Jim Eliot, a missionary and present-day martyr of the faith, once penned these words: "I seek not a long life, but a full one like you, Lord Jesus." A life cut short, as Jim Eliot's was, isn't necessarily the greatest tragedy. Rather, it's a life that has been squandered — a life that has been wasted and thrown away on nothingness and self-indulgence.
What is the object of this life? What is the essential life of the Christian? More importantly, what does God require of us? Simply, He wants us to know Him and to become more like Him. This is the basic definition always given in the New Testament of the character, quality, and nature of the Christian life. Jesus prayed, "This is eternal life, that they may know Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3 NKJV).
A lot of people start here. They may say, "I know God. I went forward at a crusade. I've responded to an invitation to give my life to Christ." But there is more to the Christian life than just meeting Him. Now comes the quest, the goal, of following Jesus Christ: to become like Him. He wants us to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Christians should desire, above everything else, to know God and to become more like Him. As new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), Christians should manifest the traits and characteristics of God Himself. This does not mean we, as followers of Jesus, will reach some state of perfection during our earthly lives. But the Bible does instruct us to become more like Christ each and every day. This should be the goal of every Christian.
Some may say, "But who can measure up? We all fall short." Yes, that's true. But if God tells us to do something, then it can be done. We find the key in 2 Peter 1:3: "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (NKJV). The calling of God is the enabling of God. These words weren't written to a group of spiritual elitists or a special little holy club. These words apply to every man or woman who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Everything we need has been given to us. We cannot add to it. This verse doesn't say He has given us some things that pertain to life and godliness. It isn't Jesus Christ plus an emotional experience. It isn't Jesus Christ plus psychology. It isn't Jesus Christ plus this or plus that. It is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. We find everything we need to live a godly life in Jesus Christ taught to us in God's Word, the Bible. We don't need to go further. We don't need to find some self-proclaimed prophet. We don't need to listen to the latest psychologist who will tell us we need inner healing. Rather, we need to apply the Word of God and realize that God's Word and God's power are sufficient.
When we fail to recognize this, we sell God short. Commenting on the sufficiency of Scripture, the Apostle Paul wrote, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do" (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT).
It's time for some who are reading this to say, perhaps for the first time, "Lord, I am going to dedicate myself in the coming year to knowing you and becoming more like you." For others who once made this commitment, it may be time to refocus and get back to what really is important in life. As you look back on this last year, have you been seeking to know God and become more like Him? Have you focused on living a life that honors God? Or, have you been living merely for yourself — living for the moment? If that latter is the case, this would be the perfect time to recommit yourself to what really matters in life.
Wherever you may be in your relationship with Jesus Christ, if you choose to apply these principles in the coming year, you will look back on 2001 as the greatest year of your life — because you will have lived your life as it was meant to be lived. It's good to desire a long life. But even more important than a long life is a right life. Don't just resolve to live long. Resolve to live right.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!