Commentary on introduction to "The Christian Life"
The study of the Christian life is a noble and high calling for every believer. All books in the New Testament contain passages dealing directly with living the Christian life.
Reinder Bruinsma is the author of the lessons for this quarter. In these lessons he deals with 13 aspects of the Christian life. Each of these points must be taken seriously and addressed Biblically.
The introduction to the quarterly is entitled “Walking the Walk.” The author stresses the importance of both doctrine and experience, quoting two statements from the Bible to provide a basis for this idea. In this brief two-page introduction, the author confuses two very different things. The author seems to equate experience with living the Christian life. Jesus, his apostles and others throughout the New Testament are careful to distinguish between the experiences one has and the life one is called to live. Our experiences do not define our life in Christ. It is Christ, his life, death and resurrection that gives definition to our experiences. In fact, it is the cross and blood of Christ by which the believer overcomes all circumstances and experiences in this life.
Modern writers like John Stott, Watchman Nee, J. I. Packer, John Piper, C. J. Mahaney, C. S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, A. W. Tozer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (quoted on p. 118 of the quarterly) and numerous other Christian authors have provided an abundance of material expressing Biblical teachings as they impact the life of a Christian in a fallen world.
On reading these modern Christian authors, there is a theme that is solidly front and center and from which flows the Christian’s desire to live in submission to a holy God. That theme is Christ, and him crucified. When comparing many of these modern Christian authors to the New Testament Biblical writers, the same reality is presented as the only foundation on which we can begin to build our life in Christ.
Watchman Nee's perspective
Watchman Nee in The Normal Christian Life carefully presents the Biblical argument for the Christian life. “We shall see that the Blood deals with what we have done, whereas the Cross deals with what we are. The Blood disposes of our sins, while the Cross strikes at the root of our capacity for sin.” (p. 11.) “The Blood is for atonement and has to do first with our standing before God.” (p. 13)
How are we to abide in this present life? We are to abide in Christ. Nee provides a wonderful insight based on Romans 6:3. “… God has dealt with us in Christ. This is summed up in the apostle’s next statement: ‘All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death’ (Rom. 6.3).
"But if God has dealt with us ‘in Christ Jesus’ then we have got to be in Him for this to become effective, and that now seems just as big a problem. How are we to ‘get into’ Christ? Here again God comes to our help. We have in fact no way of getting in, but, what is more important, we need not try to get in, for we are in. What we could not do for ourselves, God has done for us. He has put us into Christ. Let me remind you of 1 Corinthians 1.30. I think that is one of the best verses of the whole New Testament: ‘Ye are in Christ.’ How? ‘Of him [that is, ‘of God’] are ye in Christ.’ Praise God! It is not left to us either to devise a way of entry or to work it out.” (p. 29-30.)
“Many a time when preaching in the villages of China one has to use very simple illustrations for deep divine truth. I remember once I took up a small book and put a piece of paper into it, and I said to those very simple folk, ‘Now look carefully. I take a piece of paper. It has an identity of its own, quite separate from this book. Having no special purpose for it at the moment I put it into the book. Now I do something with the book. I post it to Shanghai. It do not post the paper, but the paper has been put into the book. Then where is the paper? Can the book go to Shanghai and the paper remain here? Can the paper have a separate destiny from the book? No! Where the book goes the paper goes. If I drop the book in the river the paper goes too, and if I quickly take it out again I recover the paper also. Whatever experience the book goes through the paper goes through with it, for it is still there in the book.’” (p. 30)
What the Christian needs to live a transformed life is provided in Christ. When Christ was leaving this world, he promised that he would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit. It is quite one thing to study the fruit of the Spirit, and the commandments of Christ that are contained in the 13 lessons of the Sabbath school Quarterly. It is entirely another thing to live in Christ, and to have Christ live in us through God the Spirit.
An important historical fact is recorded for us in the book of Acts. Acts 19:1-3 states: “And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.”
Once one has received Christ and his baptism of the Holy Spirit one can then begin living a life of holiness.
“What is holiness? Many people think that we become holy by the eradication of something evil within. No, we become holy by being separated unto God. In Old Testament times, it was when a man was chosen by God to be altogether His that he was publicly anointed with oil and was then said to be ‘sanctified’. Thereafter he was regarded as set apart to God. In the same manner even animals or material things – a lamb, or gold of the temple – could be sanctified, not by the eradication of anything evil in them, but by being thus reserved exclusively to the Lord. ‘Holiness’ in the Hebrew sense meant something thus set apart, and all true holiness is holiness ‘to the Lord’ (Exod. 28.36). I give myself over wholly to Christ: that is holiness.” (p. 69)
Problems with the cover picture
One item must be addressed before the lessons are underway. This is found on the cover of the quarterly. There is an image that shows Jesus standing and pointing, with four people standing with him and looking. Three of these people are failing to do what Jesus requires. They are looking away from this depiction of Jesus in the direction he is pointing while one man is doing what believers must do – what we are called to do, and that is not to look away from Christ but to look to Christ.
In all false religion and false systems in this world, whether one acknowledges Christ as Lord or not, the Jesus that is taught is a way-shower, he is the one pointing the way. He is the one identifying for us, how life is to be lived. He is pointing to truth. These are all a distortion. Jesus is not the way-shower, He is the way. Just as when driving down a road one sees a sign stating your destination and how many miles to that destination. One does not pull the car to the side of the road and climb up that sign and hold onto that sign to reach your destination. One stays on the road, you stay on the way that brings you to your destination.
Jesus is not pointing the way, He is the way. Jesus is not pointing out how to live life, He is life. The Jesus on the front of the quarterly is pointing away from Himself. The Jesus in the gospels points to himself because He is the life. Jesus does not point out truth, He doesn’t say this is truth, He says I am truth. Any Jesus that points out truth without saying I am truth, opposes the fact that Jesus is truth.
This is another Jesus.
What about worship?
The items to be covered this quarter are stated in the titles of each weeks’ study. Love, faith, hope, life, etc. Every one of these is an important area of the Christian life. But these 13 weeks do not include at least one week on being filled with the Holy Spirit so that one can be loving, faithful and filled with hope. It does not show the ultimate call of every believer to fall at the feet of the savior and worship Him. This is the highest calling. This is the Christian life, to fall and be broken on the Rock that He may receive all the glory, honor and praise.
Jesus must be the origin, focus and final objective of all we stand for or attempt to accomplish as believers. In the 160 pages of the Teachers Quarterly, there are four pages that appear to present the centrality of Christ, His cross and His blood as the all-consuming passion of the believer. However, as each of these is addressed, the focus is taken away from Christ.
The four passages are as follows: Lesson 2, p. 20, The Basis of Our Faith. After introducing a hymn about Jesus’ blood and righteousness, the author goes on to emphasize the faith of Paul and the faith of the believer. Unfortunately, this distracts from the author of our faith; Lesson 7, p. 82, What Happened at Calvary. The author begins by identifying the “discussion among theologians” and after a nice presentation of the concept of substitution, is distracted from Christ to our response to “the complimentary, subjective side to the plan of salvation.”; Lesson 10, p. 122, The Lordship of Jesus Christ discusses the use of the title “Lord” then dissolves into the typical statement about the “true follower of Jesus, a true disciple, will obey His commandments” with all that implies in the life of a Seventh-day Adventist; and Lesson 12, p. 146, The Church’s Foundation is the typical discussion about the fact that Peter is not the “rock” that Jesus was to build His church upon. (It is only the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), and the SDA church’s teachings about the RCC that indicates that Peter is believed in as the “rock” on which Jesus built his church.)
In the 160 pages of the Teacher’s edition of the quarterly, much less than one tenth is devoted to lifting up Christ to the glory of the Father. The Christian life is to be wholly devoted to lifting up Christ. The failure of a Christian to lift up Jesus is a failed Christian life. As John Piper stated, it is a “wasted life.”
The Christian life is the highest calling. It is never a life of things, even spiritual things. It is a life of constant worship and praise and joy. Man was created to glorify God. Our highest calling is in worship of God. Anything short of this is a striving and chasing after the wind.
May the Lord Jesus be your focus, your meditation and your only objective as you seek to serve him better.
Copyright 2008-9 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised March 21, 2009. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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