Living Coram Deo

To those called to salvation by the Lord, it is only natural to want to share our faith and cause for joy with others. Part of this, of course, is sharing the Word, “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). The Apostle Paul additionally reminds the Christian “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). It is only right and Biblical to want to use the gifts God has given us to serve and witness to others. Often, we call this idea “living missionally”, which is the concept of living with the purpose of bringing the Gospel message to others.

When we speak in this way of “living missionally”, I believe there’s the danger of summing it up into only large events—specific “missions” if you will. We look ahead to the big community clean-up, or the “bring a family for Easter service” initiative, but how do we live between those “big moments”? After all, we have jobs and families, don’t we? Can we really be “on” for Christ all the time?

During the Protestant Reformation, many of the early Reformers were painfully aware that religion had become compartmentalized, with little religious practice going beyond official requirements or duties. God was for Mass or certain specific observations; past this, many of the nobility, merchant class, and even the clergy themselves lived anything but holy lives. During Martin Luther’s 1510 trip to Rome, he was shocked to find clergy who openly visited brothels when not about their clerical duties! Fealty to God, in other words, had become mere lip service; something for specific times or duties, but nothing to dictate a life’s every moment.

Contrasted against this was the idea espoused by many early Reformers of living one’s life coram Deo. Translated from the Latin, it means “before the face of God”. We see this in Colossians 3:17, where Paul states “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. This is the life lived fully under the Lordship of King Jesus, morning and evening, work and home, church and neighborhood.

The very idea of coram Deo is living a life that is fully open before God. It is not split into religious and secular parts, nor is godly living something only for certain moments or events. Rather, it is the awareness the Christian lives a whole, complete life, desiring in all things to serve God. It means that the Lord may be served just as well by the fast-food employee who seeks to glorify God in every facet of his or her work as the theologian who desires the same through study and writing. There is constancy in coram Deo, a love and willingness to please our Lord that does not vary from a Sunday to a Tuesday.

To souls justified by faith alone in Christ, the great Reformer John Calvin stated “no task will be so sordid and base, provided you obey your calling in it, that it will not shine and be reckoned very precious in God’s sight.” This is a beautiful application of what we find in Scripture. Colossians 3:23-24 states “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (ESV). There is no activity in our life so small or insignificant that God may not be glorified in the application to it of Christian devotion.

With this in mind, we may discern the Holy Spirit does not work exclusively through big programs or church-sponsored outreach. Integrity at work, a refusal to go along with malicious gossip, being truthful in even the smallest matters, the time spent listening to a hurting neighbor, going the extra steps to help another—all these, driven by a constant desire to serve and glorify the Risen Christ, and accompanied by the power of the Gospel, can speak to others as to how our hearts have been authentically changed by God’s saving grace.

Coram Deo is all encompassing. It is the product of a life totally devoted to our God. Dr. R.C. Sproul summed up this concept, asserting “to live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.” Just as Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross did not stop at covering merely part of our sin, nor the love of God cease to flow for those who He called, neither should either our love and dedication to the Triune God cease by time or circumstance in our lives.

So when we thinking of living missionally, let it not be simply a periodical willingness to serve. Let us live missionally in coram Deo, knowing all we do is before the eyes of God, who rescued us from eternal death by the sacrifice of his only begotten Son. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our lives can be whole and complete, the “living sacrifice” of Romans 12:1. May our lives, our service, our witness, and our joy be fulfilled in the gaze of God, our loving and eternal Father.

-Zachary Houghton

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