Essentials for a 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 will lose it, but whoever loses his life 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)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6, 7)
Although a person may be a Christian, i.e., one who has placed his faith solely in Jesus the Christ (Messiah) and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross on Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21 [Isaiah 53:6]) for his personal and eternal salvation (John 3:16-18; 20:31; Acts 16:30, 31; Ephesians 2:8, 9), he or she should know that not only is his or her decision of faith in Christ the first step in God’s comprehensive “plan of salvation for man” but that as a Christian from this time (salvation) forth it is actually possible to live one’s life dishonoring (in opposition to) God.
The context of the above opening passage of Scripture in the book of Matthew clearly illustrates this truth as is evident in the person of Simon Peter, a true disciple of Christ. Simon Peter was specifically chosen by Christ to spread the gospels of both grace and glory throughout the world (Mark 1:16-18). Indeed, it was Peter who in response to Christ’s question as to how His disciples personally recognized Him made the memorable statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). And in response to this notable confession by Peter, Jesus Christ said:
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:17-19)
Regardless as to what specifically Christ meant by His reply (i.e., referring to the person of Peter [Catholicism] or to Himself or to the specific statement made by Peter [Protestants]), it is uncontestable that Simon Peter was richly blessed and recognized as a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ.
This being the case, it is somewhat surprising to many that soon after this exchange, Christ said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23). This shocking statement was made in response to Peter’s efforts to rebuke and to dictate to Christ as to Christ’s intentions and behavior.
Many within Christendom may endeavor to explain such a spiritual “turn-about” with Peter by stating he was never “properly” saved in the first place or that he “fell from grace,” i.e., lost his salvation. These conclusions come from an incorrect interpretation of the Word of God, which would have all to believe (1) that once a person believes on Christ and becomes a “child of God” he/she can then become spiritually “lost” again through/by sinning or (2) that one who becomes the recipient of eternal life by/through faith in Christ cannot fail but live a godly life, and anyone who professes to believe in Christ but does not live such a life only means he/she was never “saved” in the first place.
Both positions are doctrinally, totally incorrect. Not only is it fully apparent within the context of this chapter in the book of Matthew that Peter is a “child of God” and is honored by Christ Himself, but a thorough study of God’s Word clearly reveals that once a person places faith in Jesus the Christ for personal, eternal salvation, the transaction is both immediate and permanent in nature. Yet, just as a person who physically enters life as an uninformed and disorganized infant (unable to adequately progress [mature, grow] without proper nourishment) may progress in several directions, so is the person who is “born [spiritually] from above” (John 3:3-18) a “babe in Christ,” one who needs proper spiritual nourishment for proper spiritual growth but also one who can travel down opposing spiritual paths.
Indeed, a Christian can remain spiritually infantile in this life, living in subjection to the “god [ruler] of this age” (i.e., Satan, John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4), living a life encompassed in sin. This was in fact the case with Christians, who lived in the Grecian city of Corinth, who continued as “babes in Christ” by continuing down the “carnal” (fleshly, sinful) path, which then limited Paul from being able to adequately (spiritually) feed them the “solid food” of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Unfortunately, this is so often the case in a spiritual environment composed of numerous Christian denominations and local churches that tirelessly endeavor to confine newborn participants to a well-defined, restrictive set of doctrinal positions. To say it another way, instead of encouraging an open and investigative atmosphere of study in the Word of God under the preeminent Instructor of God’s Word (John 16:13), many local churches strictly adhere to a program designed to lead a new Christian down a prearranged and denominational structured path.
Within many, if not most, of the local churches of the evangelical protestant faith, the study of God’s Word is usually limited to a brief (less than an hour) structured study each Sunday morning called “Sunday School.” Sadly, this produces many Christians who understand only their denomination’s prearranged points of doctrine and often restricts and confines their faith to a particular church service or services held each week, prohibiting their faith to grow and to enrich their lives.
On a personal note, this was the case in this writer’s life. The recipient of eternal salvation by and through a personal decision of faith in Jesus Christ in December of 1959 and after several years within a structured denominational environment, this Christian’s path spiraled downward until Christ was no more evident, no more an influence in any of his activities. Indeed, he had spiraled downward to a pathetic belief in agnosticism. And due to this, he ended up with the conclusion that the only way out would be suicide. If interested in a more detailed personal testimony, please click on the following link: http://bibleone.net/Texas.html.
Suffice it to say that as Peter, as seen in Matthew chapter sixteen, this writer went from a position of honoring Christ to a position of honoring Satan, which nearly ended his temporal life. And although he evidenced a great deal of enthusiasm for his new-found faith from the very beginning, which extended through years in college and the pastorate of a local church in Germany for approximately one year, his spiritual decline was primarily due to personal pride and a fractured understanding of the Word of God, all of which resulted in his inability to understand and submit to the “essentials for a biblical Christian life” as detailed in the passage of Scripture in the book of Matthew introducing this document.
Biblical Christian Life
A “biblical Christian life” is one best expressed by the word “holy” as seen in God’s requirement for His people and expressed in the following passages of Scripture.
And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. . . . (Exodus 19:6a)
For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. . . . You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
(Leviticus 11: 44a, 45b)
. . . You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2b)
To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
(Luke 1:74, 75)
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. (Ephesians 1:4)
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in [for] holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7)
But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15, 16)
The word “holy” best describes a person who is “saintly, godly, pious, devout, God-fearing, spiritual, Morerighteous, virtuous, angelic, pure.” It describes one who puts God first in all matters of life. In short, it means to be without sin. And that is the life that God would have all of His children (Christians) to live. It is a life that is “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). One that should be without “spot or wrinkle or any such thing” . . . “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). One that teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
Indeed, we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” who “have obtained mercy” and should on every hand “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:9-11).
Unfortunately, achieving this idealistic life is quite difficult due to the fact that Christians continue in their temporal bodies, which encompass what Scripture calls the “old man” or “natural man” or “outward (as opposed to the ‘inward’) man” (Romans 6:6; 7:14-25; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Galatians 5:17; Ephesians 3:16; 4:22; Colossians 3:9, 10). These designations reference the “old sinful nature” that encourages conduct in opposition to God.
Furthermore, Scripture speaks of Christians who allow their old or natural nature to dominate their lives as living in the “flesh” or being “carnal” (Romans 8:7, 8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). And although this carnal lifestyle in no way degrades or nullifies the sacrifice by Christ on Calvary, that which absolutely guarantees one’s salvation and therefore in no way degrades or nullifies their personal (spiritual) salvation, it most seriously affects their temporal (spiritual) life and their eventual standing at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which in turn will affect their position during the coming Messianic Era – the thousand year reign of Christ and His bride upon/over the earth (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
The Carnal State
The primary defect (spiritual failing) of one who continues in a carnal state, dominated by the old/natural man is the sin of “pride.” True, one may well list a host of other specific sins associated with this condition, but it is the belief of this writer that all stem primarily from the foundational sin of pride.
Pride may be defined as “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or position.” It is giving oneself the credit for something that God has accomplished (1 Corinthians 4:7). It is taking glory that belongs to God. Essentially, it is self-worship. And you may be certain that such an indecent condition exhibited by and within the carnal state is always and permanently condemned within God’s Word, as evidenced by the following few passages of Scripture (of which there are approximately a hundred more).
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. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
… Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.
A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin. (Proverbs 21:4)
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12)
. . . The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (Romans 12:16)
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”. . . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:6, 10)
The steadfast companion to pride is the absence of truth. Most often when one is steeped in pride, the lie not only follows but is replete in every realm of activity. Indeed, the initial sins executed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were lies born of pride, which were in response to the lie of the serpent/Satan (Genesis 3:1-6). And such has never changed since the beginning of time. In all the regions of mankind (social, political, entertainment, business, etc.) one cannot help but be overwhelmed with both pride and lies in addition to other transgressions that degrade the human race.
It is concerning the ailment of pride that Christ addressed His disciples in Matthew 16:24-27 by saying:
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 will lose it, but whoever loses his life 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?
The Greek word used by the Spirit of God in this passage, which is translated both “life” and “soul” is psuche, a term that is quite different in both form and meaning from the Greek word for “spirit”(pneuma), as seen in the following passage of Scripture:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit [pneuma], soul [psuche], and body [soma] be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
The error often associated with this passage of Scripture is that Christ is speaking about “eternal [spirit] salvation,” assigning such to a condition of “works” rather than “faith.” Unfortunately, this is even the case in some evangelical circles.
Such an interpretation is the result of an insufficient understanding of the Word of God, which (1) presents man as a triune being (composed of spirit, soul, and body) as is expressed succinctly in 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12; etc., (2) primarily addresses the gospel of glory [soul salvation] applicable to Christians who are indeed eternally saved [spirit salvation], and (3) contextually can only be referring to one’s “soul salvation” in this passage of Scripture.
(Again, as mentioned on the first page of this document, comprehensive treatments of both gospels of grace [spirit salvation] and glory [soul salvation] may be reviewed at the following links: http://bibleone.net/SGF.htm and http://bibleone.net/SOS.htm.)
In truth, Jesus the Christ was simply stating in Matthew 16:24-27 the spiritual essentials of a biblical Christian life, a passage that is linked with the two other passages of Scripture in the books of James and Colossians, as follows.
It is essential that anyone who intends on living a biblical Christian life must do so in and out of a state of humility, one devoid of pride (self-aggrandizement). Such is the meaning expressed by the words “deny himself, and take up his cross [the symbol of sacrifice]” and “whoever loses [lit: “destroy fully”] his life for My sake will find it.”
Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. (Mark 10:15; cf. Matthew 18:3)
Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4; cf. Matthew 20:27; 23:11)
The Word of God
The words “follow me” convey the specific meaning that only by following (placing first and foremost in all activities) the Person of Jesus the Christ, i.e., the Living Word of God, can a Christian live a biblical Christian life. And since the Living Word of God is only revealed in the Written Word of God (John 1:1, 2, 14), it is paramount that Christians devote themselves to continuously and earnestly studying the entire written Word as they depend on the Supreme Teacher of the Word – the Holy Spirit.
Only by proper and continuous study of and in the Word of God can a Christian be spiritually nourished (sanctified), for this alone provides spiritual growth to maturity, as was testified by Christ Himself in His prayer for His disciples as seen in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by Your Truth. Your Word is Truth.”
The study of Scripture under the coaching of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential if a Christian is to “follow” Christ, as seen in the following passages of Scripture.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)
The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. . . . But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:17, 26)
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13; cf. Hebrews 4:12)
But the Anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
(1 John 2:27)
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, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus [the Living Word via the Written 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)
The key, the prime principle, that alone allows man to apprehend (understand and connect to) God is “to believe,” to accept and regard as true what God has to say about a matter. This essential standard may appear to be simplistic, but it is profound beyond man’s rational capacity. To put it another way, one must solely exercise “faith.” Although this may not comport with man’s intellect or worldly experience, it definitely is the only means for a person to connect with the Living God, his Creator.
The apostle Paul so stated this to the “saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse” (Colossians 1:2) in the following manner:
As [in the same manner] you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord [i.e., by faith], so walk [lit: live, deport oneself, follow] in Him, rooted and built up in Him [the Word of God] and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6, 7)
And to others:
That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1, 2)
For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world –our faith. (1 John 5:4)
Back to this writer’s “personal note” (top of page 3 above), it was near death that he experienced a very strong inner (unavoidable) thought that he was in his pathetic suicidal condition because he had turned away from God. The “thought” (not a “voice”) was so definite that he made the decision to be completely open, to submit without any preconceived ideas to God, desiring only to learn from Him what was correct and how to live life.
This started a process that lasted several years, but which eventually blossomed into the reality that it was Jesus Christ alone that truly mattered in a life for God. And upon this revelation, he endeavored to “deny himself, and take up his cross” and “follow” Christ by faithfully (utilizing faith) studying the Word of God.
No, this writer has “not arrived” or achieved complete spiritual maturity – far from it. But he will continue to strive to look away from self and unto Jesus Christ by faithfully studying and believing the Word of God.
It is the earnest prayer of this writer that all who have believed in/on Jesus Christ for their personal, eternal salvation, that they come to a realization how necessary the above three essential qualities are to a biblical Christian life, that in humility and by exercising true faith they immerse themselves daily in the Word of God, as they look forward to the coming of their Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17), His Judgment Seat (2 Corinthians 5:10), and participation alongside Him in the coming Messianic Era (Revelation 20:4).
For a more comprehensive study in these essentials, the following studies (links) are recommended:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
(2 Timothy 3:1-5)
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:14-17)