If you could sum up what it means to be a Christian could you do it in a few words? For some Christianity is an add on to their busy, self-centered, ego-driven life; it is like being a member at the Moose club or the boy scouts. For others Christianity is a tradition that they hold onto because it is what their ancestors believed, it is simply part of family ties.
Christianity is summed up by each writer of a New Testament letter. Think about Peter’s 1st letter, chapter 4 and verses 1 and 2.
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”
The Christian life can be summed up by saying it is identification with Christ in His sufferings. The worldly person has no real attachment to Christ, there is no personal connection no matter what the person believes or practices. Jesus in His highly priestly prayer in John 17 said, “This is eternal life, that they might know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
For the Christian life is not about here and now, it is about a greater life to come. The Christian does not place all his eggs in the basket marked, “get out of this life all that you can and don’t worry about any, so called, life to come.” The non Christian has the perspective of present day advertising, “It’s Miller time”, “If you have it flaunt it”, “Go for the gusto”, etc, and so on.
The Apostle Paul, like all the Christians of the New Testament, however, did not live for this life, even though he lived in this life he lived with an eye on the life hereafter. Paul who faced great opposition in proclaiming Jesus Christ said,
“If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.” 1 Cor. 15:32
Paul understood that the person that is not looking to the resurrection holds the philosophy in his heart, that this life is everything and there is no life after this one; when we die, we die and there is nothing beyond this life.
The Christian is the man who lives to please Christ and with His sacrifice in view. He is able to arm himself with the purpose that drove Christ to suffer, which was to please the Father and fulfill His will at great cost. He is able to lay aside the cares and concerns of life in a fallen world as not the primary importance but to see suffering as a means to a glorious end.
The writer to the Hebrews put it this way,
‘Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1, 2
Christ endured the insurmountable sufferings of the cross in order to please the Father, which is indicated by the joy of sitting at the Father’s right hand of honor. Jesus suffered an eternity of sin’s penalty in 3 hours. Christianity is entering into the great reality of living for the Father’s pleasure and the glory of receiving the Son who alone is the means of appropriating the Father’s acceptance.
Christ suffered in the flesh and in so doing He brought sin and its penalty to an end. The Christian appropriates this great reality by faith, and thereby the life, love, and work of Christ becomes the substance of His new life.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
As I said at the start each and every New Testament writer sums up the Gospel because its central theme can be found in every chapter, as in “old things passed away, behold, new things have come.” If you have not become new, if you are as you were when you were born, that is the seed of Adam and not yet the seed of Christ, you are headed for eternal punishment.
If you are in Christ then each day brings the blessings of heaven, the glories of Christ, the pleasures of doing God’s will, and the awareness that God always has your highest good in view, even in sufferings.