Monday, May 08, 2006

How to Know Your Purpose in Life

This is another one of those questions that gets a lot of attention and yet few people (if any) ever give me an answer I like. Through the course of study the Holy Spirit has given me an answer that I do like. I hope it is helpful to you.

I had this question on my mind and was just doing my normal Bible reading and along came the verses that hold the answer to this question for everybody. Matthew 22:37-40. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself. (NOW WATCH THIS FINISH, EVERYBODY STOPS QUOTING RIGHT HERE BUT JESUS FINISHES WITH A STATEMENT THAT SHOWS HOW MUCH WEIGHT HE GIVES TO THESE COMMANDMENTS) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands.

What does “the Law and the Prophets” mean? This is a term used to describe the Jewish Bible, which is the same as our Old Testament with the books arranged in a different order. The only “scripture” in existence at the time Jesus said it.

Jesus uses this terminology in another verse which actually defines “Love your neighbor” for us. Matthew 7:12. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for this is the sum of the Law and the Prophets.

Simply put, your purpose in life is to Glorify God by reflecting His love to everybody in your little corner of the world.

Ah! You knew that already? So maybe you weren’t asking the correct question. Maybe instead of asking “What is my purpose?” you really meant to ask “Which little corner of the world does God want me to go?” Other ways the question could be phrased, “Which school should I attend?” or “Which job should I take?” or “Who should I marry?” or “What is my mission field?” etc.

Well I have a clue as to how to answer those types of questions as well. I witnessed two events that gave me a clue as to how to answer these questions.

First, our Minister to Children is married to a Chaplain. Before they had kids, the Chaplain was not a big fan of the nursery. One Sunday morning our Minister to Children was so desperate for help in the nursery that she went to her husband and asked him to help. His reply was very telling. He said, “Please put me in the emergency room with the parents of a dying child, before you put me in the nursery.”

Yes, that is very funny, but it also tells you where his “love” is. What his heart’s desire is.

Second, we had a couple from our church get jobs as missionaries to Kiev, Ukraine working with the street children. During the last Sunday School lesson that the husband taught before they left, he made this comment. “I can’t think of anything more exciting or rewarding than going to Kiev and working with street children.” Of course my response was, “I can’t think of anything worse.”

These two guys are totally in love with God and God put a love in their hearts for what it is He wants them to do.

So my theory became: Fall in love with God and then do what you love. St. Augustine said it this way. “Love, then do as you please. For when you have learned to love you will not even desire to do things that might offend the One you love.”

WARNING, WARNING, WARNING!!! Do not fail to fall in love with God first. Do not just go running to the “do what you love” part. If you fail to fall in love with God first, then “doing what you love” will lead you into big trouble!

How do I fall in love with God? In the same way you do with people. You talk with them. You listen to them. You make their concerns, your concerns. Their likes become your likes. Their dislikes become your dislikes.

So we talk to God, which is what prayer is. We listen to God by reading His word. We allow the Holy Spirit to recreate us into His image. Meaning, His likes become our likes and His dislikes become our dislikes.

When we focus on loving God, then God will put a love in our heart to do what He wants us to do, go where He wants us to go, and minister to whomever He wants us to minister.

OK, there is still a group of you who are saying, “but I do that and I still don’t have a love for one choice over the other. So what do I do now?”

Good question. I have two suggestions.

The first one is kind of silly but it works sometimes. This helps you to understand what your true feelings are. Flip a coin. Yep, I said flip a coin. Then pay attention to what your first response is to the answer the coin gives you. Sometimes your response is positive and sometimes your response is negative. Either way you are now more in tune with what your true feelings are on the choices.

Failing this, then pray that God will lead you to make the correct decision. You have then called on the name of the Lord. You did your part. Now pick one and go with confidence that God caused you to pick the right one. If things work out good, then give glory to God. If things don’t work out the way you had planned, then give glory to God. Either way, you called on the name of the Lord. Have confidence that something good was accomplished from the choice.

Just remember, if you live your life trying to obtain fairness and justice, then you will live a life of continual disappointment. If you live your life tring to give mercy and grace, then you will live a life of abundant opportunity.

Two Trees and the Problem of Evil

Two Trees

One of the interesting things that happens when you read the Bible for yourself is you find that the stories “as you remember being taught them in Sunday School” don’t always match up with what is written in the Bible. For me, one such misunderstanding is the story of the Garden of Eden. My understanding was that God made man and woman, put them in a garden, put a tree in the middle of the garden from which they could not eat, and when they did, He punished them by kicking them out of the garden.

If we look in Gen 2:9 we will see that there is not one tree of importance in the garden, but two trees. One is The Tree of Life and the other is The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Gen 2:16 is where God tells Adam not to eat of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, The Tree of Life was available to eat from.

Let’s follow The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for a minute. We next find it in Gen 3:1-6, which is the story of “the fall” (we will deal with “the fall” in a minute). Then in Gen 3:11 God asks them if they have eaten from this tree and lastly Gen 3:17 when God pronounces the punishment for eating from this tree. Near as I can find, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil never appears anywhere in the Bible again. I will make the assumption that “it” no longer exists.

The Tree of Life, however, gets a bit more attention. The most notable is in Eze 47:12 and Rev 22:2. Both passages speak of this tree being in the New Jerusalem, standing on both sides of the river that comes from the Throne of God, bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding the fruit every month and its leaves are for healing.

The fact that the fruit is yielded monthly leads me to speculate that we must eat from this tree regularly in order to sustain our human bodies for eternity. Whether we eat monthly or harvest monthly and eat daily, I don’t know. If this speculation is correct, then it has some implications on the Genesis story. Let’s return to Gen 3:22.

The Lord, God said, “The man has become like one of us, knowing good from evil” (not like God in power, but like God because we know good from evil). “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from The Tree of Life and eat and live forever.” My speculation is then that one bite from The Tree of Life would not allow man to live for ever, but to be allowed to continuously eat from this tree would have allowed him to live forever. Thus an Angel is placed to keep them from eating from The Tree of Life and therefore they would surely die.

The Fall

Now let’s draw our attention to “the fall” in Gen 3:1-6. What is the actual sin committed by Adam and Eve? Their sin was more than merely eating forbidden fruit; it was disobeying the revealed word of God, believing the lie of satan, and placing their own wills above God’s. Notice that satan sprinkled some “truth” with some “lie” in order to deceive Eve. This is the same approach that satan used with Jesus. Jesus defeated satan by use of the Word of God. This is the same approach used by satan today, so we must know the Word of God ourselves.

The Truth of the Word will help us recognize “lies” when we hear them. What “lies” are going around today that sound good? How about: There is only One God but many ways to get to Him, so we need to be tolerant of everybody else’s religion. But the Word says that Jesus is the only way to God, for if the law (anybody’s law) could save, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:21.

This is how sin entered the world and in verse Gen 3:7 they realized that they needed to cover it up, but they didn’t know the correct way to cover their sin. In Gen 3:21 God shows them the correct way to cover their sin. An animal had to die in order for their sin to be covered. I wonder how dramatically God did this for them. Did He just show up with garments and tell them an animal had to die? Or did He bring the animal in front of them so they could see the animal being killed, cleaned and a garment formed from its skin right in front of them? Who knows?

The Problem of Evil

We have become like God, not like God in power, but like God because we know good from evil. This phrase tells us that before the fall, Adam and Eve did not know good from evil. This along with many other verses has sparked a line of thinking that has led me to an answer for the problem of evil. I define the problem of evil as, “Why would a Good God allow evil to happen to His creation?”

I must caution that this is my line of thinking. I have never seen anyone answer the question this way. Nor have I seen anyone answer the question to my satisfaction. But this answer has given me great comfort and I pass it on to you in hope that it does the same for you. If not, at least you have something to think about. So put on your skeptic hat and go for an interesting ride with me as I answer “the problem of evil.”

Maybe there is something to the idea that you can’t truly know “good” unless you know “evil” (Gen 3:22). I am encouraged by C. S. Lewis who said, “the more you know Good the more you will know evil. The less you know good the less you will know evil.”

Maybe we have problems seeing the logic of “a Good God allowing evil to happen to His creation” because we think that it is all about us. What if it is bigger than that? What if God is drawing the angels He created closer to Him (which is pure Goodness) by letting them “know” evil through our experiences. Eph. 3:10

But in His great mercy He is not making them all “experience” evil. His great mercy is limiting evil to this small planet for a short period of time and for this specific purpose: so that the riches of His Glory may be known to the objects of His mercy. Rom 9:23.

My line of reasoning

God created angels. Col 1:15,16
God gave angels freewill. Jude 6
Some angels chose evil. Jude 6, Isaiah 14:13-14
Those angels were either confined to the abyss (Jude 6) or to earth. Isaiah 14:12, John 12:31, Eph 2:2


God created man. Gen 1:26-31
God gave man freewill. Gen 3:5-7
Man chose evil. Gen 3:5-7
Man is separated from God. Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23

Therefore God is recreating on earth what has already happened in the angelic world.

A petrie dish of sorts because there are many more angels than humans. Heb 1:14, Matt 18:10, KJV Heb 12:22

He is allowing a battle between good and evil to rage on this earth. Eph 6:12

The angels are witnesses (Heb 12:1) to this but do not have to “experience the battle.”

The angels are at war 1) Michael helps angel in battle with the prince of persia. Dan 10:13
2) Michael battles the devil over Moses’ body. Jude 9

But angels don’t “experience” torture, mutilation, terror, rape, or loss of love ones, etc.

At some point God will remove all good from this earth (rapture, pretribulation view) 1 Thess 4:17 and show what is the natural consequences of evil. Rom 6:23

The earth will then come to a point where if those days had not been cut short, no one will survive. Matt 24:22

Therefore God allowing evil to exist in this world is just as logical as humans doing experiments on animals to find knowledge that will benefit all humanity.

Man’s reward for going through this battle of good vs. evil is to be judges of angels (1 Cor 6:3); to be the bride of Christ. Rev 19:7

So my ultimate conclusion is God is not simply allowing evil to happen to His creation, but God is using evil to accomplish a greater good. God is drawing the angels He created closer to Him (which is pure Goodness) by letting them “know” evil through our experiences. Eph. 3:10. But in His great mercy He is not making them all “experience” evil.

I grant you that I do not have a full answer here. I assure you that my eye has not seen, nor has my ear heard, nor has my mind concieved what God has prepared for those who love Him. But, if I can come up with one reason for God allowing evil to exist then I am assured that the Master has even more and greater reasons than I can understand. My trust remains firmly and fully in Jesus.

A Triune God

We have talked about how the name of God “Elohim” in Gen 1:1 allows for the New Testament revelation of the Trinity of the Godhead. Also, the use of the words “us” and “our” in verses like, “Let us make man in our image” agrees with this revelation. Even though the Old Testament and the New Testament are in agreement with this doctrine you will probably still run into opposition to this doctrine. Universalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons will strongly oppose this doctrine.

There is an easy to remember argument that you can make. Be confident in the truthfulness of the argument but also be aware that there are ready made answers using twisted interpretation. You don’t need to memorize the supporting verses, but reading over them to give you confidence of what the Bible says is helpful.

This argument says: When I read the Bible I see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit involved in the Creation, the Baptism, the Resurrection, the Great Commission, in our Justification, in our Sanctification, and all of them live “in” us.

Event Father Son Holy Spirit
Creation Gen 1:2 Col 1:16 Gen 1:2
Baptism Luke 3:21 Luke 3:21 Luke 3:21
Resurrection Acts 3:26 John 2:19 Rom 8:11
Great Commisson Matt 28:19 Matt 28:19 Matt 28:19
Justified/Santified 1 Cor 6:11 1 Cor 6:11 1 Cor 6:11
Lives “in” us Eph 4:6 Col 1:27 Rom 8:11

I have never convinced anyone with this argument but at least I have an answer. Also interesting to note, people who don’t believe in the Trinity will agree with all the verses of the Father, but not the Son or Holy Spirit verses. So they have to twist at least 12 verses (there are many others) into meaning something other than what they plainly say. They have to work very hard to support what they want it to mean, while the doctrine of the Trinity is supported in the plain language.

Some other verses that support the Diety of Jesus are: John 5:19; 10:30-33; 17:5; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Phil 2:5-6; Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.