Christian people are still flawed because they're still sinners. What separates us from the rest is that we're forgiven sinners. The Man behind Christianity, Jesus Christ, is whom we should look toward, not so much the people. Much like the Israelites looked up towards the bronze serpent to be saved from temporal death, so we look up towards Christ to be saved from eternal death (John 3:14; cf. Numbers 21:9). We can look at other Christians as a model of Christ, but that's it — only a model. Models are not perfect representations of the thing they reflect, but rather the best estimate that they can be. If you look towards the Christian people on how to be, you will be disappointed every time. Rather, look towards Christ, and He shall give you peace that comes not from this world (John 14:27). You can use any Christian as a role model and an inspiration as long as your mind is ultimately set on Christ.
"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
We are free! We have been delivered from the curse that the Law pronounces on the singer who has been unsuccessfully striving to achieve his own righteousness. We now embrace Christ, His righteousness imputed to us, and the salvation gained through Him by grace and are justified and righteous by His merit alone (Romans 5:15-21; see also Philippians 3:9). St. Paul exhorts us to stand firm in this grace because of the undeserved blessing of being free from the Law and the flesh. A better translation for "subject again" is "to be burdened/oppressed by," because of its connection to a yoke. A yoke refers to the wooden crosspiece that is used to control domesticated animals, fastening it over the neck of two animals and attached to a plow or cart that they are to pull. Here's what it looks like:
The Jews thought of "the yoke of the Law" as a blessed thing — the essence of true religion and salvation. Paul, however, argued that for those who pursued it as a way of salvation, the Law was a yoke of slavery because all the Law does is reveal our sin and thus condemn us, hence the imagery here; the Law cannot save us, but the Gospel does.
The use of the Law is to make our sins known, and immediately following must come the Gospel, which is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Christ. When Christ died on the cross, our sins died with Him. When He rose from the dead, our sins were left in the dark, empty tomb. This is why Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). Look at the image above again. What those two oxen are carrying looks heavy, right? Without Christ, the Law casts the heavy yoke of our sin upon us, and we lack the ability to cast our sins off us. Jesus, however, takes the yoke of our sin off, and He invites us to carry His light and easy yoke of peace and meekness. In Christ, the shackles are off and we are free in Him. Read these revealing words by St. Paul:
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ were also baptised into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin... For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus... For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:3-7, 10-11, 14; bold prints added).
Read that over again if you must; read it as many times as you need to in order to fully grasp this amazing concept... We are no longer slaves to sin, therefore do not allow it to throw a yoke upon you and carry the condemnation it has in the Law. We are under grace, not Law. Paul continues, "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:16-18; bold prints added). We are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness! Now, do not think of "slave" in the modern, worldly sense. Like Paul says in verse nineteen, he was speaking "in human terms because of [our] natural limitations." He used similar language so that we would understand. In the original Greek, the words "slave" and "servant" are the same word (δούλος). So this "slavery" is not chattel slavery as we often think, but rather one of loving service.
We are servants of righteousness — the righteousness of Christ that we receive through faith (Romans 3:22). The yoke of Christ is His righteousness. Take this yoke upon yourself and learn from Him because He is meek and humble and He will give you rest. The yoke of sin is hard and heavy, but the yoke of Christ's righteousness and grace is easy and light. Whenever you are struggling with the burden of the sin that enslaves you, remember these words by St. Paul in the Spirit and especially the words of Christ.
2 Timothy 2:3-4, "Share in the suffering as a good soldier of Christ. No soldier gets engaged in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him."
One of the most admirable qualities of a soldier is his resilience against all forms of adversity — he remains calm, wise, and humble; and he shares in suffering with his brothers in arms. In the wisdom of the soldier, he is not concerned with the pursuits of civilian life. Rather, he is concerned about serving his country and doing what his commanding officer commands him to do. As a U.S. Army veteran, I know this. It is the same with the Christian. Remain resilient against our inevitable suffering for the message of Christ in which we preach, sharing your suffering with brothers and sisters in Christ, comforting one another (2 Corinthians 1:4-5). Do not be concerned with the pursuits of the unbeliever, but serve and please our Creator, obeying His commands. How is this mission done? By "[making] disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] has commanded [us]" (Matthew 28:19-20a).
A brief explanation, yet a long title. Ironic, huh?
St. Paul writes to the Galatians concerning this issue, "To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many, but referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' who is Christ. This is what I mean: the Law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the Law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise."
The promise through Christ came before the Law. The Law does not annul the promise. Even when we make our own promises (man-made promises), they don't become void and we don't add to them when they're official. So it is with God. He instituted the promise of Christ through faith in Abraham, and later came the Law. So, why the Law then? This is why it's so important to pay attention to context, because Paul continues in verse 19: "Why then the Law? It was added because of transgressions [sin], until the offspring [Jesus] should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one." And as God is one, He is also 3 persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), therefore 3 intermediaries, but one. Explaining it further, Paul says in verse 24, "So then, the Law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." Before Christ's first coming (His incarnation), humans obviously still lived in sin, and without Christ to intercede for us, there was no way for sins to be forgiven. Christ needed to take our sins upon Himself before He could intercede for us on our behalf. So, what did God do? He instituted the Law, and in this way it was a guardian, but only for a while, until Christ came so that we might be justified by faith, for the Law cannot justify us; it condemns us.
Now let's go back to verse 13 in chapter three, telling us how Christ fulfilled the Law and therefore why we no longer keep it: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree' [crucifixion on a cross] — so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to Gentiles [that's us], so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." We are incapable of fulfilling the Law; only God is capable of fulfilling it, and it would only be effective if He were simultaneously human. That's why He became incarnate as Christ — born as man yet fully God. So He was nailed to a cross, bearing our sins, and having fulfilled the Law for us on earth, we are released from it as well as the bondage of original sin. This is why we say we are saved. It is indeed salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:18, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation..."
Think of the Church and what we do as the Church as just that — the ministry of reconciliation. What is "all this" that the verse says? Prior to this, St. Paul says in verse 17 that we are a new creation in Christ — that the old has passed away and the new has come. That is, our old flesh in Adam has died (original sin) and our new selves born again in Christ has come (His Spirit within us). All of that comes from God. How did God reconcile us to Himself through Christ? Well, just read on to verse 21, which says, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." In short, God became man and took upon Himself the sins of the entire world so that whoever believes should not perish but have eternal life (hence John 3:16), and thus His righteousness was imputed to us (all believers) on the cross. We were enemies of God, yet in His death Christ reonciled us to Him (restored friendly relations). The believer is no longer God's enemy, but adopted as God's child (Ephesians 1:5). So, we the Church — the ministry of reconciliation — are to tell the whole world of this reconciliation to God as Christ has commissioned us to do (Matthew 28:18-20).
People ask what our bodies will be like when Christ resurrects us. St. Paul approached this question in his first letter to the Corinthians, and I literally laughed when I first read it. First Corinthians 15 starting at verse 35, he writes, "But someone will ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?' " Now here's where I laugh, in which he writes, "You foolish person!" Ha! Definitely an "lol" situation. Sorry, I just find that hilarious. Anyway, continuing on in verse 36, "What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as He has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body."
Obviously he's being metaphorical, but illustrating for us a reality of the resurrection. When Christ resurrects us, we literally receive new bodies. We won't have the bodies we have now. Paul borrowed this metaphor from Jesus in John 12:24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Botanically, the embryo in the seed of wheat is not dead and does not die before it germinates and grows into a mature plant. So even if the wheat itself dies, you can still utilise one of its seeds to plant and let it grow into something new.
This life is a prelude into a greater life. The Christian dies in this life, is planted into the ground, and at the resurrection rises as someone completely different with a literally new God-given body.
2 Timothy 3:12, "In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
As a born again Christian, you are inevitably bound to be misunderstood, misrepresented, cursed at, and many other types of persecution. Revelation 13:10 also says, "If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain." Expect persecution. Expect to be thrown in prison for your faith. Expect to pay fines for disobeying a law that is ungodly. Expect to be killed for your faith.
But directly after this verse in Revelation, St. John calls us to "the endurance and faith of the saints." We need endurance "so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised" (Hebrews 10:36) — that is, God's promised salvation. And as St. Paul tells us, "endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:4-5). Endurance reminds us of our hope in Christ, whom our faith comes from. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Our hope and faith is in Christ's return. We have not seen His return yet, but by faith we know He is coming, therefore we hope. Remain strong, brothers and sisters. Jesus is coming.
Romans 12:1-2, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
For the longest time I've always wondered when I read this, "What the heck does it mean to present our bodies as a living sacrifice?" First of all, Paul is being symbolic, not literal. He's not saying to sacrifice our bodies in a ceremonial way like how it was done in Old Testament Israel. That's absurd. The key word is the verb present. The Greek word used for this is παρίστημι (par-IS-tay-me). It is used for sacrificial terminology as an offering — to "place beside." So, by this we are saying, "Take me, Father. Change me. Work sanctification in me. Crucify my flesh and make me anew." Our old self is crucified in Christ (Romans 6:6). Continuing in verse 2, God changes and transforms us by testing, enabling us to discern His will. In His timing and manifold methods, we become something completely new (2 Corinthians 5:17). And He works sanctification in us by baptism through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).
Give your whole self to God, not pieces of it. God isn't interested in people who only go halfway. Offering your whole life to God is a sacrifice (sacrificing the instant, tempting pleasures of the world) and therefore an act of worship. As you spend time with God, His thoughts transform your thoughts and your mind is made anew. It seeks the same things God seeks.