I think an important evangelical legacy is its emphasis upon the authority, even inerrancy, of Scripture. Therein we find the truths revealed about our need, as well as God’s plan of salvation through Christ. We also discover some amazing promises and expectations regarding what the Christian life should look like.
Put simply, biblically, the Christian life is a supernatural one to be lived in a deeply intimate, personal relationship with the living God. Through His Spirit in us, we have Jesus’ promised presence and power made available to us. We have been given power to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8); bear the fruit of His life (Gal 5:22-23); see the risen Christ made present (manifest) in our midst, through His body (1 Cor 12:7); be filled to all the fullness of God (Eph 3:19); and much, much more. Jesus even warns us that apart from abiding in Him – living life in deep unity with, and in dependence upon, Him – we can do nothing (John 15:5).
But, if the normal Christian life is one in which we, His people, are to be marked by His presence and power, how come we seem to see so little of that today, at least in the west, and particularly the U.S.? How come so many seem to think Christians are not really living differently from others?
There could be various factors at work here. But, I want to consider the Bible’s expectations of what the Christian life should be like, and then consider our expectations in light of Scripture’s. I think we will find that there is a considerable disconnect between them.
Consider Scripture’s expectations. I think it narrates an overarching theme: God wants to be our God, we are to be His people, and He wants to dwell in our midst. For instance, repeatedly, the Old Testament announces God’s desire to be our God and make a people for Himself (e.g., Ex 6:7; Lev 26:12; Jer 7:23, 11:4, 30:22; and Ezek 36:28). He also wants to dwell in the midst of His people; e.g., Ex 29:45-46; Zech 2:10-11; and Ezek 37:27. God wants to be intimately personal with people. Consider Moses (Ex 33:7-20, 34:4-6a) and David (Ps. 27:4, 34:8). Those same themes continue in the New Testament (e.g., John 1:14; John 17:3; and 2 Cor 6:16). Finally, at the end of Scripture, these same themes reappear in great beauty (Rev 21:3 and 22:4).
Before the fall, Adam and Eve lived in this intimacy and deep unity with the Lord. His Spirit lived in them, and their hearts and minds were united with His. They knew and experienced the beauty and fulfillment of God’s love.
But, when they chose to listen to the voice of the serpent to be as God, they died spiritually – the Spirit no longer lived in them. Moreover, their hearts and minds no longer were united with those of God. Instead, they would listen to and follow the voice of their “father” the devil (cf. John 8:44), such that they would want to define good and evil (Gen 3:5), and even the rest of reality, I think.
But, God’s solution addresses these very needs. The Spirit of God lives in us and has given us a new heart. Biblically, the heart is the core of our being, that from which we really live, will, and trust. The old heart was desperately deceitful and wicked (Jer 17:9), but the new heart is to live in deep unity with God’s, trusting and loving Him and one another. We can live as God desired for Solomon, with a hearing heart (1 Kings 3:9, lit.) that listens to and loves God. Also, in the new birth, we have been given access to the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). What intimacy!
Now, this intimacy far exceeds what we need to know truths in Scripture. God also wants us to know Him – experientially, by intimate acquaintance with Him. But, we have expectations of the Christian life, too, and I think these have been shaped by factors other than just the Bible. I will consider some of them in subsequent posts.