Aligning Yourself With God's Purpose
You can't test God if you're not aligned with His purpose
I'm continuing with the Testing God series and have completed the second step in the process: Studying God where He is and has been. That step is fairly involved. If you've been keeping up, then you understand that it begins with the study of God's Word, the Bible. But, first, let's back up a bit.
NOTE: I’ll pause right here and say that most people, when they discuss God’s purpose, do so in speaking about God’s purpose for an individual’s life. That is, the belief is that God has a purpose for YOU. That is not what I’m talking about when I discuss God’s purpose in this series. I believe God has a single purpose for all of creation, and that’s what I’m talking about.
These are the posts I’ve published so far in this series:
Now we've come to the third step in testing God, which is aligning yourself with God's purpose.
This is an important step because it really gets to the heart of testing God. God's plan is an intricate plan, but simple in its elegance and beauty. It's absurd, but practical. It's hard to believe, but easy to put faith into. The practical wisdom for daily living it offers is easy to understand, but difficult to execute. God's purpose, for our individual lives, for our collective existence, and for all creation is the most important thing any of us should consider but is often the furthest thing from our minds. So what is it, and how do we get in on it?
NOTE: I firmly believe that if we do not understand God’s eternal purpose, then we cannot understand His purpose for our individual lives nor the very nature of the gospel.
The First Step to Aligning Ourselves With God's Purpose
Before we can align ourselves with God's purpose, we must first understand what that purpose is. If you want to travel any distance—in space or time—you've got to know two things:
Your point of origin; and
Where are you, and where do you want to go?
For instance, if you want to get from Los Angeles to New York, you've got a lot of different options. But in order to arrive at New York safely and on time, you've got to make a plan, and that plan needs to include a mode of travel and a route. If you're driving, for instance, you might decide to take the most direct route, which would require you to leave Los Angeles by I-10 E and pick up I-15 around San Bernardino. That will take you into Utah where you'll pick up I-70. Eventually, somewhere around Nebraska, you'll hop onto I-80 and it's clear sailing—except for traffic patterns and perhaps a few construction projects. You might call this exercise in using America's favorite death trap "aligning yourself with America's roadways."
Humor aside, if you want to align yourself with God's purpose, you must first understand that purpose, just as you would need to understand the network of roadways in order to make a trip from Los Angeles to New York.
Now let’s make it simple:
Ephesians 3:10-11 reads,
His purpose was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is a ton to unpack here in these two verses, and one could easily write a book about them. But I want to point out three things about these two verses as they relate to God’s eternal purpose. Those three things are:
God’s manifold wisdom is made known through the church
And to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms
But is accomplished in Jesus Christ
God’s multifaceted wisdom is made known through His church, the ekklésia, and to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms (angelic hosts), in Christ Jesus, Lord of lords and King of kings.
That, in a nutshell, is God’s eternal purpose. Everything else flows from that. So, how does one align oneself to that purpose?
How to Align Yourself With God’s Eternal Purpose
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14: 6, Berean Study Bible)
He left no doubt that the only means of entering into God’s kingdom is through the door. He is the door.
It is by recognizing that Christ is the only means by which one can enter into God’s kingdom and be saved, and by repentance of one’s sins, that one aligns oneself with God’s purpose. However, simply pausing to take a breath and acknowledging one’s bad behavior while continuing along the same course is not repentance, nor is it aligning oneself with God’s purpose. That is nothing more than pausing to take a breath.
After one has chosen to align oneself with God’s purpose, one must then demonstrate that alignment by entering into ekklésia and becoming an expression of God’s manifold wisdom. These two things, repentance and ekklésia cannot be separated. In fact, to recognize the power of the cross is to enter into the power of God’s expression of Himself on earth, which is His church, and to become a part of the church is to recognize the power of the cross. The two are inseparable. Simply attending church services won’t get you there.
Once you recognize this truth, you’ll begin to undertake different behaviors than ever before. What behaviors will those be?
How the Ekklésia Expresses God’s Manifold Wisdom
Aligning oneself with God’s purpose involves three regular activities that are not a requirement for salvation but that exhibit the fruit of one’s salvation. Another way of saying that is, once you have come to the cross and entered through the Door, which is Christ, into God’s kingdom, which is Christ and his church, you’ll begin to see a renewal of your mind and a transformation of your spirit. The evidence of this will be certain activities to which you will run, and to which you’ll look forward as often as you can enjoy them.
In essence, these three things are a part of the previous step—Studying God where He is and has been.
Study the Bible - The Bible is the most complete exposition into the mind of God that man has. It is not exhaustive, but it is comprehensive. It's a story that unveils God's plan from before the beginning (Genesis) to after the end (Revelation). A true student of God who wants to test God and reflect Christ will study the Bible as a means of knowing God more fully and more in-depthly.
Prayer - Prayer is a direct pipeline to the heart of God. It allows us to inquire of God, pursue God in the purest relational form, and, in a sense, understand God from the inside out. Just as you would converse with an old friend to learn that friend's most ardent desires and deepest expressions, conversing with God allows you to gain a deeper understanding, a more personal understanding, of God's deepest expressions. Members of the ekklésia love to pray to God, and it is through prayer that we often find ourselves to be out of alignment and in need of realignment.
Fellowship - We humans are fallible. God is not. And while it is God's purpose for each of us to know Him personally and deeply, we often fail. For that reason, it's important to fellowship regularly with other members of the ekklésia. This is necessary because all of us are at different points in the journey. Some are further along while others are just starting. Those on the path can encourage one another, teach one another, and help refine each other's understanding throughout the journey. More importantly, God’s manifold wisdom is made known through the ekklésia collectively, not through church members individually.
These three parts of studying God are essential, but prayer and fellowship with other members of the ekklésia are the most essential. I will now turn to each part and explain the necessary components of them individually.
Studying the Bible
The purpose for studying the Bible is to understand God's ultimate purpose, His eternal purpose. It is not individual salvation.
In the book of John, first chapter, we learn that in the beginning was the Word, and that Word became a man. Everything that was made was made through him. This Word was none other than Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity.
If we read a little further into the book of John, we read where Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
I encourage everyone to start with the book of John if they are new to reading the Bible. It's simple reading and gets to the heart of God's message to man very quickly. Jesus Christ is the center, the crux, of God's plan and His purpose for creation.
As you study the rest of God's word, that should become clearer to you. Through prayer and fellowship with others, it will also become clearer. If you do not understand what you are reading, I encourage you to find a more mature brother or sister in Christ and have them explain it to you. Then pray about it and ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to know about Himself.
It's an absolute necessity, in testing God, to accept His gift to you through Jesus Christ. The whole of the Bible points to Christ.
After coming to Christ, you can delve deeper into the heart of God and learn of his immense love for all of creation by moving on from pure milk to real meat.
Praying to God
There are parts of the Bible that you'll find difficult to understand. Everyone bumps into it, sooner or later. In fact, you can study the Bible all your life and not completely understand all of it. Every time I read a passage, I come away with a different, and often better, understanding of something than I ever have before.
Because the Bible is difficult to understand, if we're going to have any hope of understanding it at all, then we've got to pray about it. We must ask God to help illuminate the scriptures for us.
In John 14:26, Jesus promised his disciples that God would send the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit, or the Advocate, will "teach you all things" and "remind you of everything I have told you." In Acts, chapter 2, we read where the Holy Spirit descended upon all those who had gathered in one place. Christians call this the day of Pentecost, and it ushered in the church age. Today, when new believers express faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside them and guides them, teaches them, comforts them, and even helps them pray.
Prayer helps us understand God, but it isn't all about asking God for favors. We pray so that we have a better understanding of who God is, what His purpose is, what His plan for our lives is, and how we can better serve Him. All of that is encompassed in the task of aligning ourselves with God's purpose. Prayer helps us understand His purpose so we can align ourselves to it properly.
Fellowship With Other Believers
The Christian life is all about understanding who God is and what His plan for us is. He is perfect; we are not. Because we can often fall out of alignment, fail, stumble, go astray, or simply rebel, we need the disciplined influence of other believers in our lives to help us. God speaks to us through the Bible and through prayer, but He sometimes also speaks to us through others. In fact, He will often send us someone who can confirm what we think we are hearing in prayer or reading in scripture.
The most perfect test of God's will and purpose is when we consult all three of these resources—the Bible, prayer, and other believers—and they all agree. When that happens, you can bet that you're hearing a revelation from God.
Aligning ourselves with God's purpose begins with understanding that purpose. If you wish to do that, you must study God's word, pray to Him that He will reveal to you His true heart, and fellowship with believers in God's Son so that they can help you in your journey, encourage you, and assist you as you struggle against the powers that seek to lead you away from God.
As you seek an understanding of God's purpose, you'll begin to desire, more and more, to align yourself with it. You'll soon learn that things you once thought were important are no longer important to you and new interests arise that allow you and impel you to further learn more about your creator. It's a different kind of living, but one worth every step of the journey.
You can read the story of how I came to faith here.
What's your story? What have you learned about God and His purpose? Please share in the comments below.
Allen Taylor has been walking (and wavering) with the Lord for 28 years. He has served local churches as a Sunday school teacher, a small group leader, a worship leader, a prayer group leader, and a minister of the Word. His journey isn’t over yet, and he still needs discipling.