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Godís Goal: Christ
By David A. DePra
Godís goal for the Christian life is CHRIST. Thatís sounds almost too simple, and perhaps even abstract. But it is the Truth. God wants His people to know Christ, and to have Christ formed in us. He wants us to be witnesses to Christ. Everything else is secondary.
The is the continual teaching of the Bible, and the goal of ALL ministry:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Eph 4:11-15)
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which works in me mightily. (Col 1:26-29)
If it is the Truth that Godís goal is Christ, then we have now discovered the source of every problem in the church, and in the lives of individual Christians: Our goal is not Christ. It is something else. But the good news is that we have also discovered the solution: Get back to Godís goal. Godís goal is Christ. Christ in us. Christ formed in us. Christ living through us.
There is a big difference between believing in the doctrine of the resurrection, and having within you the resurrection life of Christ Jesus. A big difference. Of course, the two are not opposed. You arenít going to have the life within if you donít believe the doctrine. But it is a fact that it is possible to believe the doctrine, but not have the resurrected Christ living in you.
Here we find the fundament of Godís goal. Godís goal is not merely to each us doctrines. Or to give us, "the scoop," about Jesus. All of that is fine, and as I said, necessary. We need to believe doctrine. But the doctrine is only valid because of the reality to which it points. God wants us, not only to receive Christ, but to live in Christ. He wants to completely alter us FROM what we have been, over TO the place where we live in harmony with the Christ who is in us.
Can we see that this means that, yes, we must have the teaching, but that we must be formed by the Holy Spirit to where we are a living representation of the teaching? Sure. We are to be living epistles, written by the Holy Spirit. We are to BE evidence of the Risen Christ.
This will never happen unless we pick up our cross and follow Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt. 16:24-25) You cannot substitute for carrying your Cross by merely teaching that Jesus carried His. You cannot find your life by merely talking about the fact that Jesus lost His. All of that is good, but merely a basis for something more Ė something God wants to do in US. You are a disciple of Jesus only by picking up your cross and following Him. You will find your life IN CHRIST only by losing your life. In short, you and I must relinquish our control, our kingdom, and our self-will, into the hands of God. We live only by dying.
Thatís more the negative. But in addition, as we die, we need to believe and obey God in a pro-active, positive way. In other words, we need to WALK IN THE LIGHT.
If you are saved, Christ IS in you. But Christ will not come forth, and come to govern you, until that which hinders, of the flesh, is crucified out of the way. Jesus said, "Pick up your cross." What is your cross? Well, that is something God must show each of us. Our cross is the instrument of death Ė death to the old life and flesh Ė that God has placed before us. It may be external circumstances, or an internal issue. But whatever our cross is, it will put to death whatever hinders Christ being seen in and through us. And we will have many positive steps of obedience before us as well.
Godís goal is Christ in us Ė being formed in and through us. Everything else in the purpose and will of God is structured towards that as the end.
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (Gal 4:19)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:28-29)
This Truth that Godís goal is CHRIST in each life, once realized, explains much. It explains why, in some cases, Godís promises do not seem to be coming to pass. We read about Godís eagerness to bless His people, and yet those blessings seem far away. Why? Well, perhaps we are seeking the blessings as THINGS apart from Christ. God wants to bless us. But He wants to bless us IN CHRIST, not apart from Him.
Donít misunderstand. Iím not saying that most people DEMAND things from God, and deliberately neglect Christ. No. Most of us just donít know. We arenít taught. Thus, we are approaching life on the wrong level. And while God will take care of us, He will only go so far if we arenít in tune with His purpose. He will want to bring us over onto His page.
But why is It is possible for people, even Christians, who seem uninterested in the things of God, to be blessed? I mean, it IS possible to possess all kinds of THINGS Ė but to have them, not as the outcome of being in Christ, but because of our disregard for Christ. Well, Jesus never said that if His people neglect Godís goal in their life that they could not get blessings another way. He simply told us GODíS way Ė seek first HIS kingdom. It is entirely possible to go through life, neglect your cross, get wrapped up in THIS life, and be blessed on the basis of serving mammon. Entirely possible. People do it all the time.
But Jesus said, "Seek you FIRST the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33) The kingdom of God IS Christ in us Ė for His resurrection life, as ministered through the Holy Spirit, is Godís rule, order, and kingdom. And if we FIRST seek Christ, and His rule, then, Jesus says, everything else we need Ė that God Himself wants us to have -- will be added to us.
Jesus is here promising that if we seek the kingdom FIRST, that as that kingdom begins to govern us Ė as Christ in us begins to rule in us Ė then as part of Godís establishment of His will in our lives will come all the THINGS God knows we need for our living. Sure. Christ in us isnít going to deprive us of material blessings. Christ in us will insure them. But they will not be given to us as separate things. Rather, they will be integrated as part of the outworking of His life in us.
Incidentally, if it isnít evident, it ought to be: If we are to come under Godís kingdom, then the things added to us are going to be only those things that God wants in our lives. Nothing more and nothing less. Sure. Godís rule in our lives will govern those THINGS Ė determine what, where, and how much. But then again Ė why would we want it any other way? God knows best.
As mentioned earlier, God can, and sometimes does, bless people who are completely out of His will and order. Or people can serve mammon and be blessed that way. Jesus said so. He said that God rains down His blessings on the just and unjust as it suits an overall purpose. But this general blessing is not Godís highest for His people. God has a specific will and purpose for each of His people. He is not confused about it, or making it up as He goes along. But we will never realize it unless we first seek His will and kingdom in us. Godís purpose FOR our lives is wrapped up in the life of His Son in us. Only as Christ is unfolded in us will that purpose be unfolded and experienced.
We receive CHRIST IN US at salvation. But that is only the beginning. We need to KNOW Him, and GROW in Him, and BECOME in Him. This is Godís purpose for the individual, and for the church. Everything else that is part of Godís will for this age is to come from that central purpose. And every blessing God has for us is bound up in Christ Ė spiritually and materially.
Problems arise in the church, and in the lives of individuals, when we try to separate the blessings that are bound up in Christ, from the unfolding of Christ Himself. We try to get the blessings by bypassing Christ. Sure. It is just easier that way for our flesh. Thus, teachings arise where Christians are advised as to how to get God to give them this or that. We are told how to, "jump start God," or how to, "plant a seed to reap a financial harvest." We are told that the key to Godís blessing is to finance some ministry. Or to follow some Bible principle. But no. Sure, there is legitimate Christian giving, and it would be wrong to deny this. And we need to follow the Bible. But we must get back to the root of all those things. The fundamental principle is never to give money in order to get money. The fundamental principle is to give MYSELF to Christ, and if I do, Christ will be unfolded to me, and with Him will come all material blessings which are part of Godís will for my life.
It is entirely possible to give to get, and never touch Jesus Christ. It is entirely possible to follow Biblical financial principles Ė or to think I am Ė but never surrender MYSELF to Christ! It is possible to do all kinds of good works and service, and even to give my body to be burned for the sake of Christ, but to be completely void of the love of God, and to be completely deceived. It is also entirely possible to live most of my life financially rich and financially blessed, and yet for NONE OF IT to be the result of having come under the kingdom of God. Need I quote scripture to prove these possibilities?
How can these things be possible? Simply because Godís goal is CHRIST IN US. Our personal relationship with Him. Whether we carry our cross behind Him. Whether we belong to ourselves, or to Him Ė as Christians! Whether we are SEEKING FIRST His will, His purpose, and His glory. And you can be a saved person and be living your life completely outside of Godís goal and purpose of Christ in you. You can live in this world, accumulate much wealth, and even be happy, and EVEN AS A SAVED PERSON be missing the point.
Certainly most Christian teaching today helps us miss the mark of Godís purpose of Christ. When is the last time you heard it taught on Christian television that what God is doing in your life is seeking to form Christ in you Ė in a way that will revolutionize your life? When is the last time you heard sound Christian teaching on HOW God does that, and why He does it, and what you need to do to cooperate with His purpose. Well, you almost never hear such a thing mentioned. Apparently, people donít know, and donít know they donít know. It is as a thing HIDDEN.
And yet the Truth stands. Jesus said that if we FIRST seek the kingdom of God, that all things needed would be added unto us. But Christian people often seek first the things God said He would add, and assume that the kingdom Ė that Christ in us Ė will somehow be added TO those things. It will never happen. Godís blessings are wrapped up in Christ. Christ is not wrapped up in Godís blessings.
There are a number of different ways to state the same Truth. For instance, before God can give you a blessing, He must make you fit for it. He must do a work of the Cross in you so that the blessing He has for you Ė whether spiritual or material Ė will not do you harm. God must bring you under His rule and order, before He can trust you with His purpose. You must seek first His kingdom Ė lest what God wants you to have be given you OUT of the rule, order, and holiness of His kingdom.
It is really not all that difficult to see this Truth. It is all through the NT, and illustrated continually throughout the OT. If you want God, you get God, and all of the things that come with Him. But if you want THINGS, and God gave them to you, there is a great possibility that you would never come into the relationship with Christ that God has for you.
We donít really believe this possibility of ourselves. But many Christians donít even know what it means to seek God for HIMSELF. All we know about is seeking God for THINGS Ė some of which are needs, and some of which are wants. We go to God for THINGS, and if God always immediately gave them to us, we would remain blind to God Himself Ė to the revelation of Himself, and to the reality of Christ in us.
Now, donít misunderstand. God gives us plenty of THINGS. But in the final analysis, God has given us Himself in Christ. And Christ in us is what Christianity is all about. Thus, there is going to come a time when God will want to turn our lives RIGHT SIDE UP and begin focusing on Christ in us.
The kingdom of God, which is the Person of Christ in us, is not merely a doctrine we acknowledge, or a piece of theology. We cannot truly live in His kingdom simply by altering our conduct to a list of laws. We do not live in His kingdom by doing ministry or going to church. To live in the kingdom of God means that my entire inner constitution must be altered to where Christ in me freely reigns and rules. In other words, to live in the kingdom means that the kingdom lives in me Ė not just as a teaching I memorize, but really. And Jesus says that if I will seek FIRST this kingdom, and seek FIRST the righteousness of God, then everything that I need materially, as part of the plan and purpose of God, will be added to me. These things will come and be unfolded as Christ in me is unfolded. As the kingdom of God begins to govern me, that kingdom will provide all that I need.
Christ, Our Life
The Christian life is not about figuring out how to get God to bless us. God doesnít need to be manipulated into blessing us, or argued into a corner. God already desires to bless us more than we want Him to. But as we have been seeing, Godís blessings will not serve His purpose in our lives unless they are ADDED to Christ Ė unless those blessings are the outcome of the unfolding of Christ in us.
As we walk through the Christian life, God will use practical circumstances to press us to Himself, and to motivate us to seek Him. As we do so Ė and this is never a given, for we must choose Ė Christ will be edified in us. We will grow to know Him. Then, as we seek Christ, and seek FIRST what God wants to do IN US through the Holy Spirit, all that we need will be added to us.
God has promised to give us what we need Ė and despite the fact that many have much more Ė God has not guaranteed this. Again Ė if we are coming under Godís will and rule, we will have what we need to live in Godís will. Christ is to be our life. Not our natural, physical life.
I realize that in todayís church, where God is often turned into a blessing machine, and the goal is often anything but spiritual, this may not be a well-received message. But it is what the Bible teaches, and it is the end towards which God works. Christ is our life.
Read these two passages by the apostle Paul and ask yourself, "Am I practicing what Paul is revealing here, and living in the reality of it? Is my church focus on building up the life of Christ in each believer?"
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)
So many Christians are not taught about the building up of Christ in the individual. What we are taught is the need to build up the church as an institution Ė how to build up our church as a THING. This is NEVER what God is doing Ė and I donít care whether a church has thousands attending each Sunday. Godís goal is Christ in us Ė built up in us Ė Christ having His way in us. God is after us being formed together with Christ.
God doesnít want our church to be our life. He doesnít want our ministry to be our life. He doesnít want our family, friends, or marriage to be our life. Those things have important status IN our life. But our life is Christ. And Christ is our life.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is THE problem among Godís people, and the solution. We arenít taught that Christ is our life. We arenít taught how to seek first Godís building of the life of Christ within us. Rather, we are often taught how to do a thousand things to make a church grow, and how to get blessed of God. But God wants Christ to be our life, and for us to LOSE our lives for the sake of the life of Christ in us.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Col 1:12-19)
The Holy Spirit
The work of the Holy Spirit in this age is to reveal Christ, testify to Christ, glorify Christ, and to guide us in Christ. Indeed, the Holy Spirit IS the life of Christ in us.
This ought to tell us plenty. It ought to tell us that the fundamental evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is NOT signs, wonders, tongues, or miracles Ė and I say this even if such manifestations happen to be real. No. The evidence that we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit is CHRIST IN US. Christ in us IS the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and our salvation, and our new birth. And then, from Christ in us everything else flows.
Godís goal is Christ. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is Christ. And the life we have in us is Christ. This pretty much sums up the whole purpose of the Christ life Ė Christ. In Him we live, and move, and have our being.
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