A Christ-centered (or Christocentric) life is one that is focused upon a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. At the core of every human decision is a motivation. Some people are motivated by the quest for pleasure or money. Some center their entire lives on a goal, a job, or even their families. These things are not wrong in themselves; however, that which we center our lives on can become our god.
The human heart was designed for worship, and if it does not worship God, it will worship something else. If we are not Christ-centered, we will be centered on something else. Worship is measured by the amount of time, money, and emotional energy expended. Our gods can be identified by the level of passionate commitment they evoke in us, and, after a while, we begin to resemble them. We talk about them, think about them, dream about them, and scheme to spend more time with them. People who know us best usually know where our deepest passions lie because worship is hard to hide.
Followers of Christ who center their lives on Him start to become more like Him. They talk about Him, think about Him, dream about Him, and scheme to spend more time with Him. They choose to obey His commands out of love and honor for their Lord, not from fear of being caught in sin. The greatest desire of Christ-centered believers is to please Him and grow to be more like Him. Their lives echo Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The chief aim of a Christ-centered life is to glorify God.
But a Christ-centered life is not to be confused with a religion-centered life. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were religion-centered. They ate, drank, and slept the Law. They could spout rules, codes, and judgments as fast as a child can recite the ABCs, but Jesus had harsh rebuke for them. They were Law-centered but not love-centered, and it made all the difference (Matthew 23:25; Luke 11:42). A religion-centered life strives for supremacy, attention, and glory based upon performance. It keeps score and judges itself and others by self-made standards. Christ-centered lives rest in the finished work of Jesus on their behalf and yearn for holiness as a means of staying close to Him (Hebrews 12:14).
The secret to living a Christ-centered life is understanding the “fear of the Lord” (Psalm 19:9; Proverbs 16:6). The fear of the Lord is the continual awareness that our loving heavenly Father is watching and evaluating everything we think, say, or do. Those who live Christ-centered lives have developed a tangible awareness of the presence of Jesus (Matthew 28:20). They make decisions based upon the question “Would this please the Lord?” They avoid Satan’s traps and worldly entanglements because they evaluate their choices: “If Jesus was spending the day with me, would I do that? Watch that? Say that?” (1 Timothy 3:7; Ephesians 6:11). Every lifestyle decision is weighed on heaven’s scales and evaluated for its eternal significance. Lesser loves fall by the wayside because they steal time, resources, and energy away from the real passion of life—pleasing Jesus. However, living with the fear of the Lord requires a conscious, ongoing commitment to it, and even the most devoted will fail at times.
No person has ever lived a perfect life except Jesus (Hebrews 4:15). Even those who deeply desire a Christ-centered life will stumble, fall, sin, and make fleshly decisions in moments of weakness (1 John 1:8–10). But a Christ-centered person cannot endure living in disharmony with God and will quickly confess sin and be restored to fellowship with Him. This process of living in continual harmony with God is called sanctification. It is a lifelong process by which God makes us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 12:14). When we first center our hearts on Him, our lives quickly follow.