November 17, 2019

God’s Purpose and our Purpose

This morning I will be teaching to about 40 men in an addictions recovery program. I love these guys; they are very open, and very hungry spiritually. I will be going through Ephesians chapter 1, where the main idea is that our salvation is much broader than we usually understand, and also tied into God’s ultimate plan and purpose for the cosmos. I don’t have time or space to replicate that here, but I thought a few of you might find the following excerpt interesting. It’s an attempt to do two things. First, to connect our ultimate purpose with God’s cosmic purpose. Second, to describe our purpose not only in its ultimate form, but in the form of our life on this side of the grave. This may create more questions than answers, but that’s a good thing. Note, this is mainly based on an exegesis of Ephesians 1:3-11 and 22-23, along with parallel passages.

 

Knowing God’s ultimate purpose

Cosmically: to bring all things under Jesus, united in Jesus, perfected through Jesus, and to do this by means of a new humanity that is in perfect union with Jesus, perfected in the likeness of Jesus, and reflecting the wisdom, love, and power of Jesus to all parts of creation.

Personally: to make you a full part of this new humanity in Jesus, with a perfected body in a perfected New Creation, as you uniquely image Him throughout creation. This implies three areas:

  • Perfect union with Christ (and, through Him, with all the Godhead)
  • Perfect likeness to Christ
  • Perfect imaging of Christ

 

Finding our daily purpose based on God’s ultimate purpose illustrated

 

 

The Matrix of our Purpose

 

Seeking to make His purpose My Purpose in the Here and Now:

These questions are by no means designed to be a burden; rather, they are a tool for those who desire to grow into God’s purposes.

  1. To develop and deepen my individual relationship with God, as I partner with Him in removing the roadblocks in my life to a fuller union with Him.
  • What are my biggest roadblocks to increased intimacy with God?
  • What are some practical ways I can address these roadblocks?
  • Who can help me address these roadblocks?
  • What keeps me from addressing these roadblocks (what are the roadblocks to dealing with my roadblocks)?
  • How can the main problem I am facing right now actually draw me closer to God?
  • What one change could I make to grow closer to Christ?
  • Will I do that one thing?
  1. To cooperate with His Spirit in removing those things in my life that are not Christlike, and to seek my unique expression of Christlikeness.
  • What habits have I fallen into that I know are not Christlike?
  • In what ways has God shaped me to be unique in the way I follow Christ?
  • Are there goals (probably subconscious or at least unspoken) that I have in my life which actually draw me away from Christlikeness somehow?
  • Am I a little fearful of becoming more Christlike? If yes, what can I do about this?
  • What practical changes in my daily routines could I make that would help me become more Christlike?
  • Who can help me become more Christlike?
  • How can the sin, weakness or failure of (insert name of someone here___________) actually lead me to greater likeness to Jesus?
  1. To learn how to serve Him according to the way He has gifted me, my station in life, and my unique expression of Christlikeness.
  • Do I know my spiritual gifts?
  • If yes, what are they?
  • If not, what can I do to learn them?
  • Because of my life-situation right now, what unique ways can I serve God? Or, are there people that I have a unique opportunity to help spiritually?
  • In what ways has God shaped me to serve others in a way that most people could not?
  • What areas of wrong or injustice do I feel most angry about?
  • What areas of serving others do I get most excited about?
  • What would I have to do to serve in one of those two areas?

Based on all that God has shown you, what steps will you make in the days and weeks ahead to live in His purpose?

Comments

  1. I feel like this post is asking questions about where I’m not actually at. I have questions 2 stages before these ones that feel like they need to be answered before I could even think of going through these lists.

    What is intimacy with God? What does it actually look like for a fairly prosaic, non-mystical person who has never really had anything like a spiritual experience? How would I know if I had intimacy with God?

    What does it mean to be Christ-like? Which bits of the gospels are the bits that I need to follow in order to make me Christ-like, and why?

    What is it about a gift that makes it spiritual or otherwise? Don’t all gifts come from God?

    • senecagriggs says

      QUESTION: What are my biggest roadblocks to increased intimacy with God?

      ANSWER: ME

      “Not my brother or my sister but it’s ME Oh Lord. Standing in the need of prayer”

    • Mind D, those are great questions. I suggest that a good starting point would be to visit Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation (cac.org). Don’t let the word, “contemplation” scare you.

    • –> “What does it mean to be Christ-like? Which bits of the gospels are the bits that I need to follow in order to make me Christ-like, and why?”

      I can’t answer the particulars of that, but my mantra is: “Every believer should read at least one gospel account in its entirety every year…to remind themselves how Jesus did things.” I think even the epistles and such are slightly askew (or maybe “focused on other things, like doctrine”) from what you get by following Jesus around for three years.

  2. I struggled with this whole process for years, with something not seeming quite right. I realize now it was because that although everything you say is correct, our modern Western minds bind this with modern ideas on progress and self-improvement. The real question is how do we protect traditional ideas on union without mixing it with modern ideas on self-improvement.

    • By treating union as something already existent, and the path of discipleship and “growth” as exercises in the realization and maturation of that already existing state? Some forms of contemplative/silent prayer, like that of the Quakers, might be helpful for this, and other practices that don’t involve trying to make something happen, but rather attending to the way that God is making things happen in each moment, and stepping into the current and direction of the divine action, or not resisting it tooth and nail.

      • Daniel Jepsen says

        Good stuff

      • Dare I add being in a church where God is expected to meet us specifically through aspects of this material world (bread, water, wine, oil) in their sacramentality? No “spiritual experience” is necessary – though it may happen, but that’s not the point. A sacramentally grounded Church is a great help for knowing that the union is being deepened, as long as we bring ourselves to those sacraments as honestly as we can. If we can’t meet the material world somehow in our union with God, the danger arises that experience becomes the point, or that our Christian life is something that is all in our heads.

        Dana

        • But then how should one “be” in, or out of, church to become cognizant of and available to the divine action? Isn’t bringing ourselves as honestly as we can to the sacraments in church, as well as to God’s presence in the wide material and social world beyond it, the question that we are grappling with here? There are ways of being in church that resist the divine action there as much as they do outside its doors.

          • Humble and grateful – love comes from that basis, I think. Serves for church services and outside of them.

            D.

            • Yes, but one does not become humble and loving, in or out of church, merely by deciding, “Now I will be humble and loving.” What attitudes and actions, what inner and outer practices, help to move us toward the desired goals of being humble and loving, whether we are navigating our way through a difficult and distracting emotion or state of mind as we are participating in the liturgy and partaking of the sacrament in church, or dealing with a difficult neighbor in our neighborhood?

        • Dana, Keeping you in my prayers as I read the frightening news about California fires and scheduled power blackouts. Hope you are well.

          • Thank you very much – greatly appreciated. North LA County is the worst place right now – people are being evacuated. The rest of us are just putting up with some level of inconvenience.

            D.

            • I hope this is not the new normal in California. I suspect it may be, and that it will sooner rather than later catch up with the rest of the country, albeit in different forms.

    • Some Eastern religious spiritual concepts/practices could help with this too, to the degree that they involve getting ones ego and will out of the way, and allowing ones whole being to be in the way, of flow of things, or what we might call the movement of the Holy Spirit. For instance, the Taoist conception of wu wei (different from the Confucian conception), of inaction and inexertion, stilling the mind and leaving go the passions, as the way to spiritual understanding and maturation.

      But, the fact is, even these techniques involve at least a degree of action and cognitive focus on ones part, as does every spiritual technique and practice, and as such can become entrapped in ideas and attitudes of self-improvement. But I don’t think that is solely a problem of “modern Western minds”, otherwise Buddha and the other great Eastern spiritual teachers of ancient times would not have spent so much effort trying to help their students avoid just such an eventuality (though they would’ve talked in terms of the danger of the false self striving for illusory power via spiritual techniques rather than self-improvement).

  3. Not to quibble too much about terminology, but the “image” of God is something every single human being, Christian or not, bears. It’s our common starting point, not the end of the process of sanctification. The image of God is the stamp of God that we all carry and that gives every person we interact with worth and dignity regardless of who they are or what they’ve done with their life.

    • Amen.

      I’m going through this study at my church right now and I’ve found it perhaps the best non-Bible “Bible” study I’ve ever done:

      “Imago Dei” by Mike Cosper. Don’t let the “Gospel Coalition” element fool you (I was intensely worried about that going into it; have been pleasantly surprised by its content).

      https://www.amazon.com/Imago-Dei-Bible-Study-Book/dp/1535936525

    • Daniel Jepsen says

      The New Testament seems to take a nuanced view of this.

      On the one hand, we all have equal dignity and worth for we are all made in His image (James 2:9–“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”

      On the other hand, it is clear that we are not fully in His image at this point, and that being renewed or restored to that image is one way of expressing God’s goal in our salvation:

      Colossians 3:10
      And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

      Ephesians 4:24
      And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

      2 Corinthians 3:18
      And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

      1 Corinthians 15:49
      Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

  4. I agree with your comment, Michael Z., but I think Daniel Jepsen has shared something which is used with a specific group of individuals in a drug treatment program.

    Still, I love the ‘question’ format for its ability to elucidate a response from individuals in counseling in a discussion group. Most of the questions aren’t where I am at in life, but at least one struck me as particularly meaningful and current, this:

    “What areas of wrong or injustice do I feel most angry about?”
    Boy, howdy, does this question bring out a lot of response from me, yes.
    My response would not necessarily be of a ‘spiritual’ nature, no, and might include some hyperbole, being me, but wow, what a response I could give to this one question at this time under present circumstances, yes.

  5. Norma Cenva says

    Question from the above article:
    “Based on all that God has shown you, what steps will you make in the days and weeks ahead to live in His purpose?”

    Answer:
    I’ll do my best to be a Mensch (Yiddish for good person) and to not do the kinds of things to others that I wouldn’t want done to me.