If Christianity is nothing else, it is practical. “Practical Christian living” is nearly redundant, since Christ’s complete redemption extends beyond theoretical concepts to encompass our day-to-day behavior. Not that Christianity is merely practical—its inherent behavioral principals stem from its deeply spiritual and mystical character.
Maintaining a life of devotion to Christ is the “perseverance of the saints” John Calvin and other Reformers cited as evidence of true belief. In our current culture it is popular to emphasize the fact that each of us fails to live up to Christ’s perfect standard, that the important thing is to pursue that standard nonetheless. Traditionally, however, the Church has emphasized Christ's example, not our failure or ability to imitate it.
Such an approach may not appeal to people outside the fold (or to many within it), but it is the correct one. To preach a softened Gospel to attract souls does not ultimately result in more Christians, it only results in many deluded people trusting a weakened gospel.
Jesus’ statement that His yoke is easy is frequently taken to mean that a Christian need only “believe in Jesus” to eventually “go to Heaven.” Belief is a key aspect, and eternity with Our Savior certainly the object, but Christ’s redemption means our duty becomes not to ourselves (as when we are slaves to sin), but to render Him praise and uphold His perfect law. The ease of the Christian life derives not from the absence of moral constraint, but from the Holy Spirit abiding in each of us as well as in the corporate Church. In order to act the way we ought, we must cultivate our awareness of the Spirit and rely on His power and not our own to avoid sin and pursue holiness.
It goes without saying that slavery to Christ is abhorrent to non-Christians, understanding as they do their own slavery to sin as absolute personal freedom. The proper Christian response is not to downplay our bondage to Christ, but to discover the true joy of holiness and the paradoxical freedom our new slavery entails. Those we would bring into Christianity must not be misled, nor should they be ignorant of the duties of believers. Instead they should see the beauty of Christ’s righteousness as displayed by His followers, and the peace that His servants experience when they submit themselves to God’s law.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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