A Christian in a Non-Christian World - Part 3
It is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a person by the Holy Spirit when He calls him or her to be a true believer. He not only washes us from our sins in His own blood, but also separates us from our natural love of sin and the world’s system, puts a new principle within our hearts and makes us have a practical godliness in our lives. It is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration, of being born again. It is the only certain evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification, then, is our perpetual cooperation with the Holy Spirit by obedience to the Word of God to produce practical holiness – or the habit of being of one mind with God.
In Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17, our Lord requests God to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Just as Daniel used his knowledge and understanding of God’s Word to be his filter for the information that would be thrust upon him, and later as circumstances are forced upon him, we, too, must make decisions that will make us the most holy. God, at conversion, takes the commonness of our lives and gives us a sacred cause – to love God, enjoy Him forever, and live for His glory. He qualifies us by giving us a new heart and Spirit (Ezekiel 36:22-27). If you are in Christ, like Daniel, you are sanctified, and like Daniel, we need to make decisions that do not hinder our sanctification, our progressive separation.
This is not an option for the true believer, the person who desires to live a Christian life in an non-Christian world. Do not say today that it is a matter of opinion for if it be a matter of opinion today it will be a matter of practice tomorrow. No one has an error in judgment without sooner or later having an error in practice. When in doubt of what to do because there is no clear biblical injunction, decide for that alternative that will not hinder your personal sanctification; decide, whatever the cost, for that option that will make you the most holy.
A Christian in a Non-Christian World – Part 3
Introduction: In our study of the life of young Daniel as recorded for us in the first chapter of the book bearing his name, we learned that the first characteristic of a Christian in an non-Christian world is to have an uncompromising spirit The character of an uncompromising spirit is based upon absolute obedience to the principles of God’s Word; when the Scriptures reveal principles of conduct consistent with the character of Christ, don’t compromise them. This insight does pose a problem that needs to be addressed. What about those times when the Bible doesn’t specifically state something or make it absolute? What do we do then? We do what Daniel did as he was subjected to the reeducation process of the Chaldeans; use the Word as a grid to sift or filter the information he was going to receive. It was his knowledge and confidence in the Scripture and it’s author that gave Daniel the freedom to say yes to one thing and no to another.
The Scriptures do not cover every possible situation yet we do have all the information we need to make decisions that are consistent with our calling. The Apostle Paul also gives us some assistance in dealing with this important issue. Let’s examine Paul’s statements in 1 Cor. 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. And 1 Corinthians 10:23 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. We are given three principles of liberty and limitation for decision-making when the Scripture does not cover a given situation, to guide us as we enter into the “gray areas” of life. While we have freedom in Christ (“Everything is permissible”) notice the limitation of Christian liberty. It is threefold –
“…..but not everything is beneficial.”
“…..but I will not be mastered by anything.”
“…..but not everything is constructive.”
We have a threefold test of how far we can use the lawful things of life.
The test of personal progress
The test of personal authority
The test of personal relationships
First, the test of personal progress. The word translated “beneficial” literally means, “to carry together”, that is “to cooperate”, and the best meaning is “profitable.” (NASB). Art is lawful; also music, science, athletics, and entertainment – all are lawful. But some of the things that are lawful are not profitable; they will not hasten the progress of development into perfect union with Christ; they will not help us “cooperate” with God in what He is doing in our lives. That is the first principle as to the things we may do, or may not do. There are a myriad of things lawful to us that are not profitable, that will not help us progress in our relationship with Christ. Ask yourself this question – is this something which ministers to my development so that I may fill my place in God’s ultimate will and intention? Friends, you have to know yourself well enough, where you are weak or strong, in order to answer that question honestly, accurately, and correctly.
Secondly, is the test of personal authority. Here is another great truth. The person submitted to Christ must submit to nothing else. The person under the authority of Christ must have no other authority over his/her life. We must test all our liberties by this principle: this thing is lawful but it must not master me. As Christians, we assess our liberty by recognizing its limitations; our liberty to use anything perishes when the thing we use becomes our master and we become its slave. Money, knowledge, career, love, for example, are all lawful to us but we will not be brought under their power. This thing may be lawful to us, but if this thing, this habit, this friendship, or manner of thinking, or passion of living, masters us, then have we not lost our liberty? All things are lawful but you are Christ’s. Keep that balance of relationship and you will be safe; change it and you are in peril. Only One is your master, even Christ, and all things are lawful to you, but you must not let them master you. If for once the innocent, legitimate, proper thing becomes master it is no longer innocent, it is absolutely illegitimate, it is unutterably improper.
One more test: the test of personal relationships. This deals with our social interaction with others. The idea here is edification. All things are lawful but there are some things which if we take and use we shall not build our neighbor up by doing so. This does not mean that we become slaves to people’s opinions or expectations but it does mean, “we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another (Roman 14:19).” We must bear in mind that along with the necessity for our own maturation in Christ is the necessity of contributing to the building up of my brother’s and sister’s strength, and the thing that does not build up is no longer lawful to a Christian person.
We make a terrible mistake if we imagine that we may exercise our liberty by indiscriminate use of the things that are lawful. The tender, strong love of God in Christ lays restrictions on our liberty and sets limits to the liberty in which Christ has made us free, and to keep within the limits is to live in gracious liberty in the gray areas of life, not covered specifically by His Word.
Characteristics of a Separated Life: An Unhindered Sanctification (v. 11-15): Sanctify means “to set apart; to purify, to make holy.” There are two features of sanctification – taking that which is common and giving it a sacred cause and taking the object to be sanctified and qualifying it for its sacred task. Sanctification is progressive separation.
Decide for the side of holiness for it not only pleases the Father, but also it is a guarantee that we will be in the midst of His will (1 Thess. 4:3). We must never forget that God never has and never will use the means of man for redeeming His own; He will use man as the means. Decide for the side of holiness; decide for the side of separation.
What amazes me about the mindset that is so concerned with modern methods is its pathetic ignorance. That idea that you are going to win people to the Christian faith by showing them that after all, you are remarkably like them, is theologically and psychologically a profound blunder. Those who embrace such a strategy do not seem to know human nature. The fact is the world expects the true believer to be different, not just slightly different, but significantly different. The world expects us to be holy because we are associated with the name of Jesus; they probably expect us to be more holy than we expect ourselves to be.
Conclusion: The New Testament teaching is that the entire system of the world is out to brainwash us, is all wrong, and so is the person who is aligned with that system. That person’s particular views are wrong because his whole view is wrong, because he himself is wrong. That’s why people need a savior. Daniel knew that about King Nebuchadnezzar and his system because Daniel knew his scripture and that’s why he could handle the learning of the Chaldeans. Evidence of the fact that Daniel chose the side of personal holiness is found later on in the book. No doubt some of the other young Hebrew captives, even ones who may have called themselves “children of God” approached him with the ill fated logic that “he could be of more good by living and that dying would cut short opportunities for usefulness and ministry.” To that deceitful method of reasoning, Charles Spurgeon states, “They remain where their conscience tells them they ought not to be, because, they say, they are more useful than they would be if they went without the camp. This is doing evil that good may come, and can never be tolerated by an enlightened conscience. If an act of sin would increase my usefulness tenfold, I have no right to do it; and if an act of righteousness would appear likely to destroy all my apparent usefulness, I am yet to do it. It is yours and mine to do right though the heavens may fall, and follow the command of Christ whatever the consequences may be.”
Pursue holiness when in doubt; consequences and usefulness are nothing to us – God controls them; duty and right are to be our guides. These were Daniel’s guides.