What is the Christian life?
Surely, it is more than the activities that fill the time and events that occupy the calendar. Scripture reading, prayer, service, fellowship, and acts of love are of the utmost importance, but being a Christian is more than the sum of those parts.
Case in point: Pharisees are the epitome of religious self-discipline. And they gained nothing but hotter flames for their failed attempts at righteousness. Why? Their impetus was a craving for the approval of men. Thus, while on the outside their works were polished and clean, inwardly there was only death and corruption. Such is the fruit of false religion.
So then, we see that being a Christian is more than doing certain activities. To live as a Christian is not to merely read the Bible, pray, serve others, fellowship with saints, and evangelize the lost. It must be more.
So again, we return to our question: what is the Christian life? Or, to put it another way, how does a Christian truly live? What does a life that is truly alive look like? And not just look, for if it is truly life it has the taste and smell and feelings and sounds and sights of true life. It is a full life, a satisfying life, a God-honoring life, an attractive life.
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." - Jesus Christ, John 17:3
Here then, is the foundation, the immovable mountain upon which the faith of all of God's people find stability and rest — knowledge of the Holy One and the Holy One of God. Christian living is not built ultimately on the activities of Bible reading, prayer, evangelism, fellowship with the saints, etc. Caring for the poor, going on missions, giving money to the poor, serving the church, preaching, meditation, counseling, recreation, Christian literature, studying, marriage, family, and all the other activities of life are not the substance, but the streams that flow from a soul, a life, anchored on the knowledge of the only True God, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
The measure of a life in God's eyes, is not merely things accomplished, people helped, rewards received, acclaim, books written, number of people saved. If I can achieve all that is quantitative without achieving the qualitative knowledge of knowing God, I have wasted my life.
We ought to know this. Yet, it is so easily to gravitate towards the former rather than the latter. For example, spiritual maturity is often defined and measured by years of experience or knowledge of the Scripture or past successes or an educational background. But no! This will not do! Indeed, they must supplement, but they do not replace the far weightier questions: do I know my God? Am I always before His presence? Do I seek His face and know His truth? Do I commune with the Holy God who bought me with blood, reconciled me to Himself, and claimed me as a beloved son? Do I know Him? Do I know Him?
Do I know what He loves, what He hates? Do I know what gives Him joy and pleasure? What breaks His heart? What does He think about certain worldviews, philosophies, activities, attitude, phrases, technology, life practices, jobs, etc.? Do I know what He wants of me, what He demands of me? If I say I know Him, I ought to. He has made it abundantly clear.
From this foundation, a true understanding of the pillars come into place. Why do I read the Scriptures? To know my God more intimately, for it is His self-revelation to sinners. Why do I pray? To know my God in communion and to spend time in His splendor before the glorious throne. Why do I evangelize? To know my God's mercy and compassion over lost sinners and to share in the inexpressible joy of my salvation. Why do I fellowship? To know my God's intimate and undying love for His people, the Church. Why do I care for my family? To know my God's covenant love for His children. Of course, more could be said. But whatever profitable activity remains to be done, it must be drenched in the driving desire to know the God of the Scriptures. If motivated by anything else, it is misguided and counterfeit.
All of a Christian life, a true Christian life, thirsts to achieve this: a fuller knowledge of God. As my pastor says, when we lose ourselves in the immensity of Who He is, we are finally alive. When we know God, "secular" activities are baptized into spirituality. Prayer, evangelism, Scripture, fellowship, loving service, church ministry please the Lord. But so too can work, excursions, chores, trivialities, the mundane, the rote, the exhilarating, the enjoyable — when hung rightly upon the pillars of Christian life, are good, right, God-honoring, and freeing.
God didn't make us to glorify Him only when we're at church, when we're reading our Bible, praying, or evangelizing. He saved us to glorify Him in every aspect of every day for all our lives. How do we do so? By seeking to do all things because I know Him, as the knowledge of God informs all that I do.
Before we are brought home to heaven, we must live this Christian life by the power and enablement of the Holy Spirit, and by exertion and discipline of the whole of a man. In this world, it is not a question of how much of how much time I do spending doing this activity or that activity. This is too base, too quantitative. No, rather the question is, "How does this drive me to or flow out of my knowledge of God? How will this teach me of my God and the delights of knowing Him? Is spending this time in doing this thing, being in this place, an overflow of my soul's craving to know Him?" This is the task of a Christian. We are not to reduce a Christian life down to a letter of the law, but instead to live by the law of grace and Christ, a higher love, a more powerful law.
Who is the man who truly lives? The man who knows his God. He submits all things to the knowledge of His will. Only then will there be joy in the Christian, for a life submitted to Him overflows with true, living life.