If you are a Christian, you know that you have been given the unimaginable gift of eternal life with God. We’re told that we will have resurrected bodies and that there will be no more death, tears, or pain. I believe that it only gets better.
But we’re not there yet.
Our eternal lives begin now, on this messed up earth, in which we still experience sorrow and pain. Jesus came to save us from our sin and to give us eternal life, but he also came to show us how to live life right now.
How should we live in this world when we have been granted life in the next?
At a Community Bible Study teaching director’s conference, Matt Heard talked about how we in the church do not always teach how to live a productive, God-honoring life now. From Heard’s website: (Highlights mine)
John tells us that he wrote his gospel for two reasons: (A) ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God’, but also (B) ‘that by believing you may have life in his name’ (20:31). Many of us within the church seem to be a bit inarticulate when it comes to ‘Part B.’
In churches and ministries, we’ve rightly focused on Part A – urging people to believe in Jesus as the Christ. But, tragically, we’ve too often stopped there and neglected Part B. We’ve focused on redemption from our sins but neglected the reason for our redemption: the restoration of our humanity in all of life to the glory of God.
In the book of Acts, there is a scene in which the apostles were arrested for preaching and doing ‘signs and wonders.’ The Jewish leaders were jealous and wanted to put an end to the apostles’ work as soon as possible, so into jail they went. But during the night an angel came to open the doors for them. The angel told them:
‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life.’ Acts 5:20 (Italics mine)
The next morning, they were in the temple courts teaching. They were probably there a long time.
Those six words, the full message of this new life, other translations put it as the whole message (The Voice) or everything there is to say about this Life (The Message), speak volumes. The full message is the story about Jesus; his life, love, power, miracles, teaching, obedience and it concludes with Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection.
I understand the emphasis on Jesus redemptive work. That is the starting point for every Christian, and we don’t want anyone to miss it. It begins a life of transformation that should characterize every believer.
The Gospel writers also highlighted Jesus’s death and resurrection. The last week of Jesus’s life is told in eight of 28 chapters of Matthew, six of 16 chapters of Mark, six of 24 chapters of Luke and a whopping ten out of 21 chapters in the Gospel of John. Clearly, they understood that Jesus came to die for our sins.
But, he also came to live life on this earth. The other chapters of the Gospels, 59 to be exact, are also critical to the life of a growing Christian. We know we should be humble, but what does godly humility look like? “Turn the other cheek” is a phrase that most of us know well, but what does that actually mean when someone insults or hurts me or, worse, my children? Why did Jesus reject earthly power, privilege, and wealth? Should we do likewise?
Those questions are not easy to answer. For example, if I don’t know what to do about a conflict, will the Bible, or an excellent sermon, tell me how to handle it? Not specifically. The Holy Spirit and God’s Word will set my frame of mind and my objectives appropriately and remind me that acting out of love for the individual is more important than being right. A conflict may give me a chance to figure out how to behave with humility. I may decide to turn the other cheek. Or, it may be a case when I need to speak up for what I know is honorable and honest. Every situation is different.
When I first began to attend Community Bible Study, mature, godly women in my core groups told of how they put the Bible into practice. Their stories of struggling with all sorts of challenges were very helpful, because they were evidence of people living the truth of the Bible today. We need examples. We need many, many examples.
My husband and I both left good and fairly lucrative careers to work in non-profits. I have volunteered for Community Bible Study for years and Dan is working for World Relief. We would never have done that if not for the influence of Jesus on our lives. There are days when I wonder if we made foolish choices, but then I am reminded by Scripture for what, and for Whom, we are really working. I am content.
Sharing our stories is always powerful. When we do that in community, communicating our successes and failures, learning from each other, we will know a little bit better how to live.
We who are blessed to know that we will live eternally with Jesus should not be afraid to demonstrate to others how we live by God’s Word today in this world. It will take vulnerability, humility, and grace. We may share more failures than successes. That’s okay, because it’s how we are called to live.
Quoting Matt Heard, at the close of his comments above:
It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other but experiencing and proclaiming both.
What do you think? Are Christians neglectful in teaching others how to live for the glory of God in this world? Do you have any stories that might help someone else?