No secret key to living the Christian life

Ever read a book or heard a sermon about the key to living the Christian life?

Typically, as the story goes, the author/preacher struggled for years in living for Christ. He or she was an earnest, devoted follower of Jesus, but never seemed to make much progress in Christlikeness.

Then one day, someone gives them a book. Or perhaps they hear a particular sermon at a conference or a message delivered by a guest preacher at their church. And in a moment, everything is different.

Perhaps the “secret” is surrender to the Lordship of Christ, or abiding in Christ, or being filled with the Spirit, or another great biblical truth. Suddenly, the beauty and glory of this truth shines in their soul and from that instant they are changed. This becomes the key that unlocks everything that had prevented their spiritual progress.

After that experience their growth in grace and their Christian influence accelerates dramatically. They manifest more spiritual fruit in the next few months than they’ve heretofore seen in their entire life.

And now, they eagerly offer the secret key for Christian living to you. Follow the steps they took, pursue the same experience, and you, too, can enjoy unparalleled new freedom as a disciple of Jesus.

Without denying that these folks had a powerful experience, the reality is this: no one truth is the secret to living the Christian life.

Think about it–if there were one supreme key to Christian living, don’t you think it would have been put so plainly that we couldn’t miss it? In all his letters, wouldn’t Paul have identified “the secret” as clearly as a full moon on a cloudless night? When he wrote to the Corinthians about all their problems, why didn’t he just say, “Here’s the answer! Just experience this one truth and it will solve everything”? But he didn’t. And that’s because there is no such secret to daily Christian living.

I heard someone say that God has not given us one key, but a key ring. On that key ring are many keys. That key ring is the Bible and the keys are its many verses and principles.

If there is anything like a Master Key it is Master Himself, Jesus Christ. He has told us that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4, quoting Deut. 8:3.) In other words, to live the Christian life we need every word of God—the whole Bible—not just one key or secret.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God has inspired all Scripture and it has a variety of uses, but no individual truth is the secret or key to everything in the Christian walk.

We need the whole Bible in order to live the Christian life. Without question some passages and some truths are more important than others, but none of them is the key. Of course, we do need to continually submit to the Lordship of Christ, experience what it means to abide in Christ, and always seek to be filled with the Spirit, etc. And although there is much overlap in the experience of these truths, they are not identical in meaning, and none of them is ever held forth as the key to Christian living.

Therefore it should be our aim to master as much of the Bible as we can. We should read it all the way through, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, an apply it to our lives so that we may live the Christian life as God desires and become more like Jesus Himself. That’s what God wants us to be—like Jesus—and there’s no one secret key to doing that.


In 1987 I made notes while reading a Banner of Truth booklet, Living the Christian Life. I recently reflected upon  those notes, modified them, and expanded upon them for this piece.



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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] No Secret Key to Living the Christian Life […]

  2. […] Donald Whitney: There Is No Secret Key to Living the Christian Life […]

  3. […] On the flip side, have you considered why believers are called to practice the spiritual disciplines? Steve Childers gives some wise counsel regarding this pursuit that Scripture commends, while Don Whitney (the spiritual disciplines ‘guru’) reminds us that there is no secret key to the Christian life. […]

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