God’s Intent for Our Lives
What is God’s intent for our lives? What’s the big picture? Are we saved only so we can go to Heaven when we die, or is there more?
Paul answers that question in Ephesians 4:11-13:
Christ himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip his people for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
God intends that we grow into a maturity that is measured against Jesus himself.
How do we make the tremendous leap from being born in sin to “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory”? (2 Corinthians 3:18)
We Must Be Born Again
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7)
As Something Distinctly Different
Being born again isn’t just hitting the reset button on our lives and getting to start over again, though. Peter writes that we are…
…born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable (1 Peter 1:23)
And Paul notes this in a couple of different places as well:
…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:15)
When we are born again, we are born as something altogether different than what we once were.
As with being born the first time, though, the New Testament writers compare young disciples to babies:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2)
But they’re very clear that we’re not to remain babies:
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly — mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Growing Up Takes Commitment
None of us matures naturally. It takes real effort, and effort takes commitment.
Paul writes that we’re to approach our spirituality the same way an athlete approaches their athletic endeavors:
Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. (Philippians 3:10-15)
Herm Edwards put it this way:
As recorded by both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is very clear about the commitment level that discipleship requires:
Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33)
Are you growing up, or are you just growing old?