And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. -Romans 8:28-29
Too often and easily, we get set in our ways and fail to think about why we do what we do or honestly examine what we are doing. But what if we stripped everything away and started over? What would we do? What are we called to do? Could it be that we have lost our way, purpose, mission, and calling that Jesus outlined for us?
For example, we all like the promise in Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
But this is a conditional promise. It’s not for all people. It is for a certain kind of person who meets two qualifications: they love God and have been called according to his purpose.
I think the first qualification is relatively straightforward, although we can easily deceive ourselves. Love for God is shown by obedience to God. Jesus said it clearly in John 14:21, Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Claiming to know God or love God but not obeying him is only deceiving ourselves. Therefore, we can say we love God all we want. The real question is whether that shows in our lives by our obedience to God and his word.
The second qualification, however, I think is something many of us do not have clarity on. We talk about God’s purpose for our lives as something special and unique in what he has called each of us to do. But God’s calling, gifting, and leading in our lives are different from his purpose. Further, God does not have multiple purposes or different purposes for my life and yours. God’s purpose for my life and your life is the same. His purpose for our lives is revealed in Romans 8:29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Perhaps we get distracted by some of the endless theological debates on some of the terms in that verse. Or maybe we get lost in some of those rich theological terms that we miss the simple truth being communicated. God’s purpose for my life and yours is that we become like Jesus. Period. Connected to the verse before, God working all things together for good is towards that end: to make us more like Jesus. He uses every situation, event, relationship, and experience to fashion and form us more into Christ’s likeness if we allow it and submit ourselves to that process.
Once we understand this, it gives meaning and purpose to everything we experience and every experience we find ourselves facing. Nothing is insignificant, pointless, or wasted if we have this perspective. And our priorities shift from trying to control our circumstances to allowing God as the potter to shape our lives as the clay through all circumstances.
Further, Jesus has called us to be His witnesses in this world and call others to follow him. We are to be disciples who make disciples. And what are we discipling people to become? Like Jesus. Not like our politics. Not like our cultural preferences. Not like our perspectives, opinions, and viewpoints on everything. Like Jesus.
Being a witness is more than going about and witnessing about Jesus. Being a witness is about seeking to be like Jesus in all our interactions, relationships, and experiences. Yes, we need to tell people about Jesus. We need to proclaim the Good News that others might believe. We need to call people to follow Jesus. We need to preach and teach the Word of God.
But in the process, we can’t forget God is as much concerned about who we are becoming as what we are doing. He cares about our character, not just our competency, giftedness, or vocation. To make disciples, we must first be a disciple ourselves. To call others to follow Jesus, we need to be sure we are following him.
This is the clarity we need today that I fear we are missing. Everything we do needs to be towards this aim: being disciples who make disciples. Whatever your context may be, what would it look like to ensure everything is being done with this one purpose in mind? What would it look like to communicate this purpose in everything that takes place? How can we see what God is doing in our own lives towards this end and shepherd others the same way?
Today, we are being more fashioned and formed by media and politics than the person of Jesus Christ and his living word. In some cases, we are even becoming less like Jesus while doing so in the name of Jesus! We need to regain clarity about our purpose, calling, mission, and vision. Sure, it will take different expressions that need fleshed out contextually. But heaven forbid we keep going through the motions of religion for ritual sake or political sake, but devoid of the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ in and through our lives, ministries, and churches.
Religious activity without heart transformation is not something that pleases the Lord. He would in fact rather we shut it all down and start over with a simple purity of heart and orientation towards him. With or without us, his name will be revered and honored around the world. The question is whether his name will be great in and among us.
“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty. -Malachi 1:10-11