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How would you describe the Christian life? What kinds of attitudes, characteristics, behaviors would you identify as evidence of the life of Jesus in a person?  The old adage warns us “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” That’s an indictment of contemporary Christian discipleship. We have assumed that if a church provides consistent events, biblical information and appealing programs for people, and the people consume these offerings, then the users will grow. But we rarely stop to figure out in practical terms what God expects of us, or to assess what we must do to improve our performance with respect to those desired outcomes. Why is it even important to decide and define the marks of a life lived in Jesus?  I can think of at least three.

Reason #1: We don’t want to settle for shallow descriptions of the Christian life.

Lacking a clear notion of what we’re trying to become as believers, we often settle for something less than the biblical standard, and certainly less than we are capable of becoming.

How instructive is it to discover that when pressed to do so, not only have most Christians and most church leaders failed to specify what  “spiritual success” means, but they do not feel compelled to work out a definition of such an endpoint or destination.

The result has been that believers and churches embrace a cheap facsimile of spiritual success with remorse or, in many cases, the realization that they have “dumbed down” Christianity. Or, even worse, many have left the definition of life in Jesus up for grabs.

This is precisely why we have taken the time to define our understanding of biblical measures of life in Jesus. We call them lifeMarks.

Reason #2: We don’t want to settle for head knowledge rather than complete transformation.

Talk to church leaders about their discipleship programs and you usually hear about teaching events and programs. Sunday school, small groups, Christian education classes, seminary courses, study groups, reading groups, video curriculum, VBS—countless ways of communicating empirical information based on Scripture.

This is laudable and certainly needed. But filling people’s heads with Bible verses and principles alone, is inadequate. Discipleship, defined as becoming spiritually mature in our imitation of Christ, demands that we give both the head and the heart sufficient opportunity to grow and to make a difference in our lives and the world. Settling for information leads us to be puffed up busy bodies, not life-bearing representatives of the Lord of Life.

This is precisely why we have taken the time to define our understanding of biblical measures of life in Jesus. We call them lifeMarks.

Reason #3: We don’t want to settle for random, disconnected activities rather than intentional and purposeful growth experiences.

Most churches are content to provide their people with biblical substance. The problem is not that the content in itself is bad, but that the content is not provided in a purposeful, systematic manner. Ultimately, believers become well-versed in knowing characters, stories, ideas and verses from the Bible, but remain clueless as to the importance of each.

Think of the way we teach people about life in Jesus as a massive game of “Connect the Dots.”

The problem is, in our version of the game, we do not put the numbers next to the dots, rendering players incapable of connecting the dots in the fashion intended. All of the dots are provided and are pictured in exactly the right place, but without a sense of direction or the big picture, failure is inevitable.

Few churches intentionally guide their people through a strategic learning and developmental process that has been customized for the student. We push everyone through the same generic journey, expecting everyone to “get it” at the same time and in the same way, simultaneously developing mature believers. It doesn’t work that way. Until we assume a more strategic approach to delivering insights and outcomes within a viable mental and experiential framework, we will continue to be frustrated by the results of our well-intended but poorly conceptualized efforts to grow disciples. This is precisely why we have taken the time to define our understanding of biblical measures of life in Jesus. We call them lifeMarks.

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Our lifeMarks are expressed in a four-by-four framework. We have four major lifeMarks, each consisting of four foundational areas. Those foundational areas have personal reflection questions. We hope you will use these questions to assess your own spiritual growth.

I use these questions throughout the year to help me discover where I sense God is leading me to grow. For example, I am the missional heartbeat of God: Teach led me to commit to a 1:1 discipling relationship with two brothers in Christ this year. We are helping each other live life in Jesus!

I AM Sustained by the Word.

I AM Dependent on Christ.

I AM a Visible Reflection of Jesus.

I AM the Missional Heartbeat of God.

(Check them out at: http://lifemarks.livelifetogether.com/)

Here are just a few blessings of identifying and defining lifeMarks. They can…

Help you be more intentional.

Help you identify the next step in your growth.

Provide a clear description of the Christian life.

My hope is that you could articulate these lifeMarks when you are trying to describe the Christian life to a friend who is curious about Jesus. Perhaps you can detail a time when you lived out one of these 16 marks and were blessed as a result. And, maybe, when you are looking for ways to help a friend learn how to follow Jesus you could pull one of these 16 marks and see where your friend might want to grow and join her in that exciting journey.