Created with a Purpose
We need to discover and live out God's original design for the world, humanity, and each individual.
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This is the first of a six sessions in our Living Free series. We're going to cover some foundational truths about God's purpose for our lives. Most of us are familiar with these truths, but they're still profound. They are truths that transform our lives. These truths should be the operating system of the church of Jesus Christ, but many times they are not. As a result, individual Christians, marriages, families, and churches experience far less than what God designed. God didn't design the church to live in defeat, to merely survive. God wants us to live vibrant and thriving lives. He wants us to live as more than conquerors.
In the next session, we'll talk about how Jesus, the cross, and salvation enable us to live in freedom. Then we'll talk about "One World, Two Realms"—that we live in a world comprised of two realms, which interact with one another on a regular basis. After that we're going to look at our authority as believers—the power that raised Jesus Christ from death resides in you and me. God has given us this power so that we can do the very works that Jesus Christ did in the Gospels.
We're also going to learn about strongholds. We'll talk about the word topos in Ephesians 4 and how the enemy can build strongholds in our lives. When we understand how he builds strongholds, we then understand how they can be dismantled, so that we can live in Christ's freedom. We'll also learn about different ways the enemy builds these strongholds, like generational activities—we either live under blessings or curses that are passed down generationally. We will also talk about the power of words and their effect in our lives. Just as God can operate through blessings, the enemy can work through curses. So we're also going to look at soul bondages, how the enemy operates in those situations, and how we can be released.
There will be a common theme in each session: God wants us to enjoy the fullness of his design. He wants us to enjoy the life he gives and he wants to carry out the works and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus told the disciples face to face, "As the Father sent me into the world, I now send you" (John 20:21). He also promised, "Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do." (John 14:12) We are ambassadors of Christ and we need to be equipped for advancing his kingdom. Jesus promised that when the church lives according to God's design, the gates of Hades cannot withstand it. God has designed the church to advance, to be triumphant. His kingdom is on the offense. We're going to see this as we discover that ancient city gates were not offensive weapons; gates were used as defensive weapons. God designed the church to advance, to conquer. We need to understand that God's people can move in the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
God's original design
God created us to live an amazing life with him. He is generous. He is good. He gives good and perfect gifts. When he created this world, he made a statement at the end of each day of creation. He appraised his own work. He said, "It's good." And at the end of the week, on the sixth day, he looked at Adam and Eve and said, "It's very good." I don't think God does things with mediocrity. I believe God has amazing capacities. I believe he was truly pleased with what he had done. So what was God's purpose in creating humans?
Scripture tells us that there was an intimate relationship between God and humans in the beginning. God put Adam in the garden, and he would join Adam in the evening. There was a close relationship. There was communion.
It's important that we understand love as God's most definitive quality. God doesn't just love. He is love. Love is his very essence. If you remove love from God, he ceases to be God. John said that God is spirit. God is light. God is love. We learn from Scripture that God created mankind in his image. This is an issue that scholars and theologians discuss. They ask, What does it mean when God created mankind in his image? I believe love was at the core. We see this in the New Testament. Paul speaks about faith, hope, and love, but he says the greatest of these is love. When we understand that 1 Corinthians 13 describes God, we see that love is lived for the benefit and the well-being of the beneficiary. God determines to give, and we can only imagine what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to be in an unhindered relationship with God.
God created Adam and Eve to do good works. In Genesis 2—I believe that in order to understand the Christian life, the church, and our mission, we need to understand God's plan in the beginning—we see that the Lord put Adam in the Garden of Eden, to work and to take care of it. We were created with a mission. The New Testament reinforces this. Ephesians 2:10 says God created us "in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." God planned that we would live a life of good works. He designed us to live with purpose.
Having purpose gives people life and energy. If you take away someone's purpose, all they have left is hopelessness and futility. Living with purpose is a fundamental element of God's original design. Unfortunately, many people in the world try to find their purpose apart from God, but they can't. They're trying to identify the significance of their lives. God gave us purpose in his act of creation, and we have to look at his original design in order to find our significance as created beings.
Another part of God's original design was his intention for us to live in freedom. Genesis 2:25 says, "Now, although Adam and his wife were both naked, neither of them felt any shame." Human beings were not created to live in shame or condemnation. How many of us have had moments of guilt and shame? Shame and guilt aren't part of God's original design. We experience guilt, condemnation, and shame because we have violated God's design. But God designed us to live in freedom.
In Luke 1, Gabriel visits Zechariah while he's performing his duties in the temple. Gabriel tells Zechariah that he's going to have a son. Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth, had been barren, and she was well beyond the age of childbearing. Gabriel begins to describe Zechariah's son, John the Baptist, before he was conceived. He describes what he will do and how he will have an impact on others. When you pay attention to the details Gabriel gives, you see that John was not an accident. He was created for a purpose.
You are not an accident. God designed you with a purpose. God gave your life significance. God created you to live in the freedom, joy, beauty, and holiness of his design. However, if we look at our lives, the world, and our churches, we see that something went wrong. It seems like things aren't quite what God designed them to be. When we look individuals, families, communities, nations, and churches, we see news that brings heartache and sorrow—murder, death, disease, famine, ethnic cleansings, divorce, and so forth. But this is not what God designed the world to be like.
I believe that God designed us to live lives filled with the fruit of the Spirit. How many of us could use more joy in our lives? How about more peace? More patience? Goodness? Gentleness? Kindness? Wouldn't it be nice to have more self-control? As I get older, my body shows more clearly how much I eat. It takes a while to lose excess weight. I wish I had more self-control, that I didn't have to fight battle after battle. I wish I never broke out into anger. It not only hurts me, it hurts others around me. I wish that I didn't have to work for self-control. We often lack self-control to live the way God designed us to live.
Many people have compared God's love to an artesian well that has a never-ending supply. When we experience God's love, we are filled continuously with his infinite love. We're then able to start living with others for their benefit, to see them prosper. Imagine if everyone in the world experienced God's love and lived like this. Can you imagine a world where you didn't need to look to others for significance and security, because you were confident in God's love for you?
But sin came into our world. Instead of living out of this abundance of God's love, now we live like black holes. We depend on others for significance, security, and worth. We approach our relationships, careers, and pursuits with the mindset, What can I get out of it? How can I extract what I need? instead of living in the abundance of God's self-giving love.
Sadly, our churches don't look much different from the world. We act like black holes, too, trying to extract from others what only God can give. Instead of giving out and giving away—which is what love really is—we try to take.
Why don't we live according to God's original design? Genesis 3:1-13 tells us that a transaction took place:
Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. "Really?" he asked the woman. "Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?" "Of course we may eat it," the woman told him. "It's only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die." "You won't die!" the serpent hissed. "God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil." The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves. Toward evening they heard the Lord God walking about in the garden, so they hid themselves among the trees. The Lord God called to Adam, "Where are you?" He replied, "I heard you, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked." "Who told you that you were naked?" the Lord God asked. "Have you eaten the fruit I commanded you not to eat?" "Yes," Adam admitted, "but it was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit, and I ate it." Then the Lord God asked the woman, "How could you do such a thing?" "The serpent tricked me," she replied. "That's why I ate it."
Adam and Eve disobeyed God. It seems like an innocent story, until we see the results of their action. We see that sin entered into this world. Consequently, some other things happened. First, Adam and Eve, who once had an intimate relationship with God, were separated from God. Their intimacy wasn't simply diminished a little; there was actual separation. There was a distinct break in humanity's relationship to God. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. Isaiah 59:1-2 says, "But your iniquities, your sins have made a separation between you and your God." The fundamental reason for this world's brokenness is our separation from God. The enemy deceived Adam and Eve to think that submission to God was bondage and that being insubordinate and rebellious was freedom. That lie continues to deceive people today.
Adam and Eve thought they would gain freedom by disobeying God, but instead they experienced separation and bondage. Darkness, emptiness, shame, and guilt came into their hearts.
We also see that authority over Satan was surrendered. Adam and Eve were created in God's image, and God gave them responsibility to rule over the earth, even over Satan, who was cast down to earth for his rebellion against God. But instead of ruling over the earth and everything in it, Adam and Eve handed their rule over to Satan. That's how Satan became the ruler of this world, the prince of the power of the air. Instead of being filled with God's glory, the world is now filled with Satan's wickedness. His diabolical traits permeate the world, including individuals.
Psalm 8:4-6 says, "What are mere mortals," speaking about their creation by God, "that you should think about them? Human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority." But this authority was lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed God.
As a result, there's a lack of purpose and significance in our lives. Genesis 3:19 says, "All your life you will sweat to produce food until your dying day. Then you'll return to the ground from which you came, for you were made from dust; into dust you will return." Ecclesiastes recognizes what life and the world are like without God: Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Futility, futility, all is futility. Why do we live? Why do we breathe? Why do we even have existence? Oh, the misery of futility.
Humans lost purpose and significance when they lost relationship with God. Some of us might think, I know a lot of people who live with significance and purpose who don't know God. No, they're trying to find significance and purpose through what they're doing, but they're not living with true significance and purpose. They try to extract significance, purpose, and value through their success, but they can't really have those things without having a relationship with God. Sadly, some of us believers live that way, too.
In addition to our lost relationship with God, our personal relationships with other people were compromised. Genesis 3:12 says, "The man replied, 'It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.'" Adam blamed Eve, God's gift to Adam, for their sin. Genesis 3:16: "Then he said to the woman, 'I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you'll give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.'" Adam and Eve experienced tension in their marriage instead of self-giving love. Because of the Fall, married couples continue to experience tension today. We became whirling black holes instead of artesian wells of God's love. We can't change our fractured relationships on our own. Reconciliation can only occur with God's intervention.
Another result of our disobedience is personal bondage and suffering. Genesis 3:8-10 says, "Toward evening they heard the Lord God walking about in the Garden, so they hid themselves among the trees. And the Lord God called to Adam. 'Where are you?' He replied, 'I heard you, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.'" Adam and Eve were filled with shame, fear, condemnation, and guilt. Instead of experiencing freedom and joy, Adam and Eve experienced pain, suffering, sorrow, and heartache as a result of their sin.
Consequently, fullness of life and health were also lost. God's kingdom is full of life, health, and vibrancy. Satan's kingdom is characterized by death, disease, and sickness. God did not design death, disease, and sickness. As if death, disease, and sickness weren't tragic enough, indignity also entered our broken world. I'm passionate about healing, but not simply because I want us to live in health. To be clear, I want us to live in health. But one day we will die. It is important that we recover the dignity of bearing God's image and that we carry that dignity till the day we die. Satan wants to blight God's kingdom and design. He wants to fill your life with indignity, suffering, heartache, and sorrow.
Genesis 4:8 tells us that Cain murdered Abel. Not only was the relationship of marriage fractured; sibling relationships began to unravel as well.
But the story doesn't stop there. God had a plan to restore what was lost.
Gold's plan for restoration
Something significant was lost, and we need to seek restoration. We need to take hold of the hope that God has given us. He has given us his power and his authority to recover what was lost. We don't have to live defeated or marginalized. We can live in the power and the authority of Jesus Christ, as abounding conquerors. We can experience fullness of life through him. We can advance God's kingdom.
How many of you want the church to model the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in the Gospels? How many of you have ever thought, I would love to have seen Jesus ministering while he was here on earth? That shouldn't be a fantasy. God wants you and me to model Jesus' ministry right now. He wants the church to live like Jesus in the Gospels. He wants us to restore what was lost. When Jesus saw people who didn't have a relationship with God—such as tax collectors like Zaccheus and Matthew—he gave them purpose and life. When he encountered people who were demonized, he set them free and restored their dignity. When he saw people living with the indignities of leprosy, he didn't pass them by. He extended his compassion to them and restored what was lost.
God has given us divinely powerful weapons so that we can live the life that Jesus lived. The life of Christ is modeled best when it is lived out by a community, like the church. God didn't design the church to stay within the four walls of a building. God wants the church to impact communities. The ministry of Jesus is going to spread out because God designed the church to advance. Jesus wants to build his church, not simply protect it. So let's look at God's plan for restoration.
First, God gives freedom from rejection. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were rejected from their relationship with God. Separation from God was a result of their sin. Consequently, we live with the fear of rejection. How many of you can remember a time in your life when you experienced rejection? It might still have a deep effect on you. We try to avoid rejection. We do it either passively or aggressively. But when our relationship with God is restored through Jesus Christ, we know that we're truly accepted. We no longer have to live with the fear of rejection.
Furthermore, we can be agents of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us that because we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, we are commissioned to carry on his ministry of reconciliation.
While living free includes recovering a life of acceptance and reconciliation, it also includes being forgiven for the guilt of our sin. Christ gives us freedom from guilt, condemnation, and shame. We can therefore live in peace with God and man without shame. Romans 8:1 says, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Jesus Christ." Being in Christ removes shame, condemnation, and guilt. Although we're in Christ, we still wrestle with guilt, shame, and condemnation. Maybe some of you have conceded that that's the way you'll have to live life. But that's not God's plan. God came to set us free from all that. As believers we need to break those shackles.
Jesus also gives freedom from fear and anxiety. Another thing we discover in Genesis 3 is that Adam and Eve were afraid of God after they sinned. They hid from him. But Jesus came to set us free from fear and anxiety. Living free includes learning to live life with peace, confidence, and faith.
Christ also gives freedom from sickness and suffering. I'm not saying that everybody is going to be healed. And I'm certainly not saying that if someone isn't healed that it's because of weak faith. However, we need to realize that God's kingdom brings healing and restoration. We know that God's kingdom is here now because we've seen people receive healing. God's kingdom brings freedom from slavery and sickness; we read about it in Matthew 8 and Acts 10.
Christ also gives freedom from judgment and the fear of death. Part of living free is being released from the fear that we're going to die. God wants us to know that we can live life with a confidence that death no longer has power.
Lastly, Jesus gives us freedom from oppression by the enemy, Satan. Many people are tormented and harassed by Satan. They can't seem to get free from fear, oppression, depression, and besetting sins. There are people who struggle to throttle anger. Satan is trying to destroy their lives. He doesn't simply want you to have a bad day; he wants to ruin your life.
The path to living free
God is calling us, the church, to bring restoration to lost people. It's time for us to discern what's happening. It's time for us to show God's love and compassion to this broken world. It's time that we use the power he's given us to help them be set free. How can the church effectively present a message of hope when we are oppressed and suppressed by the enemy? How are we supposed to present life to a dying world when life is being stripped from us? God doesn't just want you to experience personal freedom; he wants to equip you to help others. He doesn't want us simply to feel better about ourselves; he wants us to advance his kingdom so that other people can experience freedom, too. God wants our individual lives to be transformed; he wants our marriages to be transformed; he wants our churches to be transformed; and he wants the church to advance his kingdom throughout the entire world. That is God's plan for transformation. How many of you want to be a part of that? I do. I don't want to settle for anything less.
So what does the path to living free look like? First, we must understand that repentance is one of the most important steps to living in freedom. When I was a young teenager, my dad returned from Vietnam. We didn't go to church, but he came back and he met Jesus. So we started going to the church close to our house. It was a major culture shock. The church was extremely conservative and legalistic. We heard about repentance time and again, but we usually heard about it while a long finger pointed at the congregation, telling us we had to change. Because of situations like that, many of us associate repentance with condemnation. But when we understand the biblical concept of repentance, we realize that it's an amazing, gracious gift. Repentance brings freedom and joy. It is the doorway to freedom.
So what is repentance? Fundamentally, it's turning away from your sin. Mark 1:15 says, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news." Acts 3:19 says, "Repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." Repentance is associated with good news. It is associated with refreshing that comes from God. How many of you want to live a life of refreshment? It comes with a life of repentance, because repentance is a gracious gift from God.
By repenting, we stop, turn, and walk in the opposite direction. Ceasing from an activity is not necessarily repentance. Repentance is characterized by walking away from sin. Repentance is marked by living according to the truth. It's nothing short of that. It's not merely expressing sorrow. Repentance is associated with turning, thinking, and living in a way that rejects sin.
In order to repent, you have to recognize your sin, and you have to confess it. 1 Corinthians 15:34 says, "Come back to your senses as you ought and stop sinning." 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." When you truly confess your sin, you see sin as God sees it; you describe it how God describes it.
Next, our minds need to be renewed with God's truth. Our minds need to be readjusted, recalibrated according to what is true. We need to identify the lies in our lives and take hold of the truth.
In the coming sessions, we will talk about several practical steps to living free. To help you remember them, we came up with four R's. The first R, which we just discussed, is repentance. This is always the first step. We need to identify where we're out of alignment with God's truth, and we need to realign ourselves to his truth.
Next, we need to take the authority of Jesus Christ and rebuke or renounce the activity of the enemy in our lives. We'll look at this in detail in the next session. James 4:7 says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee." It doesn't say ignore the devil, and he will flee. It says resist. We need to actively and aggressively take the authority that God has given to us, and we need to renounce the enemy. But you have to repent first.
Thirdly, you need to declare the replacement life that you're going to live. There's power in declaration, in the spoken word. Instead of living in sin and disobedience, giving into a lie, you need to turn around and declare specifically what you're going to do. When Zaccheus received the truth of God through Jesus Christ, he made a declaration: "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold" (Luke 19:8). He made a declaration of what his new life would look like.
Lastly, we need to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We're called to live a supernatural life, and we cannot do it without the filling of God's Spirit.
Used by permission of Mike Riches and Sycamore Commission sycamorecommission.org
Mike Riches is pastor of Harborview Christian Fellowship in Gig Harbor, Washington, director of the Sycamore Commission, and author of Living Free.