In the Scriptures there is one poignant question that has been jumping out at me lately and it is found in James 4:14 where it says “What is your life?” It seems rather a difficult question to answer due to its scope. Added to the complexity, is this question is deeply personal and the answer would vary from person to person depending on their background, present situation and circumstance. But really, have you considered lately what is your life?
I suppose the reason why this question, raised by the text in James, has been rattling in my head recently, is due to the fact that a very dear family friend passed on into glory, and thinking about his life, there was a distinct and defining mark. The answer to the question was abundantly clear, he knew it about himself and so did everyone else.
Unfortunately a great many of us do not have such clarity. We either define our lives by temporal terms, such as what our occupation is or our role in the family. People define themselves by their past or by some hurt or emotional injury that occurred in a moment in their life. Others define their life by their successes or accolades. Whatever it is, is the definition you believe really who you are, and is it eternal?
The Bible, particularly the New Testament, identifies people in two categories: sheep or goats, dead or alive, in the Spirit or in the flesh. However there is one identifying phrase that stands out above all others and it is used primarily by the Apostle Paul; it is the expression “In Christ”. People are either in Christ or they stand outside of Christ, and before someone will balk at the exclusivity of such a statement, I again ask, is the definition of your life truly the totality of your person and is it an everlasting definition?
For the Christian, it is Christ that defines their life. When someone enters into a relationship with Christ by faith, they are no longer defined by this world, their successes or even their past. When the world would try to inject racism into the dialogue between African Americans and Caucasians, in Christ there is no such thing as black or white. I have many African American brothers in the Lord and when we are together we don’t see the color of our skin, we see Christ in us. The same can be said of anyone, divorcee, recovering addict, successful entrepreneur, if they are in Christ, it is Jesus that provides the definition to their life. Why is this important? It is important because we do not define ourselves accurately. Our perception of ourselves is either overtly prideful or hopelessly jaded.
Part of my responsibility as pastor is to remind people of who they are. More specifically to show (as best as I can) the glory therein of having Christ define your life. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27), the Apostle Paul says is the great mystery and the primary definition of a Christian. Yet what does this mean? Truthfully, it is such a weighty reality that to try to sum it up in such a short column wouldn’t nearly give the attention it deserves. However, it means that an individual who is in Christ is different, changed, possesses a value not in and of themselves but of Christ who is invaluable. It is a hopeful existence and in addition a liberating one, because of the power of that union with Christ frees you from the baggage of the past.
So we go back to the question, “What is your life?” To our family friend who passed on, the answer was clear: His life was Christ. For some reading this, it is true that you perhaps have more yesterdays than tomorrows, so what is your life? Is it identified by some temporary definitions that are here today and gone within the next, or is it distinctly marked with eternity’s values in view? As C.T. Studd once said “we only have one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Our lives are but a vapor, a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14), so while you are here and when the curtain closes on your life, what is going to be that distinguishing quality? If it not be something eternal, more specifically Christ, then it is not worth living for.