Accomplishing Our Purpose

Accomplishing Our Purpose

When the Lord came to earth to dwell among us, He had a very specific purpose. Born in Bethlehem, Jesus came with the mission to teach us of the Father, to do mighty works, to rescue us from sin, to free us from all bondage of the enemy, and to make us one with Himself.

That kind of mission sounds like it would be received favorably by everyone, but that is not the case—not then and not now.  

Why is that?  Why do people reject Jesus and His Kingdom? The spirit of the anti-Christ is the spirit of this world. When Jesus came to earth, He invaded Satan’s dominion.  That is why every other religion is tolerated in this world and the Name of Jesus is used as a curse word. Jesus came to set us free from the works of Satan: death, disease, hatred, strife, and darkness.

Despite all the deadly obstacles thrown at Him by man and by Satan, Jesus was nevertheless able to accomplish His purpose. He gave us eternal life, a new glorified body, and a kingdom absent of sin.  He was victorious over Satan, but the opposition has not ceased in tempting every soul to reject the saving grace purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross and to choose the lies of a paradise in Hell.

We see this evil opposition at the very outset of Jesus’ birth as Satan spreads fear among his strongholds.

Matthew 2:1-3 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

Israel’s ruler, King Herod, immediately felt threatened by the news. He understood that anyone identified as a “King of the Jews” was somebody the people would place their hopes in. That meant they would be turned off from the existing political system that kept Herod in power.

Yet Herod wasn’t the only one disturbed: “...and all Jerusalem with him”. Jerusalem is the religious center of the Jewish people. They felt threatened, too. They were satisfied with the dead, superficial, religious system devised by their leaders. They preferred living in darkness to walking in the light. They were people who acted religious, but they rejected the power that could make them godly. This evil religious spirit continues to affect people today.

2 Timothy 3:1-5  But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

It seems the whole world was disturbed by the idea of a Savior who had the majesty, glory, and power to change people through His love. They were determined to stamp out every remnant and residue of the light of Christ’s gospel as they screamed, “Crucify Him!”

We live in a world a lot like the one Jesus entered two thousand years ago. Many are still disturbed over Jesus and are determined to stamp out the light of Christ’s gospel.

According to virtually every news source today, almost everyone in America is disturbed by the Name of Jesus. In recent years, school administrators, the national media, and even the White House have reacted strongly— and negatively — to the public mention of Jesus’ name. This shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus foretold, that as the day of His return draws near, “the love of most will grow cold”.

Matthew 24:12-13 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

For years, Christians have been aware of what has been called the war on Christmas. Manger scenes have been removed from public spaces and schools no longer hold Christmas pageants. At a public school in the northeast, teachers recently took their students caroling but used substitute phrases for all references to Jesus. That’s like throwing a birthday party for someone without acknowledging their presence at the event. It’s all about cakes and hats while ignoring the person it’s meant to celebrate!

Actually, the Church started this war. Every year in late December, pagans celebrated the winter solstice and worshipped their various deities (depending on the culture). Most of our Christmas traditions and decorations have their origin from these pagan religions. To provide an alternative to these pagan celebrations, the Church instituted a celebration, a mass, for the birth of Jesus called Christmas. In western cultures, this substitution was somewhat successful, but the revelry, traditions, and superstitions continued and are still with us today. Now the spirit of the anti-Christ is gaining momentum to outlaw Christmas and re-institute the pagan celebrations.

The growing animosity toward Christ and Christmas has become personal. Is it insensitive and offensive to say “Merry Christmas”? What worries me is that I find myself tempted to offer a simple “Happy Holidays” instead. But, I must decide which side of this battle I am on. Although I don’t participate in the traditions of Christmas, I purposely say “Merry Christmas” in my greetings at this time of year to acknowledge Jesus Christ.

In other recent examples, a national Christian children’s hospital submitted a commercial to a TV sports network, and the network refused to air it unless they removed the name “Jesus” from the ad. There was also a controversy involving the patriarch on the popular Duck Dynasty TV show. People called for his firing because he said the Bible doesn’t condone homosexuality. By merely quoting Scripture, he was called a bigot, a homophobe, and a hate-monger.

I realize these persecutions are minor compared to those suffered by Christians in other countries. In Iraq and in other places, Christians have recently been crucified and beheaded by Muslims. Yet, I can assure you that very soon things will become worse for the church in America. This year, pastors in Houston risked criminal charges for refusing to submit their sermons to the mayor’s office. She wanted to determine whether evangelical ministers were speaking against the pro-gay bill she introduced.

This issue reaches all the way to the White House. A well-known evangelist, Rick Warren, was asked to offer the prayer at the 2012 Inauguration, but the invitation was rescinded when it was learned he had preached that homosexuality is a sin. It’s as if our government is saying, “You’re not welcome in our “tolerant” society. We’ll tolerate everything except Christians stating their beliefs.”

Jesus makes it clear that hard times are coming, and we need to know this and be prepared. However, as we see these things coming, we don’t need to fear. The only thing we need to fear is living in fear—cowering and retreating from the glorious Gospel that Jesus has equipped us to share with others. We must accomplish our purpose.

The truth is: persecution will always grow worse, because the Gospel keeps frustrating those who walk in darkness. When God subverts their anti-Christ efforts, and that just makes them angrier. So what do we do?

Revelation 22:11-12 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."  "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.

Jesus is prescribing our response to the world as it grows filthier and angrier toward us.  He is saying, “Don’t focus on those who do evil. Focus on me and living righteously.”  The day is coming when Jesus will reward everyone for what they have done.

Remember His promise to us: Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I emphasize this because not many Christians seem willing to rejoice over being persecuted without fighting back. And when it seems the church is losing ground, fear creeps in rather than faith. Unfortunately, reacting out of fear does not accomplish our purpose. It makes us act like Herod and all Jerusalem, and it only builds more contention. It detracts us from accomplishing our purpose.

Luke 12:4-5 "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Therefore, let Herod be furious—let the whole world be furious—but let your own heart be ruled by the love of Jesus Christ! All our power rests in His love, abiding in us, by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the power of our witness is in sharing His Word with love and mercy, and in living holy amidst a corrupt generation.

This witness will cause those in darkness to notice the light, and some will say, “I want the peace and joy those people seem to have in these troubling times. I want to know their God.”

You see, the devil isn’t just making the world more furious at us. He’s trying to make us as furious as the world is. He wants us to behave like him instead of Jesus Christ. He wants us to believe we can resist assaults of persecution rather than endure them for the Gospel’s sake. In the process, he seeks to replace our love and deep peace in Christ with hate and contentiousness.

I admit I’ve fallen prey to this temptation. When I retaliated, I felt the peace of God’s Spirit seeping out of me. I realized I had to stop what I was doing and pray.

Why? It wasn’t because I’m afraid of the unbelievers and evil doers; I’m not. What I fear is losing the Spirit of Jesus. This can happen to anyone who gives in to temptation to battle the world with worldly weapons instead of prayer. Prayer is our weapon!

2 Cor 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

To win the culture war, we must pray and speak the truth in love. If we’re not careful to fight with the weapons of God instead of the world’s, our participation in this war will drain us of all the salt and light Christ has given us to accomplish His purpose. Instead of representing Christ, we will be doing the work of Satan.

I know we think our anger is a holy anger. If anyone had a right to be outraged, it was Jesus. Think of the horrific genocide that took place in Israel when He was born and follow His example.

Matthew 2:16-18 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:  "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

Jesus grew up in a culture where there were few boys His age because many of them had been slaughtered. When Christ became a man, He could have said, “Herod will pay for what he did. He killed my Jewish brothers, so now I’ll bring him down.”

However, our Lord didn’t do that. Instead, He accomplished His purpose. He set about proclaiming good news—healing the sick, performing miracles, even raising the dead. In short, He kept about His Father’s business. Even when Herod Antipas sought to kill him, Jesus kept His focus on His purpose. Some Pharisees warned Him, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!” Listen to Christ’s profound reply.

Luke 13:32-33 He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'  In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! 

Foxes are a deadly menace to sheep, chickens, and livestock, coming to kill, steal, and devour. Jesus identified Herod as just that kind of menace. Yet, even then, He didn’t do battle with the king. Instead, He added resolutely: “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day”.

He was saying: “I will keep on doing exactly as I’m doing. I’ll heal the sick, cast out demons, and multiply loaves and fishes to feed the hungry. And I won’t be distracted by persecution, no matter how bad it gets. So, go ahead and threaten me, and the church that comes after me. I will keep on healing, saving, and delivering—and my Word will triumph over all. I will choose the time and place of my death and it will accomplish my purpose—to set every captive free.”

Let Jesus’ purpose saturate our hearts completely. Let the world continue on its dark path. Don’t be distracted when they outlaw manger scenes from public property. That won’t stop our powerful Savior from seeing His mission fulfilled! I’ve never heard of someone coming to Christ through a public manger scene, but I know scores who have been won by His love shown through members of His Church. That is why our purpose is to obey the greatest commandment.

Matt 22:35-40 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Filled with love for God and people from the Holy Spirit, our purpose is to focus on Jesus, His Word, and to the great commission He gave us. Jesus told us what to do and how we are to respond to the spirit of the anti-Christ. In spite of persecution, Jesus is in control and He is with us to the very end.

Matt 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I recently read an insightful story that serves as a good illustration of accomplishing our purpose. The story is about a group of climbers who set out to scale a large mountain in Europe. The view boasted a breathtaking peak of snowcapped rocks. On clear days the crested point reigned as king on the horizon. Its white tip jutted into the blue sky inviting admiration and offering inspiration. On days like this the hikers made the greatest progress. The peak stood above them like a compelling goal. Eyes were called upward. The walk was brisk. The cooperation was unselfish. Though many, they climbed as one, all looking to the same summit.

However, on some days, the peak of the mountain was hidden from view. The cloud covering would block the vision of the mountaintop. On these days the climb became arduous. Eyes were downward and thoughts inward. The goal was obscured. Tempers were short. Weariness was an uninvited companion. Complaints stung like thorns on the trail.

We’re like that, aren’t we? As long as we can see our Lord, as long as our goal is within eyesight, there is no mountain we can’t climb or summit we can’t scale. But take away our vision, distract us from focusing on Jesus Christ, and the result is discouraging if not disastrous.

I remind you: godless, socialist political systems have not been successful in destroying the church. The church is purified and grows under persecution. As socialism takes away our freedoms in America, the true church will continue to accomplish its purpose, for the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

Therefore, let us keep our eyes on Jesus and not on the evil of the world. Even if the darkness around us makes it difficult to see Him and believe He is in control, remember His Words—read the Bible. His Word will come to pass. In the meantime, encourage one another to accomplish our purpose, which is simply and profoundly, to love God and to love people and to make disciples of Christ.