Dynamics of Christian Spirituality - Lesson 7
Discovering Purpose and Meaning
The Christian life involves connecting, becoming and doing. We discover meaning in life by aligning ourselves with God’s call to steward creation, evangelize the nations, and build his kingdom.
Discovering Purpose and Meaning
Discovering Purpose and Meaning
A. Review and introduction: We were created for joyful participation in God’s work in the world, but sin has made our existence seem futile. By his Spirit, Christ is rebuilding purpose and meaning into our lives.
B. The importance of vocation: The Christian life as connecting, becoming and doing
C. The consistent biblical pattern: Examples from the biographies of Moses, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul
D. The gift of commission (Klauss Bockmuehl)
E. Here is where we belong: Authentic Christian spirituality follows the pattern of the incarnation - it becomes flesh. Vocation is following the heart of God into the world.
F. The problem of meaninglessness
G. The human search for meaning: "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any "how." (Victor Frank)
H. Ultimately, it's not about us (John 4:34)
I. Dimensions of purpose in life: Ways to glorify God
1. The creational mandate (Gen. 1-2)
2. The evangelistic mandate (Matt. 28)
3. Building the kingdom (Matt. 6)
J. Help beyond ourselves (Phil. 4:13, John 15)
K. Hearts in sync with the heart of God: Knowing God = participation in the divine disposition
L. Some helpful guides: Augustine of Hippo (354-430), John Bunyan (1628-88) and Rick Warren
M. Summary - The Christian life involves connecting, becoming and doing. We have begun our study of the vocational dynamic of Christian spirituality—God’s gracious solution to the apparent futility of human existence. It is an incredible gift to be called to purposeful living and to contribute to a cause greater than ourselves. We discover meaning in life by aligning ourselves with God’s call to steward creation, evangelize the nations, and build his kingdom. The spiritual life is one that is self-given to the greater movement of God’s will.
The modern way of life has left the human spirit unsatisfied. Though organized religion has been found deficient, real Spirit-uality remains God’s gracious provision for the soul-hunger of every age. We have introduced a framework for understanding such spirituality – one that highlights its three essential dynamics.
It is within the narrative of scripture that we continue to live and move. We are interested in the quality of spirituality that characterized the countless saints who have pursued God down through the centuries. Their legacy is not infallible, but it is instructive and potentially very helpful.
We were created for community, but our sin has produced alienation. By his Spirit, Christ is restoring our intimacy with God and others.
The first dynamic of Christian spirituality is relational— friendship with God and the experience of community.
We have become image-bearers who sin, and worse than that, we carry about in us a disposition to sin. The gospel is the good news that our sinful thoughts and actions can be forgiven through the atoning work of Christ. God’s Spirit, who now resides in us, is also fixing the polluted source of ours sins.
God’s saving plan is to change us into persons who are both holy and whole.
The Christian life involves connecting, becoming and doing. We discover meaning in life by aligning ourselves with God’s call to steward creation, evangelize the nations, and build his kingdom.
The ability to discern our personal vocation in life is important. What we do with our lives is an essential element of true spirituality.
Each of us should seek to live a Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life characterized all three dynamics of Christian spirituality: relational, transformational and vocational. We should conscientiously incorporate all three into our prayer lives as well.
Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning (Dallas Willard). We are as spiritual as we want to be (A. W. Tozer).
- Gain insights into the ache of yearning and the reality of Christian life, and learn about the hope of Christian spirituality, which is sustained by the power of the Spirit, the foundation of the Lord's Prayer, and the authenticity of Christian spirituality.
If you are familiar with the author's A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality: Three Dimensions of Life with God, you will have a good idea of what is in this course.
The course is designed for those who are at the beginning stages of the spiritual journey. It talks about the dynamics of spiritual growth, how to grow to be more like Christ. (10:50)
Dr. Glen Scorgie
Dynamics of Christian Spirituality
Discovering Purpose and Meaning
Welcome now to lecture seven In our Course Dynamics of Christian Spirituality, A Theology of Prayer and the Christian Life. We have been working with a definition of Christian spirituality or of the Christian life, which we view as the same thing, that Christian spirituality is a spirit enabled relationship with the triune God that results in openness to others, healing progress toward Christ, likeness and willing participation in God's purposes in the world. As such, we have been noting that there are three essential dynamics to Christian spirituality. There's a relational dynamic that involves our relationships to God and to one another and to the created order. In the last two lectures, we took a closer look at the second of those dynamics the transformational dynamic which concerns the renewal of holiness within us and the healing of our wounds. And here we transition to the third of these three dynamics, the vocational this is the area of Christ working through us. We were created for joyful participation in God's work in the world. But sin has made our lives seem futile, meaningless. The good news is that by his spirit, Christ is rebuilding purpose and meaning into our lives. And so the title for this seventh lecture is Discovering Purpose and Meaning. And our key verse for this particular section is John 434 where Jesus says, My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Let's pray as we launch into the vocational dynamic. Lord. May the words of my mouth. And the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight and nourishing to our needy souls.
[00:03:10] Thank you for the truths we can claim here today. Amen. Crowds of tourists with guidebooks and cameras continually pass through the ruins of Rome's ancient forum. We were among them one day in Italy as we started out from the Colosseum and headed down past the arch of Titus into the center of things. We passed derelict, what would you call them? Pagan temples, the chambers of the Senate, and the mammoth, tiny prison where the Apostle Peter may have languished before his execution. And like everyone else, we eventually climbed back out and up to modern Capitol Hill at the North End with its regal statue of a mounted Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius the philosopher Caesar. Now, this basin of rubble that I have been describing was once the center of a mighty sprawling empire. Clusters of toga clad orators, lawyers and generals laughed and whispered Here. Caesar's lived on the ridge, and the Vestal virgins stood between the columns of their temple at sunset. Laws were passed here, military plans were approved, and the fate of millions was decided on this spot. But today. Grass grows over former imperial beauty and fragments of marble columns now litter the ground. These conditions tell us clearly that something catastrophic happened on this very site. The disaster, at least the first phase of it we know, began in the early four hundreds A.D. with the invasions of barbaric peoples attacking once invincible Rome and in the nearby Colosseum, Christians were once martyred as a coarse kind of entertainment for the pagan masses. But Christian fortunes eventually reversed with Emperor Constantine's change of heart, just as the Ark of the Covenant once made the inferior idol of the Philistines crash on the floor of its temple. So the cross the Christians believed the cross of Christ had triumphed over all the gods of Rome, and from now on the Christians assumed the advance of their Savior's cause in the world would be joined with the success of Rome.
[00:06:37] Well, the attack upon their great city, the plundering of everything it had shook the Roman Christians world view. For they had invested heavily too heavily. As it turned out, in a system that had now collapsed. Instead of blessing Rome, God appeared to have abandoned it. It made no sense that God would allow what they were calling the Eternal City to be treated like this. The Christians were in shock and their faith was in crisis. They had assumed that history was advancing according to God's purposes, but now doubt reared its poisonous head like a snake. If God was not in control and he appeared not to be, then perhaps history had no meaning at all. Could it be that the disciples of the pagan Epicurus had been right? Everyone should just eat and get drunk and be happy for tomorrow. They would all die anyway, all for guidance. The Christians turned to August and one of their leaders who lived on the African side of the Mediterranean Sea help us make some sense out of everything that is happening. They pleaded, and the Augustine responded by writing what became the city of God. It was a massive book that offered the bewildered Christians a meaning making perspective on the catastrophic events they were experiencing. The most important thing Augustine did was assure them that history was still being directed by God. Things were not pointless. They were not chaotic. They were unfolding rather beneath an intact canopy or roof of meaning. Augustine's key idea was that there are actually two cities or communities under construction at any given time in the world. There's the city of man and the city of God. Now the first is of the Earth, and its characteristic feature is this It's dominated by the love of self.
[00:09:45] The other is heavenly and characterized by love for God. One is doomed. The other is destined for glory. But the complicating factor is that these two cities are interwoven, as it were, in this present passing world and mingled with one another. Those are Augustine's words. And as he explained further, the City of God through the ages, has been developing not in the light but in the shadow. He meant kind of secretly below the radar. Yet, despite its obscurity, God's principal interest lies in this second great construction enterprise. And unlike Rome, it is indestructible. Augustine's assurance to the Christians of his day and the legacy. He leaves to us is this truth that upheavals of human civilizations and nations. Do not threaten the advance of God's agenda in the world, despite the surface chaos and the events that periodically engulf us. There is a design and there is a purpose to history and to our existence in it. We are to live our lives according to this fact and discover our significance by contributing to this great overarching purpose and plan of God. We are privileged to be part of something that will succeed and endure. Our labor is not in vain as we think about the three dynamics of Christian spirituality. We can say that the Christian life is about, first of all, connecting. Second, becoming and thirdly doing. And it's the doing part that we're considering here as we study the importance of vocation, our understanding of Christian spirituality finds its completion when we add this third element of self-denying participation in God's purposes in the world, the Christian life, as we have seen, is about connecting and it is about becoming, and it is also finally about doing. Christ wants to live with us, dwell in us, and work through us.
[00:13:09] And this is why vocation matters. It's interesting to listen to people today when they talk about their work. What is your vocation? Someone may be asked, and not infrequently, especially if they are younger adults, they will answer. Well, actually, I just have a job right now. You see, they're making a distinction in their minds between having a vocation and having a job. In their minds, being a medical doctor, well, that's a vocation. But just working part time at a coffee shop is usually a job. We all try and aspire toward vocations and the status and the salaries and income that go along with them. And at the other end, we endure our jobs as necessities of life. Now, this way of thinking, this way of defining a vocation hides the true and original and historic meaning of vocation. Like many Christian words, it comes from the Latin language. It comes from the word Vaccaro Which means to call historically, then or originally. Having a vocation meant that someone had been called divinely called and appointed, called by God, actually, to a particular kind of work and way of life. We each have a calling upon our lives to participate in the purposes of God, to play a role in His grand designs, to care for creation, to restore people to himself through Christ and to build his kingdom. Keep in mind those three things care for creation, restore people through Christ, and build the kingdom on Earth. We'll return to those. But God and this is very important. God has revealed Himself to be one who acts, who actually does things. Have you thought about God this way? He's a God who doesn't just sit around. Therefore, to be in God's likeness also has a doing side for.
[00:16:02] US imaging God or imitating God involves a capacity for creative work because He is the create creator. It involves delegated sovereignty over the rest of creation because he is the sovereign over creation, and it involves participating in the redemptive and kingdom building work which God is about and cares about in history. All this is addressed and fulfilled in the vocational dynamic of Christian spirituality. Now, let me give you some biblical examples. The Bible is full of stories of individuals who showed in their lives a healthy integration of all three dynamics of authentic spirituality. Take Moses. Moses met God at the burning bush. Do you remember that story? And he was changed forever. The defeated fugitive running from the law became an empowered leader. He strode confidently back into Egypt with a walking stick that could dangerously change into a snake. And he returned relentlessly demanding of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Let my people go. Consider Isaiah. He had a dramatic vision of God and saw God's magnificent holiness and glory. As the door posts shook and the place filled with smoke. The prophet was overwhelmed by his own sinfulness. But he wasn't allowed to feel sorry for himself or or wallow in his sinfulness. A heavenly being, a seraph places a hot coal burning red and hot on Isaiah's tongue to symbolize his purification from SIP. Isaiah would never be the same. And immediately he was invited to participate in the work God was doing in the world. Who will go for us? Thundered the voice of God. And Isaiah responded in the rounding out of his own spiritual experience. Here am I. Send me. We see this pattern not only in Moses, not only in Isaiah, but think of the life of Jesus himself.
[00:19:03] He was baptized in the River Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist. The relational dynamic is present as the spirit descended, as a dove from heaven, and a voice said, This is my son, whom I love. Jesus was then led into the wilderness to strengthen his character by resisting temptation. But then he returned full of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Luke says. And he launched his ministry to preach the Gospel, proclaiming freedom for sinners and release for the oppressed. One last further example. The same thing happened with Saul on the road to Damascus. The pattern is consistent. Those who encountered God and are changed by him are never permitted to remain idle. The story cannot end with just relationship and transformation. God's spirit inevitably stirs such people up to engage in useful service to find their place in the grand scheme of God's higher purposes. As Ephesians 210 says, for we are God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. We came to Regent College in Vancouver in the late 1970s. The school had just taken a bold step of faith by hiring not one but two new theologians. One was G. Packer from England. The other was a German theologian by the name of Klaus Bock Mühle, who had studied under Carl Bard in Basel, Switzerland, and still spoke with a strong German accent. We discovered Bock Mill's profound piety as we got to know him and were invited to his home. He walked with his God, invested in that relationship and spoke of the inner life. From personal experience, it was a great loss to us all when he died at mid-life of a painful cancer. But one of the things he wrote before he died was a little book entitled Living by the Gospel.
[00:22:00] The first half of the book describes the gifts we receive from the gospel, and the second half describes the duties that arise from the Gospel. The structure made sense. We were used to thinking of the Christian life this way. What Christ gives us. And what we are obliged to return to him by way of duties and responsibilities. The first part is the good news. And the second part is the not so good stuff, so to speak. But here was the amazing thing. Professor Bach will put his chapter on our calling in the gift section. He called it the gift of Commission. Why did he move the chapter over from its rightful place in the duties section? Just to give his table of contents more balance and a greater appearance of symmetry? Certainly not, No. He referred to our commission deliberately as a gift rather than a duty. He saw it like the Apostle Paul did as an incredible blessing. And he did so because our calling satisfies our deep need to be creatively useful and gives us opportunity to invest our life energy in something of significance. As a lady by the name of Margaret Selfe has said, there is more to life than the mere management of our lives to achieve comfort and security. Few gifts match the blessing of being able to give our lives to something that matters. And where will we find this? We humans. Stand between what is seen and what is unseen. We are creatures of the earth, fashioned from the earth and destined to return to it. This is the sphere. This is the region full of suffering and conflict in which we are called to do our work. Authentic Christian spirituality follows the pattern of Christ's own incarnation.
[00:24:48] It becomes flesh. Vocation is following the heart of God into the world. Unlike our grandparents, only a few of us today ever learn the classic stories of Greek mythology. In school, at least, I speak for those of us who've grown up in North America. Nevertheless, some of us have a vague recollection of the myth of Sisyphus. According to the ancient Greek writer Homer, this tragic figure, Sisyphus, had gotten on the bad side of the gods. As a result, this poor guy was blinded and doomed to push a massive rock up a mountain with no choice but to try and fulfill his assignment. He strained and grunted, grinding his heels into the flinty ground for traction. But as soon as Sisyphus neared the peak and the accomplishment of his task, the massive stone would roll back down to the bottom and he would have to start the painful effort all over again. And the cycle played out with numbing repetition and futility. On and on and on. Without end. People from many cultures have connected with this story for thousands of years because they found in it something of their own life experience. Back in the 1940s, there was an existential philosopher, a Frenchman, by the name of Albert Camus. He dusted off the ancient myth of Sisyphus to make it a metaphor for the meaninglessness of modern life. I thought about this one day while visiting the Sorbonne campus of the University of Paris. On that city's famous left bank. If you walk just a few blocks along a street near there, you come to a little café, a little restaurant where Albert Camus and fellow Frenchmen Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Bouvier and other existentialists used to hang out together. These thinkers had sadly concluded that there was no meaning in life, no overarching direction or intention for human life.
[00:28:06] This was very painful to conclude, and these people were well-acquainted with the anger and even the feeling of sickness. This realization brought with it. So since there was no meaning to be discovered in life. Their recommendation was that individuals should try to create, invent their own meaning. Camus suggested that if old Sisyphus had only learned to accept the absurdity of his rock pushing task and had resigned himself to it, he might possibly have been able to learn to enjoy his ordeal for the last half century. This way of thinking has been spreading like an oil spill throughout modernized countries. It especially grieved me to notice that the little cafe where they used to meet is located right across a cobblestone lane from the front of Paris's oldest church site. That means that Sark and Kamu huddle in the very shadow of the cross, pausing every day in their conversations until the loud church bells on that church steeple finished ringing. Yet, despite how close they were to a church, they declined to accept the purpose filled Christian vision of life as their own. It's very difficult to live life as those philosophers and people today who think like them recommend. It's impossible to live life that way, at least in any healthy or joyful way. The vocational dynamic of Christian spirituality addresses the problem of meaninglessness in life. Part of the pain and the anguish of life without God is from our inability to find meaning and purpose for our lives. The question of why bothers us ever more intensely as we get older and see our end approaching, explains are often unfulfilled longings for significance. Our restless efforts to try this and try that and run about and always looking for something more. And our frenzied workaholism where we just can't slow down.
[00:31:25] There's a simplistic kind of advice going around that we should content ourselves with just being and not worry about doing. Now, such advice is well intentioned. It's meant to turn us back from an unhealthy activism, but it's actually wrong nonetheless, for we were designed to be doers too. The invitation to contribute to something that matters, to something bigger than our individual selves. This is not a duty imposed upon us, but actually an incredible gift. It's part of what makes our lives meaningful. Viktor Frankl was a Jewish survivor of the 20th century holocaust. That was Adolf Hitler's evil effort to exterminate the Jewish race. Frankl's reflections on his experience of concentration camps were published in a now famous book, a thin little book entitled Man's Search for Meaning. In this book, Frankl reflects on the things that determined who managed to survive that awful ordeal and who did not. In most cases, it came down to the intensity of the survivors will to live and the will to live. Frankl argued, depended on whether they were able to identify some meaning for continuing to live some meaning in their ongoing existence. Four He who has a Y to live for, he concluded, in the words of the philosopher Nietzsche, He, who has a high to live for, can bear or put up with almost any. How? Most of us live lives that are cushioned from such a stark choice between life and death. But we are aware that burnout is a common phenomenon in our busy, competitive society. I recall my struggle a number of years ago with the early stages of burnout. I had given all I had to the ministry I was involved in, but my energy and enthusiasm had finally dried up. It was getting harder to sit up in the morning and swing my feet over the side of the bed.
[00:34:39] Then, on a book table at a pastor's conference, my eyes fell on the little book entitled Clergy and Laity Burnout. Burnout. I saw. I grabbed the book. I paid for it, took it back to my room and read it straight through. One statement stood out above the rest. Burnout, the author explained, is seldom the result of an excessive workload, seldom the result of having too much to do. Rather, it is caused by the loss of a sense of meaning in all the work we have to do. Well, that was me. That was exactly my problem. A sense of meaning in our lives is what keeps us moving toward the future. We find sustained energy when we are involved in something we believe really matters. Henry Squiggle, a godly Scotsman of the last century, pointed out that every human being craves a cause worth exchanging their life for. We see this theme in the life of Jesus himself. He and his disciples were traveling on foot from south to north, from Judea to Galilee, and of necessity, passed through the in-between region of the alien Samaritans. Jesus took a noon rest break, a siesta beside the town's water supply, while his disciples went to find food while they were gone. Jesus started up a conversation with the Samaritan woman, an encounter that led to her life being transformed by the time his followers came back with lunch. Jesus had lost interest in lunch. My food, Jesus explained to them, is actually to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Jesus use of the word food here is quite striking. It means that Jesus found his soul's nourishment. He found a healthy vitality and a personal intensity. From the commission he had received from his Heavenly Father.
[00:37:31] It was the same with the Apostle Paul sense of privilege in being called as an ambassador for Christ. We find real significance only as we are able to align ourselves with a goal greater than our own personal comfort and security. As my wise Professor Borromeo put it, God's call upon our lives. His invitation to play a part in his unfolding plan for history liberates us from drifting and liberates us from our natural self-centeredness, from our ego centricity, he said. Feeding our ego occupies so much of our attention, yet it is so notoriously too small a name for a human being. Too small a name for a human being. A person's creation. All design is to serve a purpose bigger than his own sustainment and survival. You see, God's call boosts us to a different higher plane of living. Rick Warren states in the very first sentence of his book, The Purpose Driven Life. It's not about You. That's just about the most countercultural thing anyone could say today. Yet this was undoubtedly part of what Jesus meant when he advised his followers on the Sermon on the Mount to seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness. And all these things will be given to you as well, for it involves us. But it is not primarily about us. Let's think a little bit about the dimensions of purpose in life. Our ultimate purpose is to glorify God and everything we do is meant to contribute to this goal. That's what we read in first Corinthians 1031. Each of us is unique and so we will end up doing different things. Nevertheless, we will all find our places in larger currents of divine purpose that carry us along. The will of God is like a mighty river, and we, like many small boats, are born along in the direction of its flow from Scripture.
[00:40:31] We detect that this waterway consists of three great causes or tasks. Participating in them gives meaning and significance to our individual lives. First, there's the creation or demand. We read about that one in Genesis two. That's the creation mandate. That's what it's called. Sometimes it's our calling to steward the earth, our calling to care for it while we responsibly manage its resources and explore and enjoy its wonders. This is a mandate or a commission or a calling that legitimizes a Christian being involved in the arts or science or medicine or art industry, or even the political sphere. Working in these areas is in no way inferior to full time Christian service, as we call it. No, it's not. And secondly, we are also called to participate in the redemptive work of God by spreading the gospel. And we get that, of course, for Matthew 28. God is constantly seeking to draw people to himself for their own good, and we have been given a role in this. Jesus called his followers to proclaim and embodied the Gospel. A good news that's more than just words, but has flesh to it. As we noted in an earlier chapter, the church is to be more than merely a herald or announcer of the church, the way the church does life together and shows compassion to the world should make our testimony believable, plausible, attractive and compelling. This is an integral part of fulfilling the evangelistic mandate to, in addition to the creation of the mandate and the evangelistic mandate. There's the third great purpose of building the kingdom, which we read about in Matthew chapter six. Thousands of people live on top of Manila's mountainous garbage dump. The smell is sickening as they root through the burning garbage for the smallest little salvage items.
[00:43:18] But this is their life. Mothers holding babies and staring vacantly ahead squat in the hot sun. At the border between Tijuana, Mexico and affluent San Diego, USA. And then their hands. These mothers hold little Styrofoam cups for donations from passers by. AIDS ravages African communities in which the main industry seems to be the manufacturing of simple coffins. A Christian family loses their teenage son to a drunk driver just weeks before his high school graduation. And they weep on the phone that they have lost their little man of God. We hear the girl next door who has a drug problem crying out from her second story bedroom balcony in the middle of the night. Infanticide is being justified in a botched partial birth abortion when the baby accidentally slips out alive. And so we pray as Jesus. Artists for his kingdom to come because it is the comprehensive solution to all of these problems. Jesus launched the rule of God in the world and by the Kingdom or the rule of God. He meant a sphere in which blessing flows from acknowledging God's Lordship in every aspect of living. And we are called to contribute to the advance of this kingdom. Our individual callings in life will express God's unique plan for each one of us, and they will match who God has made us and the abilities and inclinations we possess. But in one way or another, we will be fitting into these three great purposes of human existence. This is how we bring glory to God, and this is where we find our true selves. The authors of the Bible and also those who have imitated their faith, have always known that the challenge to live a godly life, to remain strong and resistant in the face of opposition and to be effective in advancing the kingdom.
[00:46:11] All of this exceeds our natural human resources. Jesus reminded us. Apart from me, you can do nothing. That's John 15 five. And Paul, who understood Jesus. Word of caution. Also made a wonderful discovery on the positive side. I can do all this through him. Who gives me strength? That's Philippians 413. The words of a great Christian from the fourth century, a man by the name of Hilary of Poitier. His words ring true today in response to his own calling, he prayed. If I am actually to do it, I must ask for your help and mercy. O Lord, I ask you to fill with wind the sails I have hoisted for you and to carry me forward on my course to breathe. That is your spirit into my faith and to enable me to continue. Like Hilary, we must become sailors, hoisting our sales so that the empowering wind, the very breath of God can move us forward. I have a friend who was not a Christian when he began college. One of the student organizations at the school he attended in Chicago had organized Christmas hampers or big baskets for needy families on the city's poor South Side. The large boxes contained a turkey and other Christmas foods along with candy and wrapped toys and gifts for the children. All the boxes had destinations and had all been promised for delivery by Christmas Eve. My friend Paul had agreed to assist in the distribution. One of the homes he was assigned on, a very cold and snowy night was on the third floor of a cheap apartment house. You could only get to it by climbing up three flights of rickety iron staircase bolted to the outside of the building. Well, he got all the way up, and upon knocking on the door, he was ushered into a small room in which a poor family of seven people was squeezed together.
[00:49:05] The room was hot. Humidity clouded the window panes. The father was in his undershirt. But both parents were overwhelmed with gratitude. The children's eyes lit up with anticipation. There was a touching and memorable celebration of goodwill and hope. But posts were feeling self-conscious and made his exit as quickly as he could. To this day, he believes that his Christian conversion occurred during his descent on that treacherous exterior staircase. Something happened as he steadied himself against the shaking of the metal in the frigid winter wind. He felt something he had never experienced before. For the first time in my life, he recalled. Many years later, I felt that my heart was beating in sync with the heart of God. He sensed intimacy, closeness with God. He felt God's approval. And it felt so wonderful that he was drawn into the embrace of God. From that moment on. Now I'm going to invite you to think with me and do a little careful exegesis of a text of Scripture or two all about knowing God. You know, it's one thing to know about God. It's another to know God in the sense of personal encounter with him. So much of the literature of Christian spirituality is designed to move us from mere information about God to an experience of real connection with Him. Yet I'm going to suggest something that may be a new idea, and it's this Knowing God in the fullest sense goes beyond even having an intimate relationship with him. Let me explain. If you know someone well, you have a pretty good idea how they are wired or, as we say, what makes them tick. In other words, if you know them well, you know their disposition. And if you know someone's disposition, you can predict pretty accurately how they will respond to specific events or crises or people in the future.
[00:52:09] You will be able to anticipate how they will react because you already have some idea how their sales are set now. God has a predictable character too. We could call it the Divine disposition. He is naturally predisposed to act in certain ways. He hates injustice, for example, and intervenes on behalf of people who are oppressed. He's slow to get angry. He has an extravagant capacity for love. And these qualities and others that have been revealed in Scripture make up the divine disposition. They make up God's characteristic or signature way of being and responding to events on planet Earth according to Scripture, knowing God is supposed to include. And here's an important phrase participating in the divine disposition, knowing God in the fullest sense means that we adopt His disposition as our own. What this means is that our character, our values and our conduct are to line up with his. You can check this out in Jeremiah 22, verse 16, or say Philippians 310. This may seem to us like a strangely inflated definition of knowing God, but knowing him in the fullest sense really is this holistic. It includes living according to the impulses of God's own heart. And one of the most powerful forms of union is the unity of common purpose. And this is exactly what we can experience with God when our disposition matches with His, when our disposition resonates or reflects his own. Jesus once said, I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the father knows me. And I know the father And I lay down my life for the sheep. That's in John ten versus 14 and 15. Now, it's very common in Bible studies to assume that this passage of Scripture contains two facts, but two unrelated facts.
[00:55:24] Number one, that Jesus knew the Father. And two, that he had decided to sacrifice his life on the cross. But actually, these two things are closely connected. Jesus understands that the father's disposition. There's that word again. His disposition is sacrificial love. And he knows the father in the sense that he is going to live out that same spirit of sacrificial love himself. And there's an obvious invitation here to the sheep as well, since they know Christ, they should also be prepared to give in to the same disposition that the shepherd has, which is supremely a disposition of sacrificial love. How does this work out? Well, in the next lesson, we will focus on ways to discern God's personal calling on our lives and how we can keep in step with the guiding voice of his spirit in our lifelong journey with him. Now on this matter of discovering purpose and meaning. Here are some helpful guides. The older or classic one is Augustine of Hippo, who lived from 354 to 430 A.D.. We've already mentioned him in this chapter, but here's a bit of a recap. Augustine was one of the church's most significant theologians and a profound contributor to its spirituality. We have highlighted how his vision of the City of God sustained Christian hope and purpose during a collapse of empire. But his volume entitled Confessions, has been at least as influential. This latter classic Confessions was a pioneering work in the psychological depth of its honesty and self-reflection. Its most quoted prayer is this Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you. A second helpful guide is John Bunyan, who lived from 1628 to 1688. Bunyan was an English Puritan spiritual writer, jailed more than once for his church principles.
[00:58:32] He wrote a number of books of enduring influence in the Christian world, including grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners and especially Pilgrim's Progress. This latter work probably the most celebrated example of the journey idea in Christian spiritual writing, underscores the truth that the Christian life, though difficult, is goal oriented, purposeful and worthwhile. And finally, our third helpful guide is Rick Warren. He pastors Saddleback Church in California, one of the largest Protestant churches in the United States. His two bestselling books, The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, seem to have touched a deep need in America and worldwide. Warren himself has become active in ministry to desperate people in Africa, living out the fifth thesis of his book, namely that we discover purpose in living through service to others. Now, here's a summary of what we've covered in this seventh lecture. The Christian life involves connecting, becoming and doing. In this lecture, we began our study of the vocational dynamic of Christian spirituality, which is God's gracious solution to the apparent futility of human existence. It's an incredible gift to be called to purposeful living and to contribute to a cause greater than ourselves. We discover meaning in life by aligning ourselves with God's invitation to steward the creation, evangelize the nations, and build His kingdom a spiritual life. As Evelyn Underhill has explained, is one that is self-giving to the greater movement of God's will. Knowing God in the fullest sense requires a heart that beats in sync or in harmony with his own and a willingness to follow it into the world.