What is it for you to be a Christian?
(J. R. Miller, "A Life of Character")
We ought to seek to gather in this world — treasure that we can carry with us through death's gates, and into the eternal world. We should strive to build into our lives — qualities that shall endure. Men slave and work to get a little money, or to obtain honor, or power, or to win an earthly crown — but when they pass into the great vast forever, they take nothing of all this with them!
Yet there are things — virtues, fruits of character, graces — which men do carry with them out of this world. What a man IS — he carries with him into the eternal world. Money and rank and pleasures and earthly gains — he leaves behind him; but his character, he takes with him into eternity!
This suggests at once, the importance of character and character-building.
Character is not what a man professes to be — but what he really IS, as God sees him.
A man may not be as good as his reputation. A good reputation may hide an evil heart and life. Reputation is not character. Reputation is what a man's neighbors and friends think of him; character is what the man IS.
Christ's character is the model, the ideal, for every Christian life. We are to be altogether like Him; therefore all of life's aiming and striving should be towards Christ's blessed beauty. His image we find in the Gospels. We can look at it every day. We can study it in its details, as we follow our Lord in His life among men, in all the variations of experience through which He passed.
A little Christian girl was asked the question, "What is it for you to be a Christian?"
She answered, "It is to do as Jesus would do, and behave as He would behave — if He were a little girl and lived at our house."
No better answer could have been given. And there is scarcely any experience of life — for which we cannot find something in Christ's life to instruct us. We can find the traits and qualities of His life, as they shine out in His contact . . .
The next thing, when we have the vision of Christ before us, is to get it implanted into our own life. We cannot merely dream ourselves into godly manhood or womanhood; we must forge for ourselves, with sweat and anguish, the beautiful visions of Christ-likeness which we find on the Gospel pages! It will cost us self-discipline, oftentimes anguish, as we must deny ourselves, and cut off the things we love. SELF must be crucified.
It is not easy to become a godly man, a Christlike man.