"Interesting question. Hmmm. But not sure I know what you're asking?"
"Well, maybe that's not the right way to say it, so let me try again. What does Jesus want me to become? You know, what's the goal of my life as a follower of Jesus? What is God calling me to? You know, when I grow up spiritually, what am I supposed to look like?"
"Ah! Now I get it. You're asking the most important question of them all. Let me see if I can point you to God's answer and not just my opinion!"
I've had this conversation a number of times over the years. Had it kind of asked of me early this Saturday morning from someone really trying to figure out how to live vibrantly for Jesus, but not sure exactly what that meant for him. He was hungry to honor Jesus, just not sure how to get there.
I don't know why we don't emphasize this more often. We so easily get caught up in what grace means, or doesn't mean. We easily pick up the latest hot book off the press. Many of us even find the money to go to the latest Christian conference or seminar. But the bottom line answer about the purpose of our lives, the specific goal of our discipleship, seldom gets asked.
"What's to become of me? What will I look like as a follower of Jesus when my journey is complete?"
The answer in Scripture is clear and is said repeatedly. Jesus said it this way:
Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher (Luke 6:40 NLT).
The apostle Paul said it again and again in slightly different ways, but always saying the same basic thing:
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:19 NIV).
That one always got my attention because it's always brave for a man, and a single man at that, to compare what he was feeling to a woman being in labor pains. His point, however, is clear. When he delivered folks to God, he wanted them to be conformed to Christ — he wanted them to be like Jesus — and he groaned and moaned and hurt until he got to maturity in Jesus!
Notice how he says it again in different ways:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV).
We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That's what I'm working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me (Colossians 1:28-29 MSG).
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT).
Paul's point is clear. His ministry had one focus. His goal for us, and the Holy Spirit's goal for us, is the same. We are to grow up to be like Christ. When people see us, they should be reminded of Jesus. Sure, each of our personalities and skill sets will be uniquely different from every other follower of Jesus. For sure, God will put his signature on us as his unique masterpiece — more on this coming Tuesday — yet each of us should have a certain reminder, a certain je ne sais quoi about us that reminds people of Jesus. Paul calls this "the aroma of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:15). There is a certain "Christyle" about us in our own unique and gifted way of living out our discipleship.
What is Core is centered in Jesus' death for our sins, his being buried because he allowed himself to die, and his resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) — and we share with Jesus in this through baptism and communion. We enter into the Christyle life by being joined with Jesus and the essence of what he did to bless and redeem us, as well as what he did to honor God and the promises of God.
So What is Core is also centered in loving God with all we are and all we have and all we hope to be while loving our neighbors just as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). We live the values of Jesus and bring to life the Kingdom of God "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). All of our lives flow out of this shared experience with Jesus and our ongoing commitment to live this Christyle in our dealings with others.
Our avoidance of sin is not because we don't want to break the law of God, but is based in a much higher standard — a much holier and personal calling. We want to demonstrate our love for God with every breath we take and every move we make just as Jesus did. We are not guided by some written standard, but by the character and compassion of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:6-18). We are free from law and from sin. We are free, empowered by the same power that ripped death's grip on Jesus (Ephesians 1:17-20). We are free to be transformed and conformed to live the Christyle!
Far from wanting to "pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality", we recognize sin and rebellion, especially after having received grace, for what it really is: a denial of "Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord" (Jude 1:4 NIV). Because we have shared with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection through faith and baptism, we refuse to be in bondage to sin because our life is tuned to the grace of God and to Jesus from whom we have received it (Romans 6:8-15). Grace is the liberating gift that allows us to live by the power of the Spirit and to be conformed to the compassion and character of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23).
So in good ol' cornbread English, what does that mean?
We are uniquely us, yet there's something about each of us that looks, sounds, loves, lives, and smells like Jesus! We love God, our Father, with all we are. We love people like Jesus did, and still does. We reflect the character and compassion of God as it was demonstrated by Jesus. Our lives are moved toward greater holiness by the power of the Holy Spirit — not because we are trying to obey some law, but because our hearts have been captured by grace. Because we have shared in Jesus' work that saves us — his death, burial, and resurrection — we want to share in Jesus' work of loving and saving others.
To put it simply, our lifestyle has been caught up in the Christyle.