Modern Evangelicals have seemingly accomplished a miracle (Or, maybe it’s a magic trick?), something foreign to Scripture yet readily embraced: the churchless Christian. Emphasizing our desires over God’s design and our pleasure over pleasing him, we have relegated the cherished assembly of the Beloved into a consumer’s option. This not to say that God is forgotten. But with the reign of easy-believism, the individual is all-important, and the authority of the self stands sovereign. In his commentary on Romans, James Boice (writing in 1995) observes, “It strikes me…that today the problem is our individualism, which I would define as hyperpersonalized religion. It is the religion of ‘Jesus and me only.’” Boice goes onto label this phenomenon a form of narcissism, warning, “you cannot have ‘one body in Christ’ if everyone is creating a private little a la carte religion for himself.”
The victorious Christian life then is one of perspective, preparation, and perseverance, “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (15:58). Ask yourself, how could our work be in vain knowing that we are not yet what we will be? How could our work be in vain knowing that our inheritance is not confined to the temporal vaults of this present darkness but is the very kingdom of God? For, a life lived unto the Lord is never in vain but a life of triumph, because God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s gift in Christ is one of measureless magnitude: Adam is overcome by Christ, sin by righteousness, condemnation by justification, death by life, trespass by gift. And it is through the marvelous generosity of God’s grace that we realize the inexpressible glory of God’s purpose in us. Christian, every day in Christ is a gift of life. What the Christian must guard against is resurrecting Adam and calling him Christ, trying to live the Christian life in spite of rather than in light of the gospel. When tempted to sin, look not to the reign of death but the life of Christ, who enables us to live the victorious Christian life by his Spirit. When tempted to despair, look not to the poverty of sin but to the abundant grace of God, who encourages us in his hope by his Spirit.
Love lived out in the Christian life is a beautiful thing, revealing not a boastful arrogance but a sacrificial love, not a life of works to find God’s favor but a display of God’s unmerited favor through loving others as Christ loved us. For it was for love that God the Father sent his Son; it was for love that God the Son atoned for sin; it is for love that God the Spirit conforms us to God’s perfect law. This our one God has done and is doing, not by a law of works but by the law of faith. And so, brothers and sisters-in-Christ, by faith and in love, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
The bulk of Paul’s first epistle, chapter after chapter, deals with the problems of a dysfunctional church. And then, once he seemingly addressed every issue, he does something that may seem elementary: He preaches the gospel. Actually, to be precise, he reminds them of it. They have heard it before, but, like every church, they need it again.
Therefore, there is no room for boasting with bravado of what we will do for Christ. Or, as Paul put it, “If I must boast, I will boast of things that show my weakness” (2 Cor. 11:30). The Christian life is not lived by boasting in what you will do for Christ but in what he has done for us. It is not a life of bravado but of submission. As we learn that God’s grace is indeed sufficient and that his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), we too will learn to pray as our Lord did, and as he taught us to pray, “Thy will be done”!
It’s time for us as Christians to change the way we think and talk about our rights and privileges. What the world needs to see and hear from us is that true freedom is in Christ.
We cannot, indeed we will not, find the spiritual food we need. In our fallen depravity, we are utterly dependent upon the Lord’s provision.
The Christian life then is a life lived out in full confidence in our Great Physician. Though you may not always feel healthy and whole, though you may see evidence of the disease of sin, trust in the Keeper and Perfecter of your soul.