The first thing we are going to consider in living a Christian life is:
To follow the example of Christ in home and daily life, and to bear personal witness to Him.
There are two things here. Let’s look at them in turn.
To follow the example of Christ in home and daily life
If you had to summarise the Christian life in a few words, “to follow Jesus” is a pretty good example. But what does it actually mean? How should we follow him?
A lot of people throughout history have gained followers. Often they have been considered great teachers because of their great wisdom. Jesus is, of course, is in this category. But there’s more: Jesus doesn’t just want us to listen to his teaching, but he wants us to copy his example. Jesus wants us to live a life of love – love for God, and love for others. But here’s the thing: he didn’t just tell us how to do that, he showed us.
How many moral leaders throughout history have been hypocrites: they’ve told their followers to do one thing, while doing another. For example, leaders who tell their followers to avoid wordly wealth while getting rich and living in comfort themselves. Jesus was never like that: he practiced what he preached.
This is why the Bible says that we should strive not just to listen to Jesus but to imitate him. The apostle Paul (who wrote over half of the letters in the New Testament) said:
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.1 Corinthians 11:1
So, if we are living a Christian life, over time our lives should look more and more like Jesus’. But how can we do that – we can’t go back in time and look like first-century Palestinian Jews! Notice that they specify it is “in home and daily life”: our lives should look like Jesus’ all the time – at home, at work, at school, or college, or relaxing, whatever we’re doing.
Jesus lived a life of love where he was in first-century Palestine – in the midst of “ordinary” life. That’s our example: not the specifics of our circumstances – all our lives will look different – but the love he had for God and for people. We should strive to love God and love each other in everything we do, not just for a short time each week at church!
Jesus’ example of love
‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’John 13:34-35
Jesus said that his love is an example for us – we should love others “as I have loved you”. How did Jesus love us? Ultimately, by suffering and dying for us on the cross. That’s the extent of Jesus’ love. We are to have that same self-sacrificial love, the kind of love which loves others enough even to sacrifice ourselves.
Jesus doesn’t call us to do something he wasn’t prepared to do himself! In fact none of us could ever live up to the heights of love that Jesus showed for us. And this is so important to grasp: if we seek to follow Jesus and his example, we will never ‘get there’. We’ll always have further to go. And change doesn’t happen overnight. But, if we fix our eyes on Jesus and his example, we will continue growing. If we were looking at a merely human leader, we would eventually get to the point where there wasn’t much to learn – that will never happen with Jesus.
How can we do it?
I said that I wanted this course to be practical, and I want to finish each section with a “how can we do it” section which explains one or two ways we can put these things into practice.
Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. As the saying goes ‘Rome was not built in a day’ – if you expect too much too fast you might get disappointed! Change is possible, and God can do amazing things in us, but often this takes times. Don’t worry – one day you will look back and see how you’ve changed. Keep on going – that’s the first most important thing.
Get to know Jesus well. You can do that by reading the gospels. I’m often surprised when I come back to the gospels how Jesus manages to surprise me – even in stories which I think I know! If you think you know the gospels, go back to them and read them again. You will be surprised how much you learn.
Practical suggestion: read a little bit of the gospels every day – work your way through them a little at a time. When you’ve finished, start again!
To bear personal witness to him
To bear witness means, to testify that something is true. Think about a witness in court: they didn’t just see something happen, but they testify that it is true. This is what it means to bear witness to Jesus: not just to believe in him, but to show others that we believe too. One way we can do that is by trying to follow his example, as we saw in the first part. Obeying Jesus and seeking to become like him is one really good way of being a witness to him!
But it also means being a witness in a more direct way. At some point we actually need to tell other people about Jesus too. Let me give an example. My Dad is a big Chelsea fan (the football club, not the place!). If you went to his house, you’d find that he has Chelsea merchandise around – calendars, pictures and the like. If you got chatting to him you’d probably find that it came out in the conversation eventually. The point is that, to him, being a Chelsea fan is something which makes a difference to his life.
It’s like that with being a Christian: following Jesus should make a difference in our lives. Not just the way we live our lives, but being prepared to talk about it.
‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.Matthew 10:32-33
It’s important to acknowledge our faith in Jesus to others. That doesn’t mean being rude or unpleasant – quite the opposite! We should do everything with love. But we should always remember that being a Christian is not simply a private thing and we should be happy to share our faith with others.
How can we do it?
Being a witness to Jesus doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to look to crowbar Jesus into every conversation you have! I’d suggest the following simple rules:
- Don’t hide your faith – e.g. don’t be afraid to read a Christian book / the Bible at work, or in front of your family members;
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your faith if someone asks;
- If someone’s going through a hard time, perhaps you could talk about how Jesus helps and sustains you;
- Above all – pray that God would help you to live in his ways and give you courage to speak when it is needed!
Following Jesus is at the heart of the Christian life. It’s something which is fundamental. It’s not easy to simply give one or two practical tips to help out – it’s what the rest of this course is about! I hope that I’ve given you some practical things to do to get started. But, really, everything in the Christian life is about following Jesus. You will see that as you start to read the Bible, pray, and all the other things we’re going to look at.