Monday, September 22, 2008

The REAL Goal and Purpose of Jesus

This is an article I wrote for an online Christian Writers forum. It wasn't written for a blog so it might read more formal than most blogs.

Have you ever been suddenly surprised with something you read in the Bible? I’ve been a Christian for decades during which I’ve been an avid student of Scripture. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and preached my first sermon more than 35 years ago. I’m not often surprised by something I read in the Bible, but today I was very surprised!

To see Scripture from a fresh perspective, I’ve been reading through the New Testament using the paraphrased version written by Eugene Peterson entitled The Message. I think Professor Peterson has done a magnificent job using the modern English language, with crystal clear terms, phrases and idioms, to capture the heart and intent of Scripture. 

Today I was reading something Jesus said as recorded in the gospel of John in the last part of Chapter 14 verse 28 ”…the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.” I’ve read that verse in the Message many times before but suddenly it captured my attention. Jesus said His goal and purpose in life was the Father. While I know The Message is not a word for word Greek translation of the New Testament, still this wording intrigued me. Could there be something to it? 

I always thought Jesus’ goal and purpose in life was to redeem mankind from their sin, to restore fallen mankind into relationship with God. Suddenly I stopped to think. I found myself reviewing the Scriptures I knew so well stating the purpose of Jesus. Two of the many Scriptures that quickly came to mind were both written by the same person, the Apostle John. He wrote in Chapter 3 verse 8 of his first letter; “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” In his gospel Chapter 3 verses 16 and 17 John wrote; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” 

So what is this? Jesus stating that His purpose and goal in life is the Father. Can a person have more than one purpose and goal in life?

Then I began to think about other Scriptures which support the idea that the Father was Jesus’ goal and purpose in life. The Apostle Paul conveyed the same attitude when he wrote to the Philippians in Chapter 1 verse 21; “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He also wrote in Chapter 3 verses 8 through 14 of the same letter that his goal was Christ and that he was willing to lose everything to know Christ and to be in Christ. Clearly the Apostle Paul’s goal was Jesus Christ just like Jesus’ goal was the Father.

Jesus often explained to His followers that everything He did was at the direction of the Father. The things Jesus spoke, the decisions He made and the actions He took – everything, without exception, was directed by the Father. Several times Jesus strongly emphasized to His disciples the concept of beingone. He said He was one with the Father and that we should be one with Him.

As all of these various thoughts ran through my mind, things suddenly began to fall into place. The Father’s purpose for Jesus was to redeem mankind, while Jesus’ goal and purpose in life was the Father. Jesus kept the Father constantly in His mind and heart – the Father was His goal and purpose – not redeeming mankind. While that may sound like a contradiction I can see how they perfectly fit together. 

Jesus wasn’t focused on saving people He was focused on being one with His Heavenly Father - listening to the Father, visualizing (seeing) what the Father was doing and saying what the Father wanted said. Jesus’ goal and purpose in life was the Father - being completely in harmony and at one with the Father. Since the goal of the Father was redemption, by Jesus living with the Father as His goal and purpose, Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the Father, the redemption of mankind.

Upon realizing this about Jesus – that His goal and purpose in life was the Father and not the work of redemption – I began seeing how many of the things Jesus taught His disciples are in perfect harmony with this. Jesus stressed that His followers needed to be one with Him and to abide in Him. He taught His followers to lay down their lives and follow Him. He also taught that those who really love Him will do whatever He tells them to do. 

The things Jesus taught His followers clearly speak to me of His desire for full integration with Him in all aspects of life. Followers of Jesus need to have Jesus as the goal and purpose of their lives just as Jesus had the Father as His goal and purpose in life. When they do, then the work God desires to be accomplished through Jesus’ followers will be realized. 

While the work God has for people in this life is important, they shouldn’t focus on that work, rather on Jesus. Focusing on the work (or calling) is the natural and normal thing to do but focusing on the work can lead people to do things their own way, with their own wisdom and in their own strength. It’s very possible burn-out, breakdowns and failures are the result of people with good intentions trying to do the work God has for them on their own. 

The Apostle Paul used an interesting phrase when he wrote to the Corinthians in Chapter 3 versus 9 of his first letter; “For we are laborers together with God…”. People need to learn to work with God and not just for God. They need to realize how wise God is. If they abide in Christ and focus on Him, the Holy Spirit will lead them to do things that will supernaturally accomplish the work God has called them to do. He is the Master of the universe. He knows exactly what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.

If people focus on oneness with Him and obeying what He instructs them to do – nothing more and nothing less – then the work will be successfully accomplished and He will say to them, “Well done good and faithful servant.”


Christine said...

Hi Jim,

This was a very thought provoking post. I am not sure that I entirely agree with it though. I think that you have split the persons of Jesus and the Father too far. Jesus and the Father are in theological teaching one and teh same being, if not the same person. To say that they then have different agendas is to say that God as a whole is split against himself in what his goal is. I do agree that Jesus did strive for the Father but in so much as that he was seperated from himself and wanted to be reunited. I do not think that this was his 'goal' per say, more his desire which would be achieved by reaching his goal of saving mankind.

Feel free to disagree, I would love to hear your thoughts on this further. Could lead to some interesting discussions.

. said...

Thanks for your comment Christine. You're right when you say Jesus and the Father are one. That's the apparent dichotomy. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. That's a bit hard to wrap our brains around. It's interesting to read how Jesus functioned while living his 33 years on earth. It appears to me that Jesus laid down his 'God'-ness and lived on earth in his 'Man'-ness as stated in Phil. 2:5-8. He lived with the same limitations and opportunities to draw strength from the Father as we do. It's strange to our minds how Jesus can be God and man at the same time. (Heb. 4:15 talks about him being tempted as we are). It's also interesting to see the struggle Jesus had in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus (the man Jesus) didn't want to go through the suffering. He prayed three times that the Father would let him out of that. But finally he said, Not MY will be done but Father your will be done.

My main goal in the article is not to show a difference between Jesus and the Father. It is to show the example that Jesus gives us about focus (perhaps a better title would be the 'Primary Focus of Jesus' but I used the words from The Message as the title). The example Jesus gives us is that realizing the ultimate end often requires focusing on something other than the ultimate end. For example, if I want to be holy in my actions I don't get there by focusing on my actions and trying to make my actions holy (I will always fail). I get there by focusing on the Holy One and allowing Him to live in me and transform me.

Thanks for your thoughtful ideas and this conversation.

Jim Johnson

Christine said...

But don't you think that sometimes you must focus on what is ahead in order to find God?? For example: At the moment I have been weighing up whether or not to go back to my city of origin and face what will potentially be a horrible time, or I stay here and face what could be a very lonely time. Not a very nice decision and as far as I can hear, not one that God has been very forthcoming about. Granted the lack of Godly wisdom is probebly more to do with my listening skills than his lack of communication. However, I have decided to go back, bite the bullet and face whatever may come and believe that God will give me strength and peace to endure it. In other words, until I made that decision I was in a sort of limbo, finding it very hard to focus on God as I was constantly focusing on this. Now I have got that hurdle out of the way I am finding it much easier to pray and to listen to how to deal with the forthcoming trials.

Does that make any sense? Sometimes you need to focus on the material in order to find God in it.

. said...

Hi Christine.

Wow, you're facing a serious life challenge. I'm sure as you move forward with God He will protect and heal you.

About my article: I am simply trying to point out the interesting way Jesus approached the "Big Picture" of life. He was completely focused on the Father. When certain specific actions were required, Jesus dealt with them with great skill and without distraction, but the actions were driven by His harmony with the Father. I see that also in the situation you described. Everything you wrote tells me you want to be in harmony with God in what you do. That's the "Big Picture". You dealt with the specific situation the best you know how, have made a decision and then evaluated it by whether you had peace and clarity in your heart with God after having made the decision.

I wouldn't advise people to take my article and use it as a "law" of life. I think too often we set these strict rules about how things work. If someone wants to use my article then they should read it, pray about it and then ask God if any of it applies to them. Perhaps it doesn't. That's OK. Or maybe in six months something about it will come alive in them. That's great too.

No strict rules from this writer about how God works in an individual's life. The only thing I know for sure is that Jesus is the way, truth and life.

Rich blessings and God's wonderful grace on your journey back. May He bring healing and life to you in a wonderful way.