This post will not be as exhaustive as the others for a few reasons, not least of which being that some of the major points that could be explored here have already been covered elsewhere in the series. If the practice of false teachers is contrary to Christianity specifically because is prideful, rejoicing in sin, and unfocused on Christ, then it stands to reason that the appropriate Christian life will be marked by humility, distancing oneself from sin, and focused on Christ. If salvation is characterized by looking to Christ and rejoicing in the promise of His second coming, then living that gospel out must include looking to Christ and rejoicing in the promise of His second coming.
"Small Group Prayer," created by Portland Seminary and shared under Creative Commons License. Click image for source.
As such, there is quite a lot about the Christian life that does not need to be repeated here but can be reasonably inferred from the series so far. Now, if this were a standalone post about the Christian life in the general epistles, it would likely be mostly a summary of James. The entire book of James addresses this issue, even the portions that also address another matter, and is therefore very useful for such a study. Handling that fairly likely deserves a sermon series rather than a single blog post, but this is where we are.
In the interest of limiting our focus to avoid repetition, the outline for this post will actually be drawn from Jude.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, [be] glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 20-25 (NASB)
Jude has just spent his entire letter condemning false teachers and making comparisons to help his readers identify those false teachers. He closes his short letter with a contrast: the false teachers are as I've already described, but as for you, this needs to be who you are. And what we find in that ending is a very concise treatment of the Christian life. It contains the major classes of activities that make up the Christian life, as well as the goal and purpose of living in that way. Let's identify these and see what other authors of the general epistles have said about each.
But what is it we are to be building toward? It is hard to know if the act of growth is moving in the right direction if we do not know what the end result is supposed to look like. Here, Peter gives us aid:
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5 (NASB)
We are being built up for a purpose, and that purpose is the function of a holy priesthood. Remember that a priest is one who represents God to the people and represents the people to God. We are under the chief priest, Christ, as Hebrews explains at length, and so we are not under the obligations of high priesthood that He covers; however, the general function of a priest is on our shoulders, and our growth will be building toward fulfilling that role. This includes spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to God--but what are those? One of them is prayer.
This prayer must actually be honoring to God if it is to fuel a truly Christian life. Peter tells us that prayer comes from sound judgement and a sober spirit, that is, we must be honest and accurate in our treatment of reality, and we must be clear and focused. A review of the prayers contained in scripture show some of what this looks like.
For a brief description at what living in the love of God looks like, consider this word from Hebrews:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another;] and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NASB)
"All the more as you see the day drawing near" implies that we must be looking toward that day. We simply will not see it drawing near if we aren't looking to it. Jude includes this as a fundamental part of the Christian life, as well.
This includes both an understanding of the coming judgement and the hope of the promises being fulfilled on the other side of it. As I've said elsewhere, I am not inclined to believe we will get to miss the judgement that comes upon the world; but even if we are, we face trials now, and can see in Christ the patience we must exhibit as the world around us continues to oppose us. But we can do so joyfully, knowing that the Day of the Lord brings with it the promise of a new heavens and new earth. We can trust that, in Christ, we will not suffer the wrath of God, but will instead enjoy His presence forever. Our life now, then, must reflect both the adherence to God and the hope and joy in His salvation.
This is a major part of what is happening in 3 John. Gaius is being commended for walking in truth and treating well those who come in the name of Christ with the true gospel. On the contrary, John expresses displeasure for Diotrephes, who is no discerning the gospel well enough to welcome those who speak truth. Into this context he reminds Gaius, "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God" (3 John 1:11, NASB). John gives more insight into this discernment when he says of the church in Ephesus,
'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them [to be] false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.
Revelation 2:2-3 (NASB)
Here the church is commended for testing those who come claiming to be in Christ, and including their commendation in verse 6, they are opposing those found to be false. But how do they test these false teachers?
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Hebrews 4:12-13 (NASB)
We are to live in discernment, and we must practice this discernment by testing things to see if they line up with Christ, and we have as our standard the word of God. Combined with a life of prayer powered by the Holy Spirit, who has far greater discernment than we can ever have, the choices we make will form a lifestyle that reflects the gospel to the world around us.
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, [even] Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom [be] the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (NASB)
The benediction of Jude, much like that of Hebrews, turns our focus to God. In the wake of everything Jude has said about the Christian life, he reminds us that this is all for God's glory, through the power of Christ, and under His authority. It is fitting that this is the final thought in this series, because holding to it will make all the rest of it clear. We can recognize false teachers by seeing how they do not seek God's glory, diminish the power of Christ, or downplay the authority of the Lord. We can recognize the true gospel by seeing God's glory, power, and authority played out through it. Our lives align with our message if we live it for God's glory, relying on His power, and honoring His authority.
Church planter and ministry student with a bad habit of questioning authority and writing too much.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation