Summary: What is your standard of living? Against what do you measure the quality and subtance of your life?
“Between the Lines: Establishing a Standard of Living”
There are standards for almost everything. Educational institutions have academic standards for students; governmental bodies have security standards for employees; military organizations have standards of conduct for enlistees; most athletic teams have standards of performance, and perhaps behavior, for members; and the vows ministers, elders, and deacons take contain certain theological and moral standards. Financial and governmental analysts even discuss our standard of living. What, by the way, is your standard of living? I’m not asking a financial question – I’m asking a spiritual one. What is your standard of living? By what do you live? Upon what do you make your decisions? Against what do you measure the quality and substance of your life? In his letter to the Church at Rome, the Apostle Paul laid out in great detail the Christian standard of living. In order to better measure ourselves, we need to first understand that standard.
Paul indicated that the first standard is THE COMFORT OF BELONGING (verse 6): “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” We belong to Jesus Christ. This watch is mine because I bought it – I went over to the counter, picked it out – chose it – and paid the price for it. It therefore belongs to me. So JESUS CHRIST PICKED US OUT, CHOSE US, AND PAID THE PRICE FOR US. We belong to Him. We recited this truth in our Affirmation of Faith a few moments ago: “…I am not my own, but belong … to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has also set me free from the tyranny of the devil.” This affirmation is based upon a recurring theme of Scripture. Is. 43:1: “But now, this is what the Lord says… ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” In the New Testament (1 Cor. 6:20) Paul echoed: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Jesus Himself affirmed it when he said (Jn. 10:28): “…they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
I have three watches. They had no meaning until I bought them; they get their meaning from me. I assign each one its meaning and value. I put this watch on a shelf as a showpiece; it is a showpiece. This watch I wear for informal occasions and when working in the yard; it’s my casual watch. This watch I wear during the course of my ministry or more formal occasions. It’s my ‘good watch.’ I, as the owner of the watch, determine the purpose of the watches. So JESUS CHRIST ASSIGNS US MEANING AND GIVES US OUR PURPOSE. We have no meaning apart from Jesus Christ. We get our meaning, our purpose, from Him. The essential meaning of a Christian is, in fact, ‘a Christ one.’ We belong to Jesus Christ. We find our purpose in Him.
Yet there’s another angle to belonging. When I bought the watch I bought the whole thing. I didn’t buy just the band, or the second hand, or the face – but the whole thing. SO JESUS BOUGHT EVERY PART OF US – not just our minds, or our words, or our deeds and actions – all of us. He bought us body and soul; every part of us belongs to Him. “…I am not my own, but belong – body and soul - … to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” That means that we are whole only when we are in harmony with Jesus.
But the choice is yours – will you be what Jesus wants you to be or what you want you to be? BEING ANYTHING SHORT OF WHAT JESUS WANTS US TO BE IS TO STRUGGLE TO BE SOMETHING WE ARE NOT. Attempting to be what we want to be is like trying to walk up a down escalator – we get nowhere fast – and burn up tremendous energy in doing so. Attempting to be what we want to be results in turmoil – I liken it to the white, foamy backwash on the shore of a lake or sea. The foam is the result of waves rolling in and water that has rolled in rolling back. Where the two forces meet, there is nothing but foam and distress. But make no mistake about it – we can choose to be what we want to be.
Or we can take comfort in belonging to Jesus Christ. COMFORT IS A CALMING, A STIRRING TO LIFE, A SETTING UPRIGHT OF SOUL. It is the strength to keep going; it is survival power. So Jesus Christ is our strength in life and death. “What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong … to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has also set me free from the tyranny of the devil.” The late Rev. Fred Klooster wrote an outstanding study of the Heidelberg Catechism. In this section he wrote this powerful sentence: “HE (JESUS) NOW STANDS AT MY SIDE BECAUSE HE ONCE STOOD IN MY PLACE.” This makes all the difference – and it makes us different. It gives us strength, establishes our purpose, and sets us upright in our souls. We can establish our standard of living upon this comfort. And comfort begins by admitting that we are not our own – we belong to Jesus Christ.