I was curious. I kept finding a theme in the Bible recurring again and again. It is three ways to live. Yes, I know that there are two ways to live, as clearly explained here: there is either God's way or our way.
But within our own way the Bible clearly reveals a subset of two ways. As I re-read parts of the Bible and the work of Tim Keller I saw more clearly that three ways to live is important for us to know. If we don't fully understand it there is a serious danger that we can lose the central meaning and power of the gospel.
As you read the first three chapters of the Book of Romans it is clear there are three ways to live. Firstly, Paul presents those that willingly ignore God, despite His work being obvious to them. Then he presents the religious person that believes in God and strives to keep the laws, yet is separate from God. He summarises this as saying all (i.e. both these ways) fall short of God's perfect standard (Romans chapter 3 verse 23).
Paul takes the time to say there are three ways to live: God's way and then our own way with the subset of outright rebellion as well as being religiously ignorant.
When you read other stories, such as the parable of the prodigal son(s), you see the three ways to live coming out. In equal proportions Jesus explains the story of two sons that BOTH miss the mark. The first is the rebellious one that cashes in his inheritance to spend on a wild lifestyle. The story explains he returns to his father with a changed heart and as a result is welcomed into the great banquet.
However, the main part of the story is the older son who appears to be the "good" son. He doesn't come into this messianic banquet. This is not because he is "good" but because his religious Pharisaic attitude builds up a pride in his own good works. His attitude is that being good should earn his father's acceptance and salvation.
What it means to you?
So why is it important? Because it is SO easy for us to say that because we are morally good or attend church or consider ourselves Christians, we can think we are reconciled to God because of this attitude. So when someone talks about "sin" we can switch off thinking that is for those non-church morally corrupt pagans (Romans chapter one people).
But as Romans explains there are actually two groups that sin against God and both need a Saviour. These two subsets should convince ALL of us to the third way to live. Jesus' death in our place completely satisfies the justice of a holy God. This death also imputes to us Jesus' perfect status and proves the incredible love of this loving God.
In any church there is likely to be people that fall into this second subset. That is, people that have grown up in the church, are cultural Christians, or have a strong moral conviction. But many have not moved past this religious position into a deeper personal relationship that comes from a conviction of personal sin and need for a personal Saviour.
If you do any serious reading on the history of revivals, either in the Bible or throughout church history, you will see that a major part of any revival is the regeneration of people that fit into this second religious' subset. As a result, they understand the gospel in a fresh way and start to live out their faith with the revival a result.
So at a deeper level there are three ways to live. You may be someone that outwardly rejects and fights against God. The point is that there is a loving God that is reaching out to you offering you a chance to be restored into a loving relationship with Him through Jesus.
Or you may be a person that is part of the religious community and feel secure in this. Don't be fooled thinking that being in active rebellion is the only way to reject Jesus. There are two ways to reject Him but one consequence and also one solution. The point is that being part of such a community or doing good isn't enough to earn points with God, as Romans explains. The solution, again, comes in Jesus' offering His rescue plan.
Make the time to read the book of Romans chapters one to five and make a decision on the three ways to live your life.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html