Guest Blogger: Pastor Dan Weber- How to Live a Christian Life
You’re shopping for a book. Maybe for yourself, maybe a gift for someone else. But you’re not just looking for a novel or a work of fiction; no, instead, you’re looking for something specifically Christian. And as you browse the aisles (or webpages) of your favorite Christian book retailer, you quickly see what kind of book dominates the store: “Christian Living.” There are shelves upon shelves filled with books on what it means to live the Christian life.
Most of those books focus on me. They focus on you. They may start with Christ, but they’re going to spend most of them time on what we do. That’s a big question for us. How do I live the Christian life?
What does it mean to live the Christian life? How am I supposed to live out my faith? In 1520, Martin Luther wrote a short book (my copy is only 40 pages long) that answers that question as biblically and practically as I’ve seen anywhere. This brief book (a tract really), was written in Latin. And when translated into English, it is usually titled, The Freedom of the Christianor Christian Liberty. In 2003, this book was again translated into English under the title, How To Live a Christian Life. I think that title is fitting, because that’s the question Luther powerfully answers.
You can download a free copy of How To Live a Christian Life here: http://www.LutheranPress.com/docs/HTLACL2-fulltext.pdf.
What does it mean to live the Christian life? Luther answers that question by holding two apparently contradictory statements together. He writes, “The faith of a Christian can be summarized with two statements: A Christian is the most liberated master of everyone, and subject to no one. [and] A Christian is the most dutiful servant of everyone, and subject to everyone.” The first half of the book goes into the first proposition, and the second half unpacks the second.
The claim that Christians are perfectly free lords of all and slaves to none is Martin Luther’s way of restating the Gospel. The Christian is saved by grace alone, which is received by the gift of faith alone, which trusts in Christ’s work alone, as revealed in Scripture alone. Therefore, to God alone belongs all glory and praise. That’s the Gospel. And if that’s true, then every Christian has been absolutely set free.
As Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” And as Jesus declares, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” This freedom doesn’t come from our works or efforts or obeying certain laws or by behaving in a certain way. Our Christian freedom comes to us free of charge because of Christ. (Unlike our American freedom, which isn’t free. But we live in the land of the free because of the brave, as we will observe at the end of the month.)
In Christ, we are free and have everything we need. In his colorful language, Luther writes about this glorious exchange, “Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all his goodness. Her sins cannot not destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by him.” And so the redeemed bride, “in the face of death and hell [can] say, ‘If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all his is mine and all mine is his.’” In Christ you are free.
But this brings us to the second half of the Christian life. Indeed, a Christian is also a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all. Paul writes in Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Throughout the first half, Luther describes the Christian in terms of the “inner man,” and his relationship to God. But now in the second half, he talks about the “outer man” and his relationship to his earthly neighbor.
We are called to a life of good works, a life of bearing the fruit of faith. The kind of fruit produced by a tree is determined by what kind of tree it is. A pear tree produces pears. An apple true produces apples. A Christian does good works. The good works don’t make us a Christian any more than the fruit determines the nature of the tree. But we produce fruit according to who we are and the various callings God has placed us in.
This is what it means to live the Christian life: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).