Life In Christ
I was told the story of a Manchester United fan who could only get a really lousy seat. He spotted an empty seat in a perfect place near the half way line. Thinking to himself “what a waste,” he made his way down to the empty seat. When he arrived at the seat, he asked the man sitting next to it, “Is this seat taken?” The man replied, “This was my brother’s seat. He passed away, but he was a massive United fan.” The other fella replied,“I’m sorry to hear of your loss. May I ask why you didn’t give the ticket to a friend or a relative?” The man replied, “They’re all at his funeral.”
There are many dedicated football fans but I doubt many would be that dedicated. Football has been called a religion, and certainly I have seen people who seem quiet and boring in church become super animated when the footie is on. Like it is life and death. What is life to you? To some, it is sport. To most, however, it seems to be the “good life,” that is, a good job, decent pay, nice home, plenty of time to enjoy life, sports, great holidays, etc.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15–17
God is the one who gives us life and time and He deserves more of that time than we give Him! Many years ago, William Law warned the world is now a greater enemy to Christians than in apostolic times, because it has greater power over Christians by its favours, riches, honours, rewards, and protection than when we had persecution believing. It is a more dangerous enemy because it has lost its appearance of being an enemy”. This is an interesting idea, that the world with all of its glitter and gold is our enemy — a nice place to live, look at the comfort we have and all the luxuries we enjoy! AND THAT’S THE POINT! An excess of money or materialism is a detriment to our faith in Christ, because we look more at them than we do at Him! We take our focus off Him and put it on the passing fads of the world!
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” I John 2:15–17
Life in Christ is to live in this world to not to be controlled by this world. What do we do? How do we live? My proposition is that Scripture tells us how to do life in Christ. We are told we must put away something, put on something, and put down someone.
I. PUT AWAY YOUR FORMER LIFE
20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.
Your former way of life. This is quite specific. Essentially, it is explaining that before we became true followers of Jesus, we would live and behave a certain way. Then after we placed our trust and confidence in the grace and forgiveness of God, our life changed a lot. It is saying that without Christ, we remain filled with deceitful desires and live in ways that do not please our Heavenly Father. The truth is that we have all sinned, we have all fallen short of the glory of God, but when we trusted in the Lamb of God, the one who has taken away the sins of the world, we were fully cleansed, and made pure. And from that place, God deserves and expects our completed devotion and praise and obedience. We don’t always like that. We don’t always want to do things his way. So we end up, as Christians, holding to some kind of an external expression of faith, whilst internally, we remain quite selfish and self-pleasing.
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.
It is about dealing with that former life, and dealing with it conclusively. Maybe it haunts you, maybe it hurts you, maybe it depresses you, or scares you, or tempts you, or any other form of trouble. The apostle Paul said, **“Put off your old self.” ** This simply means we must put off the old way of life.
How? It is only possible in Christ. Only His power enables us to get over our past sins.
**“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” ** Romans 8:12–14
Do you see the answer to overcoming your past? You must allow the Spirit of God to put to death the misdeeds of the body. How can God’s Spirit help us to overcome sin, any sin, past or present? He helps us as we decide to immerse ourselves in His Word, in prayer, and in doing His will in practical ways —all of which are the will of Christ. A life motto could be: READ GOD’S WORD. PRAY. SERVE. God can do a better job taking away our sins than we can!
II. PUT ON YOUR NEW LIFE
**23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. **
Put on the new self. That is such a great gift to us. Put on your newer and better self. Your better self in Christ. We are better in Christ than we are without Him.
Ever said to someone or heard someone say to another person, “You really scrub up well!” It’s the idea that most people do look better when they’ve cleaned up. TRUE?
We all look better (especially to God) when we have been cleansed from our sin and when our best character is showing. Which is the character of Christ that is now being lived out in us. BUT HOW DO WE GET THERE? How do we put on the new self?
Occasionally, someone will say to me, “You look nice.” Or “You’re looking smart.” Or “That’s a great shirt you’re wearing.” And I generally say, “That’s because my wife chooses all my clothes!” Rosie doesn’t literally dress me, she’ll have to wait a few more years to get that privilege, but she selects most of my clothes so if I look nice in my shirt or jacket, it’s because she has good taste in clothing and in matching colours.
God has great taste too! He knows how to make us look good, and knows what it takes for us to put on the new person, created in Christ and to be like Him! I can think of at least two ways for us to put on the new life, created to be like Christ.
One way is by imitating others.
**“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” ** The apostle Paul was saying, “Imitate me or follow me in the ways that I follow or imitate Christ.” “Follow my best example.” I Corinthians 11:1
Over the years I have encountered many godly people, who model God’s ways to me. They help me to live closer see to Christ’s example. Their influence and pattern for me have been immeasurable. I hope you too have people around your life that are worth imitating. There are many godly people whom we need to follow or imitate in order to put our new self in Christ.
And then the other way and the best way is to look to Christ.
There is no one better, no one more lovely than He! He is the great lover of the human soul, otherwise, He would not have left heaven for earth and He would not have gone to the cross for us! We need to look to Him and behold His loveliness! We need to be like Him! We need to put on His sweetness!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….” Hebrews 12:1–2
The question to ask is: what will happen to you if you fix your eyes on Jesus? There is a high chance you will become more like Him. You will put on your new self, created for you to be like Jesus.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
III. PUT DOWN THE DEVIL
26–28 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
27 Do not give the devil a foothold. Life in Christ is also a matter of putting down the devil. Don’t give the devil a foothold. Where? How? Don’t allow the devil a foothold in your life. Don’t allow the devil a secure grip or place in your life.
One fine day, a man gently braked to a stop at the traffic light, as it had turned yellow, and he was doing the right thing. Perhaps he could have accelerated a little and just made it through. (SLIDE) Behind him, a lady was furiously pressing on then hooter, shouting with frustration, as she missed her chance to squeeze through the intersection. She lost it, and was yelling and gesticulating with varied combinations of finger signals, when she heard a tap on her window. There stood a very serious looking policeman, who asked her to please exit her car. She was then asked to produce her drivers license, and state her name, address, date of birth, and a few other questions. When he was satisfied she was who she said he was, and had confirmed she was the registered owner of the car, he started to explain. Madam, I am sorry for giving you the third degree, but I was behind you and observed your shouting, swearing, gesticulating with rude hand gestures, at the person in the car in front of you. (SLIDE) I had also noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ and the ’Follow Me to Church’ bumper stickers, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the boot, so naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.”
That is an example of allowing the devil to get a foothold in your life, whether you realised it or not. In our Bible text for today there are a number of other examples:
28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
What a list of things not to do! We put down the devil in our lives by putting away sin from our lives! Stop stealing. Don’t talk in a rude and crude way. Get rid of things that are bad for you, deal with your rage and anger, bitterness, slander and malice. Indeed, quite a list to challenge us. Often we do not realise we give the devil a foothold. We put down the devil by ridding ourselves of as many bad things as possible. We put down the devil by looking to the Lord! By clinging to the Lord in every way possible!
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7–8
The only successful way to put down the devil is by submitting to the Lord. Submission happens when we know then yield to God’s Word, and when we submit to His will. There is great power in submission! Power over evil in this world and the evil one!
Sometimes we come across people and it is ages before we ever realise they claim to be Christians. A bit like they think they need to be God’s secret agents. Sometimes they do the living incognito thing so well, nobody ever discovers they claim to have a living faith in the Saviour of the universe. Actually, that is a problem, and we should not live that way. We should not be afraid or shy of our lives demonstrating the grace and love of Christ. It happens quite naturally when we deliberately put away the old life and put on the new one made possible by the work of Jesus.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
That’s true life in Christ. We live by faith every day in the Son of God.