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 (Manna 77: Integrating Faith with Life)
Living for the Lord (I)
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Living for the Lord (I)

Adapted from a sermon series by Simon Chin―Singapore

INTRODUCTION

            For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. (Rom 14:7–8)

Writing to the believers in Rome, Paul said that since they had been baptized into Christ, they should no longer live (or even die) for themselves. This message would be meaningless to those in the world who do not know God. But for believers who have been purchased by the blood of Christ, we know we belong to Him and have a duty to live for Him.

The Bible contains many examples of believers who lived and died for Christ. An example is Stephen, one of seven disciples chosen to distribute daily rations of food to the members. He was given this task because he was a man of faith, filled by the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and of good repute (Acts 6:3, 5).

On one occasion, when he was contending for the faith before learned members of a Jewish sect called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, Stephen spoke with such courage and wisdom that they could not uphold their case. So they resorted to inciting false accusations against him. Eventually, he was brought before the Jewish council to stand trial, and then dragged outside the city to be stoned. But even at such a distressing time, he knelt to pray for his persecutors; he practiced his faith. He lived for Christ and died a martyr.

What about us? Do we live for Christ?

As True Jesus Church (TJC) believers, we are abundantly blessed: Jesus came to the world to die on the cross—to redeem us from our sins and grant us the grace of being called the sons of God and the privilege of inheriting everlasting life. Even though TJC is small and unsophisticated compared with other denominations, we have the rich and abundant grace of Christ, and are able to experience signs and wonders. For example, members from across the world have witnessed the blood of Jesus Christ during water baptism—a phenomenon unique to TJC. Such visions are the work of the Holy Spirit affirming that our baptism has the power to cleanse, justify, and confer sonship.

Freely we have received this grace, and freely we should give our lives for Him.

WHY DO WE LIVE FOR CHRIST?

Because He Emptied Himself for Us

            For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Cor 5:14–15)

Jesus Christ came to the world to bring salvation to humankind. In order to do this, the Almighty and Most High God had to first empty Himself. He was born into the family of a lowly carpenter and raised in the small town of Nazareth. His time on earth was marked by hardship, insecurity and the lack of physical comforts. Jesus Himself remarked that the birds of the air had their nests, foxes had holes, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head (Mt 8:20). Paul pointed out that though Jesus was rich, He chose to become poor for our sake. And finally when He died, He died for our sins.

If we can understand the significance of Jesus' sacrifice and the great grace He has bestowed upon us, we will resolve to live for Christ.

Because He Shed His Blood to Purchase Us

             Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor 6:19–20)

The price that Jesus paid for humankind’s salvation was to be crucified and to shed His precious blood. Apart from the physical suffering that this entailed, Jesus also experienced mental anguish. Whilst on the cross, He cried out, “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46). At this point, He was carrying the weight of our sins and was separated from the Father’s presence.

Even though we were unworthy, Jesus saved us and poured out His Spirit on us, transforming our lowly bodies into the temple of the Holy Spirit. Many of us can testify how Jesus Christ brought us to the true church: some of us were born into the church; others believed on account of friends or relatives preaching to them. Either way, it is God’s grace. God did not choose us because we loved Him, but because He first loved us.

We ought not receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor 6:1–2). Unknowingly, we could be those whom the Bible refers to as “enemies of the cross of Jesus” (Phil 3:18b). They continued to live for themselves. They failed to understand and appreciate the grace of God that had come upon them and continued with their secular lifestyle even after believing in Christ.

The question we should ask ourselves, then, is: Who do we live for? Are we believers who do not put in effort to strengthen our faith, and continue to live for ourselves?

The downpouring of God’s grace is like rain being poured out on the earth. We need it in order to bear good fruit for the Lord. If, on the other hand, we bear thorns and briers, despite having known Christ and tasted His goodness, it is as if we crucify Jesus all over again. We will then be rejected by God (Heb 6:4–8).

Because He Promises Eternal Life

If there were no eternal life or judgment, we would have no reason to live for Christ. We could live for ourselves and pursue all that our heart desires. But if we believe that Jesus has promised us eternal life, we have to live for Christ.

Apostle Paul regarded his faith and his work as a race; striving for an imperishable crown (1 Cor 9:24–26). Athletes understand the glory of clinching the prize. This goal motivates them to dedicate long hours of strenuous training to prepare for the race. They discipline themselves, not just in training but also in the way they live their life. They invest so much effort just for a perishable crown. We, on the other hand, have an imperishable crown awaiting us, all the more we must fight the good fight and keep our faith.

This is one reason why we must live for Christ so that we can win that imperishable crown and receive eternal life.

HOW TO LIVE FOR CHRIST

Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness

One underpinning principle of Christian life is to be dead to sin. This means not letting ourselves be overcome by temptations. Instead, we strive for righteousness, doing what God wants us to do.

            Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Pet 2:24)

Elder Peter quotes from Isaiah 53:5, reminding us that we should be dead to sin because the stripes of the Lord have healed us. If we continue in sin, neglecting to use the shield of faith and the breastplate of righteousness, we will not live for Christ. This is the situation of some believers today: those who indulge in their lusts—e.g., viewing pornography, reading unedifying books, and watching inappropriate videos. When we allow such things to feature in our lives, we have not died to sin, and we are certainly not living for Christ.

Living for Christ also has implications for our character.

            My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. (Gal 4:19)

One of Paul’s earliest letters was written to the believers in Galatia, where some teachers were trying to propagate Jewish traditions, disturbing the members’ faith. Paul wrote to these members, telling them to make sure that Christ be formed in them.

What about us? Has Christ formed in us? Have we been transformed to be like Jesus? We cannot develop a dual character where we behave in one way inside church, and another way outside: if we behave in this manner, our thoughts, words and actions will not conform to Christ. We need to be transformed and have the nature of Christ in us; always ready to receive the word of God and have the Holy Spirit work in us to change us. Only then can we die to sin and live to righteousness.

Serve the One True God, Not the Things of the World

When we submit to God’s word and obey Him, we live for Christ. This is not easy. There will be challenges along the way: we will face criticisms, misunderstandings and obstacles, even from family members and friends; but still, we should strive to live for Christ.

When Agabus prophesied that Apostle Paul would be bound in chains should he go to Jerusalem to preach, the brethren pleaded with Paul not to go (Acts 21). Their intentions were good, but it was not helpful to Paul, who had already made a resolution—not to only be bound, “but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).

Paul knew that his ministry was to accomplish the will of God, to preach to the ends of the earth, and to live and die for Christ. As it transpired, he was indeed arrested in Jerusalem and taken to Caesarea, where he was detained for two years before being sent to Rome and put under house arrest. Nevertheless, he said:

            But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself,so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

Paul resolved to fulfill the ministry of the Lord. He did his utmost to preach the gospel widely. Even after his third missionary journey, he did not feel that his work was complete; rather, he desired to fully accomplish the Lord's will.

While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote to the Philippians: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). He expressed his desire to depart and be with the Lord, who would grant him the crown of righteousness. But he knew his work on earth was not complete—the believers still needed him. He therefore expressed his hope to see them again, to pastor them and to witness their abundant joy in Jesus Christ (Phil 1:21–26). This was by no means an easy ambition of Paul, as he would have been more than sixty years old by then and had suffered much for the ministry. During his ministry, Paul submitted totally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and relied on God’s power to help the believers become mature in Christ. By the time of his second imprisonment, Paul could declare, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:7–8a).

Deny Ourselves

Self-denial often entails choosing between God and ourselves, between God and the world, and between God and family.

In church, many workers freely offer their time and resources—despite having their own personal commitments—to God and His church. They have put God first. We can see their faithfulness to God’s work: they serve in church unceasingly, even when they are busy or unwell. Even retired workers continue to serve, sometimes on a full-time basis, travelling abroad to preach in inhospitable environments.

Such members sacrifice much for the Lord, but what do they get in return? Criticisms, misunderstandings, and rebukes from others? Despite this, they persevere and continue serving the Lord. Why? Because they have denied themselves and taken up the cross to follow Christ (Lk 9:23).

            “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. … So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Lk 14:26–27, 33)

These verses describe the price of discipleship: self-denial and sacrifice. What Jesus teaches is not that we can hate our parents—far from this, as the Ten Commandments require us to honor them. Rather, His message is about priorities: if there should come a time when we must choose between the wishes of God and that of our parents, family members, or ourselves, God comes first. One who loves Christ should be willing to make sacrifices. This is not easy in our world today, where personal interests and materialism are seen as top priorities.

In fact, when we deny ourselves, we will not lose out; rather, we will gain more grace from God. We can see, for example, how God has blessed TJC’s early workers for all that they have done for the Lord. We see His grace upon them in terms of their faith and their family life. Indeed, it is because of God’s blessings upon that generation that some of us are in Christ and have the hope of a heavenly inheritance.

CONCLUSION

By the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus, we have come to the knowledge of the truth. We were brought into the true church, where His blood has washed away our sins. Therefore, with this understanding, let us be fruitful. Let us live for Christ all the days of our lives. Then when death comes upon us, we will die in the grace of the Lord and receive the crown of righteousness.

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Author: Simon Chin
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