Credo Friday resumes with the second part of my post about our TELOS. I used to believe in “all this and heaven when we’re done.” I don’t think that’s what all this is about anymore… (pare ONE is HERE.)
There comes a point in our lives when we realize the clock is ticking and we don’t know how much longer it’s going to run. We start to ask the angsty questions John Mayer sang about in Why Georgia? “Am I living it right?”. What am I here for? What am I supposed to be doing? What is the purpose of my life? Questions about what all this is about.
My wife, Donna and I were in a church conference meeting with several hundred Christians and a couple big name pastor/speaker types. During one afternoon session the big name pastor speaker was talking about finding your purpose, living out the dream God gave you. He went around the crowd and asked people what they dreamt of being when they were kids: Firemen, Astronaut, Doctor, Pop singer…
It was all going along nicely until he came to the next woman who stood up and said that her dream was to become a secretary.
“A secretary? You must have had a bigger dream than that?” Uncomfortable silence. Suddenly we were in the awkward moment the big name guest speaker was arguing with the nice lady about the quality and importance of her dream.
There’s a want inside of us to feel like our time in this life has had meaning, purpose, and significance. We can do a lot of stuff and try a lot of things and still find that itch inside of us…that fear we’ve missed something…that nagging anxiety that we never really discovered our purpose on the planet.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” He described our experience of being hungry for something we can’t quite name as an example of this inner longing for something we can’t quite put our proverbial fingers on. There are so many ultimate meaning things we can turn to, do turn to, and pursue to our ultimate dissatisfaction. At each new age and stage we find ourselves once again back to the same question – what are we here for? What is all – this – about?
I’m about to tell you the answer to that question. Having the answer will NOT satisfy that itch. The only way you can discover if what I am about to tell you is true or not, fact or fiction, is to actually do it. The only meaning the answer has is whether or not you give it a try. Here it is – ready? To become like Jesus in your way and in your day and live like him for as long or as little as you have.
There are a couple versions of this story. One version has us making the world a better and better place until it finally becomes heaven on earth. We “take the 7 hills” (or at least one of them) for Jesus and we bring his rule into the world by “being the head and not the tail.” Or something like that. The second version, and I’ll tip my hand and let you know I think this is the right version, is that we live as a community of kindness, an outpost of heaven on hostile soil, demonstrating the rule of God to an unruly world. Those who have ears to hear, groove to the music we’re playing and decide to join the band and play along. But a bunch of people will just shake their head because they don’t get it. Eventually, in this version, God keeps turning up the volume until his song of love is all we can hear.
Or something like that.
But our part in the story, what we’re about, where we are headed – is to look like Jesus in our way and in our day.
Let me take you back to the beginning of our story…let’s start at the Beginning beginning…back to Genesis and our story of Creation.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
The image of God – all of us together, not just each person. It’s not so much a cookie cutter or duplicator, it’s about the collective us being a mosaic manifestation – a window and a reflection – of what God is really like. God’s visible representatives on the earth. Agents acting on God’s behalf to do the works of God in the way of God with the words of God.
We’re here to be a billion imitations of Jesus so people can look at us and say, “O, that’s what God is like.”
And what is God like?
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command…” Heb 1:1-3
God says: “Let me take the guess work out of this for you…JESUS…JESUS is what God looks like. Done. Period. The quest is over.” Jesus is the perfect image of God AND Man. And you and I are here to be a billion little imitations of Jesus. Not KNOCK-OFFS- not variations or “inspired bys” but injected with the Spirit DNA of the original at our new birth, and shaped by the Spirit of God working in our lives from the inside out.
This was a huge turning point in my own story – reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John one after the other one summer after I graduated from high school – I came face to face with this – If THAT’S what God is like, I have not been following him. If THAT’S what God is like, I have not known him. If THAT’S who Jesus is, I have been worshiping a version of Jesus, but not the one the Gospel reveals. And we tend to become like that which we worship.
Here is what our common Story tells us about the TELOS…
“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as .we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Co 3:18
“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” 1 Co 11:1
“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Ro 8:29
“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” Eph 4:15
It’s all right there in the text. Become more like Jesus, not “get to heaven,” not “build a mega-anything,” not “behave yourself.”
Are you more like Jesus today than you were a year ago? Ask your spouse, best friend, kids – better yet, ask someone who can’t stand you. This is what God’s perfect plan for your life looks like – to form you and me to be more and more like Jesus so that when people experience us they will say, “That’s what God looks like.”
People, looking at the Church (us): “That’s what God looks like?”
God (to the Church): “You don’t look like me and the world thinks I look like you.”
The Old Testament prophets – the major leaguers and the minor leaguers: “this is – why God’s judgement is coming on you people of God – I have chosen you to reveal to people what I am like and you are misleading people. I have to put a stop to that because I want everyone to know what I am really like.”
Currently we’re experiencing this in our day as conservative politics and the Church have become tied together…and we’re once again in danger of a whole generation saying, “THAT’S what God is like? I’m out…”
I’ve come to believe that – my credo has become – the purpose of all this, our raison d’etre, our TELOS, is to be transformed by the Spirit to bear the image of God, which always looks like Jesus, in our way and in our day. This is the orientation to our “purpose compass.” Anything else we pursue, anything else we seek to build or do as the Church will end up hopelessly off course if we ignore or neglect this critical understanding of our Story.