Take Heed to the Balanced Christian Life
Satan is an extremist. In his quest for confusion and chaos, he inspires people away from balance and order. People who have been incited by the devil tend to take things too far. They place too much focus, too much interest in someone or something. Then, with their actions following their emotions, they make a scene that becomes extreme.
In the case of the Christian, the devil’s lure to the extremes always leads to embarrassment for the faltering saint and a discrediting of God and Christ. The world takes special interest when the extremist is identifiable as a follower of Jesus. People in the world hate God (Rom 1:30), hate Christ (Jn 7:7), and hate Christ’s church members (Jn 15:18–25). They delight when Christians poorly represent the Head of His church and the body, too (Col 1:18).
When a sinner is converted into a saint, by God’s grace (Eph 2:8–9), there is a new desire to please God (2 Cor 5:9), by being obedient to all that He has commanded (Mt 28:19–20). The devil enters in and pushes some new Christians toward antinomianism…or toward legalism, at the opposite extreme.
Antinomianism is living without proper regard for the biblical model of what constitutes Christian living. It cheapens the grace that brought salvation to the Christian, who is living like his unbelieving neighbor. 1 Corinthians 5–6 and the book of Jude are two biblical refutations for lawless Christian living.
The life of faith is Holy Spirit-powered and marked by holiness (Gal 5:16, 25; 1 Pet 1:15–16). It is balanced like the life of Jesus in the four Gospels that commence the New Testament. The Christian life is the life of Christ in the redeemed soul (Gal 2:20). His Spirit causes one to be born again of God, and then He causes the Christian to walk in all God’s statutes (Ezek 36:27). This is not a perfect, sinless walk because the flesh is weak in one’s body of death (Rom 7:24). It is a sanctified walk toward death and resurrection (Jn 5:28–29; Phil 1:23). At the resurrection to life on the last day, at Christ’s return, the soul of each saint will be joined with his or her resurrection body now glorified (Rom 8:30; 1 Cor 15). Then our walk will be sinless and holy, forever (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22).
There is some debate on how Christians should live during the remainder of our days on this earth, in this present evil age. In their desire to be holy, some Christians believe that a set of rules is necessary. The devil pushes that sentiment to an extreme. He may deceive Christians in the way he did the Galatians, who drifted back under the Law of Moses. Others may create new rules that are not even in the Bible.
In the confusion, others will begin to think Christianity is some set of moral or ethical rules to gain favor with God. Unbelievers will imagine that obedience will gain them right standing with God. Believers will imagine that adherence to the rules will gain them some advantage from God — for blessings from God or special privileges in the ministry. All of this is error.
Erroneous extremes in doctrine and practice can also pervert attitudes of believers, again, to the far reaches. One extreme attitude is laxity. This is a loose “let go and let God” approach to Christian living. Christian living, as we see it in the Bible, is marked by spiritual discipline. There is a rigor observed in the saints who have gone before us, and it points us to the means of grace for practical Christianity.
God’s grace is His work that directly benefits the objects of His grace — the saints of God. Grace has given us the Bible itself, by God’s Spirit (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20–21). Grace illumines the Bible, so God’s people have understanding, again by the Holy Spirit, who is our Guide and Teacher of the Word of truth (Jn 14:26; 16:13). We learn to pray by the prayers recorded in the Bible and by Spirit-filled Christians, who demonstrate to us how and what to pray.
The gathering place one is exposed to vibrant prayer and ministry of the Word is in the body of Christ, the local church — for fellowship and worship. As church members have communion with God and one another, God’s grace again visits His people through baptism and the Lord’s Table. These sacraments are visual displays of the Gospel, whereby our faith is shared together for both new beginnings and for renewal. We remember what Christ has done for His bride (Eph 5:25), the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). Through these activities of life together, the church is disciplined by one another’s holy example. We spur one another on to love and good works (Heb 10:24).
Grace inhibits the extremes of antinomianism and legalism. It constrains the saints to be like Jesus, who was no slacker in life or ministry. When Christians receive a proper view to Christ, a holy zeal begins to manifest. People of the world do not all share the same interests or participate in the same activities. A small number discipline themselves to be top performers in some category of world activities. These high achievers give themselves to one primary work replete with goals. Then, we see their commitment by their zeal for their respective disciplines.
Christian zeal can be taken to the extreme, with the enticement of Satan in a scheme to make the zealous one go way too far. There are ample biblical examples and stories of fully devoted Christians in church history for today’s believer to learn from. The zealous pastor, however, may turn to the wisdom and practices of the world — government, business, sport, military, etc. — and the result can be extreme, as in the case of the mega church phenomenon. Faithfully preach the Word and pray and you will be sure to reduce the size of any mega church.
Fast and big are the ways of the people of the world. There is little to nothing in the Bible that presents itself, positively, as fast or big from God’s dealings with man or with His church. Therefore, zeal with knowledge is slow progress toward alignment with the whole counsel of God. Those led by the Spirit will often observe God withholding Himself and His good plans from individual believers and churches. This drives them back to the doctrines and the means of grace, in order to wait on the Lord, who performs all our works for us (Is 26:12), as He wills and does His good pleasure in and through His saints (Phil 2:13).
The balanced Christian life is the good life with one’s heart, mind, and will set on Christ in heaven (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27; Col 3:2; Heb 12:2). It is the life yielded to the Holy Spirit, who both gifts and directs God’s beloved into the good works prepared beforehand for them (Eph 2:10). The Spirit is the One who produces spiritual fruit that remains in the one who resembles Christ (Jn 15:16; Gal 5:22–23), who is the life in us, bringing balance on the narrow path to spiritual maturity.
Spokane Valley, Washington
July 7, 2022