Tag Archives: practical Christian living

Practical Christian Living and Trinity

People might object that thinking about God, especially in terms of the Trinity, takes away from the importance of the gospel message and Christian living – but in Romans 8:12-17 we see practical instruction in Christian life with an account of the three Persons of the One God.

Paul continues the argument that it is no use doing as you want and feeding your own ambitions and appetites (even if that is to be religious or “good”). That way lies disaster. The alternative is a life powered and directed by the Holy Spirit, freely given to believers. In this way they become children of God – we might say “God the Father”, from whom every family is named (Ephesians 3:15). The ancient world knew about adoption, and took it very seriously.

In this way, as children of our heavenly Father, we share the benefits of Christ, the natural Son, and are given a place in that family.. Paul has been describing Christian life, lived not by moral effort, but by grace. It makes constant use of forgiveness to bring and keep us in relationship with the three: Father, Spirit and Son. The Trinitarian language is almost incidental and quite natural. At the same time, the effect is to create a life, supported in these different ways, but never torn between the different persons offering support.

Thinking of God can be confusing – our minds are too small. What we are given is a glimpse of wonder, to encourage praise, worship and thanksgiving. At the same time, we are told how this God brings us to share in relationship, both with God and with others. Relationships which we often get wrong, but which imitate the wonder of divine love.

Therefore . .

“Therefore . .” at the beginning of chapter 12 of Romans (we read Romans 12:1-8), Paul has completed his explanation of Christian “theory”. He will now turn to practical Christian living. But he makes it very clear that this is not detachable from what goes before. You can’t skip the first bit, because without it, this doesn’t make sense. It won’t even work.

Why is that? Surely Christianity is a very practical way of living? Yes, but it depends on God, faith, and grace. Without these, it fails. If you ask a question such as “What do I have to give God to get the thing I want?” there is no sensible answer. God doesn’t bargain. God gives generously, and includes us (if we are willing) in working for love, peace, justice . . But the good things you get are not your decision.

So – the section on practical Christian living starts with a call to be transformed. Yes, by all means be honest with God and express your hopes, desires and fears. But let the Holy Spirit get to work on you. Allow yourself to be changed, so that, gradually, you see more of God’s perspective on any situation. Don’t let yourself be bullied or manipulated into what is fashionable, or clever, or . . But look for what is good and sustainable. I don’t mean boring, or old-fashioned. There is plenty in God’s work that is exciting, creative, beautiful.

As your mind is re-shaped, (and yes, no matter how good your upbringing, we all need re-shaped minds!), look further. What gifts has God given you? There are lots of different ones, nobody has them all, but equally no Christian is left without a gift. What’s yours? Now, where does it fit in the Christian body? Paul gives a list, but there are other lists in other New Testament letters, and the wording varies, so there seems to be quite a variety. He wants to make the point that these gifts are not for “showing off”, as if believers were meant to be in competition for the “best” places. Quite the opposite, gifts are to be used for the benefit of the whole body – you use yours to help others, and need their gifts for the body to work as it should.

You can’t live as a Christian without being a Christian – because it only works if powered and directed by the Holy Spirit. Good intentions, discipline, duty – none are enough without the Spirit. That’s why the first steps involve a fundamental change of attitude, and being part of a co-operative, not competitive, group. And that is only the start!