Living Life Like a King
From Discover Your Destiny
Before I became a Christian, I had the idea that to accept Christ was the end of everything.
It seemed to me that there was a fearful contrast between all of the happy involvements of a young man and the world, and the darksome long-robed image that I had of Christianity. I had heard rumors that Christians were perfectly happy merely to sing hymns and gather in meetings where they talked about God. I, therefore, understandably concluded that to become a Christian would mean the end of youthful fun and the beginning of sober and dismal experiences.
I also recall, as a ten-year-old boy, playing tag with several friends of mine in the park as it drew toward dusk. I ran past a young couple seated on a park bench sitting very close to one another and oblivious of the external world. I could not understand—a passing thought, I remember—why a young man and a young lady would be so silly as to sit on a park bench close to one another, doing absolutely nothing!
I was later to discover that my youthful opinion was a superficial external judgment. Little did I know, being on the outside looking in, that love is a more profound and preoccupying involvement than a game of tag ever could be.
I discovered the same thing about Christianity.
When a person accepts Christ as his Saviour, he literally steps into another world. His external physical appearance remains the same, but the “real person” has moved into a mode of being of which ordinary people, following purely natural observation and reasoning, know nothing whatsoever. When a person becomes a Christian, his external identifications are so incidental as to be hardly worth mentioning; but his internal, his spiritual involvement with God, now becomes the total, the real preoccupation of his life.
The Bible terms this as being “in Christ” and “Christ in you.” The exquisite joy and absolutely settled peace that fill the total life of the believer are so indescribably wonderful as to evade the understanding of the onlooker. The individual who believes in Christ soon discovers to his happy surprise that Christianity has really nothing to do with buildings and organizations. These, despite their touted importance, are incidental to the reality of the eternal God within the personality of the discovery of Christ.
An onlooking world has foolishly assumed that God’s reputation in our world is made by the height of a steeple, the beauty of a stained-glass window, and the richness of a manufactured altar, never dreaming that God lives in redeemed people rather than religious things.
One reason for the profound sense of gratefulness on the part of a new Christian is apparent from just a brief backward glance at the fearful things from which he has been delivered. Standing on the heights of his newfound faith in Christ, he looks back at the confused jungle of influences and consequences in the dark valley of the life that for him now is forever past. He truly wretched he actually was, even in the best moments of the old life. He is astonished at his former inability to perceive the cataract of ruin that was descending upon him but is grateful, usually beyond words, at the unpredicted and astonishing grace that has been extended to him by a God more loving than he ever dreamed possible. Every recollection of the life which he now has repudiated brings new reason for his utter and grateful adoration of the God who loved him even when he was back there in the black valley of death. The Son has made him free indeed. He has been delivered from the deadly disease of sin.
He has been delivered from sin in terms of its eternal consequences. Jesus Christ taught that the state of a man who pursues the path of rebellion against God for all of life is finally himself a victim of that rebellion. Christ gave an account that points up the fearful contrast between the state of some lives in this world and the next, saying,
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments; and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame (Luke 16:19-24).
So the Lord of eternity clearly presented that in the world to come there will be some who, though rich and famous in this life, would be unthinkably ruined.
The word translated “hell” as used by Jesus is Gehenna. This morose expression was very familiar to all of the residents of the city of Jerusalem, for in common parlance it referred to a physical location just outside of the walls. Gehenna was literally “the valley of Hinnom,” a depression beyond the southeast wall of the city which for centuries served as the garbage and refuse dump of Jerusalem. Perhaps Christ was standing near the wall of the city of Jerusalem toward evening and point to the livid flames burning against the night sky in the ever burning and ever replenished refuse of Jerusalem, Gehenna, when He said,
Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).
Here then is the final reduction of a life of sin—the garbage heap of the universe.
Is it any wonder then that the deliverance of Christ is called “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). The faith that accepts Christ as personal Saviour brings deliverance from this fearful consequence of sin. With what relief the thief on the cross who stood within minutes of the precipice of hell must have heard the words “today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
There is a very present sense as well in which by believing in Jesus Christ a person is delivered from sin. He is saved from sin’s present dominion.
Sin has a power that moves progressively in a life. Like a moral disease, sin moves from its first infection to its final total malignancy. The young man who experiences the first ecstatic warmth of that initial taste of alcohol hardly can anticipate the cavernous and roaring delirium that will storm through the progressive darkness of the wasted insanity with which he flirts.
He who fondles the cup of indulgence finds that his affectionate relationship does not end there. He soon faces the man-eating tiger of a mature and aggressive lust with which he cannot cope. The consumer becomes the consumed, for one who imagines himself the master of little sins soon becomes the pathetic slave to sin’s pitiless and unappeasable power. The wave in which the toe was dabbled now becomes the tide that inundates the person. Let no one but a fool ignore the fact that one drop of warm springtime rain bears within the accumulated furies of a winter’s tempest. So is the subtle but fearful power of sin.
But greater is the power of Christ’s salvation. Paul makes the happy announcement to every Christian that “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). He has delivered us “from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the child of God” (Romans 6:21).
The wretched victim of sin has been delivered by Christ from the fearful circumstances from which he could not extricate himself. The grateful heart of a new Christian realizes that he has been delivered from the disease, the storm, the bondage and the corruption which, because of his new perception, he sees were greater than he ever suspected.
The look back at the dark valley of sin is brief, however, because the soul’s new preoccupation is with the positive results of this wonderful experience of justification by faith. The apostle Paul dismisses the past with a desultory gesture when he says,
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death (Romans 6:21).
It is understandable that many new Christians spend a great deal of time, sometimes publicly, telling the story of the wretched persons that they were before they came into the light and life of salvation. It is more forgivable that this should be initially the case, but it is difficult to comprehend why it should go on for extended years. The remembrance of the days that were is progressively and happily supplanted by the marvel of the days that are and the bright anticipation of an ever widening tomorrow. There are two days of special interest to the Christian: today and tomorrow. The best of yesterdays are inferior to today and contemptible by comparison to what will be tomorrow.
To the Christian, therefore, life is opening up. It is an ever expanding apprehension of newly comprehensible reality and the increasingly wonderful personal God who stands behind it all. The critics, both higher and lower—the analysts of Christianity—are but scratching the paint on the palace. They judge this magnificent structure by analyzing the soil a foot from the foundations, foolishly ignoring the owner’s invitation to come in and live like a king.
Living like a king. That’s it!
For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).
Or, as J. B. Phillips translates it,
For if one man’s offense meant that men should be slaves to death all their lives, it is a far greater thing that through another man, Jesus Christ, men by their acceptance of his more than sufficient grace and righteousness, should live all their lives like kings!
In kingly fashion the converted person steps from enslavement by his desires to a mastery of life. He moves from the defensive to the initiative. Through faith in Jesus Christ, who traveled the whole road before him, he takes the magnificent step from the stable to the throne. He may take daily to his lips the golden chalice, brimming with the wine of abundant life. The exquisite banquet of the fulfilling presence of God may be his hourly. His full sensibilities, delivered from the leprous numbness of yesteryear may experience all of the sweet delights of the new and living way. There are very few Christians who do not experience a recurring problem at this point. That problem is how to bring to pass in fact what God says is true about me and my experience in principle.
“How do I turn my little two-bedroom home in Mortgage Heights into this palace of which the Bible speaks?” The pragmatist, subject to the residual influence of yesterday’s thinking, will always say, “it isn’t practical”. I can never make this dreamy idea of Christianity come to pass in my life.”
Remember that God is God not only of the heavens but also of the earth. He brings His will to pass not merely on the golden streets of glory but on the cobblestones of your town. It follows, then, that any difference between my life in fact and the assertion of Scripture in principle, must come not from a lack of truth in the Bible or capability on God’s part but from a lack of understanding on my part. It is interesting that the chapter that contains the promise that we can live like kings is followed by Romans 6 which give us specific instructions about bringing it to pass.
The first characteristic of the Christian who is moving in fact into his kingly responsibilities is a proper comprehension of the work of Christ on the cross.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (Romans 6:6).
The Bible clearly declares that the man I once was is finished. My mean, intemperate, morally susceptible pre-Christian self was literally crucified with Jesus Christ when He Himself died. My former person, susceptible to sin and death and living under the reign of iniquity’s deadly power is now gone. As a result of this “he that is dead is freed from sin.” All of the facts of life are therefore different.
For the Christian, life stems from a new source and motivation from a fountainhead that no person in the world can know. A Christian may show similar emotions to others—happiness, sadness, etc.—but these emotions issue from different reasons. He is listening to that different drumbeat whereby, though out of step with the crowd, he is in step with God. So it is that your old person which is subject to the ebbs and flows of life is gone.
A person of the world is still involved in the bitter daily pursuit of vanity whereas the Christian, because of his new life, sees all of this as war that cannot be won. Being made new, he sees things as they really are and is, or ought to be, less impressed by the superficial and motivated more fully by the real. He is no longer playing a game of charades. He has ceased being an actor, and the costumes have been exchanged for the clothing.
Know, Paul says. But most of us have discovered that knowledge of itself many times does not do the whole work. Knowledge that does not issue in action soon becomes a source of pride rather than true spiritual accomplishment. Knowledge of itself is not power, but knowledge properly applied becomes capability. One constantly must avoid knowing more than he is doing. The Scripture clearly advises.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22).
We have, then, a further word of advice beyond the understanding of our heritage of life in Christ.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:11).
The next step from knowledge is reckoning. To reckon means to count or to operate on the basis of. Once again from the sub-volitional depths of the human personality God moves in the continued giving of the gift that initiated salvation in the first place, the gift of faith. God gives us daily the ability to believe that the new life is indeed the paramount fact of the matter and the old life is finished and through. This is believing that what God promised He is able also to perform. It is believing that on this day in my life God will bring to pass in lucid fact those eternal principles that fashion the nature of His working with men.
It is as this point that positive thinking enters into play. I say to myself, “God says I am dead to the old life and alive to the new; therefore I will live like it; I will speak like it; I will act like it. In no case will I allow the old tendencies and habits to assert themselves into dominance in my experience, but I will give vent to the new and emergent powers that I find active within me.”
To reckon means to operate on the basis of. If I reckon that I will go from Chicago to New York, then what I do is get in my car and start. I am not in new York yet, but I have left Chicago and that puts me on the road. I am proving by my actions that I truly believe my purpose is to go to New York so Chicago is left behind.
To ring the doorbell is the prelude to the encounter. Reckoning that God has given me victory in Christ is the prelude to the assumption of that victory. It is the assumption of that victory, the “giving myself to it,” that Paul speaks of in his third recommendation of those things that should characterize a Christian who is moving into kingly responsibilities. He advises,
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourself unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13).
The English word yield is not the best translation of this verse. The better verb is present. Yielding is what I do when I have no alternative. If I am pressed to the mat by a superior wrestler who holds both shoulders to the ground and yield to him, I am merely cooperating with the inevitable. To present, however, is what I do in the face of possible alternatives. Credit belongs to the Christian, especially while he is young, who sees that there are many alternatives to going fully and truly God’s way but chooses God’s way despite all this. He presents himself to God as a volitional act on his part. He transfers his allegiances from other perhaps worthy objects to fully reflect the will of the Lord of Glory.
It is tragically humorous to see a person come and say, “I want to present myself to Christ” after he has dissipated his capabilities in selfish and wasteful living. Now he knows that the world does not satisfy, but he knows it not by faith but by experience. The vagaries of this world’s promises have turned into ashes in his mouth. The long trail of desire has ended in the brambles of despondency, and now he gives himself to Christ. How wonderful that he has taken this step, but it should be remembered that he enters the life of Christian capability considerably further downstream from the individual who saw by faith that “the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I John 2:17).
Presentation, then, in the face of varied alternatives, is the course of that is God’s first will for every one of us. Remember that the devil’s argument against God is that no man will serve God, who is free to do otherwise; nor will he fully and truly of his own volition in the face of alternatives give himself to Christ. It is God’s will that by our choices and actions we will destroy the devil’s argument, shattering that satanic ideology with the lance of dedication to Jesus Christ. Knowledge of the accomplishments of Christ on the cross, reckoning myself to be dead indeed to sin, and presenting myself as a weapon in the hands of God (the better translation of the word instruments in Romans 6:13 is “weapons”)—these are the steps to the throne of kingly initiative whereby I become in fact the man that Jesus Christ by His death on the cross has made me in principle.
Now that we have talked about presenting ourselves to God, a point needs to be mentioned here. There are many who suggest that God wants to control your life. I think this is a dangerous suggestion, for it implies that God wants to keep us on the end of a string so He can manipulate us.
The Lord never made us to be robots or automatons. We are not marionettes on a string. Rather, God wants you to control it. He will help; He will give instructions; He will provide leadership. But He will not make out of you a mechanical man. It is not God’s intention to override our wills or to cause us to be weak-willed; rather, He want us to be essentially strong-willed, in fact, very stubborn, for His glory.
The idea of “control by God” has been an unfortunate point that has crept into Christian thinking; for divine control would immediately destroy all of the need for the virtues of courage, prudence, disciplined intelligence and such like. It is a tragic fact in our world that many potentially great Christians have been turned into spiritual vegetables because of the mistaken assumption that dedication to Jesus Christ meant the end of all personal responsibility. They have been lingering for years waiting for God to work, never dreaming that the Lord was counting on them to use their consecrated creative genius in accomplishment for Christ.
We see, then, that it is the will of God that every Christian move from the defensive to the initiative. It is God’s intention that we move from master of self to mastery of the universe.
Discover Your Destiny