First Principles Part Seven: A New Life

AS BELIEVERS AND TRUE followers of Christ, we enter into a new life. We begin to build a Christian worldview. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). He also said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). He had just admonished a group of religious leaders who condemned a woman caught in adultery and were ready to stone her to death. He had suggested that whomever among the Pharisees were without sin should throw the first stone. One by one, the men dropped their rocks and walked away.

Jesus’ statement I am the light of the world is previewed by Isaiah: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” He added, “The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:1, 19). Jesus is well-aware of who He is, and understands His destiny—His personal testimony is firmly established through the will of the Father. (John 8:14). However, the Pharisees reject Jesus’ claim because they could not see who He truly was. This was a superficial judgment, rooted solely in human reasoning without any consideration for messianic prophesy in the Old Testament.

By this error in judgment, the Pharisees failed to understand the paramount spiritual importance of Jesus being the manifest presence of the Father’s will! To deny the Son is to remain in darkness. You might remember Jesus saying, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14:9-11). Jesus told the Pharisees, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) which caused them to accuse Him of blasphemy.

10 Things We Are to Continue In

One. As followers of Christ, we are to remain in “well doing.” Paul writes, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:6-8). This is a critical first principle. Paul says no one will escape God’s judgment (2:3). He warns against self-righteousness and false security, adding that God’s love and patience must never be taken for granted. In order to be true to Himself, God must bring all sin under judgment. His patience and long-suffering showcases His merciful tolerance of our failures. Once we know the truth about our sinful condition and call upon the name of Jesus as our Savior, we must then step it up and begin to remain in well doing; living in holiness and avoiding habitual sin.

Two. As true believers, we are to follow the Lord. We used to be dead in our sin, giving in regularly to our flesh and following the ways of the world. Now, we must come out from among the world of unbelievers. Our hearts having been enlightened and we know what is the hope to which He has called us—the riches of His glorious inheritance in us. We can now live through the immeasurable greatness of His power (see Eph. 1:18-19). Sadly, many so-called “believers” in the church today claim to know Jesus, but their lives bear no marks of his power—of a saving relationship with him. He will say to such Christians, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven… then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matt. 7:21, 23).

Three. We must continue in the Word of God. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Derek Kidner writes, “This giant among the Psalms shows the full flowering of that ‘delight… in the law of the Lord’ which is described in Psalm 1, and gives its personal witness to the many-sided qualities of Scripture praised in Psalm 19:7.”(1) David boldly stated, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psa. 1:1-2). Obviously, meditating over Scripture and absorbing God’s Word into our minds and hearts has incredible benefits. In fact, the gospel message is one of pieces of God’s armor (see Eph. 6:11-17).

Four. We are to continue in Christ’s love. We know that Christ is the vine, and the Father is the vinedresser. . Jesus tells us to “…bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” But how can we do this? Jesus said, “Abide in my love” (John John 15:9b), adding, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10). We are to love others as Christ loves us. We cannot come close to meeting this standard, but we are not off the hook. We can develop a far-greater love than we had when trying to love “on our own.” R.C. Sproul said, “Love, in our culture, is often reduced to sentimental feeling. Love is seen not primarily as an action but as an emotion that comes and goes.”(2) Abiding in the love of Christ is not a slogan or a mere feeling of affection toward Jesus. Instead, it is an action verb: a first principle in Christianity. We are to abide in the love of Christ by following His commands and His example.

Five. We are supposed to continue in the grace of God. Paul discusses two wonderful blessings of being justified. First, we have peace. This comes from being reconciled with the Father and exempt from His wrath regarding sin and fallen humanity. We have the objective reality of being restored to harmony with God. This could only happen through the mediation of Christ—through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20). The second benefit is “…access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2). The Greek word for “access” in this instance is prosagōgē. It is associated with the state of grace and hope of glory we have through the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul said through Christ we have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18). God’s grace is manifested in generosity, respect, action, compassion, and energy.

Six. Paul said, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Gal. 3:11). We entered into Christ by faith and it is by faith we are to live it out. Our “good works” are not a way to win our ticket to paradise, but are instead an outward sign of our desire to be like Christ. We are not saved by good works; but we are saved to do good works. Our faith will grow as we come to know more about who we are in Him. This can only be achieved through diligent reading and study of God’s Word, praying for wisdom and understanding, and seeking the manifest presence of God through the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, “…we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). He told the church at Thessalonica that God will make us worthy of his calling and fulfill every resolve for good work of faith by his power, so that the name of Jesus may be glorified in us and us in Him (see 2 Thes. 11-12).

Seven. As believers in Christ, we must learn to walk in the goodness of God even during tough times. Some Christians withdraw from God or leave the faith entirely when tragedy strikes. Instead, we need to trust that there is good even when bad things happen. Paul tells us “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He added, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16-18). Trust God when things look bad. Strive for being able to say it is well with your soul no matter the season.

Eight. It is impossible to maintain our walk with Christ without daily prayer. Paul said this in his first letter to the Thessalonians when he charged us to rejoice always and pray without ceasing. This does not mean we are required to pray around the clock 24/7, but it does mean we should pray in and for all circumstances good or bad. We must never curse God or blame Him for our misfortune, but rejoice and pray no matter what. My home church is a praying church. We must learn to pray, then listen. A speaking God requires a hearing church. Prayer reduces stress, increases empathy, builds a better relationship with God, gets us in the habit of sharing all aspects of our lives with Him, and much more. Prayer is spiritual exercise. It is an act of worship and obedience. It is through prayer that we express our heart’s desire to God.

Nine. It is critical that we follow sound doctrine as Christians. In the apostle John’s first epistle we read about the importance of “walking in the truth” (1 John 1:4). Paul said we must rightly handle the word of truth (see 2 Tim. 2:15). Of course, the central principle of Christianity is the belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the remission of sins and rose on the third day. Christianity teaches that our “old man” died with Christ on the cross, and that we were raised with Him as a “new man.” Because of this very specific and critical core message, we must believe it without modification, distortion, embellishment, or doubt. We can have confidence in the core elements of our belief in Christ and the canonical books of the Bible.

Ten. We must remember that the Father and the Son are one. John wrote, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:23-24). God is three persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Tertullian said of the divinity of Christ, “We must believe that God’s eternal nature precludes change or transformation. Transformation involves the destruction of what originally existed: what is transformed ceases to be what it was and begins to be something else.”(3) This is not true of the incarnation. Origen wrote, “…it was not possible for the nature of God to be mingled with flesh without a mediator [so] there was born the God-man [deus-homo], that ‘substance’ [substania] being the connecting link which could assume a body without denying its own nature.”(4)

Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theological Studies

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references contained herein are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

References
(1) Derek Kidner, Kidner Classic Commentaries: Psalms 73-150 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 452.
(2) R.C. Sproul, “Abiding in the Love of Christ,” a blog, Sept. 7, 2018, accessed Sept. 27, 2022, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/abiding-in-love-of-christ
(3) Tertullian, “Tertullian on the Incarnation,” in The Christian Theology Reader, 5th ed., edited by Alister E. McGrath (Chichester, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2016), 228.
(4) Origen, “On the Two Natures of Christ,” in The Christian Theology Reader, Ibid., 230.

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