Sunday, July 4, 2021

Destiny and Purpose

Our destiny is to take up the Cross of Christ, deny ourselves, and follow HIM wherever he goesAs a young man, I found life disturbing. Having developed an early interest in history, the more I read, the more inexplicable reality became. Human society, past and present, was characterized by inequality, injustice, corruption, and warfare. If existence meant a life of struggle followed by death, what was the point of it all?

What troubled my young mind above all was the question: What, if anything, was my “purpose” in the grand scheme of things?

Crossroads - Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash
[Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash]

Fortunately, God intervened by sending several young men to share the Gospel with me, and in that “good news,” I encountered the Maker of All Things in the face of His Son, Jesus, the one who willingly gave his life for my sake when I was yet an “
enemy of God.”

In His infinite mercy, God made a way for me, not only to become reconciled to Him, but also to know Who and WHAT He is. I came to know Him in the “word made flesh,” in Jesus Christ.  In response, all I could do was give my entire life over to Him by acknowledging Jesus as the absolute Lord and Master of my life.

From the start, two of his sayings struck me and have reverberated in my mind ever since. First, “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

Second, his parable of the ‘Unprofitable Servant’: “Even so you also, when you shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, ‘We are UNPROFITABLE SLAVES! We have done that which it was our duty to do’.”

Thus, my “purpose” in this life  became crystal clear. I owed everything to Jesus. Before I even existed, he gave his all for me. How could I do anything except acknowledge his self-sacrificial gift and lordship by daily “denying myself, taking up his cross,” and following him “wherever he goes”?

Frankly, from that day forward, questions about my “purpose” and “destiny” fell by the wayside, they became irrelevant. What mattered was doing whatever task he put in my hand to do, large or small, easy or not, with no questions asked and no expectations of reward.

Consequently, I find it difficult to relate to the constant talk in Christian circles about finding one’s “personal destiny” and God’s “purpose” for his or her life. Or discovering my “spiritual” gifts and “office.” Am I a “prophet,” an “apostle,” a “dream interpreter,” an “anointed scribe,” or a “pastor”? What is God’s “unique and special purpose” for my life and no other?

Such questions may be appropriate for a New Age self-awareness seminar or the latest self-improvement pop philosopher. If anything, they reflect the narcissistic gospel of self into which the so-called “prosperity gospel” and Word of Faith Movement have devolved, but they are incompatible with the teachings of Jesus on discipleship.

I mean, the so-called church “offices” are functions, not titles, careers, or institutions, and they will not endure forever. They are given to individual members of the Church as the “Spirit sees fit to profit ALL.” The gifts are given to assist and edify God’s people, not to elevate some men over others, or endow them with superpowers, or stroke their egos now that they have found their “prophetic destiny.”

The true apostle goes out to found new churches with no thoughts about reward or recognition. The pastor shepherds the flock. The prophet declares the word of God to the Assembly. Whether someone is recognized by others as a “prophet” or “apostle” is of NO importance. In the end, we are all “unprofitable SLAVES.”

As for our “purpose,” the New Testament already provides that information in black-and-white. There is no need to seek it from angels, visions, or dreams, or by deciphering it from the Hebrew calendar or numbers. Jesus was explicit. Because he has been given all authority in heaven and on the earth:
  • Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Just prior to his Ascension, the disciples asked,  “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel.” Rather than answer the question, he responded:
  • It is NOT for you to know times or seasons, which the Father has set in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you: and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.”
Rather than worry about such questions, the disciple should concern himself with preaching the Gospel wherever and whenever he or she can. Detailed knowledge about “times and seasons” is above his or her pay grade. In the interim between the ascent and return of Jesus, our “assignment” is to preach the Gospel.

As for my “destiny,” that, too, is spelled out in Scripture, and it is a glorious one, for God has called me (and you) “to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren,… And whom he called, he also justified, and whom he justified, he also glorified.” 

Considering our egregious sins and failings, such a wonderful future can only be attributed to sheer grace. To now ask or demand anything more from God is ungrateful and presumptuous.

This grand and glorious fate awaits us at the return of Jesus in all his glory, at which time the “last enemy, death, will be abolished.” On that day, he will be “glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them who believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” Until then,  our Lord summons us to persevere in our testimony and well-doing, regardless of whatever life throws at us., and to do so day by day.

So, how does one qualify for this glorious “destiny”? Once again, Jesus was clear. If anyone wishes to become “great” in his kingdom, “he shall be your servant. And whoever would be first among you shall be your SLAVE, even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The “Son of Man” will reward every disciple who gave others food to eat, water to drink, and clothes to wear, declaring to one and all, “Inasmuch as you did it unto one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it unto me… Enter and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Alas, to some, perhaps to far too many, he will declare, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness!

Better to be the doorkeeper in the house of God, the “unprofitable slave” who washes the feet of everyone who enters, than to acquire wealth, high office, power, and popularity in this life.