Are You Headed Where You Want To Be?
In Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes to a junction in the road that leads in different directions. She asks the Cheshire Cat, “Cheshire-Puss…would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to go to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” replied Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
What is the goal or purpose of your life? Where are you going? What compels you to live as you do? Do you have a verse or a vision or a calling that moves you forward toward some goal? Or are you someone who simply responds to what happens around you? Are you someone who feels your life is not your own? Or you aren’t in control of your life, but there others or circumstances or situations which make you do the things you do?
My life verse is Philippians 3:10-11: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” That’s a daunting goal! I love that Paul reassures the Philippians (and us) that even he hadn’t yet reached that goal…even he was still a work in progress. He says in verses 12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
To know Jesus, to love Jesus, to be made like him and to share in his life, death and resurrection – this is my goal. To be made like Christ, this is our purpose. To the Galatian church, a group of believers who had started out strongly in the faith but was in danger of turning back to the old ways of the Law, Paul says, 19My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you… (Galatians 4:18-19).
To the Roman church he put it this way: 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son… (Romans 8:28-29). Setting aside what Paul means about predestination, I want us to see the purpose for his working in us…that we would be conformed to the likeness of his Son.
I believe the goal or purpose of my life and the goal and purpose of your life – according to the Word of God – is that we would be formed, conformed, transformed into the likeness or image of Jesus. God wants us to take on the character of Jesus.
How are you living to reach this goal of becoming like Christ?
I was read an article recently about an athlete who had incredible natural talent and ability. Early in his career it was thought he was destined for greatness. An interviewer asked him what he was doing to develop into his full potential. He answered that “there was nothing to do; he just had to wait for it to happen.”
For far too many followers of Jesus, that is precisely how we approach our relationship with Jesus. We are destined to be like Jesus – that is our call – but what are we doing, how are we living, to begin to reach our full potential? We may say that knowing and living Jesus are our priorities, but what evidence do our lives give that it’s true?
Jesus said: 19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
If our time is spent seeking earthly treasure – the latest iPhone, the newest music, the fastest car, the nicest clothes, the best vacation, the nicest job, and so on – then our heart is in the wrong place. We won’t gain Christ and ultimately we’ll lose the world too. But if our time is spent seeking heavenly treasure – seeking to know Jesus as our highest priority, living lives of obedience as much as we can, sharing generously our time and possessions with others, showing kindness, forgiving and loving well – then we will not only gain Jesus and be transformed into his image, but we’ll store up treasures in heaven too.
Are we trying to serve two masters? Are we giving lip service to the goal of becoming like Jesus – saying it’s our goal, our priority, but living for ourselves? Where our treasure is – where the thing we desire most is – our heart will be too. Our greatest treasure will determine our direction and values.
Jesus makes clear the choice we have between two treasures and two visions. Whom will we serve? God and money are pictured as slave owners. Which will we serve? Either we will serve God with a single-eyed, whole-hearted passion or we aren’t serving him at all. There is no half-way with Jesus. You cannot be a part-time disciple. When we try to live in two worlds – following Jesus and living for ourselves or something we love – we are idolaters.
So, how are you living to reach this goal of becoming like Christ? Are you trying to serve two masters? Do you have one foot in the kingdom of God and one in your own kingdom where you pursue the things you want? You cannot serve two masters. Where the treasure of your time, your money, your thoughts are, that is where your heart is.
What can we do to cooperate with Jesus to reach the goal of knowing, loving, and becoming like Jesus?
We begin with surrender.
Becoming like Jesus is not an exercise in self-impovement. It isn’t about self-help. It’s about heart renovation. The purpose of spiritual formation is not to make new and improved versions of ourselves. It is that Christ be formed in us (Galatians 4:19).
Our goal is not to simply sin less. That idea focuses on us and our actions. That’s an external goal – focused on our behavior. I believe Jesus wants us to focus on the heart. In Christ we are new creations. In Christ we have been crucified to the old life. Our lives should increasingly take on the character of Christ. We will sin less as we surrender ourselves more and more to him. Our focus should increasingly be on Jesus – loving and knowing him. We want to be so intimate with Jesus that when we are insulted or are cut off in traffic or are lied about or are put in a compromising situation, our natural response is not to sin, but to do what Jesus would have done.
This is a work of the Holy Spirit, because ultimately we cannot be made into the image of Jesus apart from God. Nevertheless, we do have a part to play in the process. We have to be active. We have to pray and ask God to create in us a desire for more of him. We need to ask him to stir in us a hunger and thirst to be like Jesus. And then we have to put ourselves in a position where that can happen. Paul was spot on when he wrote, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work within you to will and to work according to his good purpose,” (Philippians 2:13). We must actively seek to grow and experience more of the life God has for us, however, it is the Holy Spirit who makes it happen.
If you’ve made it this far, I want to invite you to take a moment to prayerfully ask God where your heart is right now. Take time to be quiet before the Lord and in quietness of your heart ask God to show you where your treasure is.
Is where you are where you want it to be? If your heart isn’t right with God, take a moment to repent of your sin and ask God for forgiveness. If you long to be made into his likeness or if you long to long for that, surrender to him. Tell him, “I’m yours Lord. All I am is yours. Take me as I am. Form me, conform me, transform me that I might be like Jesus.”