We have already seen that one of the results of God's salvation is the impartation, to the believer, of a new life, or a new nature, so that he becomes a partaker "of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). But God does not remove from the believer the old, evil, corrupt nature, called "the flesh." It still remains within him and is never eradicated during his lifetime on earth. Thus each Christian has these two natures within him: the old nature, called "the flesh," incapable of anything good, and the new nature, called "the spirit," incapable of anything evil. Naturally, the result of this is a conflict within (Galatians 5:17). "The flesh" will seek to control and lead the believer to think, say and do those things displeasing to God, his Father; while the new nature will seek to dominate and lead the believer to think, say and do those things pleasing to God.
Many a Christian has been puzzled by this fact, and has become discouraged and even doubted that he was ever truly saved. He imagined that when he trusted Christ as his Savior, and was thus born again, all tendency to sin would be removed; but he discovered, after a while, that "the flesh" was still within him and was unchanged in its evil characteristics. What, then, is the child of God to do in order to live a life pleasing to His heavenly Father and his Lord and Savior?
The story is told of a young convert from heathenism who, when he first trusted Christ as his Savior, was filled with joy and peace. A few days later, however, with woebegone face he approached the missionary and said: "Sir, when I first trusted Christ I was so happy, but now I am sad." "Why, what has happened?" inquired the missionary. "Well," replied the convert, "I have discovered there are two dogs within me, a white dog and a black dog." This puzzled the missionary until he realized that the native was referring to the two natures within him: the white dog, the new nature; and the black dog, the old nature. He then asked: "And what are these dogs doing?" The young Christian replied: "They are fighting with each other all day long! The white dog bites the black dog and the black dog bites the white dog!" "Yes," thought the missionary, "that's just how Scripture puts it: "The flesh lusteth [or desireth] against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other" (Galatians 5:17). Then the missionary put this question to the young convert: "Which of these dogs gets the victory?" Now mark carefully the answer he received. The native wrinkled his brow in thought and at length replied: "Well, sir, I've found it all depends to which of the dogs I say ‘sic 'em'!" In other words, this young believer discovered, as you will, that your will is the deciding factor as to which of these natures is to control your life.
God's word enjoins the believer to have "no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). That is to say, he is not to expect any good from it, but treat it with distrust and suspicion. Again, he is told to "make not provision for the flesh" (Romans 13:14). That is, he is to deny its claims for attention or recognition, and refuse to pander to its desires or lusts. The flesh must be starved, denied and kept in subjection. Once this vigilance is relaxed, the flesh will again seek to dominate and its operations will make painful history in the life of the Christian. We must accept God's verdict upon the flesh and agree to His judgment upon it. Like Paul, we must learn "that in me, (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18). As we learn and act upon this fact, we shall not be surprised or disappointed at the uprisings of this old nature within. In the measure that we take advantage of the provision God has made in giving us this new nature, and seek to develop it by feeding upon God's word, keeping in touch with Him by prayer, and yielding our lives to live to His glory; in that measure we shall be enabled to "walk in the Spirit...and not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
Do you want to be a devoted, joyous and useful Christian, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, bringing glory to Him and blessing into the lives of others? If so, your life must be lived under the control of the new nature. We are told that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance [self-control]" (Galatians 5:22-23). It is possible for a child of God, through carelessness of life, prayerlessness, lack of study of God's word, slackness in witnessing for Christ, tampering with questionable amusements and allowing unjudged sin in his life, to live under the control of the flesh; and thus bring sadness into his own life, disgrace to the name of Christianity, and no fruit to the glory of the One Whom he once professed to know, love, and serve. Surely no Christian, reading these words, would want to live such a life; yet, alas, many do. This is the danger to which all Christians are exposed; therefore, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. With these preliminary words, let us now ask ourselves the question at the head of this chapter: "What should be the effect of being saved?" or "How may I live a happy and useful Christian life?"
First, there should be a desire for the regular and systematic reading and study of the word of God. Just as a new-born baby naturally desires the milk which sustains its life and develops its growth; so every born again person should "desire the sincere milk of the word [of God] that [he] may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2).
The Bible is the Divinely inspired word of God, and is therefore absolutely true and authoritative on all questions (2 Timothy 3:14-17). It is the full and complete revelation of the will of God to the believer. How important, then, that it be read regularly and systematically! There should be a definite time set apart for its reading each morning and evening, and nothing allowed to interfere with this, for nothing can compensate a person for a lack of the knowledge of God's word. Through the Bible God speaks to His people to comfort, guide, encourage, warn, rebuke, and build them up in their most holy faith. Thus, through the Scriptures, the believer may learn to know the will of God for him.
Neglect of the word of God is a sure sign of spiritual declension, or a going back to the control of the old nature. The flesh does not relish the reading of the Scriptures: but the new nature feeds, grows and develops through it. Let each Christian solemnly and sincerely determine that he will set apart a period each morning and evening for the reading of God's precious word.
The Bible should be read (1) Reverently, for it is God's word. All lightness should be set aside as we approach its sacred pages. (2) Prayerfully. We should pray David's prayer: "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law" (Psalm 119:18). As we thus prayerfully read the Scriptures, God will open our spiritual eyes to see and understand His word. (3) Dependently, remembering that the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the Bible to be written, is also within us to be our Teacher, and to take of the things of Christ and reveal them to us, and to guide us into all truth (John 16:13-15). (4) Carefully. Let us not skip over its pages, but note carefully what God has to say. It is a good plan to mark any verse with a pencil that impresses itself upon the mind and to memorize these verses, and thus allow the memory to become a storehouse of the very words of God. (5) Regularly. We are told that the Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11). Do not allow a day to pass without the Bible being read. The best time is the early morning when the mind is freshest and the memory most retentive. (6) Systematically. It is good to have a definite scheme by which the whole Bible can be read within the course of a year. This is not so difficult as it sounds. If three chapters of the Old Testament are read each morning, and two chapters of the New Testament each evening; the Old Testament will be read once a year, and the New Testament twice each year. Thus a fine knowledge of the Bible will be obtained. (7) Obediently. Jesus once said: "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). God's word gives light that must be followed, and issues commands that must be obeyed if it is to have any real practical good in our lives. We are warned not to be hearers only, but "doers of the word" (James 1:22). See also John 15:14; 13:17.
God's word is likened unto a Sword to defend (Ephesians 6:17); a Light to illume (Psalm 119:130, 105); a Mirror to reveal (James 1:23-25); Milk to develop (1 Peter 1:2); Meat to strengthen (Hebrews 5:12-14); Fire to test reality and consume the dross (Jeremiah 23:29); a Hammer to break (Jeremiah 23:29); Honey to be enjoyed (Psalm 19:10); and Gold to enrich (Psalm 119:72). Surely we should praise God for giving us such a wonderful book, and so seek to read and study its pages that we shall come to know and do His will in our lives. Read also Psalm 19:7-14; 1:1-3; 119:11, 98, 160; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:15.
Secondly, there should be a desire to spend time in God's presence for praise and prayer. By praise the child of God expresses his appreciation to his heavenly Father for all He has revealed Himself to be in Christ, His beloved Son; for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; for the gift of the Holy Spirit; for the word of God; for his salvation and all the blessings it has brought, and also for all the temporal mercies such as health, strength, soundness of mind, food, shelter and clothing, etc. (Ephesians 1:1-12; James 1:17; Colossians 1:12-13). God wants a praising people (Psalm 50:23), and it delights His heart to hear the thanksgiving of those who know Him and appreciate all He has done (Psalm 103:1-22).
By prayer the Christian makes known to his heavenly Father all his needs, and asks for that which is in accordance with His will, as revealed in His word. God wants His people to come to Him with all their cares, problems, trials, difficulties, failings, temptations and sorrows. Nothing is too small to take to Him, for He delights to hear their prayers and has promised: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me" (Psalm 50:15). God also wants to hear His people's prayers on behalf of others; for all that are in authority, for our loved ones, for our unsaved relatives and friends, for gospel preachers and missionaries in the foreign field, etc. (1 Timothy 2:1-4). See also 1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 6:5-15; Ephesians 6:18-20; Philippians 4:6-8.
The habit of prayer should be cultivated until it becomes second nature to take everything to God in prayer and tell Him simply and frankly all our problems, needs and desires. We shall then prove that God's word is right when it declares: "They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31). Well did the poet write:
"O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pains we bear:
O because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!"
Thirdly, there should be a desire to witness for Christ and bring others to know Him. Every Christian should earnestly seek to win others for Christ by his own personal testimony to the saving power of the gospel, and back up this testimony by a godly and consistent Christian life. A person may well question the reality of his own salvation if he does not desire the salvation of others. There is no joy comparable to soul-winning; to have the unspeakable privilege of leading someone else to trust the Savior and thus be eternally saved. Paul's motto was: "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:20-23).
The Lord said to His disciples: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Again He said: "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). A witness is one who tells what he has seen, heard and experienced. Every Christian is therefore a witness for Christ to tell others of Him and seek to win them to Him. Let us, who profess to belong to Christ, tell our relatives, friends and others of the Savior we have come to know, love, trust and serve that they, too, may be saved.
There is a natural timidity about all of us that must be faced and conquered. As the Scripture puts it: "The fear of man bringeth a snare" (Proverbs 29:25). We must not allow the scorn, ridicule and contempt of the world to hinder us from a bold witness for our Lord Who endured the cross and despised the shame for us (Hebrews 12:1-3). The Devil also will do his best to prevent the believer from being a soul-winner; but Bible study and much prayer will increase both the desire and the courage to be a valiant soldier of the King of kings. The first thing Andrew did, after he had come to know Christ was to bring his brother, Peter, to the Savior (John 1:40-42). Many an entire family has been brought to Christ because of the courageous witness and consistent Christian life of one of its members. Will you be that one?
There are many methods of winning souls and God's word assures us that "he that winneth souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30). Much wisdom, tact and guidance is necessary, and this God has promised to give to those who ask Him (James 1:5-6). A good method is to carefully and prayerfully distribute good, sound gospel tracts which you have read yourself. These, handed out in a courteous and tactful manner, will serve as conversation openers to introduce the gospel. Constant practice will make perfect, and you will experience the joy of being in His service. If Christ so loved us as to give Himself for us, then surely, in love for Him, we should give ourselves to Him that He may use us to win souls for Him. Read carefully and prayerfully the following Scriptures: Romans 10:1, 12:17; 1:14-16; Ezekiel 33:1-6; Proverbs 24:11-12; Matthew 28:18-20; Daniel 12:3.
Fourthly, there should be a desire for separation from all known sin in the life. Anything of a doubtful or questionable character should be avoided, either in the way of reading, amusements, or recreation (I Thessalonians 5:22). God wants His people to be clean, both morally and spiritually, for any un-cleanness tolerated in the life unfits the Christian for effective service, robs him of his joy in the Lord and dulls his spiritual senses (1 Timothy 4:8-9, 16; 2 Timothy 2:19-22). Many a Christian, who might have been a power for God, has been laid on the shelf because he allowed questionable things and unjudged and unconfessed sin in his life (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 11:31-32).
When a child of God becomes conscious of having committed some sin in thought, word, deed, or attitude, he should immediately confess it to his heavenly Father and thus take sides with God against it, and then turn from that sin with loathing. If the wrong has been done against anyone else, then an apology to that person and restitution of the wrong done should be made (Matthew 18:15-22). This self-discipline, needless to say, is not desired by the old nature; but should be constantly practiced, for the price of a joyous and useful Christian life is ceaseless vigilance; or, as the Lord Himself put it, a constant need to "watch and pray" (Matthew 26:41). Someone once gave this advice to a young believer: "Keep short accounts with God." In other words, confess any sin the moment it is committed, so that communion may be constantly maintained (1 John 1:9). Self-confidence and self-satisfaction are twin evils the believer must avoid (Galatians 6:3; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 8:2; John 15:5).
Here is a fivefold test that can be applied to any problem arising in the Christian life concerning any purpose or plan that has been formed: (1) Is it according to the word of God? If there is any Scripture that forbids such a plan or purpose; then it should be immediately dropped. (2) Does this plan or purpose violate any principle of the word of God? There are certain broad principles laid down in the Scriptures concerning cleanness of thought, purity of life, honesty of dealing and truthfulness of word. Does this thing that the Christian contemplates violate any of these principles? (3) Can I do it to the glory of God? We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Will this thing we are going to say, or do, or our visit to this place or that bring glory to God? If not, then it had best be dropped. (4) Can I ask God's blessing on it? If not, then it had best be left undone. (5) Would I like to be found doing this thing, or in this place if the Lord Jesus were to come? (Matthew 24:42-46). The story is told of a man who was debating with himself as to whether he should wear a slightly soiled collar he had used the previous evening. His wife settled the problem for him by saying: "John, if it's doubtful, it's dirty!" If we treat any doubtful thing in the Christian life as dirty, we shall not be very far wrong!
Fifthly, there should be a desire for the companionship and fellowship of Christians. David could say, "I am a companion of all them that fear Thee" (Psalm 119:63). There is much truth in the old proverb: "Birds of a feather flock together." It is God's desire for His people to meet together for prayer, praise, worship, the study of the Bible and the proclamation of the gospel. Each Christian should see to it that he seeks the fellowship of a company of believers who meet in accordance with those principles laid down in the New Testament Scriptures, and thus enter into the enjoyment of the love, fellowship, hospitality, friendship, encouragement, support, and blessing that such association brings.
The early disciples gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus for mutual prayer, help and edification (Acts 2:41-47). On one occasion, after they had been arrested and allowed to go free, we are told: "Being let go, they went to their own company" (Acts 4:23). See to it that you meet with "your own company" of fellow believers, who have been born again, who believe the Bible to be the word of God, who hold and teach the great fundamental doctrines of God's word, and who welcome all believers to their fellowship who are sound in life and doctrine. Do not forsake the regular assembly gatherings of believers for prayer, praise and the ministry of God's word (Hebrews 10:25).
Your closest friends should be Christians, for the Bible says: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers...for what part hath he that believeth with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). In Malachi 3:16 we are told that "they that feared the LORD spake often one to another." Seek the friendship of good, godly, consistent, and Bible-loving Christians, for unity is strength and they will encourage you to go on your pilgrim journey. "The friendship of the world is enmity [to] God" (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). Many a believer has lost out in his Christian life because he did not break with his old worldly companionships.
Sixthly, there should be a desire to obey the Lord's commands regarding the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper. If you will read carefully in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, you will be struck with the fact that, after a person believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, he was baptized as a believer. Notice Acts 2:41; 8:29-38; 9:18; 10:43-48; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18:8. Baptism, of course, as you have read, is only for believers, and is simply the figure or picture of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. Just as He went under the waves and billows of God's wrath because of our sins and died and rose again; so the believer, at the command of his Lord, is baptized with water to show his identification with Him in His death and resurrection, and his desire to walk in newness of life. See Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16. The spiritual significance of baptism is found in Romans 6:4-5; Colossians 2:12.
The Lord's supper was instituted by the Savior on the eve of His betrayal and death (Luke 22:19-20; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25). In 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 the risen Lord gave a special revelation to Paul concerning this ordinance. Read these Scriptures carefully and mark well the words of the Lord Jesus: "This do in remembrance of Me." Make known your desire to thus remember the Lord to a Scripturally gathered company of believers and they will doubtless gladly welcome you to the enjoyment of this great privilege.
Seventhly, there should be a desire to be one's best for God. God's purpose in our salvation is that we might be "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:6; 12, 14). He reminds each believer in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 thus: "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's." Surely the supreme aim and purpose of each believer should be to allow this desire of God to be fulfilled in his life. The Christian is urged to so live that "the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him" (2 Thessalonians 1:12). It is dreadfully possible for the believer to live a self-pleasing and self-glorifying life, and thus bring no pleasure or glory to God. We are distinctly warned not to live such a life (Romans 15:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:14-16). The judgment seat of Christ is ahead, at which our lives shall pass in review before Him, to earn either His commendation or censure, reward or loss. See 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Romans 14:7-10. Every Christian would do well to have this fact constantly before him and so live, that when that day comes, he will hear his Lord saying: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).
How, then, can the believer live this God-glorifying life? First, he should definitely yield himself and his body to God, for a righteous life (Romans 6:13-14). That is, for an honest, upright, truthful and clean life before the world. God wants His people to live honorable lives in a world of sin, so that they shall shine like lights in the dark. (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15). This calls for self-denial, self-judgment, and self-sacrifice; but it yields good returns in blessing to one's own soul and to the lives of others.
Second, he should definitely yield his body to God as a living sacrifice, for a useful life (Romans 12:1-2). Read these words carefully and upon your knees in the presence of God. Present your body to Him to do with you what He desires; to go where He wants you to go, to say what He wants you to say, and to be what He wants you to be. In this way, God promises you shall prove "what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God." May this be true of both the writer and the reader, for by this twofold yielding of ourselves to God for a righteous and a useful life, the believer will be enabled to live the kind of Christian life that will bring glory to his Savior, joy and peace to himself, and blessing to the lives of others.
Thirdly, he should give generously of his substance to the Lord. God's statement to the believer: "Ye are not your own," includes not only the Christian's body, with all its faculties; but all his personal property as well. The child of God is viewed in Scripture as a trustee of all the property God has committed to his care and, he will be called one day to give an account of his stewardship. David recognized this fact and, as he gave liberally to the work of the Lord, he said: "Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly...For all things come from Thee, and of Thine Own have we given Thee" (1 Chronicles 29:14).
Each Christian should regularly set aside a definite portion of his income, be it large or small, and earmark it for the Lord and His work, and thus become a systematic and proportionate giver. See 1 Corinthians 16:2. Two chapters of the New Testament are devoted to this subject of the giving of one's substance to the Lord. Read them carefully, 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. The grace of liberal giving is one of the acid tests of discipleship. Just as the reality of God's love for us was demonstrated in the gift of His Son, and as Christ's love was proven by the gift of His life for us; so the reality of our love to Him and devotion for Him is indicated by our sacrificial giving unto Him (Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 8:9, 9:7).
Under the law, the children of Israel were commanded by God to give a tenth of their possessions to the Lord. The Christian, however, is not under the law; but surely, as he realizes all that God has blessed him with in Christ, he will, out of love and gratitude, set aside a definite portion of his income for the work of the Lord, by which the meeting place of the assembly of believers is properly maintained, the needs of those who preach the word at home and abroad are supplied, and the poor of the flock are provided with the necessities of life.
In order to give in a Scriptural manner, five things should be noted. First, we must honorably obtain what we give. This entails the labor of our hands (Acts 20:33-35). Many young Christians earn money in various ways after school hours in order to be able to give of their substance to the Lord. God wants His people to be hardworking, honest and industrious (Romans 12:17). The Christian should avoid debt like a plague (Romans 13:8). It is far better to do without than to enter into financial obligations which put a millstone of debt around one's neck.
Second, we should exercise great care in what we spend on ourselves. This does not mean that we should be miserly, but to spend one's whole income on dress and luxuries for one's own pleasure and comfort is not becoming to a child of God. This will call for stringent self-denial and budgeting of one's income, so as to be able to meet all the obligations necessary to honest living and the support of one's family and yet have a balance for the needs of others. One must resolutely shut his eyes to the seductive advertisements of many luxuries the believer can quite easily do without, with a little self-sacrifice.
The third thing about our giving is, we should use discretion in making our spiritual investments, so that the gift may be used to the best advantage. Much of the Lord's money has been poured into channels that have not been to the glory of God or the salvation of souls. We should thoroughly investigate before we invest and ask ourselves: "Will this money be used to further the spread of the gospel by those who believe the Bible to be God's word?" Many Christians are unconsciously contributing to the support of that which denies the fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures they profess to believe. A little investigation would have saved them from this error. Let us be careful how we use the Lord's money and not waste it by careless giving.
Fourth, we should give cheerfully and liberally. A gift grudgingly given brings no glory to God or blessing to the giver. "God loveth a cheerful [and bountiful] giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). Think of the great honor God has given us of allowing us to give to Him! God will be no man's Debtor and has promised, in His own good time, an hundredfold on all spiritual investments, and this works out at ten thousand per cent, which is not a bad rate of interest! (Matthew 19:29). The Lord Jesus said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Giving brings joy to God, to the giver and to the receiver; therefore let us form the habit of regular, systematic and proportionate giving early in the Christian life (Matthew 6:19-21).
Fifth, we should carefully account. A book should be kept in which one's income and expenditure is recorded. Trustees should be faithful to their task and be able to render an account of their stewardship when the time comes (1 Corinthians 4:2; Luke 16:2). May it be true of us that: "As ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love...see that ye abound in this grace [of giving] also" (2 Corinthians 8:7).
We have now come to the conclusion of our talk to young people on the need, the provision, the way, the assurance and the results of God's Salvation, as found in the Bible. May God be pleased to bless this little booklet to the awakening and salvation of many precious souls; who, in turn, shall become the means, in God's hands, of blessing to others for the glory of Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us—our Lord Jesus Christ, "to Whom be glory and dominion, for ever and ever! Amen!" (Revelation 1:5-6).
From God's Good News: A Talk to Young People on the Way of Salvation by Alfred P. Gibbs. Fort Dodge, Iowa: Walterick Printing Co., [1940?]. Chapter 5.