Last week I shared about our purpose. Many of you responded positively and I appreciate your encouragement. I want to take last week’s teaching a bit further and talk about what the purpose of God actually looks like and how it happens practically in our lives.
God called us “according to purpose” (Rom. 8:28) and He is always working all things together for good so that that purpose comes into reality in our lives. The process of God’s purpose in our lives becoming a reality involves us being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). I think it will be helpful at this point to discuss this idea of the “image of His Son.”
God expresses His original and only intent for man before He ever creates him in the Garden of Eden when He says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). There has been much debate and opinion over the years regarding this statement and what it means to be created in God’s image. Many mistakes have been made in trying to come up with something about man that is like God. Some of these ideas are man’s upright stature, spirituality, rationality, emotions, personality, moral capacity, etc. The best definition for “image” is “visibility.” Paul says that “Christ is the image of God” (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4) and the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the “radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus Himself said “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). This simply means that Jesus was the visible expression of the invisible character of God. John says that when Jesus came as a man “we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So the image of God was clearly visible in the life of Jesus so that when people saw Him and interacted with Him they saw and interacted with the invisible character of the Father.
So when God created man in His image He created man with the capacity to choose to allow the visible expression of the invisible character of God within His behaviour. No other creature that God created has this capacity. As man functions in this God given capacity and expresses the invisible nature and character of God in his life he brings glory to God. This all sounds quite “theological” at this point, so let’s get a little more practical about it.
Perhaps a quick testimony at this point would help to clarify what I am trying to say. A few years back Stephanie and I were experiencing some very challenging things in our marriage. Without going into all the details, I will just say it was very hard and the way out did not appear clear. This left me at a critical time of desperation for God’s intervention on our behalf. It was at that point that I asked the Lord why we were experiencing these things in our marriage. I was hoping that the Lord would show me a practical strategy that I could implement that would solve our problems. I heard the Lord speak to me more clearly than I had ever heard Him before. He said to me, “Cliff, the problem is that you are not like Me.” That was the most profound and powerful thing I had ever heard the Lord speak to me in my life. I had been a christian for many years, serving the Lord and trying to do all the things that a good christian is supposed to do. That included trying to be a good husband. But it was at that point that I realised the problem that I faced was that I was not experiencing the reality of Jesus expressing Himself in and through my life as a husband to Stephanie. This meant that the invisible nature and character of God was not being “imaged” in my life. And this is where my journey of practically understanding and experiencing God working His ultimate purpose into my life began.
The point that I want to make is simple but yet life changing. God wants His divine nature and character expressed through us for His glory and He will use every circumstance in our lives to work toward that purpose. He is constantly working to get us to the place where we will see the absolute importance of being conformed to His image and we will choose by faith to allow His nature and character to operate in our lives. It is the only thing that ultimately matters in this life. There is no other thing that we can do that will bring Him glory like us fulfilling the ultimate purpose for which we were created — to express the image of God in and through our lives. That means that God’s character is made visible in our actions, words, attitudes, thoughts, and motives. When this happens we are fulfilling the purpose of God in our lives. This process becomes very personal and practical when God begins to use the circumstances in our lives to reveal to us that there are areas of our lives that are not like Him. It is at that point that we must trust with all the faith we have that He will manifest His life in and through us for His glory (2 Cor. 4:10-11). This is the process of “learning Christ” (Eph. 4:20) and “walking in Him” (Col. 2:6).
As I said last week in part one of this teaching, the purpose of God is both unique and universal. It is unique in that there is no other purpose like it and because it is personal to each one of us in regards to how God works it into our lives. On the other hand, it is universal in that God is doing the same thing in all of us. His plan is set and His means are effective for this one purpose to be accomplished so that Jesus “would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). The Father wants a family that reflects the image of His Son by the indwelling presence of His Spirit!
One of the things about God’s purpose for our lives that encourages me the most is that we can all know His purpose for our lives all the time and we can all be fully engaged in the process of His purpose being done in our lives no matter where we are or what is happening in our circumstances. It is not dependent on what we do, because God is much more interested in who we are becoming! So my encouragement is for all of us to start engaging God in this ultimate and eternal purpose that He has for each of us. We need to focus much more on who He is making us to be (i.e., “image bearers”) more than what He is calling us to do.