I want to look at some basic teaching concerning the Christian life in this post, I will be trying to avoid both legalism and antinomianism because both extremes do harm to the body of Christ. Over the years I have found an old hymn helpful in keeping a balanced perspective, so I am going to structure this post round its verses.
1 When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
The writer of this hymn sees the necessity of living the Christian life in the light of the Word of God.
the Apostle Paul made this clear when he wrote to Timothy,he says
16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, 17 in order that the person of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ( 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Our Lord Jesus says the same thing when he prays for his followers,
17 Sanctify them in the truth—your word is truth. (John17:17)
Jesus put a high priority on the Word of God, he quoted it often and lived in obedience to it. He calls us to that same obedience,
9 “Just as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have spoken these things to you in order that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be made complete. (John 15:9-11)
One of the signs of our abiding in Christ is our obedience to His commands, we need to understand that when Jesus gives us his commands he gives them so that we become more like him. Many in today’s Church will say that as soon as we talk of commands, we are becoming legalistic, this is not true. We need to regain the love for God.s word that the Psalmist had in Psalm 119, he felt that God’s word set him free to be the person God had created him to be.(take some time to read the whole Psalm and you will see the importance of the word of god for daily living)
The hymn writer rightly calls us to trust and obey, this is not legalism but rather trusting the God of grace and by responding to his word affirming our trust in him. As we trust him and walk in his ways, we will be happy in Jesus.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
2 Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey. [Refrain]
The hymn writer was conscious that as we walk in the light of God’s word, that we would experience God’s smile. When we know that we are walking with the Lord, we will know that we are pleasing him. When we abide in Christ there may be a pruning to be done but we will be aware that he who prunes us is the our Heavenly Father.(read John 15 prayerfully and you will be blessed and challenged) Our problems don’t disappear but they they take on a different perspective. We begin to see things God’s way and then we can begin to rejoice in our God whatever happens.
3 Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey. [Refrain]
The hymn writer is quite realistic here, problems and troubles are expected. This is is in keeping with the whole of the Bible’s teaching, there is no false triumphalism here. Yet as we trust and obey, we will know the presence of the Lord and that will put everything else in perspective. Romans 8 is a chapter which talk about the triumph of God’s grace in the midst of trials and this vers reminds me of Romans 8:28f.
28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose, 29 because those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brothers
Somehow God works all thing together for our good, sometimes we cannot understand what he is doing but as we walk in faith and obedience, we can have a confidence that he does all things well.
4 But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey. [Refrain]
This is another important point, we can’t prove the delights of his love until we have put our lives on the altar. The apostle Paul in Romans 12 gives us the key to understanding this verse,
Therefore I exhort you, brothers, through the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may approve what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.
This passage shows us clearly that our laying all on the altar is a response to God’s mercy and grace. If we don’t keep this in mind, we can see this imagery as something morbid and the passage shows us that is not that. Romans 12 shows us that as we offer our lives as a living sacrifice and our minds are renewed, we will know what god’s will is for us. So often we complain that that we don’t know the way forward and we need guidance, but here is the solution to the problem. If we want to hear the voice,of God we need to abide in Christ and offer ourselves afresh to God.
5 Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey. [Refrain]
The fruit of being a living sacrifice is a life of intimacy with God, what more could we ask for. You see this pattern in the life of the apostolic church, time after time we see the power of god being displayed in answer to prayer. Pentecost starts with intimacy as the disciples gathered in the upper room to pray. When they were being persecuted they cried out in prayer, read this prayer and see its consequences,
And when they were released, they went to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they* heard it,* they lifted their voices with one mind to God and said, “Master, you are the one who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them, 25 the one who said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant,
‘Why do the nations rage,
and the peoples conspire in vain?
26 The kings of the earth stood opposed,
and the rulers assembled together at the same place,
against the Lord and against his Christ.’
27 For in truth both Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, 28 to do all that your hand and plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, concern yourself with their threats and grant your slaves to speak your message with all boldness, 30 as you extend your hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when* they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak* the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31)
Here we see a Church that is determined to carry out the mission of Christ even though it would arouse opposition. These believers recognised the sovereignty of God and this encouraged them to pray,knowing that he was close to them.
There is much more that I could write on this theme but these are the main points I wanted to make.
I close with a question, will you walk with the Lord in the light of His word?