Traveling in both Canada and the United States I have discovered that on the material level there is a great variety of standards of living, and the variety that can be seen materially is also visible spiritually. Midst the rampant materialism of this present age, what is your spiritual standard of living as a Christian? Our Saviour-God has both purposed and provided that we should live a victorious Christian life, yet such a life among God’s people today seems to be the exception, not the rule. It was so at Corinth in Paul’s day. Some, who had been living a true standard life, were actually living a very low standard life. Such were called “carnal” (1 Cor. 3:1-4), for they were immature, party-spirited, envious, walking like natural men (i.e., the unsaved), and “dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11).
Therefore, the question is asked, “How may I rise from the low or mediocre standard to the true, high standard of a victorious Christian life?” It is the purpose of this study to try and intelligently answer this important question by consulting the Holy Scriptures. Our first consideration in regard to this question and its attending subject is
Its Profound Significance (1 Cor. 2:14-3:4)
Right at the outset of our study there are two things we need to clarify immediately. First of all, in order to live a victorious Christian life a person must be a Christian — he must be “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17). Many are trying to live a Christian life who have never been born again. A person becomes a Christian not by heredity, self-determination, the religious ceremonies of man, the keeping of ordinances, environment, education, or by joining a church, but by receiving a Person — the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13). Secondly, living a victorious Christian life does not mean living a life of sinless perfection. Paul readily answers this aspect himself (Phil. 3:12-14), no one having lived any more victoriously in Christ than he, yet making no claim to sinless perfection in his practice.
Living a victorious Christian life is realizing that we are in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He in us (John 14:20), the key to Paul’s victorious Christian life being summed up in his own words in Galatians 2:20—”not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
It was Captain Reginald Wallis who said that the greatest thing he had learned since becoming a Christian was that he could not live the Christian life. Rather, Christ, in all His fulness, must be permitted to live in and through us, not just on the threshold but on the throne of our lives, for only then can genuine spiritual growth, practical holiness, and conformity to Christ be as they ought to be in our daily experience.
We come now to the second main consideration of our subject, being a development of what has been briefly set forth in our preceding comments, and that is
Its Primary Secret (Rom. 6:1-13)
The Christian’s union with Christ not only involves the blessed reality of his being in Christ, and of Christ being in him, but also his identification with Christ in the Saviour’s death, burial and resurrection. Someone may say, “Well, theoretically, this is all fine, but what about the practical reality of it in our experience?” The secret and thus the answer, to such a valid query is clearly revealed in Romans 6:1-13, there being three key words to lay hold of in this classic passage. The first one is:
“Know” (Rom. 6:3). God wants us to know that, having truly believed on Christ, we have been judicially identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. This is not something we attain to, nor is it some sort of crisis which takes place in the believer’s life through something he does. Rather, this is a fact which is true of all believers from the moment of their salvation. We individually believed on Christ for salvation in view of our knowing what He did for us at Calvary; now we need to know and believe that we died with Him on Calvary, that our old sin nature — the cause of all our trouble — was nailed to Christ’s cross.
How does this operate in our actual experience? This question is answered by the second key word in our passage:
“Reckon” (Rom. 6:11). The reality of our identification with Christ, and its consequent power, comes in response to our reckoning on this great truth, the Holy Spirit our re-source in the matter (Rom. 8:13). We need to reckon that as Christ died to sin, so also have we died to sin. In other words, I am done with it; sin and I have parted forever. And not only do I reckon that I am dead unto sin, but that I am “alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
One of the best definitions of a Christian is that he is a man back from the dead. This is exactly what Paul is teaching here, as well as in Galatians 2:20.
Finally, our third key word is:
“Yield” (Rom. 6:13 with vs. 16-18). Sin must not be allowed to reign in our mortal bodies; we must not obey its lusts (Rom. 6:12). Instead of continually yielding my members as instruments of unrighteousness, I must once-for-all yield myself to God, even as there is that added sense wherein I should daily, hourly and momentarily yield myself to Him, remembering that heart-obedience is the secret of being God’s free man—free in Christ from the reigning power of sin.
We come now to the third main thing in this important matter of victorious Christian living
Its Practical Safeguards (Acts 2:42)
In order to live a victorious Christian life we need to be in that place whereby we can appropriate the provisions and resources our Lord has given to us. To carry out, in life and practice, the example of the early Christians will, in large measure, assure us of being in that place, so this is the reason for directing you to Acts 2:42. Like the early Christians at Jerusalem, we need to continue stedfastly in:
1. “The apostles’s doctrine” (at that time referring specifically to the oral teaching of the apostles concerning the facts and meaning of Christ’s life, but for us today embracing the N.T. Scriptures). In other words, the daily and diligent reading and study of the Bible is of utmost importance in the believer’s life (cf. Josh. 1:8-9; Psa. 119:105, also vs. 9 and 11; Jer. 15:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:2).
2. “Fellowship” (the sharing of spiritual blessings and material mercies, genuine Christian fellowship being one of the greatest blessings this side of glory; cf. Heb. 10:25).
3. “Breaking of bread” (the remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Supper; cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23ff).
4. “Prayers” (cf. Psa. 5:3; Dan. 6:10; Luke 18:1; Acts 1:14; 6:4; 13: 1-3; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6-7; Col. 2:1; 4:2, 12-13; Jude 20).
In concluding our comments on the “how” of victorious Christian living, consider—
Its Promised Sequel (1 Cor. 9:24-27)
Having redeemed us by His marvelous and matchless grace, the Lord desires to reward us for faithful service. One of the five New Testament “crowns” (ie., rewards) proffered to Christians is the “Incorruptible Crown,” having been referred to by some as the reward for victorious Christian living (1 Cor. 9:25-26). It is within the grasp of every Christian and should be sought with all diligence as a sequal to a victorious Christ-centered, Christ-empowered life, all such crowns being made possible through Him who was willing to wear that “crown of thorns”, (Matt. 27:29). However, there is a price to be paid and, as A. Plummer has summarily said, “No cross, no crown.”
“What we need,” writes Erich Sauer, “is a permanent attitude of faith, a continual, practical ‘Yes’ to the Lord, which at the same time means an actual ‘No’ to sin, a living practical fellowship with Christ as the Crucified and Risen One” (In the Arena of Faith, p. 187).
The provisions for a victorious Christian life are at our disposal; it remains for us to possess and use them.