Have you ever tried to live the way you think a “good Christian” should, only to find yourself confused, anxious, or disappointed? Have you ever asked yourself, “How do I know whether what I do is pleasing to God? How am I supposed to live, now that I’m a Christian?”
How does God want us to live?
From the very first pages of the Bible, we can see that God wants us to live by His life, not by a moral code, an ethical standard, or our own idea of how a Christian should live. In Genesis, God put the man He created not in a school or in a seminary to learn how to please Him, but in a garden with the tree of life.
“And out of the ground Jehovah God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, as well as the tree of life in the middle of the garden.”—Genesis 2:9
The tree of life represents the eternal, divine life of God. God wanted mankind to eat of this tree—to take in His life and to live by that life.
We received eternal life the moment we believed in Jesus Christ.
Christ accomplished redemption for us, so when we believed in Christ, we were saved from God’s judgment. But that’s not all that happened when we believed. We were also brought back to God so that we could be born again with His eternal life.
Now as believers, in addition to our human life, we have the divine life of Christ. This eternal life is for us to enjoy not only in the future, but even today. This is how God wants us to live our lives. He wants us to live each day by this new life, not by a moral code or by our own idea of how we should live as a Christian. Then, when we live by this new life, the divine life of God in us, we’ll spontaneously live out the highest moral life.
But how do we do this? And how do we know whether or not we’re living by God’s life?
A Person lives in us.
Christ, through His death and resurrection, now lives in our spirit as the life-giving Spirit. This wonderful Person who lives in us has His own tastes, desires, intentions, and thoughts. Because of this, He has a lot of feeling about everything in our lives—how we spend our time, what we wear, how we spend our money, where we go, what we say, think, and feel.
Much of the time and in many matters, we don’t correspond with Him. But how can we know? But how can we know what the Lord Jesus approves or disapproves of? How can we know if what we’re doing is pleasing to Him?
The sense of life or death
Before we were saved, we were cut off from the life of God and dead in sins. Just as a dead body doesn’t have any feeling because it doesn’t have any life, we had no spiritual sense or feeling. But when we were born again, we were made alive in Christ. The life in us gives us sensation, feeling. We can know whether we’re living according to the life of Christ in us by the sense, or feeling, His presence in our spirit gives us.
What is this sense? Addressing our living, our daily walk, the apostle Paul said in Romans 8:6,
“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.”
“Death” and “life and peace” in this verse are something present, something we can feel deep within. And these two are in contrast to one another. We can sense either life or death. If what we’re doing is according to the Spirit who lives in our spirit, we have a sense of life and peace. If what we’re doing is not pleasing to the Lord, we have a sense of death.
Symptoms of death and signs of life
How do we tell the two apart? Each has telltale signs and symptoms that indicate where we are. The sense of death tells us that what we’re doing, saying, or thinking is not according to the Spirit living in us. We’ll have these symptoms:
- depression, oppression, suppression
Although these are all negative, they serve the positive purpose of telling us we’re not living according to the life of Christ in us. You could say they act like a big STOP sign to us.
In contrast, the sense of life tells us when we’re living according to the Lord in our spirit. We’ll have these signs:
Let’s illustrate with a common experience from daily life. Most of us use computers or other digital devices. With email to read, texts to answer, websites to visit, and people to keep up with on social media, we can easily be on our devices for long periods of time. And no verse in the Bible teaches us how long to be on our computer. But let’s say after spending a certain amount of time, we realize the Lord wants us to log off and fellowship with Him or read His Word.
Now let’s say we persist on our device instead. The more we continue, the more death we feel. We feel spiritually dry, uneasy, and weak. This is the sense of death at work, telling us where we are—apart from the Lord—and that we need to turn back to Him. If we were to take heed to this sense, stop, and turn to the Lord, we would notice a change. We would have a sense of life and feel peaceful, restful, satisfied, and even joyful deep within.
Practicing to follow the sense of life in our spirit
We can apply following the sense of life to every action or decision we make in our lives. In both big and small matters, we can ask the Lord, “Lord, are You saying this right now? Are You wearing this today? Lord, are You happy with me going to this place?” He will surely give us a sense of either life or of death concerning that matter.
Of course, the more we fellowship with the Lord, read His Word, and are nourished in His Word, the stronger and finer our inner sense of God’s life will become. By our following the sense of life, Christ will have the way to grow in us, and we will live a life that is even higher than a merely moral or ethical life. We’ll live out the divine life in us; we’ll express God.
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