The Christian Race: Becoming Like Christ
On your mark. Get set. Go! The race has begun and your job is to stay inside the lines, never trip, and get to the finish. Many Christians feel like this is what happens the moment they are saved. The gun goes off, the race starts, and they are penalized for mistakes from that moment on. After all, stepping outside the lines disqualifies us in a race.
But Christianity—praise God!—isn’t about never messing up. It’s not about beating everyone else around us at “living right.” That is what many other religions believe, but God sent Christ into the world because we mess up and because we can’t live right on our own.
Christ came to save sinners and He died while we were still sinners (1 Tim. 1:15, Rom. 5:8). And the best part of this is that Jesus takes away our sin and gives us His righteousness in the sight of the holy God (2 Cor. 5:21).
God knew full well we could never run a race without stepping outside the lines. He knew we’d trip (all the time). He knew we couldn’t even make it to the finish line of eternal life, no matter how hard or fast we ran. The whole Old Testament proves that we can’t do these things on our own.
This is why Christ is such good news for us.
Salvation isn't about living perfectly after the fact to keep up our gift of salvation. Living righteously as a Christian is what we're called to in response to what Christ already accomplished for us.
We Win Because Christ Won
We win the race because Christ won the race. We aren’t disqualified because Christ wasn’t disqualified. We can trip and fall and then get back up and keep going because Christ has secured our victory and it is He who waits for us at the finish.
Too often, people come to Christianity thinking it’s all about doing the right stuff. We think we have to clean up our lives to be “good” Christians. The truth is, as Christians, we do live holy lives, but it’s all in response to what Christ has done for us rather than in an attempt to impress God or even other Christians.
This is the big difference between correctly understanding righteous living and incorrectly assuming our lives become a checklist of dos and don’ts.
Author Tabitha Caplinger weighs in on this issue with today’s installment of Live Your Love, our series of guest posts from authors who seek to honor Christ in every aspect of their lives.
Be Like Jesus
A phrase I heard once (I can’t remember where) and have co-opted because of my love for pie is, “if your life is a pie, Jesus isn’t a slice of the pie, He is the filling.”
In the past I have compartmentalized Jesus. He has stayed in the church or Bible study slice but hasn’t been as evident in the school, work or friendship slices. It’s been kind of halfway. But I don’t want to live this Christian life half way. I want Jesus to be evident in ALL areas of my life, flavoring everything I say and do. That’s the point, right?
What has helped me is realizing God cares more about who I am than what I do. Being a Christian isn’t just about DOING Christian things. It’s about BEING more like Jesus. Through our attitudes, speech, and choices we can live a life that seeks to serve God and His Kingdom. (After all, our mission is to know Him and make Him known.)
So I constantly ask myself this question; What does being a servant of Jesus require of me in this situation/relationship? Be it patience, peacemaking, joy, grace, obedience—making sure Jesus fills every corner of my life requires intentionality. It requires understanding He wants to transform me into a new creation, not just give me a to-do list to check off. Following Jesus means living a life that puts His Kingdom first as a wife, mom, student, pastor, author and friend.
- Tabitha Caplinger
Thanks, Tabitha, for those encouraging words!
The faulty idea of assuming our lives become a checklist of “Jesus things” is a common one. Too often new Christians find themselves falling outside the lines of the race or falling down altogether. They quickly see that the checklist Christian life is impossible to uphold.
Run To Win (Because Christ Already Won)
That’s why it’s so important to realize where we stand with God once we are saved. We are fully free. We are fully accepted in His presence, not because of how good we can live, but because Jesus’ blood covers us and cleanses us from all our sin. This is what brings us near to God (Eph. 2:13).
Once we fully understand that, then we set out to run in such a way as to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24).
We must be clear on this: we do run toward the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). There is a race, so to speak, in the Christian life. But the ribbons, in a sense, are given out at the start of the race. We are given our victory ribbon as soon as we start the race.
When we put our faith fully in Christ, we are then given everything we need to run our race “in such a way as to win.” Remember, we can’t win the race on our own; we can’t reach eternal life based on how well we run. It’s literally not possible to enter heaven without faith in Christ. Thus, “it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
In our pursuit of the “prize” of the upward call of God, we have to keep in mind that personal holiness is the result of faith in Christ and something we pursue with joy in every aspect of our lives, as Tabitha, along with every other Christian, has discovered.
The race, my friends, is to be like Jesus, not to reach Jesus through our own efforts.
We reach Jesus in heaven because He’s reached down for us. We become like Jesus here on earth as we race after Him in love.
Therefore, the Christian life is not one that can be boiled down to a list. It cannot be compartmentalized. It is our daily pursuit of knowing God and thus, by how we live and what we say, making Him known to those around us. Holy living is part of that. But it’s because Christ lived holy, and we are to be just like Him.
May you run after Christ this week. Chase Him as your ultimate pursuit. He is the only prize worth having, and He is the only prize that will not disappoint us. The best part? God has given us His Son freely, not as a result of works (or of how well we run our race), but as a gift (Eph.2:8, 9). Praise Him for that today!