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Christian Standards - Introduction

It is very clear in the book of Genesis that when the God of heaven, the Lord of glory, brought Abraham to Ur of the Chaldees He unfolded to him the pattern of behaviour to which He would have Abraham conform. At one stage of His revelation the Lord said to His servant, "I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou perfect" (Gen. 17:1). Abraham's life and activities were to be governed by the standards and directives of the will of God. It must have given pleasure to God to be able to say to Isaac, "Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Gen. 26:5).

When, later, God brought from the bondage of Egypt the descendants of Abraham. He gave to them a Law in which He not only revealed His character but also the claims of His character on the lives of His people. Their responsibilities to God, to one another and to the nations around them were clearly defined in the Law. They were to be a people whose lives and activities manifested the character of their God. The Law was very comprehensive and it required very high standards of behaviour. When he was addressing the generation about to enter the land of promise Moses said, "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgements, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the midst of the land whither ye go in to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is whensoever we call upon Him?" (Deut. 4:5,6,7). It is important to observe that Moses impressed upon God's people, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it (Deut. 4:2). The standards which God set were not to be altered by His people. The Lord undoubtedly foresays that the time would come when His people would consider that the claims of the Law were Out of date and would refuse to submit to them.

When we examine the teaching of the Lord applicable to the present dispensation we see very clearly that the Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ establishes standards of behaviour which are of the highest character. When a person believes on Christ he receives life in Christ, and in the power and joy of the newness of that life he should walk before God. In his natural condition a man is darkened in his understanding and alienated from the life of God because of ignorance. Regeneration brings both life and light. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature". New habits of thinking, speaking, acting should be manifested.

One remarkable and valuable privilege which comes to the believer in Christ is his access to his heavenly Father in prayer. This experience the child of God can enjoy at any time and in all circumstances of life. Prayer to God is the urge of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer. "God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). In the spiritual life the importance of prayer is very great. Someone has said, "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath". If there is little prayer there will be little spiritual vitality.

Of equal importance to speaking to God is to hear God speaking to us. This He does through His word. In the Scriptures we have the inspired record of what God wants to say to us. Every scripture is inspired of God and therefore carries the full authority of God. If we are to hear God we must read the Scriptures and read them carefully. Desire for the word of God, and the readiness to apply to our lives it's teaching can be seriously affected by many things. This is clearly seen in what the Lord taught in His parable about the sower (see Luke 8:4-15). If the reading of the Scriptures is neglected there will be limited spiritual vision. Christian standards will not be known.

To what matters do Christian standards apply? About this there need be no doubt. The range of the Faith is wide enough and deep enough to touch every aspect of the believer's life. Take the fundamental matter of marriage. Central in the relationships of human society is marriage. Is it a human arrangement to which has been conceded divine sanction? Or is it a divine ordinance for the good of mankind? Christian standards maintain that marriage originated in the mind of God. These standards raise marriage to its highest level and reveal its true dignity.

Christian marriage has in view the setting up of a Christian home. What should be the characteristics of the home life of disciples of Christ? Do the Scriptures help us in this matter? Emphasizing the importance of the home, the Lord has given definite guidance as to behaviour proper to home life.

The relationship created by marriage brings with it certain experiences proper to that relationship. If these experiences are indulged in outside the marriage bond they are not merely improper but also immoral. On this point the word of God is very plain, and Christian standards are very high.

What about the material things of life which in varying measure the Lord has committed to us? Is it our own business what we do with these or are there directives governing this? What about our responsibilities to our neighbours? Inevitably we live beside people. We are in daily contact with them. What should be our attitude to them?

On one occasion the Lord said to some who were setting a trap for Him, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's". This raises the important question of the Christian's responsibilities to the State. Can these be ignored? Should the State be disowned and its requirements rejected? What are the standards of Christian ethics on this? Any analysis of our obligations to the State must be examined in the light of the teaching of Scripture about the Christian's attitude to the world. The truth and implications of separation are clearly stamped on all Scripture, and New Testament doctrine shows that Christian standards are trenchant.

There is, perhaps, a danger of limiting Christian standards to certain defined areas of our lives, leaving free for individual independent decision, for example, how we should spend our leisure time. Experience has confirmed that, for the Christian, leisure time may hold grave dangers. Therefore care is needed.

We live in an age in which has been coined the phrase, "the permissive society". This expression implies that there are now permitted in human affairs and relationships things which once were considered improper and sinful. Some of these have been condoned by changes in legislation, and in the habits of life of men and women things are practised which demolish standards accepted and venerated for centuries. Where do Christians stand in all this? Are their standards to be allowed to disintegrate? Should they subscribe to permissiveness in order to be with the trends of modern society? We commend to readers for their careful attention articles which are to follow month by month in this series. These articles will examine and apply Christian standards for Christian people.