We all live for something. Parents may live for their children. Spouses may live for each other, and business owners may live for success. We say that we are “living for” something when that is the motivation for all we do. Living for Jesus means that pleasing Him is our highest aim (Colossians 1:10). Although we have dozens of lesser motivators, those filled with the Spirit of Christ are motivated primarily by His goals and His plans for their lives. When those plans collide with lesser goals, those who are living for Jesus follow His way and not their own (Proverbs 3:5–6).
The phrase living for Jesus can sound ethereal and idealistic. But Jesus warned that living for Him would be costly (Luke 14:26–33). The first disciples were willing to pay that price. They suffered tremendous persecution and even death in order to glorify God (Acts 5:41). Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:58–60), James was beheaded (Acts 12:2), and history records that all the apostles but John were also martyred. Even today, Christians around the world are beaten, robbed, tortured, and imprisoned simply because they live for Jesus.
Here is some of what living for Jesus means:
1. Living for Jesus means we have died to sin. Romans 6 is a beautiful description of a Christian who chooses daily to consider himself dead to sin and alive to Christ (verses 6–8). Being dead to sin means we no longer consider sinning against God a viable option. The decision was made when we bowed at the cross and were born again by grace through faith. Though we will still stumble at times, sin no longer masters us. Just as a corpse does not lust, covet, or gossip, those who are dead to sin do not heed temptation (Galatians 2:20).
2. Living for Jesus means we have only one God. This is the first commandment (Exodus 20:3), yet people can and do make gods out of anything. John Calvin rightly stated, “The human heart is an idol factory.” We recognize our false gods by asking ourselves a question: What is it that I am unwilling to lay on the altar? Whatever we refuse to give to God becomes our god. Living for Jesus means we continually search our hearts for idols that steal our time and affection away from total devotion to Him (2 Corinthians 11:3).
3. Living for Jesus means we diligently study His Word. Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Correctly handling God’s Word is vital for one who wants to avoid deception and live as salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13–16). Unless we know the heart of God, we will violate His standards and lead others to do the same. We discover His heart when we pursue the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and apply it regularly to our lives.
4. Living for Jesus means we use our gifts to serve God and others. We strive to live as Jesus lived. We study Him in the Scriptures and pattern our lives after His (1 Corinthians 11:1). He was kind, so we imitate His kindness. He gave unselfishly, so we set aside our preferences and devote our time, resources, and energy to His purposes (1 Corinthians 10:31). People who live for Jesus discover their spiritual gifts and utilize them to impact their world (1 Corinthians 12:7–11). Living for Jesus means we find our greatest fulfillment in serving Him. Pleasing Him is our reward (2 Corinthians 5:9).
5. Living for Jesus means we know where our real treasure is. People who live for Jesus are not as concerned about earthly treasures as is the rest of the world. While we are free to enjoy all God’s blessings in this life, Jesus made it clear that we are not to put our whole focus on them (Matthew 6:19–20). People who are living for Jesus focus on eternity and dedicate themselves to endeavors that have eternal significance. Worldly entanglements are temporary and seem like wasted time and effort. Our passion and energy are directed toward investing in the lives of others who will join us in heaven one day (Luke 10:2–3).
Becoming a Christian means we are choosing to live for Jesus instead of living for ourselves. He made His requirements clear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Carrying a cross means we are dying to our right to be our own boss. We cannot have two masters; Jesus will not share His throne (Luke 14:26–27; Galatians 1:10; Matthew 6:24). We either live for Jesus or for something or someone else. As we live for Jesus, He empowers us to live the godly lives we were created to live (1 Peter 1:16; Hebrews 12:14).