June 4, 2012 by Stacy McDonald
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:16–17)
Even though Scripture tells us to “teach,” I sometimes think we Christians believe that our children, as well as (and especially) new or young converts, will just learn by osmosis. We don’t want to invest the time or risk the potential conflict of teaching them anything. We’re told that teaching others how to live out the principles in Scripture is always legalism.
But, isn’t it interesting how Paul recognized that Christians needed to be taught, through the power of Grace, not to “walk as the Gentiles,” as those who have given themselves over to “lewdness” and “greediness?” They need to be told what sin looks like. Paul called a spade a spade…or a sin a sin.
I wonder if Paul would be called “legalistic” or “judgmental” if he lived today. Notice all the shoulds and should nots:
“You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:17–19)
“[You should/must] flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 4:4–5)
“You should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God… Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–8)
“Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…” (Ephesians 4:22)
[You should] walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And [you should] have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:8–11)
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore [you should/must] glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:18–20)
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, [you should] note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but [you should] admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13–15)
Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and [you must] make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:13–14)
Do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love [you should/must] serve one another. (Galatians 5:13–15)
It sounds to me like Paul had a lot to say about how Christians should and should not live. Not in their own strength, of course (Ephesians 2:8-9); and not for their own purpose, but out of love for and obedience to Christ, for the sake of their neighbor, and to see Christ glorified.
We Are Supposed to Teach
We, who are older in the Lord, are told to teach those who are younger. Elders, parents, husbands, and others who are in authority are also commanded to teach, warn, and admonish. Even brother to brother, we’re taught to admonish one another and to stir one another on to good works.
Why is it then that we have a generation of Christians who want to live like the world and call it Christian Liberty? Because of what Christ did for me, I have the liberty not to sin (I didn’t have this before); I don’t have the liberty to live according to the lusts of the flesh (Romans 6:16-18).
We must love our neighbor enough to say hard things; even when they are so caught up in the snares of the world that they hate us for it (John 15:18).
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:6)
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. (1 Corinthians 4:14)
In humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance… (2 Timothy 2:25)
That they [older women] admonish the younger women to…(Titus 2:4)
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28)
We urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…(1 Thessalonians 5:12)
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
Get Ready to Be Hated
If you are hated by those who walk according to the flesh; and, if you are scorned and mocked by the world and its followers (even when they claim Christ), remember that they hated Christ first (Matt. 24:9, Luke 6:22; 21:17, John 15:19; 17:14, 1 John 3:13). We must teach the truth even when we’re kicked in the teeth for it. We must obey God and not man even when it means we do it alone.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18–20)
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. (1 John 3:13–14)
You have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions… Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:10–12)
Love, Love, Love
It all boils down to obeying the two greatest commandments: loving the Lord and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), and making sure our lives are lined up with that. The works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19), which we’re told to avoid, war against these two commandments (Romans 7:23) because they put our desires and personal lusts before God and our neighbor.
“But, those who are Christ’s (Gal. 5:24-26) have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Admonish [teach] the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:4–5)
Adding Virtue to Your Faith
Why does Paul tell us here in verse 5 to teach the young women, among other things, to be good? Didn’t Jesus say in Luke 18:19 “No one is good but One, [and] that is, God”? So why should we teach our daughters to be good? Is Paul teaching moralism here? Works salvation?
No. Paul is teaching about obedience. Remember, virtue all by itself is just moralism. It’s going through the motions. But when you add virtue to your faith (2 Pet. 1:5), we learn that we “will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”
In the second chapter of James, we learn that “faith without works is dead.” James says of Abraham, “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
Noah Webster rightly said, “Virtue is nothing but voluntary obedience to truth.” A Christian woman who is walking in the spirit doesn’t just go through the motions, and she doesn’t have a dead faith that lacks good works. She has taken up her cross to follow Jesus (Mark 8:34-35); and she has added to her faith, virtue. She willingly crucifies the flesh (Gal. 5:24) and obeys God out of love for Him and love for her neighbor (Ezekiel 36:23, 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31).
Examine Your Motives
How about you? Who are you living for? Who do you love…really?
Yourself or your neighbor? (Mtt. 12:29, Luke 6:32).
Who do you love with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Yourself or Jesus (Matt. 12:30, 1 Jn. 5:3)? And ’m talking actions here.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
Some of the worst mistakes I’ve made in life are all wrapped up in loving myself, even if it was in a bizaree, twisted self-hatred sort of way. Yes, you can love yourself while simultaneously hating and destroying yourself, the same way that you can love God while simultaneously dying to self (Matt. 16:24-25). It’s odd to look back 30 years and loath (literally) the “fun” I thought I was having at the time – the fun that I didn’t recognize as emptiness and vanity…and destruction.
I have found in life that as we trust Jesus, prying our covetous fingers off those things that are not for us, and instead clinging to the grace of God with all our might, we will find our needs met with mercy, strength, and power by our loving and powerful Savior. It is then a joy to obey because we know and trust that God’s promises are true and that He really, really, really does love us…even when it hurts.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. (Psalm 1:1–6)