2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold the new has come.” This is the scripture that we started out with last Sunday. I asked everyone to take a few moments and meditate on this verse. Please take a few minutes to do so and ask yourself what does this verse mean to you.
Can you be who you are, if you don’t know who you are?
This question really led to a lot of consternation and we struggled with the depth of this question. My intent is simply to get us to think about what makes us who we are. When you ask people who they are, often times you will immdiately get, “I’m a doctor, or I’m a teacher, I’m an Engineer and so on and so on.” But really, who are we? I wanted us to begin to think about who we are to God; not what profession we practice every day, or role in our homes, or within the relationships that we are in. I want us to begin to think in terms of who we truly are to the only One who really matters.
I then asked a series of three questions. I am going to list them here:
1 – What is it that makes the Christian life so difficult to live? (Anwers we threw out in class: Perceptions of who Christians are, trying to live perfectly, following rules, supposed to be like God, trying to be someone I don’t feel like I truly am, Career choices can make you feel stuck(things that God would be pleased with but responsibilties preclude, ie. mission trips, donating to different missions, etc.)
2 - How does one really live the Christian life? ( Spend time trying to figure it out, seeking to please God rather than people, spend your free time doing things to please God rather than self, change actions/behaviors, try to stop sinning and when we do sin, correct them.)
3 – Why is my Christian life not working? (Trying to live more perfectly and failing, focusing on guilt and negative consequences.)
Out of those questions we discovered that sin often plays a huge role in whether we are struggling in our Christian walks or not. We often have great intentions and hearts that want to follow God. But we fall short. We are then sometimes in great despair over the guilt of our transgressions. This leads to falling away from the relationship with our Saviour even further until we often feel the need to kneel at the alter again and seek a way to wipe the slate clean again and start all over. This often leads to a vicious cycle of initially becoming aware of our sinful nature, seeing a need for a savior, accepting His sacrifice for our lives, become a Christian, be tempted to sin, fall to temptation, feel guilty, seek forgiveness, try again to live the Christian life, be tempted, sin. . . the cycle seems never ending. Paul says it best in Romans 7:15 “I don’t understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I do the very thing I hate.” All too often this is the truth of our daily walks. Thankfully there is a way to see God’s grace in our lives so we can get off of the guilt treadmill and learn to live fully free in God’s grace.
So what is God’s greatest purpose for His children? There are all kinds of possible answers. I am going to list a few and some scripture that goes with each possible purpose for our lives. First – to serve the Lord. Acts 17: 24 – 25 “24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” The second possible purpose is to Obey the Lord. Matthew 8:27 “The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” The Third possible purpose for our lives is to Love the Lord. 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The last possible answer that I am going to list (definitely all the possible purposes) is to Glorify the Lord. Psalm 34:3 “Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.” After this one I asked what does ”glorify the Lord mean?” Things that we discussed were 1)to give God the credit for things 2) Contiued worship and praise 3) Witnessing/sharing testimonies 4) Living for Jesus 5) Giving thanks/prayer 6) Obeying God’s word. As we began to list these things, we discussed that in the Glorifying part especially it was a list of behaviours. I threw out the idea that “Producing right behavior does not necessarily glorify God.” I asked the class how that could be true/false. I am going to leave this open so that you can think about it. If you aren’t sure what you think I would love to discuss this further. (I will also know that you’ve actually made it this far through a lengthy post. )
So what is God’s greatest purpose for us? I’m going to list scripture here:
1 – Hebrews 1:1 – 3a “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”
2 – John 13:31 – When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.
3 – 2 Corinthians 2:14 – But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
4 – Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
5 – John 8:12 - “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
We discussed each of these and in the end the answer to “What is God’s greatest purpose for His children” is this: It is Jesus Christ expressing His life in and through us that gives God His greatest Glory. I love this. I am blown away that God entrusts us to give Him glory. He doesn’t need us. But He loves us and He uses us despite doing sometimes the “very things we hate” that make us fall away from Him. He continues to call us back to Him and loves us through it all. That in a nutshell is true Grace.
So now that we’ve seen the beauty of a God who loves us and calls us according to His purposes we are forced to look at what hinders God’s purpose? We have two choices of how we are going to live our lives as Christians. 1) Outsid- in (law/flesh): living my life centered on trying really hard to live a better Christian life, usually through self-discipline measures. (We discussed some practical ways this might look i.e., pray more, sin less, serve in the church more, etc.) or the second way to live our lives is 2) Inside-out (Grace/Spirit): Living my life centered on my love relationship with Jeus in me and all he has done for me and to me. If we choose to live the first choice we step in the way. We become too important. We want to please God through our actions, but because of our flesh we will fail. The Flesh is what hinders the expression of Christ’s Life in our lives. Galatians 5: 16 – 25 shows us the battle very clearly: ”
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” His Word shows so very clearly the battle that we are in. It is time to dive into living with the Holy Spirit totally, smack-dab in the middle of who we are showing us God’s greatest purpose for us and leading us in the way to bring Him glory!
Hope to see you Sunday. Praying God will show Himself greatly to you this week.