Living a Christ-Centered Life

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:3-6

How do we know as followers of Christ that we truly love Him? Each of us, I believe, may go through moments where we wonder, “Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things? Am I truly living a Christ-centered life?”

As seen in 1 John, one way that we can be confident that we know Christ and love Him is to follow Christ’s commandments. To be clear, while I am not espousing a theology of works-based salvation, I am affirming what is taught by John, which is that one of the signs of loving God is following His commandments. 1 John gives us a litmus test of our own lives (not to judge others but to judge ourselves) to truly know whether we are in God, know Him, and love Him: if we do not keep his commandments, we do not love/know/abide in Him.

Although—or perhaps because of the fact that—none of us is perfect, this verse should give us pause and cause us to search our hearts. If the picture I’ve painted seems bleak, keep listening because the Scriptures have much hope to offer us in this regard.

When I was in seminary, I spent a lot of time in the library, even when I was not studying for class (no surprise for many of you that know me). One of my favorite things to do when I was restless or could not get into the book I was reading was to stroll down random aisles of books and pick one at random.

I was fortunate enough to stumble across an old, tattered book The Johannine Theology by George Stevens published in 1899. While reading through it, one of his analogies in the commentary struck me so much that I wrote it down and have referenced it often since: “Just as the main direction of the river, notwithstanding its eddies and back currents, is ever toward the sea, so the central current of the Christian’s life is set toward God, despite the hindering powers of evil which check its progression and mar its perfection,” George Stevens, The Johannine Theology (1899).

Stevens’ analogy is apt for us today as we wrestle with John’s assertions that to truly love Christ means that we must also follow His commandments. Forgive me for re-explaining the analogy, but for those it might help, here is Stevens’ analogy in my own words: a river flows in one direction, toward a larger body. Within that river, there may be eddies and back currents that flow in a different direction, but because the overwhelming flow and direction of the river are toward one direction, we can rightly say that the river flows in that direction. Likewise, if we truly know and love God, the general and overwhelming direction of our lives, our actions, our thoughts, and our desires collectively should be toward God, His example in Jesus Christ, and in alignment with His commandments.

While there may be moments and lapses in our thoughts, actions, and desires—streams and eddies that mar the perfection of the flow of the river—if someone were to look at your life objectively would they see an overwhelming direction within your life, your thoughts, your actions, your words, and your desires as being toward God? Or would your life look like an out of control whirlpool of self-serving actions and desires, occasionally influenced by the truth of the Word of God?

Now, if you’re wondering what a life that is flowing in the direction of God looks like, luckily we don’t have to search too hard. John tells us directly after the verses we have been studying that the commandment we have as Christians is to love one another as Christ indeed has loved us. While we will all stumble and fail to live perfectly, do we follow Christ’s commandments to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths and our neighbors as ourselves? If a person outside of the faith were to look at your life—or dare I say your Facebook profile—would they be able to see a clear love for God and people or would they be overwhelmed with worldly matters and political fights? Just some thoughts to think about.

In addition to John’s clear example of what it looks like to live a life centered around Christ, the Lord Himself made it easy for us through His incarnation to see what it looks like to live a life that has changed its direction to be toward God. Luke 4:18-19 shows us that Christ’s life was devoted to bringing peace and liberty to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, bringing liberty to the marginalized and oppressed, and to proclaiming the goodness of God unabashedly. I can do better, and we all can do better.

Open your heart to God today in prayer and through reading the Scriptures. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you change your actions, your thoughts, your words, your desires, and your heart each day to be more and more like Jesus. Live a life that is so overwhelmingly flowing in the direction of God’s heart that not only are you sure of your love for Him but others are intrigued by what makes you so passionate. I pray that your life would be full of the grace and peace that only comes from God today, that you would be filled every day with the Holy Spirit who would empower you to live righteously and bless others, and that the mind and heart of Jesus would be the model that leads your growth.

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