“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. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14.7-9).
One common thread ties together Christians who differ over the way they conduct themselves before God. While both the weak and the strong believe they are accepted by God, both have a desire to please God. We ought to bear with one another in areas of Christian liberty. The temptation is for the weak to judge the strong with a critical spirit and the strong to despise the weak for their rigid lifestyle.
The Word of God is unwavering about purity, sin, and the holiness of God. It is equally unwavering about our approach to God as our Father. A heart for God precedes obedience. We know Him, believe in Him, and consider ourselves dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6.11). We no longer listen to the seductive nature of sin so that obey it in its lusts. Instead we present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 16.13). We were slaves of sin, yet we obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which we were delivered (Romans 6.17).
Obedience from the heart includes two very important elements:
- We put to death self. The world is about self. Self-gratification, self-esteem, self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and self-happiness. Self fuels idolatry in a world energized by the devil. It is hoped that a Christian is able to see this as idolatry and die to self. We do not need encouragement to love ourselves. It is assumed that we do in Scripture. Therefore the second great command admonishes to love others as we already love ourselves.
- We are alive in Christ. We live and die to the Lord. What is His will? What esteems Him? What gratifies Him? We are His. He created and redeemed us. Therefore we seek to honor Him. We love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We strain to please Christ instead of self.
Whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31). Our earnest expectation and hope is that we shall be ashamed in nothing that we think or do, but with all boldness, as always, Christ will be magnified in the body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1.20). 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 (Romans 14.7-8).
Obedience from the heart also has a very important foundation:
God created us; therefore, we must obey Him. He redeemed us; therefore, we are His. Christ died and rose and lived again. His death for our sin and His resurrection for our justification (cp. Romans 4.25) are foundational.
We are not saved in our sins but saved from them. Our sin debt is not simply cleared away, but we have power to overcome sin in our daily lives. Christ “died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5.15). Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2.14).
Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2.24). For our sakes Christ sanctified Himself, that we also might be sanctified by the truth (John 17.19). “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.9-11).
Our obedience from the heart stems from the person and work of Jesus Christ. Love and our identity as His children brings us to the place of unreserved, heart-obedience. Our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in us. We have Him from God. We are not our own …there is no self. We are bought at a price; therefore we shall glorify God in our body and spirit because they are His unique possession. He possesses us (1 Corinthians 6.19-20). The love of Christ compels our obedience (2 Corinthians 5.14).
When you think about it, there are very few believers who understand the Christian experience. If living for self became the benchmark for Christianity, then we would have no shortage of these types of Christians. But whole-hearted, unreserved obedience is the benchmark. We find few on this narrow path. “All seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.21). But all should seek the things which are of Christ Jesus first and foremost. Judge yourself today by whether or not you are seeking the things which are of Christ Jesus. Christianity demands that we come all the way to Christ not half-way or part of the way. Anything less is hypocrisy. May God give us the full measure of His Spirit and renew us in our inner man!
“Present your bodes a living sacrifice, holy, acceptably to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12.1). Rise up from the ashes of self and live for Christ. He intercedes for us. He prepares a place for us. What are we doing for Him? Whatever it is that we do for Him is only reasonable. We respond to His great sacrifice with heart-felt obedience. Nothing is too great to give Him. Nothing is to much to sacrifice for Him. It is only reasonable. Let all of us “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15.58).