I’m sure most of us have entered into the App store, found the app we wanted, and then proceeded to download it.
As most know, every app has a description of what the app is and what it does. Like for instance, the “Waze” app provides the following description, “Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info to save time, gas money, and improve daily commuting for all.” There’s some other information under the “Description” but you get the idea. So in short, the “Description” provides information on what the app is and what it does.
What if “God’s Life for You” was an app? What would the description be? In other words, what is the essence of the Christian life? Here’s what I believe the “Description” would be, thus what the essence of the Christian life is:
God’s Life for You (The Christian Life) is about God creating a people for Himself. With the sole purpose of creating a people for Himself, the Christian life (in the power of the Spirit) is about:
1) God repairing you to reflect His image
2) God leading you to participate in His mission
3) God moving you to live in His kingdom.
When God saves you by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, the life He saves us to is one where he repairs His image in our life, leads us to participate in His mission on earth, and moves us in or makes us part of His kingdom in the world.
In the very first chapter of Genesis we read that God creates man in His image. Image denotes reflection and representation. Thus, mankind was created in the imago Dei (the image of God) to reflect and represent God’s glory—His characteristics, attributes, nature, rule, and reign—to the created order.
More specifically, God’s image would be reflected and represented in mankind in three ways: socially, culturally, and spiritually.
Socially, mankind would reflect God in their relationships—how they engage other people. From marriages to neighborly engagement and every type of relationship in between, humans are to reflect the nature and attributes of how God relates to Himself—as He is the Triune God existing in community with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
If you think about how God relates to Himself, He does so in a mutual, respectable, honoring, caring, and loving way. In addition, think about how God related to humanity who had sinned against Him. Romans 5 describes how God engaged wicked humanity. While mankind was at enmity towards Him, God demonstrated love for sinful humanity by sending Christ to die for us. Moreover, Paul describes the kind of relationship Jesus has with His church in Ephesians 5:25–27, which is a model for how husbands are to relate to their wives.
Culturally, mankind would reflect God in the world—what they do in the world and how they do it. In other words, as mankind works the ground, takes the raw materials of creation to bring about culture and civilization, they are to do so in a way that brings honor and glory to God. For instance, when someone creates a musical instrument and begins to put rhythm and harmony—accompanied by words—they image God; when a beautician or a stylist takes a nappy, chaotic hair-do and cuts and styles it, they image God; when an engineer takes raw data and raw materials and puts them together to construct something, they image God; when an English professor teaches students vocabulary words and sentence structure and helps them put it all together, they image God.
Not only do our careers and vocations fit within the cultural realm, but our recreation (hobbies), civic duties, and any other cultural practices fit within the realm of cultural activity. Thus, how we view, engage, and carry out such cultural practices are to reflect God’s image—His characteristics, attributes, nature, rule and reign—in our life.
Spiritually, mankind would reflect God in the world—how they relate to God. Humanity was created to rule under the lordship, under the sovereignty of God. In other words, they were to see themselves as stewards of God’s creation and of God’s life for them.
Although God created mankind in His image to reflect His glory in the ways described, Adam and Eve’s sin and rebellion shattered God’s image in humanity. So rather than reflecting His radiant and stunning glory—His characteristics, attributes, nature, rule, and reign—mankind would reflect a distorted and damaged image of their own glory. The image man would project would be sinful, dark, and broken.
Thus, part of God’s work in salvation is repairing His image. Through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of the believer, God is repairing His image within us so that we can relate to Him, others, and the world (our work, hobbies, and cultural participation) in a way that images Him and brings Him glory.
The Christian life is much more than saving people from their sins. It is about God reconstructing us, repairing His damaged image in us so that we can become the person, the people He envisioned from the very beginning.
It’s very easy to automatically go to Matthew 28:18–20 when thinking about a passage that describes God’s mission. However, I want the church (believers) to understand that God’s mission is clearly seen at the very beginning of time.
God’s mission was to fill the earth with worshippers who reflected His glory.
As worshippers would multiply and fill the earth, God would cover the earth with image-bearers who reflected His glory—signifying that He rules planet earth.
Adam and Eve usurped the rule and reign of God, desirous of becoming their own god. As a result, God’s mission to fill the earth with worshippers was temporarily thwarted. However, mankind continued to multiply and fill the earth with image-bearers who reflected a sinful, dark, and broken image. But God, who was rich in mercy, with such a great love for His prized image-bearers, initiated a global mission through one man, namely Abram.
Through Abram, God would begin a global mission of saving a people for Himself from all peoples on planet earth. In other words, through Abram and his descendants—through their declaration of God’s salvation, which many times was set up by their demonstration of His life in them—God would pursue and save people from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people group.
What will be the result of God’s global redemptive pursuit? Saving and repairing image-bearers who reflect and represent God’s glory—thereby who would signify that God rules planet earth. In other words, the result is completing the mission for which God created humanity—to multiply and fill the earth with worshippers who reflect His glory.
So far, the essence of the Christian life is about God repairing His image-bearers to reflect Him as they participate in His global mission of repairing image-bearers from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people group. The last description that is included in the essence of the Christian life is kingdom. A kingdom is comprised of a people ruled by a king. In other words, a kingdom is the corporate body or entity that a king rules.
When we think about the kingdom theme throughout Scripture, God’s intention has always been to create a people (a kingdom) for himself to reflect His image in the world as they participate in His mission.
Therefore, since the focus throughout Scripture has been on God’s (corporate) people and how He is conforming them into His image and using them to accomplish His purpose, it is impossible to fully “BE” who God is creating you to be without “BELONGING” to the people God.
In conclusion, putting these descriptions together, the essence of the Christian life is for believers to exist in a covenant community (part of the people of God) who reflects God’s glory as the community participates in God’s global mission.
This is the essence of the Christian life. Thus, it is the framework by which believers download the latest version of themselves as well as the framework by which churches structure their ministries.