By Kaleigh Anderson ’21
Dr. Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, tackled the question of how Christians should live by the book through a reflection on Psalm 119 at the A.J. Gordon Chapel.
Working with the central question of how Christians should live life with the knowledge that God will never fail us, he proposed five themes. Duncan said these themes, derived from this Psalm, are the ways Christians know how to live in accordance with scripture. Each of these five themes echoed a general concept of submission.
Duncan first emphasized the importance of living by prayer. He claimed that it is impossible to believe the Bible and live out its commands, without being dependent on prayer.
Duncan said, “Prayer puts us in the posture of dependence on God.” This dependence on the Lord seems to necessitate a form of submission, which Duncan proposed as an essential tenet of the Christian life.
Duncan secondly asserted that a Christian’s faith does not mean they will avoid distress or danger. In fact, he highlighted the times in Psalm 119, when the psalmist asked to be saved or asked for deliverance. This contrasts the way that many people, according to Duncan, believe if they’re a good Christian and love Jesus, everything will be comfortable.
Duncan said, “Sometimes we think if I’m a good Christian, if I love Jesus, if I believe the gospel, if I try to live according to the Bible, everything will be okay in life, and then the world comes crashing down around our ears.”
Duncan claimed that the natural reaction of many is to question God, but concluded it is better for the Christian to expect trials and tribulation, while recognizing that God is in control of all of the distresses in life.
Duncan’s third theme of how Christians are to live is a life marked by joy and praise. But how could one be joyful amid the suffering that he claims Christians are to expect in life?
Duncan said, “I have found that being with godly people, even in the hardest moments of life, is filled with more joy and hope than I’ve ever encountered with superficial happiness of the world.” He further reiterated this ideal by stating that he would rather cry with saints than laugh with sinners.
Duncan addressed the idea that the Bible is a list of do’s and don’ts in his fourth theme, which was that God’s commands are not meant to ruin one’s life. He disagreed with the idea that the Bible’s rules constrain and confine Christians, by saying that these rules are meant to help one achieve a righteous life; he further said, “At its heart, the Christian faith announces not what you’re supposed to do, but what God has done for you in order to save you.” Duncan’s emphasis on human depravity points back to the consistent idea of submission before God.
Duncan’s final theme for living by the book asserted that Jesus must bring Christians home. He cited Psalm 119:176, where the psalmist claims to have strayed like a lost sheep and calls out to the Lord to seek his servant.
These five tenets for how Christians are to live seem to echo a common theme of submission before the Lord, whether that is through prayer, trials, obedience of commands, or even an understanding that all will fall short and stray away from compliance with scripture’s teachings.