INTRODUCTION: Vision for Christian Life
Ephesians 3:16–19 (CSB) — 16 I pray that he may grant [us], according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in [our] inner being through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith. I pray that [we], being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Matthew 4:16–17 (CSB) — 16 The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, and for those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. 17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The Gospel has given us a vision of the Lamb of God and his kingdom, now let the Holy Spirit give us the zeal to follow Christ in Kingdom living, knowing that everything comes from our vision of Christ as we see Christ through faith.
My prayer is that each one of us would “see a great light” brighter, that Christ would shine the light of God’s glory in our heart, and that we would be enraptured and captivated by our vision of Christ!
Romans 12:1-2 Living in holy worship to God
Romans 12:1–2 (CSB) — 1 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Whereas those who serve false Gods are prone to sacrifice in order to obtain mercy, biblical faith teaches that God’s divine mercy moves his children to sacrifice in worshipful response to his mercy!
Holiness is our worshipful response to the incredible love of God:
1 John 3:1 (CSB) — 1 See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are!
1 Peter 2:1–5, 9–10 (CSB) — 1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, 3 if you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God—5 you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The flame of God’s love is holiness, and in whomever the love of God burns, you will see the fire of holiness consume their life as fire consumes the sacrifice on God’s altar!
Authentic Christian holiness does not demand greater adherence to the Law, but greater vision of the love of God!
This is the starting point for all Christian living.
Therefore, Peter calls on us to “rid yourselves of all” wickedness because we are being built up into a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ; we have been chosen to proclaim the praises of Christ who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light!
The key to Christian life is a clear vision of the love of God.
Romans 12:3-8 Growing as one body together
Romans 12:3–8 (CSB) — 3 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. 4 Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. 6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; 7 if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; 8 if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Worshipful Christian holiness is the foundation upon which three pillars of the Christian faith rest:
- The unity of the body in Christ
- The diversity of its members and function
- The community of fellowship of each member with one another
To be captivated by the love of God that has been shown to us by calling us his children, and to respond with worshipful-holiness demands “unity in the body of Christ”, “diversity of the body of Christ”, and “community of fellowship in the body of Christ”.
Worshipful holiness demands unity in the body of Christ because there is One Lord and One body, and the love of God compels us to put aside our carnal divisions and worship God for his glory (not ours).
Worshipful holiness demands diversity of the body of Christ because the beauty and glory of Christ is greater than any one member can extol!
Worshipful holiness demands community of fellowship within the body of Christ because the same love that burned in the heart of Christ for his children now burns in our heart!
Therefore, we grow together as one body:
Ephesians 4:16 (CSB) — 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
You may hear this repeated throughout the year because we feel that it’s important: “life begets life”.
Each of you is as vital to the body as every other member:
1 Corinthians 12:12–18 (CSB) — 12 For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 14 Indeed, the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted.
By the life of Christ operating through you, the whole body will grow!
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book “Life Together” (P.22-23)
God has willed that we seek and find His living word in the witness of our brothers and sisters. Therefore, we need each other to speak (and demonstrate) the word to us. We need our brothers and sisters as bearers and proclaimers of God’s word. Therefore, we need our brothers and sisters solely because we need Christ!
The goal of Christian community is to meet one another as bearers and proclaimers of the message of salvation.
Romans 12:9-21 Living as one body together
Romans 12:9–21 (CSB) — 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. 21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
Just as the Psalmist wrote:
Psalm 133:1 (CSB) — 1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
These exhortations describe the “love that is the perfect bond of unity” in the Church (Col. 3:14).
Here the Holy Spirit is pouring out the heart of Christ in describing what it means to be “bearers” and “proclaimers” of Christ’s message of salvation – to be the “salt” and “light” of the world – and the climax of this testimony is found in the final admonition: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21).
In this context, “to be overcome by evil” means to give in to the temptation to meet evil with evil, to divide, and to retaliate. To “overcome evil with good” means to follow Christ in meeting evil with love (v.20).
This is what it means for us to be the body of Christ:
Philippians 2:1–2 (CSB) — 1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
The redemption of Christ demands that we be unified in our convictions of faith, unified in the love of God and in the Holy Spirit, and unified in our purpose and mission as one body.
Let’s look at how the Holy Spirit is speaking to what it means to be “bearers” and “proclaimers” of Christ’s message of salvation to the world:
Christian Community: Let love be without hypocrisy. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Live in harmony with one another. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. Live at peace with everyone. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
Christian Purity: Do not be proud; Detest evil. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Do not avenge yourselves. Do not lack diligence in zeal (spiritual laziness and apathy).
Christian Purpose: Outdo one another in showing honor. Cling to what is good. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord; be patient in affliction; share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality; bless those who persecute you (bless and do not curse); rejoice in hope; be persistent in prayer.
Becoming “bearers” and “proclaimers” of Christ’s message of salvation is about taking the life of Christ that you have received within yourself and bringing it into the Church body to promote the growth of the whole body in love and unity of faith in Christ Jesus. This is why we want to encourage you to make each other a priority in your weekly life so that you can look for ways to be “bearers” and “proclaimers” of Christ’s message of salvation to one another.
Romans 14:1-12 Living in Christian liberty together
Romans 14:1–12 (CSB) — 1 Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about disputed matters. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while one who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not judge one who does, because God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s household servant? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand, because the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person judges one day to be more important than another day. Someone else judges every day to be the same. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord. Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, and he gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and returned to life for this: that he might be Lord over both the dead and the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
The focus of Christian life is radically different than that of worldly living because Christian life is wholly consumed with Christ.
This focus of Christian life demands that each Christian live together for Christ.
This focus also demands that each Christian refrain from judging their brothers or sisters on questionable disputes because we each belong to Christ.
The Lord made one very clear demand of his disciples:
John 8:31–32 (CSB) — 31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Christian life extends absolute liberty beyond the word of God because we all live together for Christ, and within the word of God we live together for Christ.
Therefore, this focus of Christian life also demands absolute accountability to the word of God (not human traditions).
The key to Christian liberty is patience and understanding:
Philippians 3:15–16 (CSB) — 15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.
Colossians 3:16 (CSB) — 16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
God wants each of us to live for Christ according to the truth of God’s word that is living within our hearts.
There will always be some who do not know Christ that will seek to “spy out our liberty in the Lord” and use it for carnal means to pursue their own desires; they will perish as lawbreakers never being known by Christ!
Matthew 7:21 (CSB) — 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
But those who abuse our Christian liberty for the sake of pursuing their own carnal pleasures must not be allowed to destroy our Christian liberty and cause us to turn to the Law for our righteousness!
Everyone must live together in God’s word for Christ! There is our liberty; there is our life.
Romans 14:13-23 Living in Christian love together
Romans 14:13–23 (CSB) — 13 Therefore, let us no longer judge one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in the way of your brother or sister. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean. 15 For if your brother or sister is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy, by what you eat, someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and receives human approval. 19 So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. 20 Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong to make someone fall by what he eats. 21 It is a good thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. 22 Whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin.
We have all heard this question asked: “Do we have perfect churches?”
The vision of the Church given in Scripture is a body of believers who are being perfected in love together for Christ.
Therefore, I suggest this answer:
Could the perfect church be where we, and even our pastors, learn patience and forgiveness together (Colossians 3:12-17) as we bear with one another’s weaknesses and deficiencies? In a sinlessly perfect church, there’s no need to learn these two aspects of love. But God has placed us in the perfect church to learn forbearing and forgiving. Our churches are not sinlessly perfect, yet – though we look forward to the return of Christ when all sin and death will be done away with – but our churches are the perfect church for you and me because they are where we learn compassion for the flawed and mercy for the weak.
Each one of us is in this church today for a reason:
Ephesians 5:25–27 (CSB) — 25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.
Ephesians 1:4 (CSB) — 4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.
We are here to be renewed in the image of Christ:
Colossians 3:10 (CSB) — 10 …You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.
1 John 4:7–11 (CSB) — 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.
Living in Christian love has two dominant demands:
First, to follow Christ’s example in gladly accepting whatever self-denial his mission required to show the love of God to others.
Second, to accept each other as Christ has graciously accepted both Jew and Gentile in accordance with the purpose of God.
John 17:20-23 One body; One testimony
John 17:20–23 (CSB) — 20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.
Christ’s will for Christian life is for the glory of God to dwell among us as one body and one testimony to the world.
This is the vision of Christian living that must once again captivate our hearts because the vision of one unified body is Christ’s only vision for the Church!!