Christians, churches and ministries usually have a lot to say about how to become a Christian. But what next? How does the Christian live for God? Usually all we are taught on this subject is a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," "try harder" message. The message we hear seems to be, "You were saved by faith. Now live for God by trying. You can do it!" Sermons abound giving us 7 steps to victorious living, 4 principles to overcoming sin, etc. This all amounts to saying we come to Christ by faith, but live for God by law.
But the gospel is for the BELIEVER also! Yes, we are justified by faith. But we are also sanctified by faith! The same gospel that saves the sinner, sanctifies the saint (Terry Simpson). But what does this mean practically? How do you live for God? You live for God by...dying.
Victoria Osteen has a new book called Love Your Life (pictured above). But what does Jesus say? "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25, ESV). Jesus' call is not a call to fulfill self, but to deny self (Luke 9:23) and take up our cross. Taking up our cross does not refer to drearily accepting difficult situations. Taking up our cross means believing the gospel!
The gospel tells us that Christ died for us. If he has died for us, then the benefit goes to our account. For example, if I payed your house payment for you next month it would be credited to your account, not mine. I don't have a debt with your bank, you do! Jesus did not have a debt with God (he never sinned); we did. Jesus died for us. This means that WE are accounted as dead. Dead to sin (Romans 6:1-14). This is not speculation; this is TRUE for the believer. It is true that we are dead to sin, because Jesus died for us. So we must believe this report God has given us and count ourselves dead to sin because of the gospel. This is taking up our cross.
The flip side of this is the resurrection. Since we died with Christ, we also are raised with him to new life! It is no longer us, but Christ (Galatians 2:20)! Our flesh hates this message. It wants to live. Our flesh is sneaky and deceptive. It will even do good things; even serve the Lord (temporarily) if we will only let it live! It will pretend to obey God. Then when our guard is down: BAM! Back to the sin which so easily entangles. The flesh cannot be improved (That which is born of the flesh is flesh," John 3:6, ESV). God has only one answer for the flesh: it must die. It must be crucified. This was accomplished spiritually when Christ died for us at the cross; it is realized practically and experientially day by day as we believe the gospel, yield to Christ and count ourselve dead to sin and alive to God (Col 3:1-14).
How do you live for God? Try harder?? That only results in failure and frustration. We CAN'T live for God. The only thing God accepts is Jesus. Jesus can live for God (and has... and does daily through us as we yield). Paul was so upset with the Galatians because they started out in faith and then went to the flesh: "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3, ESV). They were adding the Jewish law to faith in Christ. We may not add the Jewish law, but we add our own laws ("I'll memorize the New Testament...THEN I'll be holy.")
How do we live for God? We can't. God's answer is the gospel. We died in Christ and we believe that and walk in it daily. We can walk in victory over sin and glorious obedience to God through faith in Christ and him crucified...the same way we were justified! Praise God! It is all him, from start to finish. Salvation is of the Lord.