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« Initiating the Relationship | Main | The Strength of God’s Commitment »

The Glory of God’s Purpose 

In our more introspective moments, we ask ourselves the question, “Why?”  What lies at the core of this relationship between God and us?  Is it love?  Perhaps, but even love has to have a reason, a compelling stimulus to spur it into action or, at least, to coax it to life.  God loved us in our original form, before we were contaminated by sin.  He conceived the blueprint and created us to His specifications.  But sin sabotaged His perfect work.  If mankind was now ruined, ugly, vile and repulsive, God’s love must have been turned off, right?  Wrong.  It was when we were still sinners that Christ died for us.  (Roman 5:8).  Yet, human reasoning counters that we were unlovable, crude, even grotesque caricatures of our prototypes in the Garden.  In fact, the very word sin, is translated from the Greek word, hamartia, which means “missing the mark,” or “to err.”  How could our perfect God love imperfect people who had missed the mark by miles?  The key to the conundrum is that God did not love us for what we were, but what we could become!  This routes our relationship with Him into a limitless future!  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.  John 1:12. The word right comes from the Greek exousia, from which we also get the word authority.  God has enabled us to get back something that Satan stole from us: a son or daughter’s relationship with God!  And it gets better.  Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10. We were not merely restored to our former status; God made our relationship with Him far stronger than before our fall!

The depth of God’s love and the strength of His commitment make the human/divine relationship secure, but when we understand the glory of God’s purpose we are overwhelmed with the quality of the relationship.  An old hymn of the church states it well, “Everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before!”  It is a dynamic, living relationship on an ever rising trajectory.  Regardless of how one views it, it exceeds itself every day!

The glory of God’s purpose is seen in our discipleship.  Someone has said that God may have loved us as he found us, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.  Out of the starting gates of the new birth, we are spiritual newborns, but a baby that doesn’t grow has problems.  As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.  1 Peter 2:2. If a baby does not grow, something is wrong.   Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Failure to Thrive, Growth Hormone Deficiency, Turner Syndrome, Blount Disease, and a host of other reasons prevent many babies from growing as they should.  We were created for unrestrained growth.  Ancient Chinese women were subjected to a horrifying tradition of foot binding.  They believed that small feet on women were beautiful and big feet were ugly.  And so, someone came up with the not-so-brilliant idea to wrap the feet of small girls in order to restrict growth.  The binding was so tight and inflexible that it crushed or deformed the bones in the feet, making too painful for them to walk.  Consequently, these women were generally useless and could not take care of themselves.  All they could do was sit around and look pretty (depending, of course, on the definition of beauty.)  The practice was outlawed over a hundred years ago.  Its spiritual version needs to be outlawed in the church!

Continual growth in faith, in character and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is each Christian’s expected metamorphosis.  Further, the Apostle Peter says, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7. Paul sums it up with this magnificent verse, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The glory of God’s purpose is seen in our partnership.  Our partnership with God was placed front and center in the book of Ephesians.  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.   Ephesians 2:4-6. Sitting together with Jesus is an outstanding image of the relationship that we inherited in Christ.  But God was not appealing to our vanity or pride.  He was positioning us for assignment. 

Perhaps the most astounding aspect of our relationship with God is that He would partner with us. It’s one thing for God to love us and care for us, but to bring us on board to work with Him staggers the mind.  And yet, that’s precisely His plan.  And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. Mark 16:20. The phrase, “working with them” is translated from the Greek word, sunergos, or synergy.  We will visit this partnership concept later, but the seed idea needs to resonate with us.  This unique relationship into which we have entered with God eclipses conversion, friendship or association.  Church membership falls short of defining God’s purpose for belonging to His church. It goes to the heart of our identity and reason for living.  We may even say that the works of God are enfolded into the works of man. 

A classic example of man partnering with God involves prayer.  The incident occurred when Peter cast into prison.  Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. Acts 12:5. It is an exciting account of angels, prison bars and sleeping guards, but it is clear that God delivered Peter from prison as a result of the prayers of the church.  God will not complete His work unilaterally.  He has empowered the church to wage spiritual warfare in prayer.  E. M. Bounds says, “Without God, man cannot.  Without man, God will not!”  Every time you hear of an answer to prayer, you should be reminded that someone took his or her prayer time seriously.  The greatest incentive to engage in prevailing prayer is that we have been conscripted by God to partner with Him to do exploits for his namesake.

The glory of God’s purpose is seen in our mission.  What is the mission of the church?  That simple question explodes into a plethora of meanings and divergent views, and with varying degrees of passion.  Let’s stick with the words of Jesus.  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost, ” Luke 19:10, and, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8. Evangelization remains the primary mission, although there are many arms of support that make it effective.  The most important thing for us to remember is that evangelism is not just a corporate initiative for the church, but a very personal mission for each member of the church.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. We are ambassadors, or representatives of Christ to the world.  “An ambassador is a minister of the highest rank, employed by one prince or state at the court of another, to manage the concerns of his own prince or state, and representing the dignity and power of his sovereign.”  Webster, quoted in Barnes’ Notes.)

The most powerful tool of evangelism is giving witness to Jesus.  Witnesses, or martyrs in the Greek, eventually referred to those who laid down their lives for Christ.  It’s earlier usage in Acts 1:8, however, does not mean to die, but it does mean to become intimate enough with Jesus to testify of Him through preaching the gospel, but more importantly, by being an example of Jesus Christ.  Our mission, therefore, consists of more than what we do, but of how we live!  Again, this goes to the central praxis in mission which is relationship.  Without the relationship, the mission miscarries.  With the relationship, we are complete.  And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:10.

The glory of God’s purpose is seen in our destiny.  Where is all of this headed?  We cannot know for sure, but we can know enough to be assured of an eternal future with Christ.  That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:27. This is the beauty of relationship.  Being in a relationship with the Creator of the universe effervesces into possibilities that cannot be imagined.  Read through the next passage and insert yourself, by faith, into the picture.

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!” Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!” And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:1-10.

John, the Revelator, continues to describe awesome scenes that are ahead for the church.  He tells about a glorious city, triumph over Satan, a state of perpetual bliss, and a partnership with our Lord that stretches out forever.  All of this glory is our destiny, and it unfolds to us as a co-efficient of a holy relationship with Jesus Christ.  The relationship under the New Covenant is a trajectory that literally has no endpoint.  “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:12-14.

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