What does a Christian life look like?
(Or "Mr Smith is a
Goat at a Sheep Party")
The New Kid
Imagine there’s a family called the Smith family—Mom, Dad, son and daughter living in a nice house in a nice part of town. One day they adopt a twelve-year-old kid who’s been in foster homes and orphanages his whole life, at least when he wasn’t living on the street—the kid came from a rough background.
On the day that the adoption goes through, the kid’s name legally becomes Smith and moves into the house. The mom and dad promise to love, nurture and take care of him.
But there’s conflict right away. He doesn’t know the house rules, doesn’t get along with the new brother and sister, and has a lot of behavior problems, bad habits and emotional baggage leftover from all the years of being in the system and on his own.
This is a little like when God adopts us into His family. Right away we’re given a new name and identity as a beloved child of God, but we don’t always get along with our brothers and sisters in the church, and all the new “house rules” are foreign to our sinful nature. In the case of the new kid, it’s going to be a long time before they start really behaving like a Smith—in our case, it’s going to be lifetime of slow progress toward acting like a child of God (and we’re not going to get there until we are glorified in the resurrection, in the next life). We will continue to be saint and sinner at the same time—yet we will begin to live into our new identity by the daily discipline of God reminding us of what a Christian life is supposed to look like when we abide in His Word—which will guide and inform us, empowered by the Holy Spirit and prayer.
Goats to Sheep
Another way of looking at the Christian life is that God transforms us when we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that believers are like sheep and unbelievers are like goats—when we hear the promise of the Gospel and believe the promise is for us, we are changed. It’s like we are instantly transformed from a goat into a sheep—it’s a miraculous re-creation that is completely accomplished by God. All we do is accept the gift with a thankful heart by faith.
But there's a really big problem—we still look and act like a goat. We still think like a goat, we have a goat’s desires and hungers, and we still sound like a goat. We are simultaneously sheep and goat, just like Christians are both saints and sinners.
Just to keep things clear and simple: The new kid didn’t choose the Smith family—and it’s not the goat's idea to become a sheep. I bring this up to emphasize the fact that it’s God who chooses us and God alone who makes it happen.
We still Feel Like
Orphans and Goats
Although we Christians have been adopted into a holy, royal family—we can’t even pretend to behave good enough to fit it. it’s only by the grace of God that any of us are welcome to be here. We’re orphans. Beggars. Goats at a sheep party.
So what are we supposed to do? Hang our heads in shame? Despair? No, of course not! God loves us and wants us to be filled with joy. It’s His idea to bring us into His family in the first place. It’s His idea to make us one of His sheep.
The House Rule is LOVE
We have to constantly remember who we are because Christ has brought us into His family and saved us. From this place of thankful joy, and only from this place of thankful joy, we begin to love Him in return. We begin to love the people He’s put in our life. We put on love like a beautiful new identity. We learn how to communicate and interact with everyone in our life through the lens of love.
Jesus said that all the commands can be summarized in one word: love. He said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength—and the second greatest is just like it: to love our neighbor as our self. Then, just before He went to the cross to show us exactly what this would look like—he gave us a new commandment, “That you would love each other the way I have loved you.”
In other words, if we’re going to start acting like a Smith, like a sheep—like a Christian—then we have to start loving God and loving people the way the Bible tells us to love. This is how we worship, this is how we take care of each other, this is how we share the Gospel with other people who need to know it, and this is how they’ll know we are Christians.
Love isn't nebulous. Love is very specific and precise. We will not understand it if we neglect God's Word. In order to understand how to worship God and love people we have to join the family at the table—all us kids have to gather together when the Shepherd calls.