This live online presentation was delivered by Pastor Dan Johnson at an event hosted by Prepared to Answer.
PASTOR DAN JOHNSON, our guest speaker, is a former high school teacher and current youth pastor from Simcoe, Ontario. He shared this presentation with youth from across Ontario.
Why is it so hard to live life as a Christian? Why isn’t it easier?
Have you ever asked yourself this question?
In pondering this, maybe you’ve found yourself thinking it might help to know the answers to these next two questions:
- Why do I still sin? Can’t I stop? Why can’t I just live like a Christian?
- Why don’t people accept my beliefs? Why do they hate that I’m a Christian?
These aren’t easy questions to answer. But rest assured there are answers to both of these questions and there’s hope and victory to be had in both areas.
Question 1: Are you a Christian?
It’s important first to know if you’re a Christian, because if you’re not one to begin with, you can’t live the Christian life. There’s no point considering the Christian life until you’ve made that decision to have your sin dealt with by God himself.
In light of this, there’s a key question to answer first. What exactly is a Christian and how do you become one? To know how to live as a Christian, we need to know how to become a Christian in the first place.
How do you become a Christian?
How did Jesus say you become a Christian? We get some insight into this by looking at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and jewish religious leader. He came to Jesus at night to ask him questions. Jesus got right to the point with Nicodemus:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
One can’t enter the kingdom of God, unless they’re born again. A Christian is one who is born again.
So, what does “born again” really mean?
What does it mean to be “born again”?
Jesus clarified what being born again means. What he said “born again” doesn’t mean, is being born again a second time through your mother (John 3:4,6). The first (physical) birth that all human beings experience results in us being born as human beings – ones who have the presence of sin in our human nature. In our very nature.
And sin has a penalty attached to it: death. Separation from God forever in hell. To enter into God’s kingdom requires sin to be removed and the penalty of death to be paid for. The sinner needs to be made new and “rebooted” without sin’s penalty.
But how? That’s the problem.
There’s no rescue from our sin because we’re not able to pay sin’s penalty. We can’t work for it or purchase it with money, and we can’t do good things so God overlooks our sin. We humans have no hope in ourselves for salvation from sin, because there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves.
But there is a way to be regenerated – to have our sins forgiven and have eternal life with God. A human being needs a second birth: a regeneration (John 3:3). This is where being born again comes in.
How to be born again: believe and repent
Jesus died in your place to remove the death penalty for your sin. Jesus, because of his great love for us, paid for your sins on the cross. Then he rose again back to life. And he offers his life as eternal life for you. And causes you to be born again through the new birth from above. We can have this in Jesus Christ based on what he did for us. It’s a gift.
How do you receive this gift?
If you believe in the Son (Jesus Christ), you will receive eternal life. A believer turns from sin, confesses his sin and his guilt and shame, and calls on Jesus for this new birth to be born again to eternal life.
Part of your responsibility in being saved is also that you turn (repent) from your sin. While on earth, Jesus called people to “repent” of sin. Your sin offends, dishonours, and infuriates God. Sin deserves a death penalty. “Repenting” means to change your mind about your life, sin, and God, and turn to him.
It all comes down to what you do with Jesus: Who is he to you? What decision have you made regarding him? Have you acknowledged the reality of sin? What have you done about that? Have you turned to him?
Question 2: What is the Christian life?
What about once you’ve become a Christian? What’s that “something” you have to do to live the Christian life well?
The key to living the Christian life is not something, but someone: The Holy Spirit. It’s he whom God gifts to you the moment you’re born again. He empowers you to live out God’s plan for your life.
And what is the Christian life? First we need a working definition of the Christian life:
The Christian life is the life of repentance, faith, and good works, lived through the power of the Spirit and with the help of the means of grace, as the Christian is conformed to the image of Christ to the glory of God.
How to live the Christian life
In reality, you don’t life the Christian life. Someone else lives it for you.
We fail to do the good works: love your enemies, love others, etc. When we rely on ourselves and try harder, we fail to live by faith and obey God.
You can’t do it. But God can. Jesus lived the perfect life. If God lives your life for you, then it’s easier for you to live like Christ. When you were born again, God gifted you with the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit of Christ, who indwells you. He lives the Christian life for you:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
Sin is dead to you and you now have the victory over sin. You become empowered by Christ who lives in you and through you. It’s not you who lives the right life, but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provides the spiritual influence you need to act in the way that glorifies God. He influences you toward right living by teaching you God’s Word (the Bible), which was inspired by him.
The means of grace
God’s Word (the Bible) changes you
The power of the Holy Spirit to produce Christian living in you is unleashed as you read and obey God’s Word. You work in concert with the Holy Spirit to become a right-living Christian. You’re influenced to live for God as the Holy Spirit’s words sink deeply into your heart.
The Christian life is nurtured by the Bible. Read it daily. The power of the Holy Spirit to produce Christian living in you is unleashed as you read and obey God’s Word. You work in concert with the Holy Spirit to become a right-living Christian. You’re influenced to live for God as the Holy Spirit’s words sink deeply into your heart.
More means of grace for living the Christian life
In addition to the Holy Spirit, God gives other means of grace to influence the believer in thinking like Christ and to live the Christian life:
- The church: This is not the building, but the people who gather to help one another live rightly.
- Prayer: Talking to God. You have access and permission as his child. He listens to you and answers the cries of your heart. You can ask him for guidance and help in living the Christian life.
Question 3: Why isn’t it easier to live the Christian life?
So then, if we have the Holy Spirit and the various means of grace, why isn’t the Christian life easier?
To help us answer this, let’s look at the person who wrote half of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul was given a new nature and had the Holy Spirit. Yet he still found himself failing to live the Christian life. This frustrated Paul:
for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15).
He explains the main reason for why he still sinned:
So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me (Romans 7:17).
Christians are a new creation of God. They see life in a new way and can live life in a new power. But as Christians, we still have the desire for sin remaining in us: the “old life” or “old man,” as the Bible describes it. We can choose to live the non-Christian life when we make that choice. This is every Christian’s battle.
Paul was given a new nature to live like Jesus, but he recognized the battle raging within, because of the old man inside. The flesh (the old sinful person) lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh:
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:17)
There’s the battle. If you choose to let the old sin nature win, then the Christian life is not easy. However, the Bible tells us the secret to overcoming:
walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
There’s the “how” you live the Christian life with ease: It’s choice. As a Christian, it’s your choice. If you submit to the Holy Spirit’s control, then God will give you the power to make the choice to flee sin and honor God with your life.
Why doesn’t the world (non-Christians) accept me?
How can you be a Christian and have the world accept you?
Non-Christians oppose and even hate Christians. By why? Aren’t Christians nice people?
Jesus told his disciples the reason why (John 15:18-25). The problem is sin. The sinful life doesn’t match with our life. Sinners who love their sin, hate Jesus Christ. Jesus told sinners to turn from their sin and believe in him. He told them they would die in their sins. Therefore, people who love their sin will hate anyone who threatens their freedom to live in sin.
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 (John 15:18,19)
The Christian life isn’t easy in the sense of being accepted by your non-Christian friends. This might be a wake-up call for some. We don’t often consider this before we come to Christ – we don’t count the cost of following Jesus. But Jesus told his disciples to count the cost. He essentially said “you will be hated if you follow me” (John 15:18,19). These were not easy things to hear.
When you consider what Christ has done for you, may your response be to endure any mistreatment caused by living for Christ. Know that the people who hate you ultimately desperately need you, the message of hope and salvation, and your love and patience with them. Look to bless them. God may be using you to reach them for him.
This is the life before you as a Christian. Don’t be surprised when you’re hated for living the Christian life. Don’t be discouraged from showing your enemies love.
Conclusion: Living it out
As we consider all this, how do we live it out?
Ultimately, it’s a call to surrender. Commit to killing sin in your life and follow the call of God into right living as a Christian. Paul urges Christians everywhere to focus first, not on the difficult Christian life ahead, but on God and his gracious mercy and love and all that he’s done for us:
I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).
In light of that mercy, don’t be afraid those who would oppose Christ, but consider the mercy of God. Allow that understanding of who God is and what he’s done for you to motivate and inspire you to present your body a living sacrifice to Jesus and give your life to him.
With respect to those in the world who will not accept your Christian living and what you believe, consider what God would want you to do in sacrificing. Even potentially the cost to reputation. Consider that as something to sacrifice. Don’t care about what people will think about you. Continue to show love and share the gospel.
Practical living through the means of grace
Live out the Christian life practically. Thinking about all the possible ways you have to be influenced by God, engage in the practical means of grace every day. You have unlimited access to these:
- Word of God: Engage in God’s Word and and whatever helps you with personal Bible study. Practical tools like devotionals, Bible reading plans, and online studies can help, as well as your pastor’s teachings on Sunday. Continue to be saturated and drenched in God’s Word, which the Holy Spirit uses to change you into the image of Christ.
- Church: Maintain Christian community relationships with the believing friends you have. Take the initiative to connect with them. Learn to ask each other uncomfortable questions to help keep each other accountable. The church is not a building on Sunday, but rather it’s about real relationships 24/7.
- Prayer: Prayer is conversation with God and can take place everywhere (on a drive, etc). It’s not just formal prayer – just talk to God where you are. Keep that conversation with him going, confessing what’s in your heart. The Holy Spirit will intercede on your behalf and answer your prayer.
May God help you as you live the Christian life with and for him.
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- Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Me?
- Tending to Your Soul by Reading Books
- Faith and Reason – FAQ Guide
You can listen to the audio here or find it as an episode in the Prepared to Answer Podcast in your favourite podcast app.