This is the fifth instalment in my Christianity Is… series. If you want to catch up on what I’ve written so far, you can find the introduction here, Christianity Is…Pure here, …Physical here, and …Emotional here.
So far in this series I’ve talked about three different aspects of Christianity, and I’ve framed them in terms of busting myths about Christianity. With this topic, however, I can’t think of any myth to bust, which is good, because this topic knits together a lot of the other things that I’m talking about, and it would be quite problematic if it was commonly misconstrued. The topic is, of course, the purpose of the Christian life. In other words, what meaning does Christianity give our lives? What’s the point? Where is it all leading?
As this is such an important topic, I want to start with the Bible – it is essential that I show you the evidence for my points. Here are a couple of verses that capture what I want to talk about:
‘Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know and have seen him.’ (John 14:6-7)
‘I am the gate for the sheep […] whoever enters through me will be saved […] I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (John 10:8, 9, 10)
‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)
These passages lead me to draw three conclusions:
- Jesus is the way to the ultimate goal: relationship with God.
- Jesus brings salvation, and that salvation is real life.
- In our individual lives, we must persevere in faith by completely orientating ourselves around Christ.
If we accept all these things, what shape does that give our lives? Firstly gives us a motivation to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Regardless of whether or not God has given clear rules as to how we should and shouldn’t live (more on that in the …Pure post), if our goal is a relationship centred on love then we should want to make God happy by doing the things that he likes and not doing what he doesn’t like. Think about a romantic relationship for a second. Whether you’re in one or not, you’ll have seen people in them. Now how many marriages are successful when one or both of the partners insists on doing something the other really doesn’t like? I’m not talking about doing something that the other doesn’t have an interest (for example, someone watching a lot of football when the other doesn’t care about football), but things that really upset the other person?
The same principle works with God – the relationship between God and his people is, after all, described in marital terms. How strong is our relationship with him going to be if we continuously do things that displease him? On a more positive note, doing things that please him can only be good for the relationship!
You’ve probably heard the phrase, a ‘labour of love’. In one sense, the Christian life is like that. To be saved by God, we only have to believe in his Son, but to grow in relationship with him, that takes a bit of work. That’s why Paul talks about perservering; realistically, there’s a lot coming against us that’s trying to break down that relationship. We have to keep going.
But the good thing is that in all this talk of purpose and perseverance, God is not absent. It’s a relationship between two beings. If we let him, God will speak to us, guide us and answer prayers to help us in our relationship with him. He also strengthens us, enabling us to persevere (Philippians 4:13). The great thing is that the more we persevere with God, the more we’re able to identify his love and support in return, and we can grow closer and closer to him.
I don’t want to be naïve here. There’ll be set backs. Jesus and the apostles all experienced different forms of persecution, so it shouldn’t surprise us if we face our own problems, big or small. The key thing is that if we always know our purpose, if we’re always aware of the goal, then we can hang on to God, however distant he feels, in the confidence that our relationship with him will be restored.
Now I come to that part of the post where I look at how this aspect links with the other four.
Purity – Purpose in our Christian lives gives us a reason to pursue the purity that God desires. At the centre of our faith is the idea that Jesus made us pure, and in the life beyond that first moment of salvation, the New Testament writers (especially James, in James 2) make it clear that that faith needs to be backed up by the proof of our lives. With a clear knowledge of the purpose of our lives, we can start to see why this is important, and see it in terms of the two-way relationship that it is, rather than God just handing us rules.
Physical – I spoke about this more in the …Physical post, but a big part of the goal of Christianity is physical perfection as well, i.e. the completion and restoration of the physical world, including our bodies and the earth itself. With that in mind, part of our purpose as Christians now is to show the world the kingdom of God in any way we can, and one way we can do that is by helping people’s physical needs, showing them what God’s world will be like in the future.
Emotional – An emotional connection with God is really important in understanding our purpose, as this allows our relationship with him to be deeper and more meaningful. Also, if we are aware of the emotional highs of being in relationship with God, then I believe that it will be easier to enthusiastically share about our relationship with others, something that all Christians are commanded to do.
Intelligent – Understanding the Word of God will help us to be confident in our knowledge of the purpose that we have been given. The more we understand what it is that God wants us, where we’re headed, and why this is the case, the better we’ll be able to see what God’s will for our lives is, and the more we’ll be able to work out whether an idea we have regarding our Christian lives is from God or just from our own minds.