Living According to the Teachings of Christ
That is what it means to be a Christian.
When we think of our Christian faith our minds usually focus upon the religion and its fundamental values and philosophies. In essence, we focus upon what we were taught about our religious practice rather than about God and how He wants us to live our lives. We know that our faith is structured around the teachings of Jesus Christ but to get from our initial religious training to actually living a lifestyle according to the teachings of Christ is not an easy transformation for most people.
It was like that with the Laws of Moses. The Israelites knew what the Law stated but actually putting those laws into practice took a lot of discipline. The consequences of breaking the Law were also quite severe. This is the purpose of Christ for us today. God knew how hard it was for mankind to follow all the prescribed laws so He fulfilled it in the atonement of Christ. Because of our Heavenly Father’s sacrifice of His only Begotten Son we no longer have to remember the laws and rules of Moses but simply accept God’s sacrifice as your measure of atonement and learn how to live as Christ taught. It is not a matter of staying in line with what your religion taught but adopting a lifestyle that Christ exemplified for us. All the Law is contained in His sacrifice plus when you fall short of the mark He is there, quick to forgive, pick you up, and put you back on track.
We seem to live reactionary to life rather than living “actionary,” which is not a word in our English language but I will define it as living intentionally by a set of standards and practices. We build our standards based upon the image of Christ and that image is what controls our lives. Rather than waiting to see what life brings our way and then deal with it by whatever means necessary, why not instead go about our days intentionally doing the kind of things that Christ taught us so we end up controlling our lives rather than just reacting to it. There are so many things He taught us that were written in the four Gospels but you can start with the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 or read either one of the four gospels in its entirety and you will get a full sense of what Christ taught.
I often write about the booklet entitled “Practicing the Presence” that was written by a monk named Brother Lawrence. He decided that he wanted to live his life daily practicing what Christ taught us. In everyday living he decided to do all things through God with the presence of God always at the forefront of his mind so nothing that he did was without God literally being in his mental conscious presence. Once you tune yourself to living in such a mode it alters how you do things because everything is designed to be obedient to God. You literally practice the things that Christ taught while He was on earth in all your thoughts, acts, and deeds. Knowing that it requires a practice you know that you will fail from time to time but the more you attempt to follow the ways of Christ the better you become at doing it. Like most things, the more we practice the better we become at doing things we attempt to achieve.
So how does one get from being a religious person who attends church, reads their bible and studying it; to actually living what you learn in the church by putting into practice all those wonderful morals and behaviors that are contained in the Holy Scriptures? This is the subject that I have been contemplating for some time now. As I look back on my writings over the past 20+ years this is the bone I have been picking at for quite a while now but until now I haven’t been able to accurately express it into something that one could read and say, ‘I get this!’
I wrote a book called Living Christianity a few years back that essentially was about this subject. When I wrote the book back then I did not totally understand how to express my views on spiritual matters with wisdom and maturity. Even though my initial intentions were good I was guided more by my selfish ambitions rather than serving the body of believers. But now my desire is to share the wisdom I have gained inspired by years of study, practice, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide my steps as I attempt to share my views about God. There is a huge difference between the old and the new Greg because one was focused upon the self and the other is selflessly focusing upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit. One was guided by the carnal nature and the other guided by the Spirit.
Romans 8 verses 5–8 covers that very subject: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
Paul goes on to tell us in verses 9–11: “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
I know that even though my intentions were decent earlier, what I didn’t realize was that until I totally accepted the whole package from God it was my carnal mind that guided me and all the things I was attempting to do. However, once I turned my life over to God it was His indwelling Holy Spirit that guided my steps and led me through the path of righteousness and spiritual wisdom. Until the Spirit guides you, the mind continues to seize control of who you are. Once the Spirit is alive in you then He guides you.
When I was inspired to search for my soul many years back I took it as a personal challenge for me to learn something; to gain something personally; and, or to become somebody or something like a writer personality. Since my desires were purely selfish I was not a good candidate to actually receive divine inspirations from God. It was about me and my gain and not really that much about serving God and kingdom building. However, somehow and somewhere through the years, something happened that lead me to become more of a willing servant. I no longer desired to be somebody, but only to serve God in the best way that I personally could. It is no longer about me gaining anything personally but about how I can share what I have learned with others while being a student of Christ. It is His Spirit in me that wants to share with others.
Originally when this transformation started happening to me I totally did not understand what was happening. I knew I had a desire to find out more about God and how our soul and spirit work in conjunction with God but I did not have a road map to any place in particular. I had no methodology to follow. I was drawn to read books on many subjects with the Bible as the focal point that kept me grounded in God. I attended Bible studies frequently and had study groups where we could discuss what we read and learn how to apply it to the lives we lived. That was new for me back 20 years ago but after doing this for a couple of decades to date it becomes a way of life rather than just some good sounding morals. Once the Holy Spirit is active you literally have a live-in Helpmate as the Bible teaches. However, having that presence in you and learning how to use it required yet a few more years of study and experiencing a few hard-knocks through life until you actually learn how to “let go and let God.” In order to get there, you have to learn how to get out of the selfish mode and into the servant mode.
For me personally my internal conflict had a lot to do with how I grew up in the South with all the racial injustices while trying to accept a loving God in spite of my negative experiences. How do you concentrate on the love of God when people are treating you like an animal? This gave me a distaste for authority, which essentially took the servant mode off the table for me for quite a few years. I did not wish to serve anyone in power because of my experiences with an unfair and unequal segregated system created by mortal man. I had to separate the authority of God from the authority of man before I could start accepting what a true servant was. I also had to learn enough about the teachings of Christ and the role He played in bringing the world back to the Father. In other words, I had to learn how to shed the human person from the spiritual person in me before I could make my spiritual transformation. Once the Spirit was in control the wisdom I received came directly from God, which was no longer polluted by the carnal ways and acts of mankind.
So as I write to my fellow brothers and sisters of the faith I know the challenges that we face of actually applying the teachings of Christ to your life. Until you surrender to the power of God it is literally impossible to please God. The mind is a very powerful tool and it does not surrender easily to a new order of living. It wants to retain control over the body and is literally at war over the possession of your immortal soul. The very good news is that if you desire God He has always desired you. When you are sincere and ready for Him then buckle your seatbelt because chances are you will be in for a very rocky ride but the gain is the highest of the high. The peak is the very top plateau of all existence. It is much larger than life itself because the trophy is directly from God, the Creator of all things on earth and in Heaven. It is through the body of Christ that you can get there but you will need to “let go and let God” have His way with you in order to get there. Selah!