Destiny 1/3: Destiny Restored
Bijgewerkt: 25 nov 2019
God has created us all for a purpose. He has put a destiny on our lives. In this message, we'll explore how destiny was given at creation, lost at the fall, restored in Jesus, fulfilled when Jesus comes again and how all of this translates into our everyday lives.
What is the meaning of life? This is one of life's biggest questions. One that every single one of us will face at some point. The Bible gives us a very surprising answer:
gardening. Surprised? It's true! I know... its not great news for me either. I can’t even keep a plant alive! Check out what the the first chapters of the Bible about the meaning of human existence.
Genesis 2:4-7, 15 (NLT)
This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
(…) The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.
You see, God creates humans and puts them in the garden with the purpose to tend and watch over it. So, the biblical answer to the questions: “what is the meaning of life?” or “what am I created for?” is: ‘to garden’. Don’t you just love how that uncomplicates life?
The earth as God had created it was incomplete without human beings to reign over it.
Ok, we should approach this big life question in a bit broader sense. I know. Look with me to verse 4: When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil.
The earth as God had created it was incomplete without human beings to cultivate it. Adam and Eve were not just living in Paradise having to be careful not to mess up God’s beautiful creation. They were an integral part of creation and essential to make it all work.
Genesis 1: 26-28 (NLT)
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.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Here we get a few more words about the purpose for human existence: ‘to reign over creation’. To multiply and fill the earth and govern it. So, God has placed them in the Garden of Eden with the purpose to tend it, and then to multiply and fill the earth and to extend the beauty of Eden to spread across the whole earth. In 21st century language we could say their destiny was ‘to make the world a better place’.
But wait, many people around us that do not know God and do not read the Bible have figured this one out. Why is that? I believe that is because God has wired us a certain way. He created us to find purpose in making an impact in a way that transcends our own lives.
There is a really big difference, though, between the way we understand the meaning of life as Christians, versus the way the world understands this. The passage we just read gives us another very important insight into our purpose and destiny, and that is that God created us in His image. God designed us to rule over creation on His behalf and to represent Him to creation.
To do this, He gave us two choices, represented by the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. The Tree of Life represents the choice of living and abiding in God, being in relationship with God and doing what we are created for in His way.
The second choice, the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, represents the choice of living life on your own terms.
Adam & Eve choose the latter, and eat from the forbidden tree, which deeply effects the way they would govern the earth. Their rule over creation turns to exploitation. Humans corrupt the earth by exploiting the ground, animals and each other.
God’s redemption plan
As we have discovered before, God refused to settle for this broken state of human existence and would take them on a journey to redemption. In the Old Testament, He starts this journey towards redemption by choosing a special nation, from among all the people on the earth – Israel. He does on a small scale, what He would later do on a bigger scale.
He takes this people out of slavery in Egypt and brings them to a land where they can flourish, live in prosperity and be a blessing to all other nations – showing what it means to live and rule in God’s way again.
Exodus 19:4-6 (NLT)
‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
God sets Israel apart from all the other nations to function under His rule and extend His blessing throughout the earth. And so, God installs His law in Exodus and more extensively in Deuteronomy. They are rules covering all of life that form a guard rail for the crooked human existence by which they could flourish. In God’s law we see how He is setting up Israel to be a nation of justice and prosperity for all people. It is full of instructions to bring some order in the chaos of human existence.
The rest of the Old Testament will show how Israel flourishes when it keeps obeying God, but how it crumbles when they do things in their own way. Even though the prophets keep on warning against injustice, idolatry and immorality – they continue to live life their own way and become exactly like the nations around them. In the Old Testament, it becomes so clear that something deeper would need to change, because sin kept on corrupting God’s beautiful purpose for human existence.
Then Jesus came. Jesus is the Son of God who became a human being. He is the firstborn of the new humanity God was longing for. A new humanity that would live in the way He destined all of us for. And so, Jesus taught and demonstrated how to live. He brought people back to understand that we are supposed to live our lives in service to God and each other. He summarized it this way: “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
In His teaching and in the way that He lived He was confronting the distorted way people would treat each other. He spoke out against the irreverent way people would treat marriage and divorce, hypocrisy, selfishness, abuse of power and He treated women and children as equals to men.
But Jesus’ ministry went further than this. Reflecting back on the life and ministry of Jesus, the apostle John says that Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil.
The way people were living and the failure to live out their true purpose was because they had handed over their authority to reign over the earth to the satan.
Through Jesus’ healing ministry, teaching and driving out demons He was demonstrating that the grip of the devil over human’s existence would soon begin to crack and crumble. The rule of the satan would be driven out by the rule of the Kingdom of God – with Jesus as the King.
Temptation in the desert
The devil noticed that Jesus had come to reclaim authority and so he tried to trick Jesus out of this mission. When Jesus was in the desert, fasting and praying, preparing for His mission, the devil visited Him offering Him a shortcut:
Matthew 4:9-11 (NLT)
The devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
Jesus came to reclaim authority over the earth from the devil, but not in this way. Jesus would go the humble road of crucifixion, taking upon Himself the sins of the world - the power by which the satan was ruling the planet – and then resurrecting from the dead in victory. Unlike Adam, Jesus resisted the temptation of the devil and would choose to fulfil His mission in God’s way.
And so, check out what Jesus says to the disciples after His death and resurrection, when He is about to be taken up into heaven:
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Having reclaimed all authority over heaven and earth, Jesus sends out His followers in a similar way as God had sent out Adam and Eve when He said: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. This time though, it is not only a mission to cultivate and make things beautiful, but a mission to redeem the planet and bring people and nations back under the reign of God again.
Jesus invites anyone who belongs to Him to take on this mission to be His partners in expanding the Kingdom of God. Through the life and ministry of Jesus, the Kingdom of God was breaking in, through the mission of the church and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God is breaking through. This is the time we are living in now. This is the purpose and destiny on our lives today.
A New Heaven & A New Earth
The last book of the Bible ends with a graphic description of heaven literally coming down to earth and making everything new. God’s rule will then be made complete on earth. It is the fulfilment of the Lord’s Prayer – Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Then, the whole world will be made as clean and beautiful as the Garden of Eden. This description ends with these words:
Revelation 22:3-5 (NLT)
No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.
This is the fulfilment of God’s purpose and the destiny of the new humanity. Together with God we will reign over a beautiful and completely restored earth.
Living with a renewed destiny
Having heard this summary of the destiny story – how does this affect our lives today? We will be exploring this further over the next two weeks when we will discover how we can do the things that Jesus did, and how we can be a blessing to the world around us.
For now, let me give you three pointers to help you translating what you have learned today into your lives tomorrow.
1) The state of our planet should be our concern
Somehow, we ended up with an eschatological idea that God will take us all up into heaven and in the rearview mirror we see the whole world blow up. And so, for a long time, I couldn’t care less about the state of the planet.
The picture that the book of Revelation is giving us, though, is that of a renewed earth. We will spend eternity on this planet. But it will look very different.
As we have discovered in Genesis, humans were created to cultivate and rule over the planet. After the fall into sin, we started to do a pretty horrible job at this. Yet, engraved in our human consciousness is a longing to make this world a better place. This is a good desire.
And so, the wellbeing of our planet should be a deep concern for Christians. We have to be good stewards of the planet, cultivating it instead of exploiting it.
2) Don’t pursue a Kingdom without the King
Whether you are pursuing a life in business, science, teaching, politics, ministry or arts – God is calling you to use your unique talents and interests to make this world a better place. God has created us in His image, so in our system is a desire to create as well. We can make beautiful things! And we should! You are serving God when you take the talents and opportunities that you have to create something that will benefit everyone.
But there is a reason why this idea of ‘make this world a better place’ sounds so secular. Again, there are two ways of doing this; God’s way, or our way.
Whether it be in business, science, teaching, politics, ministry, arts or whatever else – God is calling you to use your unique qualities to make this world a better place.
The secular world is pursuing a kingdom without a king. In their idea, utopia can be reached when humanity breaks the chains of every religious bias and pursues a world of ultimate freedom for every human being to do exactly what they want. This, however, is a misguided way of pursuing a better world, because it elevates humans to the level of God in all of its moral decisions. It holds on to the picture the devil presented to Adam and Eve claiming that God was withholding them from true life and freedom by making their own decisions about good and evil. You and I, though, are called to expand the Kingdom of God in the way of Jesus, because He is the King.
3) Live life as an ambassador of God’s Kingdom
The words of Jesus to His first disciples count for all those that would become His disciples through their proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus carried over His mission to expand the Kingdom of God to us, the church, and it is the mission we all still live by.
The apostle Paul describes our destiny in life in this way:We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Let your whole life – everything you do, say, create and pursue – carry this simple message: “come back to God!”
Let your whole life – everything you do, everything you say, everything you create and every dream you pursue – carry this simple message: “come back to God!”
The way that we are called to make this world a better place is by letting every little bit of our lives testify that Jesus is the King of this world, demonstrating the rule of God in our loving actions towards others and by bringing people out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.