By: Max Bolin
“As those marked eternally with the Father’s love, Jesus’ character, and the Spirit’s holiness and fruit, we have the privilege and responsibility to make His imprint on our world today.”
When I was asked by Moderator Larry Littlejohn to write on the topic of the “Imprint of Christ” on our lives, the first thought that came to my mind was of another Moderator of the General Synod, the late James M. Dickson, Elder in the Clover ARP Church. “Mr. Jimmy”, as I knew him, was a man who bore the imprint of Jesus in a way that was obvious to everyone he met, and who in turn left an imprint of Christ on each person’s life. From the night in the mid-1960’s in the Clover ARP Church when Jesus made Himself real to Mr. Jimmy, until He called Him to heaven not many years ago, there was an evident presence of Christ in his life. That presence, that imprint of the living Lord, was seen in his personal life, in his family life, and in his law practice. It was visible in his ministry as an Elder and as a youth leader in his local church. It was on display in his involvement in missions and in his service to the greater church. He lived his life through Christ. I can still hear him quote Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The imprint of Christ in his life made a tremendous impact on the lives of countless people.
I remember the night Jesus made his imprint on the life of Jim Dickson (and on myself and others) through the words of a young college student who gave her testimony that night at Clover. The presence of Christ was evident in her life and in her words to everyone sitting in that sanctuary. Christ lived in her. And from that night forward His presence was evident in the life of Jim Dickson. It was evident in the quality of his life and in the purpose of his life.
Moderator Littlejohn described the theme for this article in the words, “As those marked eternally with the Father’s love, Jesus’ character, and the Spirit’s holiness and fruit, we have the privilege and responsibility to make His imprint on our world today.” Those are the very qualities I saw in Jim Dickson for many years. There was an awesome work of God transforming Jim’s life, making him new in Christ. He was a new man with a new purpose. He wanted everyone to know Jesus in that same life transforming way. Jim felt deeply the privilege of knowing Christ and he knew the responsibility of allowing Christ to make His imprint on everyone the Lord brought into his life.
As new creations in Christ we have that same privilege and responsibility. We are privileged to know Christ. By God’s grace in Christ we have been made new. And as new people we have both the privilege and the responsibility of allowing Christ to make Himself known to others through us.
Jim Dickson regarded 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 as his marching orders, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Jim shared the good news of Christ wherever he was. This responsibility took him from the streets of Clover to many places in the world with the purpose of being Christ’s ambassador.
To Know Him
It has been my observation in my thirty-eight years of ordained ministry that most ARP’s have a sense of the responsibility of sharing the Gospel with others. Most recognize the responsibility to share Christ with their friends and neighbors in a local sense. Most are supportive of the idea of taking the Gospel to the unreached peoples of the world. The problem we ARP’s have is not in recognizing our responsibility, but rather that the sense of responsibility fails to produce actions that allow Christ to impact others through us. Why is this true? Why are we often hesitant to share the gospel or to show compassion to someone in need in the name of Christ?
The answer often is that we often have no sense of the privilege we enjoy in knowing Christ. I once asked Jim what had happened to him on that night. His answer had two parts. He said, “First, I saw Jesus living in her. And second, I realized that by His grace He lived in me. I experienced the reality of the answer to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:18-19, ‘I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.’” He recognized the privilege of knowing the living Christ. He had been a church member and a church officer, but for the first time he recognized the privilege of knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. That privilege of knowing Christ translated into an awareness of the privilege of sharing the good news with others. He loved to have the opportunity to talk about Jesus. It was a joy to share the good news with someone who did not know his “friend.”
We Are New
The imprint of the living Christ changes us. It changes us in terms of who we are and in terms of what we do. The New Testament stresses to us that we are “new” in Christ. We look at Acts 2 and we see the disciples made new. We see the Spirit making Christ known through the sermon of a transformed Peter. We see the people convicted, brought to repentance and to faith by the power of the Spirit. We see the imprint of Christ placed on their lives as they begin to live in a new way. That imprint of Christ is recognized by the society around them as the early Christians “enjoy the favor of all the people” and as “the Lord added to their number daily those being saved.”
Theologically none of us would quarrel with the truth that the imprint of Christ in us should be seen in a new quality of life and in new purpose in the life each individual. Nor would we argue with the truth that the church should display the imprint of Christ in a clear way before the world. Our problem is not a theological one, but a practical one. We need to experience the reality of the imprint of Jesus in our lives so that we are motivated to allow Him to make an imprint on others through us.
If we recognize deficiencies in our efforts to carry out our responsibilities in allowing Christ to make an imprint on the world through us, then it is likely that we don’t need new ideas or better programs, but rather that we need to experience the privilege of knowing Christ so that the imprint of His presence is truly placed on our lives. We need “to know Him and the power of His resurrection”. When that knowledge moves from just a theoretical knowledge about Christ to a knowledge based on a relationship with Jesus that visibly affects who we are, then Christ begins to impact others through us. We begin to have a new desire to allow Him to do so. We begin to see people through His eyes.
Jim told me that he continued to pray Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 for himself and that he prayed it daily for others. It was a particular prayer of his in the year he served as Moderator. He wanted the ARP Church to be a church that very clearly bore the imprint of the living Christ in its character and in its mission.
Join me in praying that each of us in the ARP Church may “know Christ” and in praying that “the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which Christ has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe”. As our Lord answers that prayer His imprint will be seen in our lives as we recognize the privilege and the responsibility of allowing Christ to imprint Himself on others through us.I
Rev. Max Bolin is the pastor of Old Providence ARP Church, VA.