alpha-omega

As entry into conversation a person may ask, “So, are you keeping busy?” Whenever someone says that to me, I reply with the answer I heard from David Mays when I once asked that of him: “I’m an American aren’t I?” He did not have doubts about his citizenship. By that, he was identifying this cultural ailment which all suffer. We all do a lot. There is never a lack of something which to be occupied.

In the church we keep busy. Our schedules are brimming. The church calendar rarely lacks something to do. However, it is always helpful to step back, every so often, to think about the purpose of it all. What are we aiming? What is the goal? What is the end?

These thoughts are sparked from the end of Dallas Willard’s book Hearing God.(1) He challenges his own thesis by asking those same “purpose” questions. He makes the case that a personal God can have personal communication with a person. However, he challenges the motive of why a person may seek to hear from God. He concludes that a perspective of a larger life of a certain kind, namely the kingdom of God, is the only thing that provides the point to whatever means we are engaged. Whether a person is attempting to hear God, printing the bulletin, or planning a Sunday school craft, each is merely the means to an end. The end is living life in the kingdom of God, a life with God and for God.

Willard illustrates the substance of this means-and-end mindset by relating a story about John Wesley. The Methodist founder was once asked, “I hear that you preach to a great number of people every night and morning. Pray what would you do with them? Whither would you lead them? What religion do you preach? What is it good for?” Pretty good questions for unearthing purpose. Here was Wesley’s response:

“I do preach to as many as desire to hear, every night and morning. You ask, what I would do with them: I would make them virtuous and happy, easy in themselves and useful to others. Whither would I lead them? To heaven; to God the Judge, the lover of all, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant. What religion do I preach? The religion of love; the law of kindness brought to light by the gospel. What is this good for? To make all who receive it enjoy God and themselves: to make them all like God; lovers of all; contented in their lives; and crying out at their death, in calm assurance, ‘O grace, where is thy victory! Thanks be unto God, who giveth me the victory, through my Lord Jesus Christ.’”

God is the end of our work. And not God-to-get, but God himself, in order that we might enjoy him and his creation and life under his rule. God is Jesus Christ. Jesus said he came to give us life. Willard concludes this section I referenced by saying, “He came to show us how through reliance on him we can best live in the universe as it really is. That is why he said, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (Jn 10:10). His should supremacy lies in the greatness of the life he gives to us.”(2) As busy as we are, may the work that we do be drenched in the reality of Jesus’ life. It is why he came and should be the end, the aim, of our work.

  1. Christ Still Fascinates Us
  2. The Critical Question for Our Generation
  3. Jesus the Divine Word
1 Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, Downers Grove: IVP, 1999, 211-212.
2 Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, Downers Grove: IVP, 1999, 212.
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