The elderly apostle John wrote, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3).¹ He added, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). The apostle depicts Christians as those who abide in, or are united to, Christ. The Christian life consists of walking daily with the Lord.
To abide in Jesus, believers are called to live as Christ lived. John defined the process of abiding in Christ as having fellowship with the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and with fellow believers. The Christian life is based on a common reality—the sacrificial death of Jesus. But Christianity is demonstrated in how we live for God and for others.
Jesus’ life was characterized by transformational power. We access that by listening to what He said (“what we have heard”) and by doing what He did (“what we have seen”)—in other words, modeling both His speech and His actions. He is the ultimate and supreme display of how Christians should live—to walk as He walked.
JESUS SOUGHT TO TRANSFORM PEOPLE
Jesus came to radically change the lives of those who heard Him and saw Him. He called people to become His disciples. Discipleship is not simply about memorizing His teachings, but about letting the power of His teachings generate in us a new life (see John 3:1-8). Jesus, the cosmic source of God’s power, made disciples by overcoming the work of the devil in human hearts. He called people to follow Him instead.
A scientist’s work required Him to travel through the jungle. Since there were no roads or trails in the dense jungle, the man took with him a local guide. After walking awhile, he said to his guide, “I don’t see any trails. How do you know we’re heading in the right direction?”
“I am the way,” the guide replied. “Just follow me.”
Thank God, we follow someone who knows the way! Jesus looked at disoriented and lost humanity and said, “I know the way, follow Me!” (see John 14:6). In following Him, we are expected to “live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).
It goes without saying that Jesus set the standard for what it means to be a Christian. His Word was heard on city streets, in temple courtyards, by the seashore, during His travels, revealing the values and principles of the kingdom of God. Through Him, God’s voice was heard again on the fallen planet, instructing humanity and giving new meaning to what the people of Israel heard in the Old Testament.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ depiction of the way of life of those who follow Him and want to display their identity as Christians to the world.
In the sermon Jesus condemned murder, particularly when it is done through the angry word (Matt. 5:21, 22). He affirmed the importance of living peacefully with others (verses 23, 24). He asserted that adultery takes place not only in the act itself, but also in the mind when lustful thoughts are entertained. To be tempte by lust in this age of the Internet offers challenges unimaginable to those in Jesus’ day (verses 27-30). Jesus reaffirmed marriage and reminded His listeners that divorce has its own set of complications (verses 31, 32).
Jesus talked about justice, and how generosity is preferable to retaliation (verses 38-40), and how love—even for one’s enemies—is one of the hallmarks of genuine spirituality and the clearest reflection of God’s character.
Jesus spoke about caring for those in need, rather than feeding our own selfishness (Matt. 6:1-4). Jesus reminded His disciples that true treasure is stored in heaven (verses 19-24), and that the quality of our spiritual lives does not consist in material goods. If we seek the Lord and His kingdom, our most essential spiritual, emotional, and material needs will be fulfilled (Matt. 6:25-34).
In an age of depression and anxiety, we should take hold of God’s love for us and trust that He can provide for our deepest needs. When tempted to pass judgment on others based on their imperfections, Jesus asked us to stop and recognize that our primary task is to address our own imperfections (Matt. 7:1-5).
Jesus’ teachings are designed to make our lives meaningful, enjoyable, and effective in serving others. Love is at the heart of God’s kingdom values. Love for Him is not just another command; it’s the glue that holds our spiritual lives together. Love for God forms the basis for our compliance to the law (cf. 1 Cor. 13). Love for each other is expressed not only to those we like, but even to our enemies.
Unfortunately, we often find it difficult to love others, and even churches can sometimes become places of conflict and tension that damage unity and Christ-centered identity. The apostle John must have been aware of this, because he wrote: “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another” (1 John 3:11).
According to the Bible, character and identity are manifested through our actions. Jesus’ identity was not hidden and inaccessible to others. He became human to display through His actions His divine identity.
When John the Baptizer was imprisoned, he sent messengers to ask Jesus if He was truly the Messiah. Jesus revealed Himself to John’s disciples not only by what they heard Him say, but especially by what they saw Him do (Matt. 11:1-6).
A person’s actions reveal character. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, thus exhibiting divine compassion (Matt. 9:11-13). He lived a life of total submission to the will of the Father (John 5:19) and strengthened this relationship by communing with the Father through prayer and through His knowledge of the Scriptures. He kept the Sabbath holy (Luke 4:16); loved His enemies and prayed for them (Matt. 26:51-53; Luke 23:34). He overcame the evil one when tempted (Matt. 4:1-6), and defeated him by delivering those who were possessed by demons and those who were sick (Mark 1:32-34).
When people saw Jesus perform miracles, including healing two blind men, they recognized that He placed His unparalleled power at the service of others (John 9:33). Every one of Christ’s deeds reflected His identity, thus depicting the way of life of those who would follow Him and constitute His church. His whole life was a display of the infinite love of God for all of His creatures. His crucifixion on the cross to take away our sin is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for humanity (John 3:14-16; 1 John 4:7-10).
“I AM A CHRISTIAN”
Jesus came to reveal who He was through both words and actions. But it was particularly through His behavior and demeanor that people recognized Him as the Son of God.
While visiting a country in which Muslims and Christians live together, I took a taxi to a meeting. During the journey I asked the driver about his religious life. He answered with a broad smile, “I am a Muslim.” I told him about some Muslim friends I have, and mentioned how devoted to Allah they are.
He asked about my religion, and I answered that I was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. He laughed with joy and practically shouted, “There are many Adventists in my village, and they are better Muslims than I am. They go to their mosque several times a week and spend Saturdays in worship and doing good deeds. They are pious people who pray more than three times a day. They do not eat pork or drink alcohol!”
People know us first by how we live (by our actions), then by what we teach. The religion of Jesus is not simply about a set of intellectual assertions or a system of theology, but about a living truth that takes possession of the whole person. It is a transformational truth that radically alters the way we think, speak, and act.
Ellen White wrote: “Christ is our pattern, the perfect and holy example that has been given to us to follow. We can never equal the pattern; but we may imitate and resemble it according to our ability.”²
This type of religion, seen by others through our actions, opens the door for them to hear and learn about the truth itself. It consists of walking as Christ walked.
Questions for Reflection
Why does the Bible present Christ as our example?
Why should we align our lives to that of Jesus? To be perfect? To be accepted by God? To serve others? Or some combination of all three?
What do you think: Is it proper under certain circumstances to hide our Adventist identity?
¹ Bible texts in this article are taken from the New International Version. ² Ellen G. White, in Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 5, 1895.