I’d like to be a good Christian, today, tomorrow and for the rest of the year for the simple reason that Jesus died for me. God also sent Jesus to demonstrate through his life and teachings what a good Christian is. It’s a person who loves God and loves neighbour, which Jesus did to perfection.
So I’ve got my motive for being a good Christian – Jesus’ death – and I have my example of a good Christian too – in Jesus’ life. And he left us a very clear example as well. In his love for God he didn’t veer off track one bit from God’s will in his thoughts, actions, words, and reactions. Even when faced with the prospect of excruciating suffering, either from physical torture or the mental stress of people making ridiculous accusations against him, he was able to resist his own feelings and emotions and stick to God’s will for him.
And his love for neighbour was just as amazing, because there wasn’t a person in need he refused to help. He never condemned anyone for being ignorant either. The only people he called to account and threatened with hell were the religious hypocrites who demanded perfect obedience to God from others, but fell far short of perfect obedience themselves.
So he set quite the example of compassion, mercy, wisdom and anger, all finely balanced, perfectly timed, and customized to each person’s need. I’d love to be able to imitate him. We have a whole list of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount too, which if we all lived in tune with would make our world a very different place. Imagine if we all lived by the Golden Rule, for instance, of treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated.
So now I’m left with a perfect motive for being a good Christian, and a perfect, practical example in Jesus’ life and teachings, and how he dealt with people, both the ignorant and the hypocrites.
But how on earth do I live up to such an example? Must I be consciously thinking about it every waking second of each day, even when tying my shoes, going shopping, or checking the dog for fleas? Is that how I stay on track to what makes a good Christian? Is it up to me?
No it isn’t, and it wasn’t for Jesus either. He openly admitted he could do nothing of himself, and it was only the Father working in and speaking through him that the miracle of his life and death were possible. Which is why Jesus knew we’d need help too -which he gifted to us in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is now the one at the controls of our lives. It’s he who reminds us of Jesus’ teachings, he who gives us the words to speak, he who corrects our thoughts, and he who gives us the love for God and neighbour we need to be good Christians. And his comforting, correcting help is being directed by both the Father and Jesus too, so we now have the aid of the entire God family on our side every waking second of each day.
What I’d love to be next year, then – the best Christian I can be – is based on me simply believing that and getting on with life, no matter how basic, tedious, or troubling it is. And I can look back at the end of each day and see the difference the Holy Spirit made, that even in my excruciatingly stressed out or boring life, or in the mistakes I can see I made, underlying them all is the Holy Spirit keeping my love for God and neighbour intact and growing, because he’s the one that makes me a good Christian, thanks to Jesus dying for me and kickstarting the New Covenant.