Jesus showed us the way to “practical Christianity” when He said, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (CEB).
You can ask, what is practical Christianity? For me, practical Christianity is that which helps me in my marriage, family, and work. Or, you could say, in my everyday life.
From an early age I started searching for the meaning of life. I wanted to be sincere, real, and most of all good, but I didn’t know how. It was then that I found Jesus and He came into my heart with hope and faith. I heard Him speak in my heart, and if I would let Him, He would teach me how to live this sincere life that I wanted to live.
When I gave myself completely to Jesus, I experienced that a grace came over me with real power to resist all those wrong desires that had damaged me before. Like it says in Titus 2:11-12 (NIRV), “God’s grace has now appeared. By his grace, God offers to save all people. His grace teaches us to say no to godless ways and sinful desires. We must control ourselves. We must do what is right. We must lead godly lives in today’s world.”
God’s Word in practice
It seemed unreal that God’s Word could touch every part of me, but it started influencing my thoughts, words and actions. I started to see that not all thoughts that came up in my head were what I really wanted, believed, or agreed with.
Jesus started to teach me how to capture these thoughts and get rid of them, as it says in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NCV), “We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”
Read what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20, but especially verse 20: “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” These verses told me that my faith needed deeds added to it. For example, sometimes I realised that my words had hurt those that I love. The apostle Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Ephesians 5:25. Think if every husband had this as his personal goal in his marriage; how much divorce would there be?
Paul also wrote, in Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” You can ask yourself, how can I even be tempted to be bitter against the one whom I love above all others? The truth is that there are difficult situations even in the best marriages, and we are tempted. For me, the wife God gave me is absolutely perfect for me, so it has nothing to do with her, it only has to do with me. The problem isn’t all those little things that my wife does that irritate me, but the problem is that I can be irritated!
Say No to myself and take up my cross
Here Jesus has true, practical help to give me! He chose me to be His disciple, which means that I should learn to live just as He lived, as He says in Luke 9:23-24 (CEB): “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will save them.” The bitterness and anger I am tempted to comes from my own will, or my own “life”. But it becomes impossible to become angry when I pick up my cross and say No to my own will.
One of the greatest words of God that I have ever read is 1 Timothy 4:16 (CEB): “Focus on working on your own development and on what you teach. If you do this, you will save yourself and those who hear you.” Paul isn’t writing here about the forgiveness of sins but he is writing about being set free from the power of sin that is still in my nature after my sins are forgiven.
When I focus on working on my own development, then I am able to admit that my self-will, or as Jesus called it, my own life, is active in the situations at home or at work, and then I can ask for help from the One who can help us best, as is explained in Hebrews 4:15-16 (NCV): “For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.”
This has really worked in my life. I used to often be impatient or hard with my wife and others, and had demands on them. I was truly sorry for what I said or how I said it, but to get those words out of my mouth, “I am sorry, please forgive me,” was almost impossible. I just couldn’t say it. My pride was too great and my ego too large.
But by God’s great grace I found my way to “God’s throne where there is grace”, where Jesus gave me help when I needed it and I found power to take up my cross, humble myself and say, “I am sorry, please forgive me.” The first time was really painful and very hard, but the result was peace and blessing.
God also made me more aware to see my need and shortcomings before I fall, and now, through the grace in Christ Jesus, I live an overcoming life!
Yes, true Christianity really is this simple, and what is even better – it works!