Mark D. Roberts

Part 1 of series: What is the Christian Life?
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Today I’m beginning a multi-part series on the Christian life. I want to try and answer a simple question:

What is the Christian life?

A similar question might be: How should a Christian live? Or perhaps one might ask: What are essential elements of a Christian lifestyle? Or maybe: What difference will it make in my life today if I am a follower of Jesus? There are many other possible forms of this question. The simplest one is: What is the Christian life?
This question is essential for those of us who are Christians, that is to say, for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Why? Because being a Christian is so much more than merely believing certain truths or getting a free ticket to heaven. Trusting Jesus is the first step in a whole new way of living. Eternal life, rightly understood, isn’t just something for which we must wait until we die. Rather, it begins in this life, though it won’t be fully experienced until the age to come.
Although I am writing this series primarily with Christians in mind, it might also be helpful for my readers who are not Christians. If you’re curious about what the Christian life should be, I hope to satisfy your curiosity. If you’re considering becoming a Christian, it would be good for you to know in advance what you may be getting yourself into.
I’m going to propose one basic answer to the question: What is the Christian life? This answer will be based solidly on Scripture. In fact, my answer will emerge from a close examination of the biblical text. But I am not suggesting that my answer to the Christian life question is the only answer, or even necessarily the best answer. I think it’s one true perspective on life in Christ, a perspective that is invaluable for all Christians and relevant to the opportunities and challenges of contemporary living. But I expect there are other perspectives that are also true, valuable, and relevant.
I am not implying, however, that the Christian life can be anything you want it to be. The way of living for a follower of Jesus emerges from our relationship with him, and this relationship rests on who Jesus is and what he has done. Thus, the Christian life is shaped by core theological truths. These truths are revealed to us in Scripture, which becomes a kind of roadmap to the Christian life. I realize that many people today claim the freedom to construct their religious life without basing it upon the Bible. This is true even for some followers of Jesus. But I am convinced that God has give us his written Word as a sure guide, not only for what to believe, but also for how to live. You don’t have to agree with my take on the Bible in order to profit from this series on the Christian life, however. But I do at least want to lay my cards on the table before I begin, so you know where “I’m coming from.” If you wish, you could call this series “One Biblical Perspective on the Christian Life.”
I’ve been thinking about what it means to live as a Christian for a long time. My serious reflections began when I was in college, seeking to be a faithful Christian in the multi-cultural and aggressively secular environment of Harvard University. During my years as an associate pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, I was exposed to a wide variety of Christian lifestyles and living environments. Sometimes I worked with street people from inner city Hollywood; sometimes I worked with highly successful people from the media world known as Hollywood. My reflections on the Christian life continued and intensified during my sixteen-year tenure as Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church. Week after week, I sought to help the people of this fine church live out their Christian faith in their daily lives.
While I was serving in Irvine, the church gave me a three-month sabbatical. My major project during this period of time was to write a manuscript on the Christian life. I wrote it for the express purpose of helping new members of our church understand what it meant really to live as a Christian. I hoped that a publisher might pick up this manuscript, but official publication was secondary to my goal of providing a resource for people joining my church. As it turned out, Baker Books did publish my manuscript with the title: After “I Believe”: Experiencing Authentic Christian Living. This book is now out of print, though it can still be found every now and then on eBay or in used bookstores.
The series that follows is based on a chapter of After “I Believe.” I plan to rework, refine, and expand that chapter. Though my basic perspective on the Christian life hasn’t changed substantially in the last ten years, I have a few more things to say today, and I hope to be evening clearer in this series than I was in my book. If you read After “I Believe,” you may find some of what I say today vague familiar, but much will be new.
As always, I will be interested in your comments along the way. You can post them here for others to read, or email them to me if you wish to speak confidentially. So here’s a question for you: How do you envision the Christian life? If you had to summarize in 25 words or less what it means to live as a follower of Jesus, what would you say?

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