When Christ came to earth He explained that this different way of thinking would—through the power of the Holy Spirit—produce the fruit of righteous actions and deeds. He taught that God's way is the way of giving rather than the normal, selfish human way of getting (Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35).
How did Paul contrast these two ways of thinking and living?
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:5-6).
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:3-5).
The key to living a way of life different from the ways of the world is to allow God's Spirit to work in us so we think like Jesus Christ. Through His Spirit God not only leads us in a different way of thinking, He helps us change the motivations that govern our actions. This focus on unselfishness rather than the self-serving approach produced by our natural way of thinking brings, in turn, a dramatic change in the way we live and everything we do.
What are the greatest priorities of our new way of life?
"The thing you should want most is God's kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need will be given to you" (Matthew 6:33, New Century Version).
"For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:50).
"... He who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).
God asks that we reorder our priorities, allowing His Spirit to help us change our thinking. Serving God by doing His will and desiring to be in His Kingdom should be our highest priority. When we put God first He promises to provide ways for us to meet our needs. That, of itself, is a wonderful promise that should give us confidence and comfort.
Living a godly life is much more than merely calling on God's name as though that alone will excuse us for doing whatever we please. Living a godly life is doing what pleases God. It is practicing what He tells us to do—living a way of life defined by His Word. We need to clearly understand the basics of that way of life!
What other foundational principles did Christ and His apostles teach?
"And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him [Jesus], saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?' So he answered and said, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' And He said to him, 'You have answered rightly; do this and you will live'" (Luke 10:25-28).
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13; compare John 15:15-17).
Jesus and His apostles taught a way of life based on observing God's commandments from a heart of love that willingly makes personal sacrifices for the sake of others—focusing on giving rather than getting. It is the way of concern about the well-being of others.
A true Christian cannot base his way of life—his new way of living—on his own ideas about right and wrong. The basics of the way we should live are defined by God in the Scriptures. God's laws, and Christ's example of perfect obedience to those laws, set the standards for the genuinely Christian way of life.
Let's be sure we understand the role of God's law in our lives. Paul forcefully explains in his letters that no law can ever justify us—that is, it cannot remove the guilt we incurred through our past transgressions (Romans 3:23-25). Justification—the removal of guilt from sins previously committed—is a gift God freely gives when we repent and place our faith in Christ's sacrificial death as payment for our sins. "Therefore," says Paul, "we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28)—that is, through faith in Christ's death in our stead.
But Paul then explains the role the law still plays in our lives. "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31). The law's purpose is not to provide forgiveness of sin but to define sin—"for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). God's law reveals the principles and standards of the godly way of life.
Paul explained the foundation of the life he personally lived: "... I confess to you, that according to the Way which they [unbelievers] call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets" (Acts 24:14-17). Paul's way of life was based on what he had learned from the Holy Scriptures.
This is what our lives should reflect—the highest standards of loving behavior according to those same Scriptures. Our behavior should reflect the attitude of wanting to be cooperative and respectful servants of both God and our fellow human beings. As true Christians we are supposed to be a caring and serving people who are uncompromisingly loyal to the principles taught in the Scriptures.