Study 4 DIRECTIVES FOR GODLY LIVING
BREAD ENOUGH AND TO SPARE
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Psalm 48: 1-14)
It is possible for a Christian to live carelessly and in an undisciplined way, or seriously and in a dedicated way. In New Testament language it is possible for a Christian to be worldly or spiritual (1 Corinthians 3:1-4); and we have to make the choice and determine which course of action we will take. If we are to live a godly life, pleasing to the Lord, profitable to ourselves and fruitful to others, some action is needed: we are to ‘mark’ or ‘observe’ certain important things, and as we do so we shall begin to live, and go on to live, a godly life. What should hold our attention if we desire to live a godly life?
1. Mark the perfect Man and follow Him, and you will know true peace
This is what Psalm 37:37 tells us, and if we take these words quite literally they can only refer to our Lord Jesus Christ, because He is the only One whose life was, and is, perfect. Try to conform your life to the pattern which He sets before you, and as you do this you will know the blessing of Philippians 4:7. The Lord Jesus is our perfect pattern and example, so that if we want to know how to live, how to act, how to speak, how to react, all we have to do is to look to Him – look up and compare 1 Peter 2:21-23 and Hebrews 12:1-3. As we “consider Him”, seek to follow His example, and learn more of Him, what happens? We find rest – look up Matthew 11:29.
2. Mark the great doctrines of the Church, and you will become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might
Here we turn to Psalm 48:12-13. Zion is a picture of the Church, and here we are exhorted to give attention to her ramparts, or defences. What are the ramparts of the Church and of the Faith? Surely they are the great doctrines of the Faith! We are to mark these: we are to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ them. The greatest need of our time is for God’s people to become indoctrinated with biblical doctrine. So many are ignorant and uninstructed, and therefore they are weak and flabby and susceptible to every kind of false doctrine – look up and compare Colossians 2:6-8. We need to know the great doctrines of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of man, of salvation, of judgment, and of future things. Only then can we become strong, so “consider well her ramparts” and you will become strong.
3. Mark the principles enumerated in the Bible, live by them, and your life will be well-pleasing to God
Look at Jeremiah 23:18. The chapter is a very sad one in which the Lord is uncovering the sins and the shortcomings of His servants, and here He tells them to “see” and “hear” His Word. We need the same counsel, because nowhere else can we find instructions for life. God has given us everything we need in His Word, the Bible, and this is our guide for faith and practice. If we are needing guidance about going into partnership in business or becoming closely associated with those who do not honour the Lord, we need to study 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; if we are needing guidance about our lifestyle – our clothes, our leisure time, the kind of friends we should make, closely study 1 Corinthians 10:31. The only thing that matters for the Christian is that he gives attention to what God wants and what God says.
4. Mark the careless behaviour of unspiritual people and avoid bad influences
Read the solemn warning in Romans 16:17-18. It is not a pleasant passage of scripture, but it is one that is needed. One translator, Dr Moffat, puts it this way: “Brothers, I beg of you to keep your eye on those who stir up dissensions and put hindrances in your way, contrary to the doctrines which ye have been taught. Avoid them. Such creatures are no servants of Christ our Lord. They are slaves of their own base desires. With their plausible and pious talk they beguile the hearts of unsuspecting people.” We are all greatly influenced by others and it is easy for us to be influenced by the wrong people. If there are unspiritual people around us we must pray for them; but there is also a sense in which, if it is at all possible, we must avoid them, otherwise we shall be infected with their careless unspiritual behaviour, and our Christian life and witness will be affected and spoiled. There is another class of person to beware of – the one who tries to propagate teaching that is contrary to the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9), or contrary to the clear teaching of God’s Word (Colossians 2:8).
5. Mark the behaviour of godly people, be influenced by them, and you will live like a true citizen of Heaven
Read Philippians 3:17-20. Paul speaks of some who are “enemies of the cross of Christ”, and he tells us that their destiny is destruction. We are not to follow these people; we are not to be like them and we are certainly not to be influenced by them; but we are to be like someone. Who? We are to be like Paul himself! What an amazing thing this is! Here was a man who was living so close to the Lord, and who knew such a measure of godliness in his life and in his service, that he was able to say to his friends, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” – and of course Paul would quickly add, ‘even as I am, by God’s grace, a follower of my Lord’.
If we will take note of these five directives for godly living, then we shall live a life that is godly and well-pleasing to our Lord and Master.