Living in Christ means dying to this world
[Philippians 1:21]

By T.C. Howitt

Sep 11, 2016

Every form of religion and spiritual practice promises either to improve your life somehow or to make the world a better place, or both – except for one: true biblical Christianity. Isn’t that interesting?

Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

That’s not an actual sword, but a spiritual sword, which is the word of God, the gospel of Christ, the Bible, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). The word of God tends to cause conflict, dividing people from each other, because God has designed it to divide us from our own flesh to be born again of the Spirit.

My life became much more difficult after I was born again, but my new life provides rewards beyond measure. Dying to sin and coming alive to God in Christ involves pain and real work, just like the travail of childbirth and the subsequent challenges and blessings that accompany the raising of that child. So while my old self was satisfied, and my former life was easy and pleasurable, I see now the wretched state I was in and count it all loss, overjoyed to drop everything and follow Jesus.

Disciples of Jesus Christ don’t preach to make the world a better place or to give you new tools for living, but to share the truth that saves people.

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36a).

The fall of man really sent things spiraling downward, and now the whole world is cursed by sin and suffers under the rule of Satan. This world is corrupt and most people are doomed.

The good news is that all of this fits into God’s plan of redemption to perfect the believers in Christ by testing them, to purify their faith through trials as silver is refined in a furnace.

Speaking to His disciples, Jesus warned, “The love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12b-13).

Anyone who teaches that you can have your best life now is a fraud and a worker of destruction. Don’t take the bribe. Trust in the Lord to give you what you need, not what you want. God does not offer to make all your dreams come true – He offers something far greater, something that will outshine your dreams and reveal them to be worthless fakes wrapped in filthy rags. The path can be difficult to travel, and walking in the way takes discipline.

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7).

And yet, with suffering comes rejoicing.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3b-5).

People want a formula for improving their health and wealth, even for solving world hunger and ending war and poverty. These can be good works to undertake with love as a process, but they will not yield transcendent blessings or achieve salvation of any sort, and if they’re taken as such, they become idols that will destroy you. These desires come from a puffed-up attitude, the mistaken impression that we’re capable of saving ourselves. The Bible teaches over and over that you need to get over that and put your trust in God. It is faith alone by grace that saves, and nothing of your own efforts (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:27-28).

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

That doesn’t sell very well, though. False teachings sell much better. Thus, wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it (Matthew 7:13).

So while this message of travail and suffering doesn’t work well on a greeting card, it’s the God-given truth. Astoundingly, most people choose the lies, looking to gain something in the world and losing their own souls. Good thing it’s not a numbers game, where Christians are trying to achieve a majority to win. Christ has already won.