The Christian life is a life lived with Christ, abiding in Him (John 15: 4), a life rooted and built up in Him (Colossians 2:7). It is a life lived in the love of God (Jude 21), a life lived by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), a life led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18). The Christian life is a life regenerated, a life made new by the power of God.
The word submission is a very appropriate word that sums up the attitude of the Christian in his or her relationship to Christ. The posture of the Christian is a surrendered will. F. E. Belden describes it in these words:
- Thy way, not mine, O Lord, However dark it be; Lead me by Thine own hand, and choose the path for me. I dare not choose my lot; I would not if I might; Choose Thou for me, my God, so shall I walk aright.
- The kingdom that I seek is Thine; so let the way that leads to it be Thine, else I must surely stray. Hold Thou my cup of life; with joy or sorrow fill as best to Thee may seem: Choose thou my good and ill.
- Choose Thou for me my friends, my sickness or my health; choose Thou my cares for me, my poverty or wealth. Not mine, not mine the choice, in either great or small; Be Thou my Guide, my Strength, my Wisdom, and my All.
[F. E. Belden was the author of the famous Seventh-day Adventist church hymnal called Christ in Song. He was also a nephew of Ellen White, the son of Sarah Belden, Ellen’s sister.]
The idea cherished by the world is the self-reliant man. But what men call self-reliance never gets beyond man’s dependence on himself. Man’s claim to superior knowledge, the conceit of self-sufficiency, the flaunting of pride, is fatal to the Christian life. Any claim we make for the glory of man can only render our fall and depravity more complete. To be ruled by self-seeking means to lose everything.
There is only one possibility left for survival: to find our true self in Jesus Christ. You see, the Christian experience is not an improvement of the self-life that merits congratulations. We affirm our manhood and womanhood always in utter dependence on Christ.
The key texts for this message are recorded by the apostle John in chapter 6 of his gospel, verses 38–40: “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The scenes, which led up to Jesus uttering these words, are as follows: The day before He had fed five thousand men with five barley loaves and two fishes. Thereupon the people would have made Him king, but He withdrew Himself and afterward walked on the water to His disciples. The next day Jesus was teaching in Capernaum, and the people flocked to hear Him, but Jesus reproved them. “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” John 6:26. Then He declared Himself to be the bread of life to believers.
As the bread of life He came down from heaven on a definite mission, “… not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” Verse 38. I would like to draw our attention briefly to the expression “Bread of Life” with emphasis on the word “Life.” It is said that bread is the staff of life, thus it could be considered the universal food for mankind. The life that Jesus referred to transcends the physical temporary life of all creatures on this earth. The life He spoke of is what the Greeks called Zoe, the life principle shared by all living things, the antithesis of death. It has to do with spiritual life and, more particularly, of everlasting life to which the one that receives Christ and believes in Him is given access.
So, as we focus on our key texts, Jesus taught that as the Bread of Life He came down from heaven not to do His own will but the will of Him that sent Him. In this statement is embodied the true meaning of what constitutes being a Christian. Jesus emphatically states the one and only purpose for coming to this earth, which is to do the will of My Sender. Christ declares that He has no separate will from His Father. The Christian must understand the reason for being a Christian, and that is to do the will of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Repeatedly our Saviour acknowledges the will of His Father: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10; “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.” John 4:34; “I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.” John 5:30; “Saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.” Luke 22:42.
In order for us to know what it is to live the Christian life we need therefore to understand what is the Father’s will to which Jesus referred. We see Jesus’ explanation of the Father’s will in verses 39 and 40 of John’s gospel chapter 6: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Here Christ reveals the “Father’s will” as follows:
Every person who truly comes and surrenders to Christ and remains so, will be kept by Christ even to the last days. This statement speaks to the fact that “on being a Christian” means a complete surrender to the will of Christ instead of my will! It addresses a full and complete commitment to Jesus. This commitment means the point of no return. We place ourselves entirely at Christ’s disposal. We acknowledge His full claim as the Master of our lives. It is this lack of surrender and commitment to Jesus that prevents many a Christian from remaining true to Christ; consequently, He cannot keep them. So, bear in mind the fact that Christ works out His will in us only to the extent of our surrender and commitment. Without this surrender and commitment our Christian profession is in vain!
Illustration – Martin Luther, in one of his legends, tells of Satan, who called a council of his chiefs to defeat the Christian. Said one, “I let loose the wild beasts on many Christians. Their bones now bleach the sands in the arena.” “What of that?” said Satan. “Their souls are still saved.” Said another, “I drove the storm against a shipload of Christians, and they all perished in the sea.” “What of that?” said Satan. “Their souls are all saved.” Said another, “I have labored for ten years to lull Christians to sleep and get them to be neutral. At last I have succeeded.” Then Satan shouted for joy and all the angels of hell rejoiced together.
That everyone who seeth the Son and believeth on Him will have everlasting life. This implies beholding Christ with the eye of faith. Men must see Christ in order to obtain everlasting life. They are naturally blind. The Scripture proves that, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” II Corinthians 4:3, 4. The Holy Spirit’s job is to open our eyes that we may see not merely ourselves, our sins, our helplessness; but Christ, His righteousness, His peace, His grace, His salvation. This emphasis on faith clearly shows that intellectual assent is not enough; those who will have part in the resurrection of the righteous are those who have faith acting beyond the limits of their natural senses.
Ellen White explains further the meaning of believeth: “Those who claim to believe the word of God, and yet cherish their own hereditary and cultivated traits of character, are the greatest stumbling blocks we shall meet as we present the grand, holy truths for this time. Those who believe present truth are to practice the truth, live the truth. They are to study the Word and eat the Word, which means eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God. They are to bring that Word, which is spirit and life, into their daily, practical life. It is the bread from heaven, and it will give life to the world. Power will be given to every man and woman who will eat of the bread that came down from heaven. Oh, cannot we take this in? Cannot we comprehend it? Why is our imagination so dull? ‘This is the will of Him that sent Me,’ said Christ, ‘that every one [how comprehensive, how far-reaching] that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:40). If this, the life of Christ, be in us, what may we not accomplish in His name? ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name’ (John 1:12).” The Review and Herald, August 13, 1959.
I will raise him up at the last day. To all those who live the Christ life here on earth the promise is, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” John 11:25, 26. Here is pictured the salvation story, the redemption of the human race. The Father’s will was Jesus’ mission. This was the driving motivation of Christ, and it certainly will be the constraining force in the life of the true Christian. It may be summed up this way: to glorify God and to bless humanity. The servant of the Lord establishes the purpose of our being; she states, “Many misunderstand the object for which they were created. It was to bless humanity and glorify God, rather than to enjoy and glorify self.” Sons and Daughters of God, 289.
Jesus not only understood this but He lived it every day of His life and so it will be for the true follower of Christ! In The Youth’s Instructor, March 12, 1896, we are told the following: “The followers of Christ are to imitate His example, and scatter broadcast the seeds of divine truth. They are to tell all with whom they come in contact, that Jesus Christ came into our world and assumed our nature, in order that God might be glorified in humanity, in order that humanity might be uplifted and glorified in Christ. All heaven rejoices at the redemption of the lost race. Christ rejoiced in the secret consciousness of what He purposed to do for man. He desires to do far more abundantly than we are able to ask or think. The fountain of His inexpressible love is inexhaustible, and it flows toward all those who believe in Him, who are willing to practise self-denial and to suffer reproach for His name. When we submit to truth, we submit to its Author. The Holy Spirit works within us, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and brings into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Through sin the heart and the mind have been defiled and enfeebled, but Jesus came to impart moral power, to reshape moral taste, to fashion man after the divine similitude, and to elevate humanity in the scale of moral value with God. If we would learn of Christ, we must have the faith which works by love and purifies the soul. Faith is valueless if it does not work by love and expel from the soul all selfishness, all pride and self-righteousness. Assent to the truth will never win heaven; but those who tremble at the word of the Lord, who desire to know and do His will, will not be disappointed in their hope of heaven.”
Jesus modeled what it truly means to be a Christian, for while here among us He perfectly subordinated His will to His Father, therefore leaving us a perfect example, and gained eternal life for us. We now must understand that by complete subordination of our will to Jesus we become agents of salvation to our fellowmen. By the practicality of our profession, people will be led to make total and permanent surrender and commitment to Christ. They will come to see and believe on Him who only is able to raise them up even though they die. This is really the only true and lasting hope that they have, that we have, that the world has. We are their hope, and that’s why Jesus commands us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
The servant of the Lord affirms, “If all who have a knowledge of the truth will daily put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and by a well-ordered life and godly conversation correctly represent what they claim to believe, a work may be accomplished in the salvation of souls that will make Heaven rejoice.” The Review and Herald, February 12, 1889. Speaking of practical Christianity, she states, “The beauty of his (the Christian’s) well-ordered life and godly conversation inspires faith and hope and courage in others. This is Christianity in practice.” Ibid., August 28, 1897.
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.