Living for Eternal Purposes Pt 1

Eternal PurposeNo one in their right mind would ever calmly reflect, and then form a statement for their life like, “I want to live a meaningless life that doesn’t count for anything.”  “I want to live in such a way that when I die, no one will know or care that I ever existed.”  “I am striving for a life that doesn’t matter.”

Even though it may get distorted, we were all made with a desire to live for significance and purpose.  It is because we were created in the image of God who is very purposeful.  God, who is eternal, has called us to live for eternal purposes that have significance in this life, and will echo through eternity.  Yet for many Christians,  not only do they fail to live for eternal purpose, but have little idea of what God’s eternal purposes are.

We can live for all types of purposes, self fulfillment, career advancement, financial freedom, as well as a host of other things.  According to scripture however, if we fail to live for the purpose for which He saved us, we will live in what the Bible calls “futility.”   People can be good at making a living but still fail at living a life that has His eternal purpose in it.

Scripture declares that when Jesus purchased our lives it was to get us out of living a purposeless/futile life on this earth, in order to live for His eternal purposes.

1 Peter 1:17-19 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 

The word “futile” means useless, or of no purpose. The writer of Ecclesiastes used the phrase “Vanity of Vanities” over and over as he evaluates life lived apart from God’s purpose.

I once read a poll from George Barna who found that 36% of born again Christians are still trying to find the purpose for their lives.  That is a sad statistic, especially when compared to what he found from unbelievers in the same poll.  Only 49% of unbelievers are searching for their purpose.  This doesn’t take into account those in both camps who don’t give much attention to thinking or caring about living for purpose.  Of the 64% of remaining born again Christians who are not trying to find out their purpose, what percentage of them don’t care that much about discovering or living for purpose?

Everyone Is Called to Live for Eternal Purposes

Living for His eternal purposes isn’t some sort of superior state that only a few “Super Spiritual Christians” discover.  He is not telling us to live that way, then hiding it from us so we will be frustrated.   I have seen many Christian paralyzed when it comes to confidence in knowing, and living for His eternal purposes. While specific aspects of His purpose may unfold in our lives, God has made the overall elements of His purpose very clear for us in His word.

I have heard all to familiar expressions from Christians who are doing little to engage in God’s purposes like these, “I don’t’ know what I am suppose to be doing…God hasn’t shown me His purpose….I am just waiting on God to show me what to do.”  In those states there is often a subtle attitude that His purpose is mystically “out there.”  It is always elusive, somewhere else but here, or some other time but now.

Along these lines people can mistakenly think, “I only live in a small town and attend a small church, how could I possible fulfill His eternal purpose?”   It is important to note that Jesus never traveled more than 65-70 miles from his home town but made, and continues to make a great impact in the purpose of God.  He was born in an out of the way place called Nazereth of which people often,said, “can any good thing come out of Nazereth?”

The clear Biblical approach pursuing God’s purposes for our lives goes directly against the “anywhere else but here, any other time but now” attitude.  That attitude ends up causing us to “receive the grace of God in vain (with no purpose).”  The attitude God wants us to embrace is always a  “now.”

2Co 6:1-2 NASB  And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain–  2  for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”-

 Three Parts of the Egg of God’s Purpose

EggThere are three clear purposes God reveals in His word that every Christian is to pursue with their life, “right now.”  It is kind  of like an egg.  For an egg to be successfully birthed in the earth, its three parts have to be together.  If only one part is birthed the whole thing doesn’t work.

These thee purposes of God are interconnected.  You can’t attempt to move in one or two  to the exclusion of the others if you are going to move in His purpose “now.”    What are the these three aspects of His purpose?

 

1. Walking with/and following Jesus toward growth/maturity

2. Becoming an active participant in building His church

3. Representing Christ as an ambassador to a world that needs Him 

In the coming weeks we will explore in detail these three purposes.   Remember from the outset that we aren’t waiting for some mystical happening in order to engage in these three purposes.  Nothing, but us, keeps us from moving in these three things right now.

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Our Call Is To Become Something, Not Just Get Something

Power team 1I remember taking a group of young disciples to a gospel presentation by weight lifters performing various feats of strength.  It was kind of cool!  I have to admit, as a former college football player who grew up thinking Christians were kind of wimpy oddballs who didn’t have much of a social life, to see physically strong men who were Christians, ripping phone books in half and breaking concrete blocks, was kind of intriguing.

It was followed by a message at the end, “Being strong is just an avenue to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus died for you sins.  Ask Him to come into your heart so you can be forgiven, avoid  hell, and go to heaven when you die.”  This is the end of many typical gospel presentations, but is that all there is?

I asked the young disciples what they thought when it was over.  They were very fired up. “He said nothing about committing your life to following Jesus or joining with His people in serving His purpose!”  It was vastly different than the first message of the early church “with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation’!” (Acts 2:40).   What did Peter say as he kept on exhorting to “be saved from the perverse generation?”  It can be seen in how they responded as they were “added” and “devoted” to God’s way of life among His people as they impacted the earth (Acts 2:41-44).

The young disciples with me said, “The only way these decisions are going to last, and the only way they are going to effectively engage His purpose is to join with His people/church to impact the earth.”

His Purpose Is Bigger Than Just God And Me!

Unfortunately these types of presentations have reduced the great story of the Bible to a message about God and me!  Why does the Bible tell us the story of Israel? Why are there so many letters given to the church? Why do we have all the laws that were to govern God’s people in their common life together? Why does the Bible contain the numerous prophetic messages to the people of God?

It is because the story of the Bible shows us the journey of God’s people.  It is about His people being commissioned to be salt and light for the good of this world and the glory of God’s name!  It begins with His first expression of His family, Adam and Eve, and carries on through Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel, the nation of Israel, Jesus and His disciples, and now His church which was purchased in His blood!  The Bible contains the story of God’s people, chosen by Him as His possession, to fill the earth with a people who reveal His fullness/glory.

1Pe 2:9-10  But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  (10)  for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD.

Eph 1:22-23MSG …At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.  (23)  The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

Eph 3:10-11MSG  Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known… (11)  All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. 

The outpost of heavenOn earth as it is in heaven

One writer referred to the church as, “not something additional or optional. It is at the very heart of God’s purposes. Jesus came to create a people who would model what it means to live under His rule. It would be a glorious outpost of the kingdom of God, an embassy of heaven.”  Paul expresses this thought of “citizens” or a “colony of heaven” in the book of Philippians, 1:27, 3:20.   When explorers put stakes in the ground they were claiming the land for the Kingdom they represented.  The church is like God’s stake in the ground, an outpost that by its very existence declares, “God is king here.”     J. I. Packer has summed up the church’s mission this way: “The task of the church is to make the invisible kingdom visible as we live God’s values and presence among us in front of a watching world.” 

God’s family on mission

The Bible begins with God’s family on His mission.  Adam and Eve were called on the mission to “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, etc.”  The Bible ends with God’s people gathered around His throne at the great family event “The marriage supper of the Lamb” Rev 19:9 21:9.  Throughout the pages of the Bible is the story of God’s family pursuing His mission.  Through all the successes and failures this theme is worked out.

The only way the family nature of the Godhead will be displayed in the earth is as His church walks as the family of God and participates in His mission.  ).   It takes both aspects of “Family’ and “Mission” for His people to fulfill His plan.  Everything we do on this earth will either be building, encouraging, and strengthening His family (relating with God and each other), and engaging with that family in God’s mission (testifying/evangelizing the demonstration of the Gospel).

There is no idea in the Bible about being a “me and Jesus” part time Christian whose extent of activity is occasionally attending a corporate meeting.  We are to get out of the meetings and into the everyday life of building God’s family and being involved with that family on God’s mission to the earth.

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“Give Him the Glory Due His Name”


Part of the divine seed in every authentic Christian is the desire to see God glorified.  This is especially true when it comes to their corporate assembly.  The first desire that should be on the heart of a true worshiper in a corporate gathering is to see God appropriately praised.

All through the book of Psalms we see this desire expressed.
Psalms 22:22-25 I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee. You who fear the Lord, praise Him;..From Thee comes my praise in the great assembly..
Psalms 35:18 I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation; I will praise Thee among a mighty throng.
Psalms 40:9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Psalms 29:19 Ascribe (to give, provide) to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name.
Psalms 34:1…O magnify (to cause to grow, make great, make big) the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
Psalms 66:1-3,8…make His praise glorious (full of honor, glory, big) . Say to God, How awesome are Thy work…Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, (cause to hear the sound of His praise).
Psalms 107: 1,22,32 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good…Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,…Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him at the seat of the elders.

worshipThis burning desire even extends beyond the great assembly of God’s people to all creation.
Psalms 148:1-13 Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! 4 Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD,…7 Praise the LORD from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; 8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; 9 Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; 10 Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; 12 Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. 13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted His glory is above earth and heaven.
Ps 97:1 The Lord reigns let the earth rejoice
Ps 98:4 Shout joyfully to the Lord all the earth, break forth and sing for joy and praise God.
Ps 72:17 Let all the nations call Him blessed.

Don’t be a Christian Humanist

Humanism is a philosophy in which man is the beginning and center of all things. Evaluations begin with man and end with man. Unfortunately there is a form of Christian Humanism (it is theoretically impossible but often a practical reality among His people). Christians begin with themselves, how they are feeling, or their circumstances etc, and that is the filter through which they perceive God.

When it comes to praise and worship this same Christian humanism can affects us. Worship will be determined by us. If we don’t “feel” God is worthy then we will praise Him accordingly. If our circumstances are less than desirable then we don’t see God as being very good and it affects how we praise Him. By the same token, if our circumstances are favorable and our health is good then we perceive God as good and our praise reflects it.

If our praise and worship are governed by our condition and if we begin with us rather than Him, we will have a hard time giving Him “the glory due His name.” This is why we must be motivated first by the greatness of God first, not our current condition.

How we respond will either rob or strengthen God’s testimony among us

When we give God the glory due His name among us it releases a testimony to those who come among us that God is great. This was really brought home to me once which a girl had invited an unchurched co worker to one of our services. In that particular service the people struggled giving God the glory due His name. The leaders exhorted several times about how God was worthy of praise but it had little effect.

The girl felt uncomfortable with such a flat service and was concerned about how her co-worker was processing it. She reached over and ask her co-worker how she was liking the service?  Her reply we very revealing as to the power of giving God the glory due His name . “It appears that these men are making every effort to empower these people to reach God, but apparently they don’t seem to be responding.”  Leave it to an unbeliever to size things up accurately!!

When people observe the worship of God’s people He won’t seem very worthy when God’s people response is based first on their condition instead of God’s (His is great and good all the time).  When we give Him the glory due His name, it not only releases a testimony among us, but we are also lifted above our circumstances, like a plane climbs through the clouds near the ground into the sunlight that is shining above the clouds. He lifts us up as we lift Him up.

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Past Performance Is No Guarantee Of Future Results

Past Performance 1I think one of the great deterrents to moving in the supernatural, personal evangelism, and outreach is something called “past performance.”  All of us have heard a phrase at one time or another in commercials (usually associated with people selling investments) “Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.”  That is a fascinating statement when you consider what they are trying to do. They usually mention some great investment with great results in order to get you to buy. Then at the very end they leave themselves an out to eliminate responsibility and liability if the results aren’t as great as advertised.

One of the phrases in business that describes people who hear of an asset or stock that is doing well, then pull their money out of other investments to purchase it is called “performance chasing.”  It is kind of like chasing lighting. When they see lighting strike they go where it struck and hope that it strikes again.

I remember reading an interview with the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky. A reporter asked him the secret of his success. Everyone thought he would probably say something like, “I have great skill and you either have it or you don’t.” Instead he said something unanticipated, “I never skate where the puck is, I always skate towards where it is going.”  People following performance chasing usually skate where the puck is and are often disappointed.

Negative Christian Performance Chasing

Christians often have their own form of performance chasing, especially when it comes to any sort of outreach beyond the four walls of a church building.  When they consider becoming more evangelistic their first thought (after fear) is a resignation of “what’s the use, it never really works for me.”

Our own internal fears, our flesh, and even the enemy are quick to remind us of all the indifference or negative experiences we have had in the past. We think things like, “why go through the challenge of evangelizing again when I have never really been that successful in the past?”  This cripples us from forward movement and faith.  We lose heart before we even get started.

When we think or even feel these types of things our attempts to evangelize shrivel up and fade away. I have had many times that I didn’t share my faith and in retrospect realized that it was a similar “little fox” that robbed my boldness and initiative.

Example from the Gospels

There was a story in the gospels regarding fishing that Jesus turned into a teachable moment regarding overcoming the tendency of performance chasing. He approached Peter and his fishing companions one morning after they had been out fishing all night with no luck. Jesus used their boat and set out into the water so He could teach people on the shore. After He finished His teaching He told Peter to do something unusual. He told him to let down his nets again. We must keep in mind all the negative circumstances that would have worked in Peter’s mind to keep him from obeying.

First, they had just fished all night and this time of the morning wasn’t even a good time for fishing. This is coupled with the fact that the fish just didn’t seem to be biting. Peter was a professional fisherman.  He probably could have come up with many reasons and excuses for not dropping his nets one more time to try to catch some fish.

Peter didn’t let the negative side of “Past performance is no guarantee of future returns” stop him from doing what Jesus said.  He did it anyway and the result was such a great catch that they had to get other boats to help them draw in the fish.

Luk 5:2-10 (4) When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” (5) Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” (6) When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; (7) so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink… (10) and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”

Jesus connected this story to evangelism. We always need to step our and share what Jesus has done in our lives one more time.  No matter what the results have been in the past we must do it again.  We cannot be affected by “past performances.”  We leave the results to Him.

We need to turn the idea of “there is no guarantee of future returns” into something positive.  Maybe they didn’t repent last time, but they may now!  Maybe they didn’t accept your invitation to church last time, but maybe the will now!  Maybe someone didn’t get healed when you prayed for them in the past, but maybe this one will today!

They really is no guarantee of future returns. Who knows what will happen this time.  Even if there is no immediate result we could be warming the soil so someone else can reap the results later or maybe this time we will reap.  We cannot let past performances affect our future. Lets do what Peter did and “let down our nets” one more time and leave the results to God.

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Playing the God Card

See post from 03/13/14 ‘Dazed and Confused “has God said?”

Playing-God-CardThere was a song from the 70s that was written for a romantic comedy that became the most successful single of the decade called “You Light Up My Life.” One verse is very descriptive of a mindset many embrace, even Christians, “It can’t be wrong, when it feels so right, cause you light up my life.”

We have all encountered difficult situations when people pull out the “God card” in answer to directions that just don’t seem very godly. “The Lord told me . . .” That justification is given to either quiet any challenge or explain some bold, crazy move in the name of Spiritual direction.

I remember one man who was divorcing His wife. When challenged with several scriptures he responded, “I know the Bible says that, but I also know that God is okay with me doing it.” Despite the fact that the Bible is clear about how God feels about divorce, and that he had no Biblical grounds, he “heard from God” and that trumps everything.

“God told me to quit my job and start an online business. I know I have four kids and don’t know how I can pay my bills but it feels like God.” ”Jesus is calling me to permanently relocate to Kathmandu to be a missionary”

Regardless of the reality that the guy starting a new business has no financial abilities, business experience, or no way for his family to pay their bills, because “God told him” that settles it. The other guy has no training or skill that would get him into Kathmandu and has only gone on one short term mission’s trip to Juarez, yet he feels lead.

Of course God speaks to us and leads us by the “still small voice” of the Spirit. I have witnessed in my life, and the life of others amazing things God has called people to do that defied conventional wisdom. We must listen and follow the Holy Spirit. But I also know of many foolish things that have been done in the name of being led. I have seen families and leaders destroyed because unwise and wrong things were done in the name of “Thus saith the Lord.”

There are Biblical perspectives that we need to keep in mind has we are seeking the voice of the Lord for guidance.

1. What does the Bible say about it?
God doesn’t usually contradict Himself. He doesn’t say “I hate divorce” or “Adultery is the only thing that dissolves the marriage covenant” then (like my earlier example) say “It is okay for you to divorce your wife and marry the other lady from the church who is unhappy in her marriage.” If there is a clear Word of God, it always trumps our subjective discernment.

2. Does it have God’s wisdom in it?
God is a God of wisdom. His word is full of truth and wisdom. The entire book of Proverbs is exclusively dedicated to godly wisdom. There are times God may seem to ask us to do something that seems to contradict His wisdom, (Gideon reducing is army from 30,000 to 300) but it will not be unwise (like doing a venture that He hasn’t given you the grace to do).

3. Is it confirmed by godly leaders?
We can always find people to support almost any idea we have, no matter how crazy. Also, some people are good salesman types who can convince people of God’s favor for their idea. In 1 Kings 12, there’s the story of King Rehoboam who made a big mistake by “rejecting the advice the elders gave him.” Instead he consulted the young men who had grown up with him and who were serving him” (1 Kings 12:8). It ended up being a big mistake because he only listened to his friends and buddies.

The major decision I have made that proved to be God’s direction in my life, had godly counsel and confirmation from leaders in my life. This is what the writer of Hebrews alluded to.
Hebrews 13:17 (NIV), “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” The Bible expects people to submit to godly authority in their lives.

Lets listen for God as He confirms His leading by His word, wisdom, and leaders. Lets seek both wisdom and revelation. Not either-or, but both-and.
Ephesians 1:17 NASB that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

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