“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
Today begin by reading John 15. Then let’s start with a quiz: What is the ultimate purpose of life? Is it to serve God well? Win souls and evangelize the world? To be holy, Christlike? To glorify God? To worship God?
Would you exclude me from the fold of orthodoxy if I said none of the above? Oh, to be sure, we are called to pursue all the above, but is there no ultimate goal, no integrating purpose? Most of us seem to act as if the one we chose to concentrate on is the ultimate, the integrating purpose of life. And our choice is often influenced by the most recent religious trend. Think about it …
Historically, the natural tendency of Christians seems to have been to make service to God the chief end, the purpose of human existence. Christ himself came to do the Father’s work, didn’t he? (Jn 5:19). In light of the final denouement, said Paul, work very hard. In fact, always abound in the work of the Lord (I Cor 15.58). The Reformers broadened the narrower focus of “the work of the Lord” to include every vocation as God’s work and from that came what was to be called the “Protestant work ethic.”
But the “work of the Lord” was narrowed again, especially in America with the advent of the great evangelists from Finney on through Moody to Graham. The ultimate goal is to win people to Christ. And in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, a large segment of the church said, “Not just any lost souls, but primarily those who have never heard the gospel.” So the greatest missionary movement of church history was born. Since God so loved the whole world that he gave his son, we ought to be about doing the same – giving ourselves, our sons and daughters to reach the whole world. If world-wide redemption is God’s purpose and we are his chosen means to accomplish that, how can anything other than world missions be paramount, the chief purpose at least of the church?
Some have been uneasy with that definition of “ultimate purpose” and have pointed out that it isn’t so much what we do as who we are, what we become. Isn’t being holy, becoming like Christ the focus of the Epistles? That goal, among Protestants, gave birth, in the 17th and 18th centuries, to pietism, in the 19th century to the holiness movements with their “higher” (or “deeper”) life teaching and in the 20th century to the emphases of some Pentecostal and Charismatic groups. Being godly, that’s what life is about – so they say. But there is more to life than this, and we will consider it over the next few days. Take a few minutes and consider how you live- what you consciously or unconsciously prioritize as your integrating purpose of life.