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.”
A Californian living in Europe nearly 20 years who is fascinated with the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus. A pastor who loves God and people. A proud father, grandfather and forever grateful husband.