anything of us in our daily behavior? Are there things for us to do and things for us to avoid? Does it even matter to God how we act and live and behave ourselves from day to day?


Anyone who reads the New Testament knows that the answer to these questions is decidedly, yes, God very much cares about how we live and behave in the years between our salvation and our death. In fact, much of the New Testament is taken up with answering this question. Again and again, the principal writers of the New Testament have an enormous number of things to say about the lifestyle of the believer.


Now in summary we could say that all we need to do is follow Jesus' two great commandments, to love God with all our heart and to love people as ourselves. But we human beings are thick-headed and need more than that. We need the way we are supposed to live to be spelled out with a great deal of specifics and details, and to be made so plain that we cannot possibly miss it. God fully understands this, and that is precisely what He does in the New Testament. Huge amounts of what we call the New Testament Scriptures are concerned with the behavior that is expected of us "after Christ," that is, after we have put our faith in Jesus. And the Holy Spirit goes into many details about just what this looks like.


One example of this is "The Sermon on the Mount." This sermon by Jesus is all about how He wants His followers to live and behave. It is not an evangelistic sermon at all. It says nothing about how to be saved. Here, Jesus gives almost no hint about being justified by faith. Instead He gives example after example of the code of ethics and morality He expects of all who want to follow Him: pray secretly without making a show of it, refuse to defend yourself when persecuted, forgive those who sin against you, lay up your treasures in heaven and not on earth, do not worry about your physical needs, don't worry about the problems you may face in the future, don't judge others, ask the Father for specific needs, and so forth.


It is clear that our Lord Jesus has definite expectations of us once we submit ourselves to His lordship. These words are not aimed at the ungodly; they are given to us, the believers. They are God's "rules of order" and "code of conduct," or you might call this the "job description" for the new believer. You just joined the team – here is what your day-to-day work will entail! Read the Sermon on the Mount sometime and say to yourself: "This is my job description."


In Colossians chapter 3, the apostle Paul compiles a list of moral commandments, telling us:


  1. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Col 3:8)
  2. Do not lie to one another… (Col 3:9)
  3. Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another… (Col 3:12-13)
  4. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection… (Col 3:14)
  5. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts… (Col 3:15)
  6. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another… (Col 3:16)


Obey or Ignore?


Are these commandments? Are they guidelines? Are they suggestions? Does God actually expect us to do these things and live this way? And the answer, of course, is that these are from the mind of God, and yes, this is precisely how God's children are to live and act. We won't do it perfectly, but these are our goals, and this is our "job description" as believers. To use modern terminology, this is how we roll.


And this list from Colossians is just a tiny sample of the instructions of the Scriptures. Throughout the New Testament, coming from Jesus and His inspired apostles, we have a multiplicity of exhortations which are given us. They fully and completely answer the question: "How shall we then live?"


Again, these instructions are not evangelistic. They are not God's primary message to the sinners. They are the believer's handbook. These are things the new Christians are to read and meditate on as they learn God's expectations for the members of His family. These should make up a significant portion of what pastors teach and what Bible studies focus on. In the early part of Paul's epistles, he deals with salvation, justification by faith, the cross and resurrection of Jesus, what redemption means and so forth. These themes make up the evangelistic portion of the epistle and are vitally important. And every pastor and Bible teacher must present these themes as well. But we cannot neglect the "how to live" exhortations, commands, and instructions given by these men who, moved by the Spirit of God, sat down and wrote the New Testament epistles.


Rules are Not Enough


We err when we assume that Christians can thrive and spiritually prosper on a simple diet of exhortations and commandments, however, even when they come from the mouth of God. For these moral instructions are meaningless unless combined with a great big helping of Jesus Christ. The truth is, even as believers we cannot keep God's instructions and live according to His ways unless we keep our hearts and minds focused on Jesus. He is our inspiration to seek those things above, He gives us the grace to "put off" wicked and selfish behavior and to "put on" tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, and love. And as we abide in Jesus, and keep our eyes focused on Him, we shall do precisely that.


And this means that as we read the New Testament and meditate on its many commands and exhortations, we must constantly look to Jesus to make these a reality in our lives. It is only through Him that we can "put off the old man with his deeds" and "put on the new man" and live a life of love, as the Bible instructs us.


How shall we then live? We shall live as the Bible directs us, and we do not have to guess at this. We are given all kinds of specific and very plain commands and exhortations that spell out the lifestyle of the believer. It is our job, once converted to Christ, to read and meditate on these things, and stay close enough to Jesus to receive from Him the power to actually live them out. His grace is sufficient for us!




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