The Christian life is centered around following Jesus Christ and living according to his teachings. But with so many elements to the faith, it can be easy to lose focus on what matters most. In examining the Bible and Christian theology, several key priorities emerge that are fundamental to living out genuine Christianity. Here are the main takeaways:
- Loving God
- Pursuing Christlikeness
- Living by the Spirit
- Loving Others
- Making Disciples
- Seeking God’s Kingdom
What does it really mean to be a Christian? With over 2 billion people identifying as Christian worldwide, there are undoubtedly many answers to this question. From evangelicals to liberals and Catholics to Charismatics, interpretations abound. But at its core, Christianity is centered on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. To be a Christian is to be a follower and worshipper of the risen Christ.
Christians find their beliefs, identity, values, purpose, and mission in Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of the faith (Hebrews 12:2). So what it means to live as a Christian must be understood through the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in Scripture.
But with so many topics, commands, and lessons in the Bible, it can be easy to lose focus on what matters most. With limited time, energy, and resources, Christians must prioritize the principles and practices that are essential to following Jesus authentically and robustly.
In examining key themes and passages of the New Testament, several priorities emerge that are fundamental to genuine Christian life and ministry:
The most fundamental calling of every Christian is to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). This was the greatest commandment according to Jesus. Loving God involves praising him, enjoying him, treasuring his truth, mourning sin, desiring his glory, and savoring his presence. Christians demonstrate love for God by obeying his commands, pursuing holiness, stewarding resources, and serving others.
God loved us first and redeemed us through Christ (1 John 4:19). So the motivation for loving him is gratitude for his grace. As 1 Peter 4:11 says, “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Loving God is about passionately worshipping him for who he is and what he has done. It is the essence of being a Christian.
After loving God, the next priority is pursuing Christlikeness. God predestined believers to be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus (Romans 8:29). This happens partially through the work of the Spirit, but also requires effort to grow in godly virtues, attitudes, and actions.
The Bible calls Christians to maturity in faith (Hebrews 6:1) and to build godly character through the trials of life (Romans 5:3-5). Jesus commanded his disciples to take up their cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). The Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). And Peter exhorted Christians to walk in Jesus’ steps (1 Peter 2:21). Although perfect like Jesus, Christians must increasingly model his character.
The Bible describes the fruit that Christlike virtue produces: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Conforming to Christ involves crucifying selfish desires and being renewed in righteousness (Ephesians 4:22-24). Christians must continually strive to mirror Jesus’ heart, mindset, values, speech, conduct, and service. This brings glory to God, blesses others, and fulfills our purpose.
Living by the Spirit
In pursuing Christlikeness, Christians live by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. When someone turns from sin and trusts in Christ’s atoning work, God sends his Spirit to regenerate their heart and dwell within them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). The Spirit empowers believers to resist sin, walk in obedience, testify to Jesus, pray effectively, comprehend Scripture, and minister with power.
The Bible commands Christians to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) and be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This happens as believers yield moment by moment to the Spirit’s leadings. It also requires staying closely connected to God through prayer, worship, Scripture, fellowship, and communion. The more Christians are led by the Spirit, the more they will bear godly fruit and fulfill their calling.
The two greatest commandments are to love God and love neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). While loving God is the first priority, loving others is the second greatest. Scripture says, “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar” (1 John 4:19-21). Loving others displays our genuine love for God.
This love is not merely sentimental but practical. It involves serving, caring for, encouraging, forgiving, giving generously to, and speaking truth in love to others. It extends across social and cultural barriers to strangers, neighbors, enemies, and the marginalized. Christians’ love is to reflect God’s unconditional love revealed in Christ (1 John 3:16, 4:9-12).
The Bible gives many “one another” commands about how to love fellow Christians: “love one another,” “bear each other’s burdens,” “be kind and compassionate,” “encourage one another,” “build each other up,” “serve one another,” and more. Loving others in word and deed is a fundamental Christian duty.
Next to loving God and others, Jesus gave his followers a third priority: making disciples. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus commanded, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
This Great Commission was not just for the first apostles but applies to every generation of Christians. Telling others the good news about Jesus and training them in the Christian faith is central to our calling. Some are uniquely gifted as evangelists and pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11). But every believer is called to share the gospel, disciple others relationally, contribute to church growth, and use their gifts to build up the body of Christ.
Fulfilling the Great Commission requires evangelizing nonbelievers, following up with new converts, equipping maturing Christians for service, and assisting church planting worldwide. Making disciples develops devoted followers of Christ to the glory of God.
Seeking God’s Kingdom
Christians also have a mission to advance God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). God’s kingdom encompasses his sovereign reign plus the blessings of salvation. Expanding God’s kingdom happens as more people trust in Christ and live under his lordship, allowing righteousness and justice to prevail.
Jesus said to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). So Christians work to uphold godly values in society and see people rescued from sin and despair through the hope of the gospel. We are ambassadors for Christ seeking to reconcile lost people to God and bring part of heaven’s realities down to earth (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).
Serving God’s kingdom means confronting evil, helping the needy, defending truth, upholding justice, healing brokenness, and demonstrating compassion. It also includes fulfilling our vocations with excellence and exemplifying godly virtues that contribute to society’s flourishing. In these ways, we spread light in the darkness and serve as salt and leaven in the world.
To summarize, the top priorities that emerge for living a vibrant Christian life are:
- Loving God with all we are
- Pursuing Christlike character
- Living empowered by the Holy Spirit
- Loving others through caring service and speaking truth
- Making disciples of all nations by evangelizing, teaching, and training
- Seeking the advance of God’s kingdom through gospel witness, social justice, and vocational stewardship
Keeping these biblical priorities central will help Christians glorify God in all they do. But living them out requires conscious effort and reliance on the Spirit’s strength. As we orient our lives around loving God, becoming like Christ, obeying the Spirit’s leadings, caring for others, fulfilling the Great Commission, and seeking God’s kingdom – we walk the way Jesus calls us to as his disciples.
May this overview of key Christian priorities inspire you toward greater devotion to Jesus and the mission he gave us. By God’s grace, may we live out biblical Christianity with passion and purpose until Christ returns or calls us home!