What are the characteristics of the Christian life? Where in lies the difference in lifestyle between a Christian and a non-Christian? After all, we have so many things in common. I’m going to write about a few pivotal and core elements of a Christian’s lifestyle. I’m going to try to do this in the simplest possible language. Each day we all have to deal with this topic. We live. But how?
The Bible is very clear that a Christian should have a distinct lifestyle. God’s Word clearly describes the Christian’s life especially in terms of holiness. That is the word that fits precisely with a Christian’s lifestyle. The sanctifying of our lives makes it obvious that Jesus Christ is King, and Lord of our life.
He reigns in us from within. We willingly and heartily subject ourselves to his reign. He reigns in our hearts and molds our will. Through His Lordship we are changed from within.
It comes down to following Christ. In following Christ, we take God’s commandments seriously. We start to do them out of thankfulness. God’s commandments are written on our hearts by his Holy Spirit. It results in actions that agree with these commandments. The driving force of these actions is love. For the Holy Spirit is also the outpouring of the love of God in our hearts. Through this we see the renewing and active power of God in our lives, that from within we start to love God’s commandments and desire to do them heartily.
Commandments and Concrete Directions
What can we do in this day and age with the commandments? We like to have concrete directions. The commandments give these directions. They are God’s directions for us so that through the sanctifying process, we may live in joy. Each of us has to answer the question what it is that God requires of us in the situations in which we find ourselves. Each of us must determine how he will be obedient to God’s command. There are no preconceived answers that apply to everyone in the same way in every situation.
Biblical examples: Romans 12:2, “But be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The commandments are clear, but the concrete application of the requested obedience is up to us. There are guidelines, directives, and clearly written instructions. The command to love God and our neighbor as ourselves is in effect under all circumstances. Yet it remains the task of each believer to personally put this command into practice. It is necessary for a believer to decide for himself — we can’t do that for each other. We can help each other in specific situations to make it clear, but the decision and responsibility for those decisions lie with ourselves.
He who asks someone else to make the decision that you should make is asking too much. By asking too much, you are avoiding responsibility.
Also the texts in Colossians 1:9-11 and Philippians 1:9-11. We need constant prayer to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him”. “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
It takes constant prayer to come to the right knowledge of God’s will. We need wisdom and spiritual insight to walk in such a way as to please him in all that we do. It comes down to love, which will abound more and more in clear insight and sensitivity. That will help us to distinguish what is really important. Especially being sensitive is of huge importance. In our day and age, in which we are surrounded by coarse and insensitive language, it is especially important to display this sensitivity to others. Also in our interactions with our fellow church members, love and sensitivity should be heartfelt.
We need to make our own decisions, accountable to God. There is the freedom of the Christian man and that freedom is given shape by the commandments and prohibitions of God. In all these things love is indispensable. It is never about strict legalism. Just outwardly fulfilling God’s law is not enough before God. It goes about our heart, wherein love dwells, and wherein love is the motive for all our thoughts and actions. Prayer is indispensable. Times of devoted prayer stir up love. Through times of slackening, we dampen our love. Perseverance in prayer is necessary. Love does not come by itself, nor does it stay by itself.
In the Christian lifestyle, we may take note of the following important moments.
Following Christ. This following of Christ belongs to the salvation that Christ imparts. Whoever believes in Christ follows him. Christ becomes his example. The power of sin in us is broken. We desire to do good things, the works of righteousness. We receive inner joy. In following Jesus, the idea is not that we try to do the same things that he did, but that we pay attention how he himself gave of His love. It is about the attitude that was in him: humility, gentleness, loving-kindness, inner joy in God. Christ is also the example for our interpersonal relations.
The carrying of our cross. Matthew 16:24. The cross mentioned here is not the cross of Christ, but our own cross. It pays attention to the suffering that we will need to bear for Christ. It means that we will no longer be welcome in circles where people are hostile to Christ and the gospel. Each believer experiences this suffering, albeit in different forms. It is a result of our Christian conviction and lifestyle that will cause us to be rejected by the world. Yet in our hearts we are heartily willing to suffer reproach for Jesus Christ.
Christian Freedom. All are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (end of 1 Cor. 3). It is a freedom within restrictions – with an equal focus on both.
Christian freedom consists of taking into account the other person. Through our freedom, the other person needs to be built up. We may not use our freedom to hurt others. But in those things in which Christ has set us free, no one should make us a slave again. The best manifestation of our freedom is service to Christ and to our fellow man. Through bringing into practice this service, we experience freedom. We experience his blessing.
All this brings about practical applications in our life. How do we relate to sport? Sport is not forbidden, but does it control us? How do we relate to television, to radio, to our computers, and magazines? They all belong to us, but we are Christ’s.
How do we relate to our alcohol consumption? How am I aware of my neighbor? My neighbor is everyone whom God places on my path. Am I friendly? Helpful? Do I dare to witness? What is my reputation? Do I live a chaste life, free of sexual immorality? Do I fight wrong tendencies, and sinful desires in my heart? How do I deal with grief? Do I go to the Lord in my sorrow? In my disappointments? In my grief? In my adversities and fear?
Lots of questions. Each of us needs to find the right answer for them in our own life. But in the center is always our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christian life will show itself in outward manifestations. This will be the result of what lives in my heart. That also applies to non-Christians in the sense that their lifestyle is also a manifestation of what is in their hearts.
The Christian lifestyle is thus a part of the salvation that Christ gives. Central to our Christian lifestyle is and remains love. And this will manifest itself in deeds. It means being devoted to our fellow-man. This flows out of our devotion to God. The Christian lifestyle needs care and attention. The Christian life is a “stylish life”. The word “stylish” may be interpreted differently by people. And there’s room for that. But in the style of my life (lifestyle) I want to reflect the love of God, to keep it and promote it. The style of life will also be a means to concretely fight against sins and its desires, and to loosen the grip of sin. The Christian lifestyle is a means to say no to sin and yes to God and our neighbor: the yes of love. Therefore, no sloppy life. A Christian lifestyle gives huge blessings to yourself and is a blessing to others. Peace is preserved in your life. Chaos has disappeared. In its place comes quietness and orderliness that is maintained and filled by God’s love and peace. That can never be a boring life.
Life with Christ can never be boring. Even writing down this thought is already too much. He who does not know Christ cannot follow this train of thought. They are strange to him and her. There are all kinds of strange opinions about Christian lifestyle and the personal lifestyle of Christians. There’s a lot of misunderstanding. We often need to explain things. But there is tremendous witness and appeal in the Christian lifestyle itself. A joyful life is contagious. In the congregation we need one another, to encourage one another in the clinging to Christ that a Christian lifestyle demands. But from within the church, we do need to go into the public square. The Church may pray for a quiet and peaceable life, but that life is meant to give witness. The Christian life is to be viewed in public! That is something different than that it will always be accepted or valued. But no one needs to be afraid of Christians. There is this fear of Christians, not just Christian-hate, but fear of Christians. Strange, but true.
Therefore, choose a Christian lifestyle worthy of your adherence to Jesus Christ! And then everything is yours.
This article was translated by Jennie Van Driel.