Thanks to a perceptive friend I have a note to add to last week’s words, a softer note. She encouraged me to look at the stages of development in a child and compare them to our maturing process as children of God. Each stage is normal and necessary…
***A child is helpless and hungry and desperately in need of loving nurture.
–So we come to God and He pours His love on us and His lavish blessings. We begin to know we are loved. This knowledge is foundational to healthy growth—absolutely essential.
***Then we are toddlers, curious and playful but also needing instruction, guidance and correction.
–We begin to know love as more than a good feeling, or a lot of good things. Love disciplines us for our future wellbeing. Our behavior has consequences. We are beginning to grow up.
***As we near adulthood we begin to look for our life purpose and take responsibility for others. We begin to sacrifice our own desires for the next generation. And we find that we can know our parents as real people, not just authority figures. (This comes as a sweet surprise for the parent too!)
–-How much more must God delight to see us growing to maturity and beginning to share His passions. This is what we are made for—to really know Him, even as we are known and from this to derive a life purpose that mirrors His own.
What is that purpose?
Where do we go next in figuring out what it means that we exist FOR GOD?
I bumped into Authentic Faith* this week and I quote:
“The new groundwork that needs to be laid is an authentic faith that is based on a God-centered life. Rather than the believer being the sun around whom God, the church, and the world revolve in order to create a happy, easy, and prosperous life, God becomes the sun around which the believer revolves, a believer who is willing to suffer—even to be persecuted—and lay down his or her life to build God’s kingdom and to serve God’s church. This is a radical shift—indeed, the most radical (and freeing) shift known in human experience—and it leads to a deep friendship with God.”(Gary Thomas,11)
There is an implication here that runs counter to our independence-loving culture. Pursuing God’s Kingdom is all about living for His Church, His bride, of which we are a part, not the whole. Ouch. Does this make you as uncomfortable as it does me? You mean, we can’t fulfill God’s purposes in isolation?! Some solitary prayer, some Bible reading, some reflecting—maybe some ‘blogging’?
Peter says we’re ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession’, all corporate words, Body words. Chosen for what? –to corporately ‘declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.’ (IPet.2:9) Clearly, we’re in this thing of being ‘for Him’ together.
Paul alludes to an eternal purpose here far beyond us: “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places!” And he clearly believed it! If we follow his lead look at the ‘ride’ we’re in for–definitely not about personal comfort or advantage:
“We… are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake”(IICor.4:11)
“it is all for your sake…”(IICor.4:15)
“For the love of Christ controls us…We have concluded this: that one has died for all…that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”(IICor.5:15)
And if that doesn’t convince me, Paul provides credentials that he is truly God’s servant, which include every sort of endurance from sleepless nights to calamities, poverty, slander, hunger and ‘having nothing!’ (IICor.6:4ff). He talks about wanting to share Christ’s sufferings and become like Him in his death (Phil 3:10). What is that about?! I have to admit, I have always shied away from that concept. I don’t like pain. It scares me. So what is this journey to KNOW God about?
You’ll have to excuse me if this starts to read more like a travel brochure than a journal. This is mostly uncharted territory for me. But I feel the draw, the invitation “to join our Lord in living for the glory of the Father instead of for our own reputation, and …to give ourselves over to the salvation and sanctification of Christ’s bride, the church, rather than to be consumed by our own welfare (gulp). This holy self-forgetfulness is the most genuine mark of true faith, the evidence of God’s merciful grace in our lives.”(Thomas,23)
And for sure it will have to be by His grace. Self-forgetful? Definitely not there yet. Sounds a little like Matthew 16:25: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I’m constantly intrigued and challenged by this principle. Being introspective by nature I’m always rummaging around to figure out what makes me tick… looking to ‘find myself’. Hmmm… “Death to self” is a related theme I’m confronted with. Living FOR GOD means dying to ME. Is that it?
I find here an illuminating quote from C.S. Lewis (Beyond Personality):
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you’ll find your real self. Lose your life and you’ll save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep NOTHING back. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
Wow. So this is what living for Him is about?!
How do we do this? This transition from self-centered babes to selfless adults who exist for God’s glory? Or maybe it’s not about what we do…(?)
I’d love to do some thinking about this with you (since we’re on this journey together!) What does living for Him mean to you? What do you see as means to growth and how does the Body around you fit into that?
Drop a comment in the box or send off a snippet of e-mail, whichever you prefer, and thanks for your time–I know this was long.
*I ran across Authentic Faith this week while reviewing church library donations. I love the way God drops truth into my life via books–His Word, first and foremost, but so often also the voices of assorted teachers in the Body via the books they have written. It broadens my view of the Church to include all believers worldwide exercising their gifts for the common good. Don’t miss this aspect of the Body. Open a worthy book today! (and expect to hear more from Gary Thomas’ book!)