Where do you go to find your vision for the Christian life, where do you look to find your picture of what it looks like to live as a follower of Jesus?
If Christianity were only – or primarily – about going to heaven when we die, the logical place to look might be the insurance industry. We get our policy, and while hoping we never have to use it, know it is there if the unexpected and unwanted happens. But most of the time our policy just sits in our files.
Since this enterprise we call Christianity is much more than that, however, we need to look somewhere else. Here are four places to consider:
The most obvious place people have looked over the years is the Bible. We look to the life of Jesus as an example of what it means to live a life pleasing to God. We also read the Apostle Paul telling his people to follow his example as he follows Christ’s example. Since he was personally acquainted with many of the recipients of his letters, they would be able to see his lifestyle first hand, something they couldn’t do with Jesus.
But just as Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, might be culturally distant from a Gentile Christian in Greece or Rome, Paul the traveling evangelist seems a world away from us. If we follow his approach, however, we can find pictures of a life dedicated to Jesus in the biographies and autobiographies of Christ followers in intervening years. For example, I’ve found great inspiration in the lives of people like Martin Luther, John Wesley, Brother Andrew and Hudson Taylor.
Are old timers the only examples we can look to? Not at all. As we hunger to know more of Christ and to be more faithful to him, it is to our advantage to watch for people around us who are more mature in the faith (or so it seems to us) than we are, so we can learn from them. While we submit to Jesus’ example, we can find powerful illustrations of how to live it out in the lives of some of the people we see on Sunday morning.
A final place to consider is quite different. Some of the hymns we sing are hymns of praise – they speak words about God or give thanks to God. Others, however, include aspirations to or descriptions of life with Jesus.
“I want a principle within of watchful godly care.”
For some of us, such a principle within us is a current reality, for others it remains an aspiration. Or,
“No condemnation, now I dread. Jesus and all in Him is mine, and clothed in righteousness divine, bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ my own.”
We can read this in Romans 8, but what happens when we sing it with Charles Wesley and imagine it as our current reality?But as we sing the hymns – and pay attention to what we’re saying as we sing – we can find elements of a powerful vision for the Christian life.