Saturday, October 7, 2017

God's Plan For Spiritual Growth Is For You To Grab Hold Of His Purpose For Your Life

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Matthew 28:6-7 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”


It was not to long ago that I had been running my first half-marathon. I had set some personal goals and had some friends who were in the race with me. The course was well marked and I had everything I needed to do a good race. All was going well until the last turn. I was getting tired and another race was being conducted at the same time as the half-marathon. The runners of the other race were returning from having completed a turn-around on their course. In my confusion, I mistook the runners of the other race with those in the half-marathon and ended up missing the final turn. Before it was all said and done, I ran an extra mile out of my way! Even though I still finished with an o.k time - imagine how much better I would had finished if I had not gotten distracted by the other race.

Understanding God's Purpose For The Christian Life Is Essential To Following His Prescribed Path To Spiritual Growth

When it comes to the path to spiritual Christian growth, many followers of Jesus Christ find themselves getting off the well-marked path. There are so many distractions in our world and numerous things that the enemy of our soul uses to discourage our spiritual growth. Oftentimes, the Christian's lack of spiritual growth can be due to their own inattentiveness to prayer, daily Bible study and other spiritual disciplines. 

God's Word certainly cannot be faulted, since the entirety of sacred scripture was revealed to thoroughly equip God's people for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:17). What is involved in the path to Christian spiritual growth? When I look at that word "path", the first letter of that word - "p" - brings to my mind the term "purpose". 

Whenever we consider where to look when discerning the path to spiritual growth in Jesus Christ, the go-to text is none other than Matthew 28:18-20. This passage is what is referred to as "the great commission". Matthew 28:18-20 is Jesus' final instructions to His disciples and really, the church, prior to His ascension into Heaven. Jesus states the following in Matthew 28:18-20 

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This passage ought to be familiar to anyone who reads the Bible or to those desiring to know the central truths about Jesus' ministry. The context that comes before these verses give the pathway of spiritual growth mentioned earlier. As I already stated, one's purpose is essential when understanding what it means to grow spiritually in Jesus Christ. 

What Exactly Is Meant By The Term "Purpose"?

When one backs up to Matthew 28:6, we find the women gathered at the doorway of the empty tomb. Jesus has just risen from the dead and the angels are instructing them on what they need to do next. The whole narrative of Matthew 28:6-17 is about getting the women and the disciples to go meet Jesus at a designated mountain in Galilee. In Matthew 28:7 the angel tells the women: "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” Later on, the post-resurrected Jesus meets the women in their hastening to the disciples and says the following to them in Matthew 28:10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.” It is then in Matthew 28:16 we behold the disciples and the women reaching the designated destination: "But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated."

Whenever we consider the above verses, it is very clear that the purpose of God had been laid out for the disciples. Whenever I use the term "purpose" as so described here, I'm referring to "God's designated destination". In everyday life we can understand the place of "purpose". Although a purpose speaks of the end of a process or a journey, nevertheless we typically consider the "purpose" of something at the beginning of our planning. When going on a trip, we want to know the "designated destination", that is - the address or the city. I know when I'm preparing a sermon to be preached on a given Sunday, the conclusion or purpose of the message is planned first. Why? If I don't know the "designated destination" of the message, then I won't know how to begin it. 

Clearly the place that the angels and Jesus had told the women and the disciples to go was a "designated place" (see Matthew 28:16). Below is a picture of Mount Tabor (source, wikimedia commons),  the place speculated to be the spot where the post-resurrected Jesus has the disciples to come and meet with Him.

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If this mountain, or one like it in Northern Israel, was the spot where the disciples went, there is no doubt concerning its distinctiveness. The mountain is clearly observed in comparison to the surrounding geography. I'm sure climbing a mountain such as the one in the photograph would not be easy. Do you realize that whenever a Christian makes the effort to trust God and follow His purposes, its never easy. Despite whatever difficulties come, following God's purposes is always worth it! 

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