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The Purpose Directed Life

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A Truth that Transforms

Introduction

As this year winds down, may we each ask ourselves this question, “Do I have one single goal in life that consumes me, something that has become the primary force that stimulates and motivates me daily in everything that I do? Or do I feel like someone in a canoe being propelled along a raging river whose objective seems to change with the hazards around each bend as I try to navigate white water rapids, logs, and rocks? Life can be like that. It is far too easy for our goals and objectives to be set for us by the demands of the everyday forces of a world that is totally out of sync with the purposes of God. As we stand on the threshold of the last year of this century, indeed, of this millennium, there has never been a time when these contrary forces have been more at work than they are today.

Goals and objectives are tremendously important because they are so dynamic and determinative of what we do with the life God has given us. It has been said, “Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time,” and “People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” Without defining goals and then the objectives needed to accomplish those goals, most people accomplish very little; certainly very little by the standards of eternity. Of course, we all have goals, even if we haven’t clearly defined them, and these goals determine a great deal of what we do. So this is not just a matter of having goals, but of having the right goal, one in keeping with the truth of Scripture.

A couple of equally important questions are, “Why are our lives so incredibly busy today, but lacking in a clearly defined biblical purpose? Do we really know what our purpose is or are we caught up in the rat race of our society because we have allowed the world to pull us, like a centrifugal force, into the pursuit of the so-called good life? We are in a world that is willing to pursue peace (the world’s kind of peace) and prosperity at any price (see 1 Thess. 5:1).

So again, let’s each ask the question, if I could reduce my life to one primary goal, what would it be? On a day-to-day basis, what am I actually focused on and seeking to accomplish? Be honest. Don’t answer this question with what we think the answer should be, such as, “My chief aim in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!” Or, “My goal in life is to please the Lord in everything I do!” We need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves on this.

It has been said, “Man’s chief purpose is to glory God and enjoy Him forever” and certainly, this is true and this should be the great desire of our hearts. But in reality, if we reflect on the past week, what were our thoughts as we faced each new day? Were they on how we might change our spouse who doesn’t treat us the way we want to be treated? Or how we might handle our boss who is a bully and unfair? Perhaps our focus was on our car which keeps breaking down, or on some home appliance that would make life easier. Our objective might be to get through school with a 3.5 grade point average or better. Or maybe our goal is simply to keep our head above water financially. While all of these may engage us in concerns that need to be addressed, they are hardly the issues that should direct one’s life.

Like a thief, the world has a way of intruding into our lives to steal what should be our focus or the major objectives of life. These intrusions have a way of disturbing us, even though we may not realize the source, because in losing sight of God’s purpose or goal we fail to see the problems of life in accord with God’s overall purpose and consequent objectives.

The prophet Isaiah declares: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast (being sustained), because he trusts in you (continues to depend on you)” (Isaiah 26:3, NIV).

God doesn’t expect us to be oblivious to the problems and needs of life, but when our goals are God’s goals we are better able to look through our problems to the Lord and His supply. When our focus is the Lord, something wonderful begins to happen in us: God begins to change us and make us like His Son “who for the joy set before Him (consuming goal) endured the cross, despising the shame, …” (Heb. 12:2). In fact, there is a purpose that we need as Christians that is even more basic than seeking to glorify and please the Lord and one that really becomes the means of bringing the greatest glory to God.

Joy and Peace:
Consequences of God’s Purpose

Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in Thee.

When we are truly focused on the Lord and trusting in Him, we will also be resting in God’s purposes even though we may not have the foggiest idea of what God is doing other than that He is at work working all things together for good, which includes our own personal growth (Jam. 1:2-4). As a result, one of the consequences of having God’s purpose, as we see from Isaiah 26:3, is a life of peace even in the midst of trials. To prepare His disciples for His departure and absence, the Lord instructed them concerning their purpose in the world (John 13-16). In the midst of this instruction, just a few hours before the Lord Jesus went to the cross to die that we might have peace with God and know the peace of God, He made this very illuminating statement: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, emphasis mine).

Then, in Galatians 5:22, we are told that two character traits of the fruit of the Spirit are joy and peace. These verses teach us that when we are experiencing His life within ours (the Christ-exchanged life) we are going to experience joy and peace along with other Christ-like qualities.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Many Christians, however, seem to have little joy or peace. One of the reasons is found in the Lord’s statement regarding peace. We too often seek our joy and peace from that which the world gives rather than from the Savior who provides joy and peace in a very different way and from a very different source.

I am not at all suggesting that the goal of the Christian life is to be a self-centered focus like joy and peace. Joy and peace, however, do constitute part of the fruit of a life that is experiencing an intimate relationship with God and the spiritual transformation that He works within at the core of our being. When this happens He is truly the source of our trust, and joy and peace become barometers of how well we are resting all the various facets of our life on Him (Isa. 26:3). It is like taking our temperature. As a fever is indicative of an illness, so the absence of the joy and peace Christ gives is an indication something is wrong and we need the prescribed remedy of God’s Word and healing touch of the Great Physician.

As illustrations compare the following passages:

Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in Thee…

Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.

Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving. 4:7 And the peace of God that surpasses understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

Two key notes sounded in the book of Philippians are joy and peace. Joy is found seven times, and though peace is found only three times, it is still a very important concept in the theme of this wonderful epistle (Phil. 4:6-7).

Two other books which were written in the same year as Philippians were Ephesians and Colossians. These are companion or sister epistles and there is an interesting relationship that can be observed between these three epistles that is pertinent to the issue of joy and peace, and the transformed life.

Ephesians gives us the truth stated—in Christ ascended, in the heavenlies, blessed with every spiritual blessing. It declares the sublime truth of the believer’s new position and identity in Christ. All believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the realm of the heavenlies in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

Colossians gives us the truth guarded—in Christ complete, sufficient in Christ. It protects the believer’s new and glorious identity and what it should mean to his faith and the walk of faith. Why? Because daily we are confronted with all sorts of systems (religious and secular) that claim to be the answer for the spiritual life or for satisfaction, peace, security, and significance. Colossians shows that, since believers in Christ are complete in Him (2:10) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3), they need nothing more for transformed lives than Jesus Christ. He is our hope of glory both for heaven and for transformed living. We don’t need the joy/peace killer of legalism nor the futility of any of man’s religious or philosophical system. As we have received Christ alone by faith in the message of the gospel (1:4-5), so we are to continue to walk by means of His life by faith in the truth of God’s Word (2:3-10).

Colossians 1:4-5 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel,

Colossians 2:3-10 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Colossians warns us against accepting man’s substitutes for either justification or for sanctification (transformed living) because man’s substitutes, or those of the world, are always faithless in our complete position in Christ and futile to our sinful condition.

Colossians 2:16-23 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 which all refer to things destined to perish with the using— in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

But how does all this apply to Philippians and the issue of joy, peace, and God’s purpose?

Philippians gives us the truth practiced—in Christ satisfied, joy and peace in Christ. In a number of ways this epistle promotes the application of the messages of Ephesians (blessed with every spiritual blessing) and Colossians (in Christ complete). Philippians shows us how to know joy and peace as we walk down the path of life with its many ups and downs, its blessings and afflictions, its pleasures and pain, and the many false options offered to make life work. Knowing we have such a glorious identity in Christ is obviously a cause for great joy and the source of true peace, but so often Christians fail to experience true joy and peace. So enters the book of Philippians, which has much to say about joy and peace in Christ.

Philippians 1:4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,

Philippians 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.

Philippians 1:25 And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,

Philippians 2:28-29 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. 29 Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 4:4,7-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! … 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

But what has all this got to do with the purpose directed life? Right in the middle of the book is an extended passage (Philippians 3) which points us to the heart of the issue being discussed here—experiencing Christ’s joy and peace. Biblically, joy and peace are related to the pursuit of the right goal—one that is to become the all-consuming goal of a Christian’s life. Too often, Christians see salvation as the end rather than the beginning of a new and a glorious pursuit. Evidently, false teachers were attempting to convince the Philippian church that salvation from sin’s penalty was the sole goal of salvation for each believer. In reality, however, that is only part of God’s purpose for the Christian. Rather, salvation is the introduction of a believer into a new pursuit and purpose for life. It includes the first, saved once and for all from the penalty of sin, but it also means the pursuit of a changed life by the power of God over the reign of sin. The same power that delivered us from sin’s penalty is available to deliver us from its deadly power and this too is God’s purpose.

Paul was like a man who, having found the greatest treasure imaginable, was willing to quickly abandon all that he had previously held as valuable. Indeed, he had come to see his past treasures, his faith in his own religious achievements, as liabilities. So note this desire as expressed in verses 8-15.

Philippians 3:7-15 But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. 3:8 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I might gain Christ, 3:9 and be found in him, not because of having my own righteousness derived from the law, but because of having the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is based on Christ’s faithfulness. 3:10 My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, 3:11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 3:12 Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which I also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: forgetting the things behind and reaching out for the things ahead, 3:14 with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 3:15 Let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view. If you think otherwise, God will reveal to you the error of your ways.

Verse 14 points us to the great thrust of the passage. Paul says, “I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul compared the Christian life to pressing onward to the goal in order to win the prize. In this we see the ultimate goal of the passage—possessing and pursuing God’s goal for one’s life. That goal is an upward, heavenward call. Included in that upward call is spiritual transformation through knowing Christ intimately and the power of His resurrection. The objective here is that we might be made like Him being conformed to or perhaps even, by His death—passing through death into new life, and at last to capture the coveted prize, being in Christ’s presence at the Judgment Seat, or Bema, to receive the awards that will be given on that day (see 2 Tim. 4:6-8). Paul was living not to gain heaven by his works, but to receive the prize, first of knowing the power of Christ’s life in his daily life and then, the eternal rewards that would follow after the resurrection of believers. The goal of the apostle was to live daily in view of the resurrection (literally, “the out resurrection from among the dead”) as mentioned in 3:11. Speaking of this same hope, John wrote, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3, NIV).

Pressing Toward the Goal
(Phil. 3:14)

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Explanation of the Text

“I press” is the Greek word, dioko, meaning “to pursue, chase, to press on.” It is used figuratively of one who runs swiftly in a race to reach the goal in order to obtain the prize. The verb is a present of continuous action which shows this pursuit is to be the pattern of the believer’s life on a daily basis.

“Goal” is the Greek, skopos, which refers to an observer, a watchman, or the distant mark on which to fix the eye, the goal or end one has in view. In this context it is defined as “the prize.” For emphasis, the text literally says, “Toward the goal, I press on” which highlights the concept of fixing one’s eyes on the goal.

“Prize” is the Greek, brabeion, a word that referred to “the award given to the victor in the ancient Greek games.” In this context, may I suggest that it refers to two things: (1) primarily, Paul’s focus is on the return of Christ for the church because that will mean (a) glorification and translation into heaven either by resurrection for those believers who have died, or transfiguration of those believers who are alive at that time (1 Thess. 4:13-18), (b) examination before the Bema for eternal rewards (1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10), and (c) compensation, the bestowal of the rewards that await believers for faithful service. “The upward call of God in Christ Jesus” further defines the goal which is also the prize. But I believe this upward call also includes (2) the heavenly reward of Christ-like character, transformed lives. In other words, living in anticipation of this awesome event, or with this as the focus of life, should have a transforming impact on the way we live moment by moment (see also 1 Cor. 9:24-27).

This takes us back to the thought of verses 10 and 11, resurrection life, dying and rising with Christ in transformed living by the power of God through faith (cf. vs. 9 for the faith emphasis).

While there is some disagreement about the meaning of the words, “resurrection from the dead,” in 3:11, Paul probably has in mind his hope in the imminent return of Christ with all that event will mean for believers as mentioned above. This is supported in the context with 3:20-21, and by the factor of the doubt and uncertainty expressed in this verse. For instance, the NASB has “in order that I may attain,” but in the margin, it has the more literal translation, “if somehow” in place of “in order that.” The KJV has “If by any means.” The Greek text has ei pos (“if by any means”). This construction is found in only three other places in the New Testament (Rom. 1:10; 11:14; Acts 27:12), and in each case an element of doubt is expressed. This idea of uncertainty is further supported by the use of the subjunctive mood which expresses contingency, potentiality, anticipation, but not certainty, an element reserved more for the indicative mood in Greek.

Was Paul questioning the fact of the resurrection? Of course not, and that is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:1-34. I believe Paul is speaking of not the fact, but when. He had in mind something he might experience in his lifetime, the rapture of the church, his translation and consequent reward. The only thing uncertain is that he might experience it before his death.

Others believe that he is not speaking about the resurrection of the body or questioning it as a fact for the believer, but rather he wants more and more to realize in his daily walk what it means to have been co-identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. He has in mind experiencing the truth of Romans 6:4-14 and Galatians 2:20. But ultimately, both concepts are in the apostle’s view as part of the goal with the imminent hope of Christ’s return being one of the motivations that constrained or controlled the life of Paul.

Application of the Text
    We Need the Right Goal in Life

Our goals not only say a great deal about us but they also, from a Christian perspective, have everything to do with spiritual change and with our experience of joy, peace, and other Christ-like qualities. Lying close to the bottom of all we say and do are our basic aims, whether we are seeking to protect ourselves, meet our perceived needs or desired pleasures, or whether we are seeking to protect someone else. The point is simply that goals are dynamic and determinative. They will strongly affect how we live and how we affect others either positively or negatively.

    Goals Are Determined by Our Objects of Faith

This includes the concept of motives. Equally important with our goals is the question, why do we have the goals or objectives we pursue? The answer is, we all have certain goals because we believe these goals will somehow meet our perceived needs. We think they will give us joy and peace, security and happiness, significance and meaning. Behind our pursuits are often a variety of motives.

Robert McGee writes:

Many of us tend to approach Christian living as a self-improvement program. We may desire spiritual growth, or we may have one or more fairly serious problems from which we desperately want to be delivered. While there is certainly nothing wrong with spiritual growth or desiring to be rid of a besetting problem, what is our motivation in wanting to achieve goals like these? Perhaps we desire success or the approval of others. Perhaps we fear that God can’t really accept us until we have spiritually matured, or until “our problem” is removed. Perhaps we just want to feel better without having to struggle through the process of making major changes in our attitudes and behavior.

Motivations such as these may be mixed with a genuine desire to honor the Lord, but it’s also possible that deep within us is a primary desire to glorify ourselves. When self-improvement becomes the center of our focus, rather than Christ, our focus is displaced.

It is important to understand that fruitfulness and growth are the results of focusing on Christ and desiring to honor Him. When growth and change are our primary goals, we tend to be preoccupied with ourselves instead of with Christ. Am I growing? Am I getting any better? Am I more like Christ today? What am I learning?

This inordinate preoccupation with self-improvement parallels our culture’s self-help and personal enhancement movement in many ways. Personal development is certainly not wrong, but it is misleading--and it can be very disappointing to make it our preeminent goal. If it is our goal at all, it should be secondary. As we grasp the unconditional love, grace, and power of God, then honoring Christ will increasingly be our consuming passion. God wants us to have a healthy self-awareness and to periodically analyze our lives, but He does not want us to be preoccupied with ourselves. The only One worthy of our preoccupation is Christ, our sovereign Lord, who told the Apostle Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).1

    An Adequate Goal

The only adequate goal for the Christian is knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8-10), Christ-like transformation, and eternal rewards (Phil 3:11-14). This means pursuing Christ which will result in growth in the experience of the character of Christ—his love, grace, mercy, endurance, values, priorities, pursuits, etc. To experience Christ’s life is also to begin to experience other goals like pleasing God and seeking to bring glory to Him, but such noble goals will only be experienced as we begin to experience Christ’s life.

Since knowing the Savior more intimately with the growth and maturity as an outworking of that are vital pursuits for the Christian, let’s take a short overview of what Philippians 3 teaches about having the right goal.

(1) As to its Source: Having the goal of knowing Christ and Christ-like maturity is a matter of spiritual insight or knowledge of the surpassing value of Christ over anything man or the world has to offer. Faith in Him is the product of that insight (cf. Phil. 3:8-9). But the text reveals several elements that are critical for a faith that has this goal.

  • We must repudiate our former confidences or sources of trust as meaningless and useless. None of our former confidences can provide salvation in any sense (Phil. 3:1-8a, quoted above). But how do we come to such a place?
  • We must come to the place where we recognize the surpassing value and total sufficiency of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His life in ours. Knowing Him and seeing the value of His person and work replaces all our former confidences or objects of faith—the things we trusted in for peace and joy, for salvation and spirituality, for significance and meaning, etc. (Carefully read Philippians 3:8b-9, quoted above).
  • We need to rest in his life as the source of ours rather than in the strategies people typically depend on for salvation and sanctification or for security, happiness, significance.

(2) As to its Value: As seen in verse 14, the apostle saw the goal as the reward itself, the prize worth the pursuit of all his being. In addition to the glory this brings to God, nothing is more rewarding, exciting, or causes more joy or peace than to experience fellowship with the Lord Jesus and the character of His life reproduced in ours. By contrast, compare this with the frustration, disappointment, the sense of futility and guilt that people face when they place their trust in the deceptive pursuit the world offers.

(3) As to its Attainment: For the Christian, the one who has placed his trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the pursuit of this goal is a process that never ends in this life because no one ever reaches perfect maturity. This is another principle taught in Philippians 3. Other than the Lord Jesus, who could have been more mature than the Apostle Paul? But Paul clearly declared that, though mature, he had not arrived at complete maturity or perfection (Phil. 3:12-15). There will always be room for growth. Understanding this can bring a balance that is important to peace and joy and continuation in the race set before us. Failures in our Christian walk can easily lead to discouragement. So while we should always take our failures seriously, failure is not the end. It part of the process of growth. We should learn from our failures, examine causes, and commit ourselves to the pursuit of knowing the Lord more completely.

(4) As to God’s Will: One question Christians (especially new believers) often ask concerns knowing the will of God. What does God want me to be? What does He want me to do? Usually these questions are aimed at the issues of vocation or occupation or some of the other details of life—marriage partner, geographic location, school, ministry in a church, etc. While these are important matters, they are issues that are resolved from the pursuit of the one great goal of this passage. God’s will is much more basic and is expressed in the words, “that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine). God’s goal in saving us, and that of Christ Himself, is not just heaven. Though heaven is assured for believers through the finished work of Christ, God’s desire is to make us like His Son. He wants to conform us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Growing and reaching greater levels of maturity (another word for Christ-likeness) is God’s primary will for all believers. As that occurs, all the other aspects of God’s will fall into place to the degree we are experiencing His life in ours. The need and goal of growth and maturity are expressed in a number of New Testament passages. In addition to the verses below, see also 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:3.

Ephesians 4:11-16 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. 4:14 The purpose of this is to no longer be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who with craftiness carry out their deceitful schemes. 4:15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 4:16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.

1 Peter 2:2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation,

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Hebrews 5:11-6:1. On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing. 5:12 For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. 5:13 For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice for discerning both good and evil. 6:1 Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God.

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking. Instead, be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

The need for growth and maturity, or spiritual transformation, is in essence a call to sanctification. This is a call to the spiritual wholeness God has ordained for us as believers. But may we understand that such can only occur as we become more and more set apart to God and experience His life through the work and ministry of the Spirit of God in the light of the Word of God. The Word is our foundation and the light that illuminates our path.

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Hebrews 12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.

This compelling pursuit of knowing the Savior more deeply can become engulfed in the day-to-day concerns of raising a family and seeking to cope with the never-ending details of one’s work and ministry. But not only that, the constant pull on us from our society can have a equally deadening impact the right pursuit. Stephen Eyre took a survey on the values and motivations of college students at campuses in the Southeastern United States. One striking discovery of the survey was that there was little internal sense of cause or duty among students. Primary motivations centered on personal enjoyment and development of job-related skills.2

To be like Christ. That is our goal, plain and simple. It sounds like a peaceful, relaxing, easy objective. But stop and think. He learned obedience by the things He suffered. So do we. He endured all kinds of temptations. So must we. To be like Christ is our goal. But it is neither easy nor quick nor natural. It’s impossible in the flesh, slow in coming, and supernatural in scope. Only Christ can accomplish it within us.3


1 Robert S. McGee, The Search for Significance, Rapha Publishing, pp. 128-129.

2 Stephen Eyre, Defeating the Dragons of the World, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, 1987, p.10.

3 Charles R. Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 29.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, New Year's