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Why one more book on the Christian life? All through the many years since I became a Christian, I have been reading books on the Christian life, since it was my desire to live the kind of life that the Lord Jesus Christ wanted me to live, for which He had to give His life. Different books look at different aspects of this life. But looking back now, especially after many years as a Bible teacher dealing with misunderstandings about the Christian life, and as a Christian counsellor trying to help people deal with their practical difficulties, I have come to see the need for a different type of a book.
Most books on the Christian life define how that life ideally ought to be, from the teachings of the Bible. That is fine from that point of view! But we also need to make equal efforts to understand how we can get to experience in our practical life what God has already prepared.
We believe that the Bible is a great gift that God has given to mankind through which He has revealed Himself and shown us how He deals with man. It is only natural that we hold the Bible as the basis on which we develop all our spiritual understanding. The Bible becomes the ultimate authority against which we check all teachings and experiences. This is the best thing to do because we know that it was inspired of God, even though He used human authors to pen it down.
We also need to consider the fact that the Bible was not written in a text book style, dealing with different subjects one after another in an orderly manner. The Bible is a mixture of historical, poetical, prophetic and doctrinal (teaching) material. We know that the Bible was written by human authors under the inspiration of God Ė not by God forcing them like machines to write down things on His mind or by dictating His words to the authors, but His working with the human beings within the limitations of their understanding and abilities. We can imagine how it would have been a challenge to God (I am not denigrating the almighty character of God in saying this) to get all His ideas across without crossing the boundary of manís free will, and coping with manís limited knowledge and understanding at the same time! Therefore, as the Bible stands, what we see is that many truths are not revealed to us in a plain manner but we have to glean them from all over the Bible. As a result of this peculiar structure of the Bible, it becomes misleading many times to take verses from here and there in the Bible and treat them as standalone or independent truths, without reference to the other parts of the Bible. Another difficulty is that since the Bible was originally written long ago, we are not familiar with the customs and practices of people in those days. Also, authors use different styles of writing, and there is also much use of figurative and symbolic language. As a result, we need to be careful in interpreting the meaning of what we read.
As we read the Bible, there is one particular point we need to keep in mind with reference to our salvation. When Jesus said on the cross, ďIt is finished,Ē and died, it meant that all that God needed to do to provide us salvation was accomplished and completed. At the same time it is clear from the word of God that there are things we need to do to receive and experience that salvation to the full. Salvation is given freely by God and there is nothing we can do to qualify to receive it. At the same time we do not experience it automatically but only as we respond to God in the right way. Justification is something we can experience instantaneously when we go to God in faith, but sanctification is a lifelong process by which God transforms our life as we cooperate with Him.
Many times the Bible tells us about what God has prepared for us, and the language implies that they have already been accomplished. The fact is, they are finished ó from Godís side and point of view. But it does not mean that they have automatically become true for us in our practical experience. Since Godís word says something has been already done, many people make a mistake by asserting that it is already true in their lives, even though it is obvious that they have not yet come to the fullness of that experience. When our practical experience does not match with what the Bible seems to say, it is not right to pretend our experience is in line with the Bible! That is dishonest, and it does not please God at all! To be honest is to say that God is going to fulfil what He has promised in His word, that our experience has not reached there yet, and then to take all the steps that God has shown us in His word in order to go towards that fulfilment.
On one hand, when our experience does not match with what we think the Bible is saying, it would certainly be wrong to go with our experience and discredit the Bible. But it would also be wrong to assert that what the Bible says is true in our life when it is not so. God wants us to have Ďtruthí (reality) in the innermost part of our being (Psa.51:6). When we find a mismatch between what the Bible tells us and what we really experience in our lives, the first thing we need to do is to check if we are doing anything wrong because of which our life is not in line with the Bible. But after that it would be also good to see if we have interpreted the Bible in the right way.
In The practical Christian life we want to be honest about our life, facing the truth about our experience squarely. We want to understand what the Bible really promises us as Christians, and we also want to see honestly if our practical life agrees with it. We want to learn what we should do when we see all the discrepancies in our life with respect to the word of God. We donít want to pursue after some unrealistic standard of life, but we also donít want to give up or lower the standards below what Godís words promise us. As you continue reading, ask God to speak to you through the working of the Holy Spirit in your heart and mind.
Another thing to remember is that God has some specific ministry or ministries planned for each of His children, and He gives us spiritual gifts according to our calling. It also happens that the way we live and the priorities we show in life will also depend on our calling. For example, a Bible teacher spends more time studying the Bible and reading Christian books, and an intercessor spends many hours praying for others, and they are not necessarily the pattern for people with other callings. What we say here in this book is about the common factors in every Christianís life and not in any particular calling.
With this introduction, let us get on to the main part of the book.
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