So, the answer to the question, “How Are We To Live?” is this: according to our (new) nature as "image-sons". We are to live into the reality of who we were created to be as “sons”(children) of God. But only Christians are who they were created to be by virtue of the “new birth”. Unbelievers are also called to live out the reality of who they were created to be, which means they must come to Christ by faith and be “born again” by the Spirit. Our lives are to reflect and express our very being as “image-sons”; and this can only happen when we come to Christ by faith and are made “new creations” by the Spirit. We are “sons” of God in the Son of God; and we’re to live out this reality not by doing but by being (by being conformed to our new nature as God’s “sons”). And how do we live out the reality of who we are? We "be who we are" not by doing anything, per say, but by walking in the Spirit, by yeilding to the Spirit and being led by Him as He conforms us into the image of Christ. If we’re led by commandments, then we’re simply walking according to the flesh; and this does not please our Father. If we’re directed by duty, by rules and regulations, then we are simply finding our identity back in “law”, not in Christ by the Spirit; we’ve placed the yoke of the Pharisees back on our shoulders. Our lives are not to be directed by the "imperative" but by the "indicative". Remember: "to do" is a pragmatic concept, but "to be" is an ontological concept. "To do" is the imperative and "to be" is the indicative. But if our doing, as Christians, is not a direct result or extension of our being, if what we do is not the product of who we are (as the Spirit continues His work of transformation in us), then our doing is at best, worthless (because it testifies of “me”, not Christ) and at worst, blasphemous (because it supplants the work of Christ with “my work”). If our “obedience” comes from duty (pragmatism) rather than love (the expression of who we are ontologically as God’s Children), then our “obedience” is simply another manifestation of sin—we are living as if we don’t believe God.
Are we called to obey God, to obey Christ? Of course we are. If our lives aren’t characterized by obedienc, then we are illegitimate “sons” who will take our place alongside the “moralists and legalists” (the “religionists”) who did the deeds of “obedience” but will be told by Christ, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” The issue is this: “What is nature of our obedience?” If our obedience is not the product and expression of our very being, of who we are as New Creations in Him; if it’s not the outworking of the Spirit within us as He transforms our lives from the inside, then our “obedience” is of the flesh and is another expression of sin. Do we obey because of commands? Or do we obey because it is an expression of our very nature as “sons” of God who love Him and are growing increasingly like Him through the work of the Spirit?
Jesus was always perfectly obedient to the Father; He even spoke often of the unity between Him and the Father: “I and the Father are one”, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father”, etc. Now because we know that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity, we don’t always consider the human element of this “oneness”. Jesus’ “sonship” was on display in His humanness. He showed Himself to be God’s Son as much by His obedience to God (as a "son") as He did by His miracles (and I would argue, more so). But, as I’ve said over and over again, His obedience was Him simply being who He was. He was “one” with the Father in His humanness in the sense that He was like His Father—He always did the will of the Father because the Father’s will was also His will. Jesus lived out the idiom, “Like father, like son” completely. He didn’t have to set out to be obedient; He was obedient because He had the mind of His Father—Jesus was like His Father. And because Jesus was like His Father in His humanness as a "son", we should recognize the Father in Him. Likewise, when we are true to who we are as "sons" of God in the Son, if we are simply being who we are as "born again", Spirit-filled Children of God in Christ, then when people see us they will see Christ--not necessarily because of what we do but because of who we are!
And this is our calling! We’re called to have the “mind of Christ” so that everything we do is an expression of the united will of Christ and us! And this is the work of the Spirit in us as He progressively conforms us into His likeness. Paul goes on to say that “…it is God who is at work in (us) both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” When Jesus prayed that we would be one with Him as He is with the Father, He wasn’t speaking about some mystical absorption of our very being into God; He was praying that we would so find our identity as “sons” of God in Christ, as the true, fully authentic “son”, that our lives would testify of Him because the world will see Him in us. As Jesus rebuked Philip for not recognizing the Father in Jesus (a son reflects his father), so our lives should be a continual rebuke to the world for not recognizing Jesus in us. And, of course, this rebuke can be turned on us, can’t it? If the world doesn’t see Jesus in us, what does that say about the character of our lives? We are “sons” of God in the Son of God, and for our lives to testify of Jesus, we must do what Jesus did—live into the reality of who we are. He didn’t do anything but be who He was. We don’t do anything; we be who we are.
I close with a caution against the trite refrain that I just allude to above, “What Would Jesus Do”. I feel that this directive (as it’s popularly understood) misses the entire point of how we are to live our lives in this world. We don’t simply imitate Jesus in the things that He does. I’ve said it numerous times: anyone (with or without the Spirit) can simply imitate the behavior of someone else or follow a bunch of rules if he thinks it is in his best interest. We are not called to imitate Jesus (or Paul, for that matter) in their behavior; we’re to imitate them as they lived out their lives in integrity as authentic human beings. To have integrity and to be “authentic” is to simply be true to who you are. As I mentioned early on in this series of posts, God’s “perfection” is His authenticity—He’s always true to who He is. Jesus is the only authentic human being because He is always true to who He is as the true Man. And we are authentic human beings only as we yeild to the Spirit and live out the reality of who we are in our very being as New Creations in Christ, as those who have partaken of the new humanity that has come in Christ.
Christ was fully God and fully Man. He was truly God’s Son in His humanity as much as in His divinity. In fact, the best argument for the authenticity of His divinity is that He was fully conformed to who He was as a human being as He lived out His “Sonship”. His life as a human being looked as it should if He was who He claimed to be. Our obligation to “live like Jesus” is our obligation to live out the reality of who we are as God’s “sons”. We don’t simply do what Jesus did; we, pardon the grammar, be what Jesus be. He was God’s Son—and He lived as God’s Son. He didn’t set out to do anything, per say; He simply was who He was. We are God’s “sons” in Christ—and we’re to imitate Jesus by living authentically as God’s children. We shouldn’t set out to do anything, per say; we are simply to be who we are. We imitate Jesus by living by the Spirit as authentic human beings, by "being who we are" as God’s “sons”. The refrain WWJD should be changed to WWID (What Would I Do) or WWYD (What Would You Do) as a child of God.
Similarly, Paul (and the rest of the Apostles/Disciples) gives us direction in the same way. While not “perfect” (remember our definition) because the work of the Spirit is not complete, we’re to imitate them only as they express their integrity and authenticity as children of God. Again, as with Jesus, we don’t do what they do, we 'be what they be" as children of God, as authentic human beings. They inform us of how we are to live our lives by reminding us of who we are. Every instance of “imperative” in the NT is based on and grounded in the “indicative”. We’re to follow Paul’s example (and the example of Peter, James, etc.) by living out the reality of the New Creation, by living out the reality of our “sonship”. We don’t do it perfectly in this life, of course; but unless we’re living our lives as a natural expression of who we are as God’s children (albeit in the power and under the direction of the Spirit as He continues His work of transformation), then all of our doing is just Pharisaical (hypocritical). Doing deeds is not the call of the Christian—being authentic children of God (human beings) is the issue. And we are only being authentic as we “walk by the Spirit”. If we are doing instead of being, then I fear that we haven’t really understood the power of the Gospel or the power and work of the Spirit in us.
Let's quit worrying about our doing and concentrate on being who we are! This is freedom! And this is the only freedom that will always manifest the life of Christ in us and testify to the world of the power of the Gospel. So, to borrow another popular refrain, "Just do it"! Be who you are!!