The Christian life is one that is not the life of the one who is living it. The life lived by the Christian is the life that is lived by the Holy Spirit in them. The person who is living this life is physically the same, but they are not the same person in actuality. One sees this clearly when Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (English Standard Version 2 Cor. 5:17). Not only here is it seen but again when Paul wrote that upon believing one is crucified with Christ, they are no longer living, but Christ is living in them (Gal. 2:20). It is because of this God designed system, that a Christian can “be holy, for I [God] am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16).
Although this is the design and what God desires from all believers, the flesh, and mind, can be and is a battlefield. The contention with the mind and flesh daily can wreak havoc on living holy as commanded. It is with extreme caution that a believer is to go about life. They are to seek that which is good and leave that which is bad behind (Amos 5:14). John Calvin makes a good point on this devotion when he stated, “unless we are devoted-even addicted-to righteousness, we will faithlessly abandon our Creator and disown Him as our Savior” (8). To achieve this devotion is the goal of the Christian life. Achieving it takes considerable work and a change of one’s mindset.
The apostle Paul wrote clearly on this in Romans stating, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Whereas, in another place, Paul wrote that God predestined believers to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). The word conformed, in Romans 8, is the Greek word, symmorphos. This word means, “having a similar form, nature, or style, similar in form (BDAG 958). Whereas, in Romans 12 the word is, syschēmatizō, which means “to form according to a pattern or mold, form/model after” (BDAG 979). In being conformed to Christ one is emulating and following His nature and style. They are seeking to be as He was. Whereas, being conformed to the world one is patterning themselves after the ways of the world and not Christ. One take away from these two texts is that a believer is conformed to one of two things: Christ or the World.
It takes work not to allow oneself to be conformed to the world. It is like cultivating the ground. If one works hard at the ground it will likely bring forth a good yield. If they do nothing, it yields nothing. One needs to work at cultivating a deep relationship with Christ. Sadly, there will be those who, “Instead of cultivating a deep and intimate relationship with Christ” will instead “ignore Him, falling victim to the culture and turning to empty worldly pursuits” (MacArthur 6). These will be conformed to the world and not Christ. Those who conform to the world have failed to transform, metamorphoo, their minds. This word, metamorphoo, means “to change inwardly in fundamental character or condition, be changed, be transformed” (BDAG 639). It is from this Greek word where the English word metamorphosis–a change of the form or nature of a thing into a completely different one–comes from. The transformation is found in seeking what the Scriptures say and seeking conformity to Christ. Christ is the model that one must seek to be like in their pursuit of righteousness (Calvin 5). Calvin also stated that one must “consistently set [their] sights upon holiness if [he/she] would rightly respond to God’s calling” (6). The only way to do this is by conforming to the image of Christ by the transformation brought forth by the renewal of the mind by the teachings of Scripture.
Once one seeks conformity to Christ and seeks to be transformed by renewing their minds, they will truly live as they ought to. They will love Jesus deeply. According to MacArthur, “Loving the Lord Jesus Christ is what the Christian life is all about” (6). If one loves Jesus deeply, then they will not be able to help themselves from loving other people. They will not seek their good above that of the downtrodden. They will not seek earthly treasures but the treasures of heaven (Matt. 6:20). The believer who loves Jesus above all things will not serve any master but Jesus (Cf. Matt. 6:24).
The Christian life will not be a life of partiality. The rich and the poor will receive the same treatment. The Christian, who truly loves Jesus and has conformed to Him and transformed their mind, will “fulfill the royal law” by loving their neighbor (Jas. 2:8). To phrase it another way, “We are to crucify our desires and put others ahead of ourselves” (Wax 55). One must first seek the kingdom of God and in that seeking, they will live as they should in this wicked and twisted world.
One perfect example of the Christian life, and how it is to be lived, is found in Psalm 15. In this psalm, one sees that the only one worthy to live in God’s tent and dwell on His holy hill is the person who lives according to a certain way (Ps. 15:1). This certain way is, living blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking the truth, not slandering, not being evil to their neighbor, no reproach to their friends, despising vile persons, honoring the ones who fear the Lord, their word is their bond, loans money to help, and does not take bribes (Ps. 15:2-5). This is quite the list for a believer to live out. These are not repressive nor legalistic commands. They are “oppressive and legalistic only to those who still love their sin” (Storms 48). Sam Storms further comments, “Obedience to the righteous commands of God is easy for those whose hearts have been gripped by grace and whose lives are empowered by grace” (48). God takes great pleasure in His children following Him and His guidelines. Although this is pleasurable to God, He does not place impossible conditions upon His children. No, these guidelines from Psalm 15 are possible for the believer who has conformed to Christ and who has transformed their mind.
The Christian life is a life that is committed to Jesus Christ. It is a life that is conformed and transformed to and by Him. One lives in a manner that is worthy of Christ because of Christ. He has given the believer a new life upon salvation. He has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the believer. He has given the Christian the holy Scriptures to follow. Not only that, but He has given Himself as the model to follow. One can imitate Christ by imitating those who He commissioned to guide all believers (e.g., 1 Cor. 4:15-16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 2 Thess. 3:7). It is by seeking to imitate Christ through these teachings that one will live out the transformed Christian life. One who consistently seeks to live a life of holiness will not allow money to rule them, nor sexual desires, but they will love God and others and live out the covenant of marriage if married. The Christian life is work, but it is a blessed work with the Holy Spirit to guide and care for them. Not to mention the guidance of Jesus and the apostles through the reading of Scripture. It is, therefore, concluded that the Christian life is a transformed life, a life that the person does not live out by themselves. It is a life lived out by Christ who indwells all believers through the Holy Spirit: a life of submission.
Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. 3rd. ed. Chicago Press, 2000.
Calvin, John. A Little Book on the Christian Life. Kindle ed.,Reformation Trust, 2017.
MacArthur, John F. A Simple Christianity: Rediscover the Foundational Principles of our Faith. Kindle ed., Baker Books, 2014.
Storms, Sam. Christian Ethics. Enjoying God Ministries, 2006.
The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Crossway, 2001.
Wax, Trevin. Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an age of Rivals. Crossway, 2010.