Living the Christian Life Isn't Your Job

By Bud Brown

Okay, you've entered into eternal life by believing in Jesus.

Now what?

The answer given most frequently is a "do this, don't do that" formula. Read your Bible, pray regularly, attend church, share your faith. Oh, and don't forget to tithe. Avoid the movie theater, stay out of dance halls and nightclubs, ignore others when pushing your grocery cart down the liquor aisle and never, ever touch playing cards.

Isn't it ironic churches committed to the message of "salvation by faith alone in Jesus alone" veer off track when conversation turns from entering into eternal life to living out of eternal life?

However you slice it, no matter what's your list of "do this, don't do that" and regardless of how you define the terms, we who believe in grace often dissolve grace back into a toxic bath of regulations. We become preachers of law. Prosperity preachers ("God will bless you if you just try harder to do things his way"), social gospelites ("We can restore peace and justice to the world if we follow Jesus' Sermon on the Mount") or your run of the mill Evangelical church all fall into the same trap.

Here's why it's a problem: according to scripture, living the "Christian life" or the sanctified life isn't your job.

It's Jesus' job. It's the Holy Spirit's job.

Let me explain.

The largest portion of scripture focused on this is in Paul's letter to the churches in Rome. In the first four chapters Paul explains how sinners (Romans 2-3) avoid God's wrath (Romans 1:18-32) by faith (Romans 4). Then he moves into a detailed explanation of how believers live at peace with God (Romans 5-8).

He sets the stage by comparing the two alternatives before us in Romans 5:12-20. We can choose the way of Adam (and sin and death and bondage) or the way of Jesus (and righteousness and life and freedom). Chapter 6 identifies our status before God - sometimes referred to as our positional status or positional truth - as people who died, were buried and were raised to new life with Jesus. The last verse in this chapter, Romans 6:23, ends with a warning and a promise, both addressed to believers!

Romans 7 outlines the futility of trying to live the Christian life with the "do this, don't do that" mentality. It always ends in futility, frustration and defeat. Why because law's purpose isn't to make us good people; in fact, it inflames our desire for sin.

If that's the case then how are we supposed to live the Christian life? Romans 8 spells it out: by walking in the Spirit (8:4), which we do by setting our minds on "the things of the Spirit" (8:5). The Holy Spirit - the very life of Jesus himself (Galatians 2:20) - inhabits us. It is the supernatural power of God alone that "lives the life" through us.

Catch this. Romans 5-8 is the definitive passage on living the Christian life. But there are only four instructions about what we are supposed to do, all of them in chapter 6. To live the Christian life we have to:

Reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (6:11)

Don't let sin reign in our bodies (6:12)

Don't present our bodies' parts to sin (6:13)

Present ourselves to God as resurrected ones (6:13)

The Christian life is lived in the same way it is entered: by believing God's promises about what Jesus has accomplished for us. Our task is to believe the fact that God imputes the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to us. We are to believe the fact that the life of Jesus himself inhabits us. We are to tell ourselves, "Nope, I don't have to do this sinful thing - much as I may want to. Lord, I'm presenting myself to you in this moment, relying on the indwelling life of Jesus to resist this sin because I can't do it myself."

The only thing you bring to living the Christian life is the same thing you brought to entering it, your sin and your faith.

It's his job to live the life of Christ through you.