What is a genuine Christian? (Part 2)
How you live your life today will invariably depend on your outlook for your immediate future. Whether you like it or not, your mood and well-being in this moment is deeply affected by whatever you expect to happen to you over the next day or week or year. It’s one of the things that separate us from the animals – we live in reference to the progress of time. We can’t help ourselves, we’re always looking ahead and planning and anticipating.
That outlook for the future is what the bible calls your “hope”. It doesn’t use that word the same as we do today. When we say “I hope…” we normally mean something of which we have little or no assurance (like, “I hope the Springboks will beat the All Blacks this weekend”). When the bible talks about ‘hope’ on the other hand, it means something you know will happen in the future, and the more the evidence, the greater your hope.
Because of the work of Jesus on earth, we can have immense hope in the real, biblical sense. A hope of resurrection and life in a new, sinless creation – the creation we were made for. And it’s a hope based on solid evidence – the historical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The bible also says this hope effectively gives new life to a believer in Jesus – new life now! It’s a future certainty that changes how we live in the present. Romans 8 says:
“But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
This then, according to Romans 8, is the second mark of a genuine Christian. A Christian is someone who is living on earth, but is simultaneously starting to live their new life to come, because it’s that certain.
Living a new life now
Just like Jean Claude Van Damme doing the splits on two Volvo trucks (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the Volvo ad here), a Christian is described in Scripture as living two lives in parallel. The life we were born into, then the new life we were ‘born again’ into (John 3:3). Just like the two Volvo trucks, these two lives are slowly diverging… they become less and less alike as they progress. A Christian, however, is not called to try do the splits indefinitely (That just hurts, and you’ll eventually fall off both!). A Christian is called to jump wholeheartedly on the new truck, that is, to make every effort to live their new life now – to focus on the world to come, to set their thoughts and energies and plans and focus on where we’re going, not where we are. Because not only are these two lives diverging, but one is heading for destruction, while one is heading for eternity.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18
The life to come is unseen because… well, we haven’t seen it yet. But just like tomorrow’s sunrise, that doesn’t make it any less certain. So a genuine Christian is someone who lives for that life to come, who’s joy and happiness today is bound up in that life to come, so that no matter what happens today… we will be able to say with Paul:
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17