Not long back, a guy I meet with every couple of weeks asked a question whose simplicity was only exceeded by its complexity. "What does it mean to be a good Christian?"
Jokingly, in response to the latter trait, I replied, "In five words or less?"
Jim, recognizing the humor said, "Sure!"
I briefly pondered and responded, "Progressively conforming yourself to Jesus. Five words, right?"
Funny, that quick response may possess some significance, so let's explore that biblically--letting the last go first. First, Jesus is our target. To know him, to love him, to serve him. We can do good things, we can serve people, we can go to church, we can lead a church, but if we miss Jesus, we miss everything. So, what comes next?
Second, we conform ourselves to him. We express the family traits. We can't take on his divine nature, but we can, and must, take on his character. The character that we find revealed in the New Testament, not the one we'd like to choose. Paul knew our need there, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Not a bad process, and Jesus resides at the center. That does take study, to best learn who Jesus is, not necessarily what others say he is. I've started a daily study of a portion of a gospel each day, focusing just on Jesus. Who is he? What is he like? How can we change our lives to better match that?
Third, we do that progressively, one step at a time. Salvation doesn't just mean avoiding hell, but our lives become whole and holy. Not instantly, not perfectly, but that's our direction--to be more like Jesus, "Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). Now, if you're at all like me, that's not a consistent line heading upward. We make some progress, then we take a step back. We grow a little more, but slip. Much like the graph above. :(
Do we grieve the steps backward? We need to. Do we beat ourselves up over them? We need to avoid that. We acknowledge we did it, we move away from repeating it. But the overall arc of our lives should be upward. That's progress, isn't it?
OK, my definition of a good Christian is brief, but I encourage you to take some time to ponder it. If you disagree, make a post here or on Facebook and let's have a discussion.
Kick Starting the Application
What do you most like about that definition? Do you have questions about it? What causes you to think about your life? Do you know Jesus? In looking at the arc of your life, can you see progress? How do you handle the backward steps? Can you handle them more effectively? Does this definition clarify what it means to follow Jesus?