And Now To Live The Life

We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners” know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified. But if we ourselves are also found to be “sinners” while seeking to be justified by Christ, is Christ then a promoter of sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild the system I tore down, I show myself to be a lawbreaker. For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
-Galatians 2:15-21

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What is a Christian?  You might say that Christians are persons with certain knowledge, beliefs, or faith that is correct 'doctrine about Christ', for example: Son of God, died for our sins and rose from the dead, and perhaps a few more things.  

Some people think you have to be baptized, and usually the right way, in their view, to be a Christian.  Other Christians think that if you do not speak in tongues, you are not saved and not Christian.  Some Christians see others as fakes or heretics, if they do not believe or practice what they believe and practice.

Some groups are very sectarian, in that they do not recognize other Christians as being Christians and they see something other than Christ as the marker of the Christian.  They do not believe in unity, but want other Christians, so-called, to conform to their beliefs and practices.

Many Christians define themselves by their sect, tribe, theological school of thought, denomination, or movement.  All of these are dividers.  Where are the churches, the Christians, who love, who fellowship with, who commune with other tribes, and groups who are not the same as them?

Christ and his cross, God's work in Christ is the way.  It is a narrow path, and that path goes through one person, Christ.  It is highly personal.

A naked man, who is the Son of God, dying on the cross for you.  You believe and give up everything for him, and he begins to live through you.  His life loves others.  That is the definition of a Christian.

A Christian is not defined by What you believe, what you do, or how you do what you do.  You can go ahead and define people that way, but that is a human point of view, like defining people by their skin or hair color.

Do you think that God gives doctrinal or theological tests to decide if you are in or out?  Do you think that any ceremony or sacrament saves you other than the precious Son of God?

"Christians" who see ALL other Christians as heretics or worse are what we call bigots:
a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person;especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)
When you call someone a 'bigot' because they teach or believe something that you do not teach or believe, you have proven you are the bigot and have sunken to name calling, rather than discussion or debate, with brothers or sisters you disagree with.  That's not love.

Jesus said that his followers would be known by their love (John 13:35).  Paul sums up the Christian's life defined, by saying, "The life I now life, in the body, I live the faithfulness of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).  The Christian is a person in Christ.

To be in Christ, one must have faith in Christ.  But that one may not know much else besides, "He loves me", and "He saves me".  And that is enough, period.

When you see Him, see His love for you, and say, "yes save me, Jesus", you are saved, you are a Christian, you are now in Christ.  Celebration time.

As this new year begins, I am pondering this issue of, "the life I now live", and the principle that as Christians, we are known by our love.  The new command of Jesus is love.  In Galatians, Paul writes about justification by faith, not by legalism to the old law or to a new set of ceremonial and jurisdictional laws.

It is funny in a sad way, that in Galatians 2, Paul confronts the issue of legalism.  He basically says, following the law is good and fine, but forcing, compelling other Christians to live by the law: food or ceremonial laws, and implying they are not saved, and making a religion out of that, is flat out wrong.

What is crazy and wrong is when we insist that people do what we say they should do, and the "thing to do" is often in the scriptures, or we will not recognize them as Christians.

Jesus said that his followers would be known by their love for one another and that means for all Christians.  Jesus also said that his followers would give up their lives for his life.  And Paul expounds upon that, telling us that basically a Christian is a person in Christ.

The life that I now live is by his faithfulness.  His faithfulness is manifested in my life through his grace (Gal. 2:21).  We live the life in him, by his faithfulness, and through his grace.

Before Paul says, "The life I now live", he says that he has been crucified in Christ and he no longer lives, but Christ lives through his life.  That is the Christian life.  In the cross, you die; but his resurrection life lives in you.

The Christian life is lived through Jesus' resurrection life.  That is it.  He works that in and we work it out (Phil. 2:12).  And this word, in Philippians, comes in the context of 17 verses.  These say that the life, the salvation he works in, that we work out is his love.  It is the love life.

The Christian life starts with love and works through love.  Don't forget his faithfulness and it manifesting or happening, as in locomotion, by his grace.  The obedience Paul is writing about is the obedience to love.

My "job" every day, is to live in his love.  I am loved.  I am his beloved and he is mine.  I am accepted and received in the beloved.  These are the thoughts that animate my day.

I am stressed, feel sick, suffer injustice, am rejected, feel lost, and feel forgotten sometimes.  The antidote for all these is love, God's love for me.  He takes care of his children.

It is not a cheery life verse, but I have always, in my adult life, loved Job's cry about God, "Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him."  Wow.  Many of David's psalms are psalms of lament.  It is said that lament is the highest form of worship.

We are allowed to say, "How long O Lord, how long?", and cry out to him with wails and tears.  The one who is hurting, is suffering, but knows they are loved and cry to God, can open their hearts to him and lay it bare and say how bad they feel and how awful it looks.  God loves our honesty and transparency.

When life is rotten, when you feel left out, sick, tired, misunderstood; turn to God and tell him.  He wants to see your heart.  That is the only way, in Christ.

The Christian life is Jesus himself, because he is going to live his life through you.  Jesus cried loudly to God (Heb. 5:7) and you can too.  One of my favorite lines in a hymn is the one that says, "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!"

Jesus said to come to him and he would give us rest (Matt. 11:28).  Religion burns you out, but Christ's life gives us rest.  His life is a life of love and resting in him.  Peaceful, loved, faithful to, and by grace.