The Question: How am I supposed to live as a Christian? I’ve given my life to God, but now what? What am I supposed to do? This is supposed to change my life after all…
This is a pretty crucial question and one that is difficult to pin down really because there is a lot of generalization of what to do as a follower of God in the Bible but not many specific things that we are commanded in terms of ‘rules’ as it were in regards to living.
If I were a follower of certain religious groups that claim to be ‘Christian’, this question may be easier to answer as some groups teach that in order to be a ‘Christian’ and be ‘saved’ you need to go to church (their church, not any other church though) on Sunday (or some churches teach a different day, going on Sunday doesn’t count to them), give a certain percentage of money to the church (again, their church, other’s don’t count), confess your ‘sins’ to an ‘approved’ individual (confessing them directly to God apparently doesn’t count…), be baptized by an ‘approved’ individual (sometimes multiple times at various stages in life), be able to speak in tongues, and/or any other number of rules and things they deem important for whatever reason.
Now, perhaps it was obvious from my liberal use of quotations that I don’t agree with any of those organizations in their views, but in case it was not, I’ll go ahead and make my belief on that clear right now.
No where that I can find in the Bible does it say that in order to follow God you must attend a ‘church service’ one day of the week. Hebrews 10:24-25 is the closest verse I can find relating to ‘meeting together’ in what could be considered a ‘church’ like setting, however it doesn’t say to ‘meet together’ on a specific day of the week and sing praises and recite scripture and listen to a sermon, it says to meet together to stir up one another to love and good works and to encourage one another.
To be clear, I’m not saying don’t go to church on Sunday (or whatever day), and in fact I would encourage you to do so, HOWEVER, if you are under the impression that going to a church service one day a week is a requirement of being a ‘good Christian’ then I believe you are mistaken. Also I’d go further to say that if you do attend a church and you do NOT feel encouraged and stirred up to love and do good works after meeting with your church group, that may be a sign to change things up or look for a different church to attend and fellowship with.
As for the other things I mentioned, I’d encourage you to find solid Biblical grounds for following those types of rules and rituals. Paul talks a lot about these sorts of things in Romans and his other books so I’d suggest starting there. However, as Paul himself writes, if someone is convinced in their heart that not eating certain foods, treating certain days as sacred, etc. is right, then by all means they should do or not do those things for God, because if they believe it’s wrong and do it anyway, then they are sinning (Romans 14:14 for example). All I’m saying, is study God’s Word for yourself and decide what YOU believe. Don’t take what I say or what anyone else says blindly as we are all human and can make mistakes. Ask God for wisdom and truth and study the Bible and make your decisions based on that. The Bible says to seek God (Matthew 7:7-8, Deuteronomy 4:29, Proverbs 8:17, Acts 17:27, James 1:5, etc), not just trust the first person who comes along with an ideal that you feel comfortable with…
Anyway, we’re getting off topic again here, so lets get back on track!
So, what DOES the Bible actually say about how we are to live as followers of God? Well, there are quite a few verses that talk about this in a general sense, Mark 16:15, Colossians 3:17, Hebrews 13:15, Matthew 22:37, Hebrews 13:5, Romans 14:7-9, Colossians 3:23, Romans 12:1, Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Colossians 3:1-6 and 1 Peter 4:1-2 just to name a couple. Romans 12-15, 1 Peter and Colossians and the Corinthians have quite a lot of good material on living as a Christian in general, so I’d encourage further study of those books in regards to this topic.
As you may have noticed though, they don’t really give specific instructions or ‘rules’ such as: go to church service once a week, give such and such % to the church every month, pray standing on your head twice a day while facing northeast, etc.
How then do we really know how to live as Christian’s? 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 talks about being a Christian as a part of God’s church and how we are called for different roles. Some for leading, some for helping, etc. So by this we can conclude that being a ‘Christian’ may not mean uprooting our lives and becoming missionaries to third world countries filled with danger and adventure… It may mean devoting time, energy and finances in the support of brothers or sisters doing those things, or mentoring others outside of your day-job, or being a disciple for God in your workplace, or using your musical talents for praising God, or any combination of those things and more.
I think being a Christian means devoting everything in your life, whatever it may be, to God. This includes your finances, your professional life, your romantic life, your family life, your church life, etc… If you feel God calling you to be a missionary in Sri-Lanka, then by all means follow that call. If you feel God calling you to work a boring 9-5 job for 30 years and support others with the finances gained from said job, then work joyfully (this one is in some ways the toughest of all in my opinion, but I may be biased…), if you feel God calling you to a leadership role in a Church then pursue that path. Whatever you do, do it for God.
This sounds simple in theory but can be extremely difficult in practice; I’ll use working a boring job as an example because that’s the one I relate too the best… It is HARD trying to do boring work for God and doing it as if it was for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23). Day after day, I feel like I accomplish nothing of any importance at my job. All I feel I do is help make some exceedingly rich people I’ll likely never meet or know anything about even richer. People who likely use their money in ways that are not glorifying God and I would most probably strongly oppose in actual fact. In that respect, it’s very difficult to try and do the best that I can do. More often than not, I’d rather do the absolute minimal I can get away with whilst still keeping my job…
But, I have to keep in mind, it’s God that provided the job to me, it’s God that provided those rich people their wealth to begin with, and if we’re being completely honest God can do whatever He wants with either my job and/or their wealth if He so chooses. With that in mind, while I may not enjoy sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day doing usually boring work, my hope and my joy is in Christ, not in my circumstances, and I’ll happily work for Him and use the relative wealth God has provided me to further His kingdom as best I know how and am able. I have asked God for work in the missions field, and/or for work with an organization that is trying to serve God but so far He has kept me where I am so I’ll continue working for Him as long as He allows in whatever He provides me to do.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8 goes a bit further and talks about how love is the most important aspect of our Christian lives regardless of whatever else we may be doing or may be called to do. Many, many other verses in the Bible talk about love and the importance of love as a follower of Christ, and I’ve mentioned a ton of them in my past articles so I won’t go over too many here again, but one thing to take away from this is that love (real love that is) needs to be at the center of any Christian life. Without it, everything else is meaningless.
Now, that statement sounds all well and good but that doesn’t really address the ‘how am I supposed to live as a Christian?’ question does it? Saying you need to ‘love’ is extremely vague and really doesn’t provide much in terms of what we are actually supposed to do… Or does it?
I think that it does and that it leaves us with a very daunting and comprehensive responsibility as we walk our Christian lives. We are to strive constantly against our human nature (against evil) and to put love for God and for others ahead of ourselves and our own desires.
So, what does that actually look like in our Christian life though? Well, I think that varies somewhat based on the individual, and we can see some examples of that in the Bible.
The rich young ruler is a popular one; Mark 10:17-27 tells the story of Jesus encountering a rich young ruler who had done everything ‘right’ in his life and wanted to know what more he should do in order to attain eternal life, Jesus recognized that the young mans love for money was something that was coming between him and God, and told the young man this. The young man of course went away sad, which leads us to believe he was not willing to give up his wealth for God.
So, for this individual, love for God would mean putting God before his wealth. Does that mean everyone should give every penny they have to charities or missions or the church because that means we love God? No I don’t believe that is the case; for one Jesus never told any of His other followers to do this, for another there are many examples of wealthy ‘righteous’ men in the Bible. Why Jesus told him to do this is because He recognized the young man’s love was not with God first, but with his money.
Recognizing things in our lives that we put ahead of God is a important step in living for God I think. Taking those things and giving them to God is an equally important step. The Devil is insidious in his ways to entice and slip sin into our lives and damage our relationship with God. Even things that are in them self good things, such as helping starving children, can become sin if we put that focus ahead of God in our lives. Is God calling you to go and devote your life to aid children? That’s great and I am somewhat envious of that call if I’m being honest, but I do of course encourage you to pursue that endeavor. If your love and desire for helping those children however becomes more important than your love for God, then there will be problems in your relationship with Him. If you care more about helping those children then you do about serving God, your priorities are, I believe, wrong. Again I’m not saying helping children is bad, quite the contrary in fact as I’d say if we ignore the cries of the needy we are not following God, BUT, if we put anything above God and our love for Him and willingness to serve Him, I think that is wrong.
The same goes for our relationships with other people. I love my wife for example, but if I were to put her before God, that would be a problem. If God called me to move to Africa and my wife hated Africa and refused to go and I didn’t follow God’s call, that would be wrong. I like being financially secure and having enough money to spend on luxuries, but if God called me to quit my job and do something that would put me in a very in-secure situation financially and I refused to do it, that would be wrong, and that would not be loving God.
I think you can see where I’m going with this. ‘Love’ in a Biblical, Christian sense in the context of living a Christian life, means putting God and other’s first, and yourself last, in all aspects of your life. It’s quite a significant challenge, and is a constant (at least for me) struggle. Some days I do better than others, and I can say with all certainty there is still a lot of selfishness and pride in my life and many areas God can improve and I pray continually for His help in those aspects.
In summary, I think the ‘How am I supposed to live as a Christian?’ question can be answered in Matthew 22:37-39, which is, love the Lord your God with all your heart firstly, and love your neighbor secondly. Which means focusing your life on discovering God’s will and serving Him chiefly, and secondly showing real love to those around you in whatever you do.