Yes! Let’s live for Christ! Already, I feel that some eyebrows have raised . . . perhaps because “living for Christ” has the same ring to it as does “Crusade for Christ” or “Youth for Christ.” And that ring is the ring of Arminianism. Sometimes I think that we are so afraid of anything that sounds like Arminianism that we automatically shove it aside. But again I say, “Yes, Let’s live for Christ!”
Ever since I can remember, I have been taught in church and in catechism classes that there are three things that every Christian must know. First, we must know how great our sins and miseries are. We must know how great a salvation we have and from whence it comes — and we must live a life of gratitude. These three things are also known as the three S’s . . . Sin, Salvation, and Service.
Now we have heard a lot about these three things. They are spoken of in the Heidelberg Catechism …. I believe in question and answer two. We would all agree that they are the basics. These three things just about sum up a Christian’s existence. We are born dead in sins and miseries. For by Adam came death. He fell, we fell. It is very, very necessary that anyone who comes to Christ knows that he is such a sinner — hopeless in himself. And, in the second place, it is necessary to know that Christ is the means of escape. For as Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. Any man that cometh unto me shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
That is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The darkness of sin overcome by light. The Light of the Scriptures. Again I say, beautiful. For the scheme of sin and salvation—also often referred to as “sin and grace”—is what brings us to heaven and gives us our hope for the future . . . we look for a “city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Adam died and brought us all death, Christ died and brought us all life.
But, we forgot a point. And I have long thought that the sermons we hear do not emphasize that point enough. We have heard all the time of “sin and grace.” We have heard of its development. We have heard of the Reformed truths — and truths they are. But they deal — almost exclusively — with sin and salvation, leaving nothing for service. Let me clarify what I mean. Take the five points of Calvinism . . . the TULIP. These points have been drilled into us. And I know that you know them, but let’s go through them a minute.
First, then, “Total depravity.” This means simply that we are all completely dead in sins; that we are not able in ourselves to do any good; and that our nature itself is in bondage to Satan. That basically says what total depravity is . . . the condition we find ourselves in without Christ.
The second is “Unconditional election.” This is a statement that we are elected not because of anything we did, or that God knew we would accept Christ, and therefore chose us, or that we are elect if we accept Christ. In other words, unconditional election states that God chose us before birth without regard to anything we would do.
“Limited atonement.” This is just what it appears to be. Christ died — not for all men indiscriminately, but only for those whom God had chosen. That Christ’s blood is accounted for — every drop. Christ died for an exact number of people and only those receive the benefits of His death.
The fourth petal the TULIP consists of is “Irresistible grace.” God’s grace can’t be thwarted by man. If God has chosen one, that one will ultimately be saved — no doubts about it. For God is sovereign and with God, to will is to do.
Finally, the last point it contains is “Perseverance — or Preservations of Saints.” Either wording is essentially the same. This means that those whom God has chosen; that Christ has died for; and the Spirit has drawn will be saved unto the very end. Nothing will take one of God’s elect from Him. I can’t help but add a verse of Scripture here that is so very beautiful and that emphasizes this last petal of the TULIP, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38 and 39.
Now, I don’t claim that I have given an adequate explanation of the five points. But I do feel that I have given a basic description of what those points involve. Now look them over. What do you see? Sin and salvation are prominent in total depravity and limited atonement, and the other points emphasize other facets of God’s work in salvation. But where is service? You don’t find it there, do you?
And this is the point that I wanted to make. We dwell on the first two S’s, and seem to nearly forget the last one. And that is a shame. For if we were just saved for the purpose of being saved — we could just as well be immediately transformed into a heavenly body at the time of our realizing that Christ is our Savior. Why not? If that’s all there is to it? But it isn’t. We are saved for a purpose. We read of it in I Peter 2:9b “that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
After reading what I have written so far, some people might agree with me. They might agree that we don’t emphasize service enough. They might agree that we must live a life of gratitude. But that title, “Living for Christ” still scares them away. They maybe are asking, “wouldn’t it be better to say, “Living in Christ?”
To that I want to say this. We indeed live in Christ. It is in Christ that we have our salvation. It is in Him that we put our trust and find our strength. Scripture is full of verses that state that we are in Him, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works that God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. But not only do we live in Christ, Christ lives in us! And because He lives within us, our bodies are temples of His spirit and we must live for Christ! What does this mean? Look back at the verse I quoted. What does it say our purpose is? To walk in good works. Isn’t that living for Christ?
In Romans 8:2, Paul says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Free from the law of sin and death! Now that has to bring something more than personal comfort and peace. It must make us want to live for Him that died for us! What a Savior! Doesn’t it make you want to shout? To sing? All right. So now, let’s look at that third “S” . . . Service. In the catechism it speaks of it as a “life of gratitude.” What does that mean? First of all, it means that the law that used to be the condemning finger that pointed at us and convicted us of sin is now a guide for a life of gratitude. That’s what the catechism says when it deals with the Ten Commandments. It says that those commandments are a rule for a life of gratitude.
You know, when Rev. Lubbers was the minister at Southwest — my home church — he always said when he read the Ten Commandments in the service — “the law as the rule for a life of gratitude.” I’m glad he did. He made me see it more clearly than I had ever seen it. So many of us are like the Jews —the Pharisees — who were so very law conscious. We are still afraid of the law, because we know we are sinners. This is only natural, I guess. But we don’t see the law as a vehicle to better serve God. The law is the basis for our life. The law is stated negatively, but the Christian must live it positively. The law says, “Thou shalt not steal.” The Christian must not just try to keep himself from stealing. He must see the positive side. He must see that now, not only can he not take from others — he must give to others. And it’s that way with the whole law. It implies how we should live.
Faith must be the rule for our new life. We must have faith in Christ and in His promises. But faith is worthless, unless it is coupled with good works. For James 2:6 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (Read the rest of the book of James —it is short and beautifully tells how we must live in good works.)
What are some good examples of living for Christ? We must live in a way that all can see Christ within us. Live in peace with others. Work in the Church. Give readily for the benefit of the poor . . . not only those in your local church, but all the poor. Give of your time to help others. Reach out to your unsaved friends. Share the blessed news of salvation. It is a blessed thing, a glorious thing, something that so many do not have. Visit the sick and the people who can’t get out, those who are old and forgotten. These are all ways to live for Christ who lives in you. It is hard to list specific things or ways to live for Christ because each person’s life and circumstances are different. But Romans 12:1 describes what the attitude of each of us should be, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”