What is at the heart of the Christian life?

Or put another way, what does it mean to be a Christian? Ask 10 people and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Some will say that the Christian life is all about being a good, moral, upstanding person. Others will tell you that being a Christian means going to church. Still others will say that it’s about saying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart.

But what does God say about being a Christian? That’s what matters most. To answer that question, we need to look to the Bible. In this article, we’re going to look at what Scripture has to say about what it means to be a Christian.

The Christian Life Is Centered On Christ

Christianity is all about Jesus. That may sound obvious, but it’s so easy to put other things at the center. Yes, going to church and living according to Christian principles are important, but they are not at the very heart of the Christian life. Those things flow out of knowing Jesus personally and living for Christ.

In Philippians 3:7-9, Paul wrote:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

For Paul, the thing that mattered most was knowing Jesus Christ. When Paul looked at all the world had to offer, it looked like garbage compared to knowing Jesus. The thing that convinced Paul to give up all the prestige and power he had as a Pharisee was not the moral principles of Christianity. It was Jesus Himself, who came to save sinners.

The Christian life isn’t primarily about moralism or politics or attending church. It’s about knowing the risen Lord and being united to Him. If anything becomes more important than Jesus, it’s no longer Christianity.

Comparing Jesus to King Solomon, Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

Like other great kings, Solomon has come and gone. All that he had is gone. But Jesus is here. He will supply you with His wisdom. He will give you water so you will never thirst again. He’s preparing a place for you in heaven. And Jesus will give you joy day by day. And that’s why we worship the One, the Lord Jesus, Who is greater than Solomon. He’s the everlasting King and our great Savior.

True Christianity is about knowing and loving and following Jesus. Many people want the benefits of the Christian life without Jesus Himself. But without Jesus, Christianity is just a hollow shell.

1 Peter 1:3-5 says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Our hope is in Jesus Christ. We have a living Savior who rose from the dead and is now seated in heaven, ruling over all things. Every blessing from God comes to us through Christ. Christianity isn’t a self-improvement program that helps us live our best life now. No, it’s the way to salvation and to having an eternal hope that is secured by none other than the living God.

History orbits around Jesus Christ. Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"First, He came in shame. When He comes again, He comes in splendor.
First, He was despised and rejected. When He comes again, every knee shall bow before Him.
First, He came for crucifixion. When He comes again, it’s for coronation.
First, He came to a tree. When He comes again, He comes to a throne.
First, He was spat upon. When He comes again, crowns will be laid at His feet.
First, He came as a carpenter. He comes again as King.
First, He came as a servant. He comes again as Sovereign.
The first time, He stood before Pilate. When He comes again, Pilate will stand before Him."

If anyone tries to sell you on a version of Christianity that doesn’t have Jesus front and center, don’t buy into it.

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Living For Christ vs. Christian Rules

One of the greatest temptations is to swap living for Christ with simply obeying Christian rules. In other words, to reduce Christianity to simply living by a set of moral standards. Now, to be clear, obeying God’s commands is critically important. But when Christianity is reduced to a set of rules, it’s no longer good news.

The gospel is good news because it provides us with righteousness apart from our obedience to God. Romans 3:27-28 says,

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

If we rely on our own obedience to God, we will never be righteous before God. We have all sinned against God and fallen short of His glory. We have all failed to honor God as we should.

Because God loves us so very deeply, He sent Jesus to live a sinless life and die in our place. When we believe in Christ, God gives us the full righteousness of Christ. We are seen as holy and righteous in God’s sight.

Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"Our righteousness does not come by works. It is an imputed righteousness (see Romans 4:21-25). Imputed means to place on your account. It’s like going to a department store and instead of telling them you want to charge your purchase; you tell them you want to impute it. It means the same thing to put on your account. When God looks at the ledger of our lives, He sees red not in a bad way, but a good way. He sees the red, righteous, royal blood of His Son credited to our account and we are declared righteous before Him!"

Instead of focusing primarily on obeying Christian rules, we should focus on living for Christ. That may seem like a small difference but it’s hugely important. When we live for Christ, our love for Jesus motivates us to follow Him. We obey the commands of Jesus out of affection for Him.

Romans 12:1-2 puts it this way:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Notice the motivation for presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God. It is the “mercies” of God that should move us to obedience. We’ve experienced the incredible mercy of God through Christ. All our sins are forgiven and we have eternal life. We are part of God’s family, beloved children adopted by our loving Father.

In light of these glorious truths, we should seek to live in a manner pleasing to God. Our relationship with God should drive our obedience to God. Separating the commands of God from our relationship with Him creates loveless religion. Love leads to obedience.

Righteousness Over Religion

Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"Do you consider yourself religious? Paul remembered the time when he was religious but he was lost. When God saved him, he discovered that in spite of his religion and legalism, he was bankrupt, blind and bound for hell. Not only did this truth change his life but he wanted it to change every person’s life who counts religion as righteousness."

The Christian life is so much more than religion. It’s about a vital, intimate, powerful relationship with Jesus Christ. If, while reading this, you’ve realized that you don’t have that relationship with Christ, you can change that right now. Simply turn to God in prayer and ask Him to give you the free gift of salvation in Christ. Ask Him to forgive your sins and make you His child. Tell Him that you want to follow Jesus and to walk in His ways.

If you do those things, then God will give you the gift of salvation!

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