Did Jesus come to give us a purpose-driven life?
A purpose-driven life is a very appealing idea, given that we all wish to feel fulfilled and satisfied. It can be dangerous at any time, however, to reduce our spiritual goals to any single statement. Let us pause and ask ourselves, “What did Jesus die on the cross to give us?” Was it to give us a fulfilling purpose or to reconcile us with God through the forgiveness of our sins?
Colossians 1:19-20 ESV For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Jesus personally made numerous “I came to…” statements in the four gospels to make it clear why He came to earth. Our Saviour came to:
- Testify of the true way to salvation | John 18:37 ESV … For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
- Seek and save the lost | Luke 19:9-10 ESV And Jesus said to him… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
- Preach the good news of salvation | Mark 1:38 ESV And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
- Call people to repentance | Luke 5:31-33 ESV And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
- Teach us to be humble | Matthew 20:25,28 ESV But Jesus called them to him and said, “… the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Test true faith and judge the world | John 9:39 ESV Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
- Give us an abundant life | John 10:10 ESV … I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Five reminders as we seek our purpose
Many biblical teachings are good and instructive. They have been labouriously prepared and shared. As followers of Jesus, we need to test all teachings against Gods’ Word and discern how to apply them in ways that truly please God. Here are some reminders on how we can live a purpose driven life.
1. Love God, not only serve and worship Him
Jesus made the first and most important Commandment very clear. It is to love Him, not to serve Him. Judas Iscariot certainly led a purpose driven life and served God’s purposes but yet he betrayed Jesus. Judas did not love God.
We can serve and worship God without fully loving Him, but we will certainly serve and worship Him if we love Him. God desires us to love Him with all our hearts, souls and minds.
Matthew 22:36-40 ESV “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
With the pandemic of broken parent-child relationships and ultra-competitive cultures today, there is a very real danger that many believers struggle with loving their Heavenly Father with their heart, soul, and mind. Sadly, it is much easier to grasp the idea of fulfilling a purpose, rather than to love Someone unreservedly. Ask any Christian for his or her life goals and the answer is almost never to “to love God above everything else”. Yet this is our First Commandment. See Jesus did not die for our religion.
2. Seek God, not only His purpose
God certainly has a purpose for every one of us, but He will fulfill it whether we know it or not. The Pharaoh in Eygpt exalted himself and oppressed God’s people. Yet he was also fulfilling the Lord’s purpose though he probably believed he was following his own plans. We cannot escape God’s purposes for our lives no matter how many plans we make – and whether we seek to know our purpose or not.
Exodus 9:13,16-18 ESV Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. … But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go. Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.
Proverbs 19:21 ESV Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
Even if we do ask God to show us the purpose of our lives, He may still choose not to tell us what it is. In the Old Testament, God called Job a blameless man of perfect integrity who feared God and stayed away from evil. Yet God didn’t respond to Job’s question on why He allows suffering – even though Job was considered the finest man on earth at that time. God simply asked Job to remember that God is God and he was merely a man. Many of us would not consider ourselves the finest person on earth. We can, however, trust God will fulfill His purposes in our lives if we seek Him first.
Job 1:8 ESV And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
God wants us to seek Him and His Kingdom. He rewards those who seek Him first. There is a subtle but significant difference between seeking to know God and seeking to know our purpose. God will not reject us if we genuinely desire to know our purpose but He prefers us to have a heart that pursues Him first.
Psalm 27:8 ESV You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Matthew 6:33-34 ESV But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Hebrews 11:6 ESV And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
3. Seek a personal relationship with God, not only a purpose-driven one
If we approach our biological parents with the question, “What purpose did you plan for my life?”, we would be assuming that they gave birth to us in order to make use of us. Our relationship becomes one that is utilitarian in nature, rather than one that is based on love. While some parents may actually have children for practical or social purposes, those who simply love children would not impose a purpose on them. Experiencing a great relationship with their children is already a good enough purpose to have them.
1 John 4:8 ESV Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God can make 10 billion miracles happen instantly in just a blink of an eye. He certainly doesn’t “need” us to co-partner with Him to fulfill His purposes. More than anything, He desires to reconcile us to an authentic relationship with Him. He gives us work to do so that we can experience Him along the way. To God, whom we love is more important than what we do.
1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4. Seek inward renewal first, not only outward purposes
We can live purposeful Christian lives but yet not be transformed or renewed inside. We may fulfill many of God’s eternal purposes but find that our souls are still dead because of sin.
Jesus proclaimed that His message is one of repentance for the forgiveness of our sins. He came to cleanse us and give us new eternal life through His Holy Spirit. For this to happen, we must die to all that we hold on to in order to become God’s new creations. We can never work towards greater holiness, because sanctification and holiness are gifts from God. They are not attained by fulfilling our purposes with excellence. They come through repentance and a life that is submitted to God alone. See The urgent truth about repentance and What total submission to God looks like.
Luke 24:46-48 ESV … “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Romans 6:22-23 ESV But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 4:22-25 ESV to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
5. Seek to glorify God through our weaknesses, not only through our S.H.A.P.E.
Throughout history, God has chosen unlikely candidates for His Kingdom work. If we evaluated God’s candidates based on their spiritual gifts, hearts, abilities, personalities, and experiences (S.H.A.P.E.), it is unlikely we would have chosen the apostle Peter to head the first church in Jerusalem nor Timothy to lead churches in Asia Minor. God confounds human logic because this is how we can see Him work through the unexpected. He specialises in using “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise“. So while understanding how we are wired is helpful, we cannot presume to know God’s purposes because of it. God is glorified through our weaknesses more than our strengths.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Let us seek God’s purpose for our lives by seeking to love and honour God first. May our faith not drift away from the core message of our salvation, which is the reconciliation of mankind to God through the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. God is pleased with our sincere love for Him more than our achievements for Him.
Colossians 1:21-23 ESV And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
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