In order to see clearly where we want to go, we need to have goals. This applies to every area of our life. There are several goals every believer should have. This morning we talk about these spiritual goals, so that you may wish to incorporate them into your New Years Resolutions.
This message is based on a reading from 2 Corinthians 3:12 - 4:2
The beginning of a new year is often filled with dreams of personal transformation. We want all want this year to be better than last year, and we’re willing, at least for a few weeks, to make some resolutions to make it better. We want to be better. We want to eliminate bad habits, exercise more, and set a pace to achieve our goals. Have you set any goals for the new year? Do you have some resolutions you’re working on? Anybody want to share what they are?
This is a great time to make new goals that will help you be the person you want to be. And goals are necessary in life. I love a tape called The Strangest Secret by Earnest Nightingale, it’s a motivational tape that I’ve been listening to for probably 35 years. Every once in a while I’ll pull it out and listen again. Essentially, the message of the tape is that people with goals succeed because they know where they’re going. With clear goals, we can see what we need to do clearly. So what are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to go from here?
Spiritually, the Bible gives us a number of goals that every believer should be striving for. This morning we’ll look at some of those, you can see how you’re doing, and maybe find some you should be working on in the new year.
1. To Please Christ. The first goal that we should be working on as believers is to please God. 2 Corinthians 5:9 says, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” I dare say that living a life that pleases God should be one of our primary goals as a believer.
Paul firmly believed that when we die we will appear before Christ at the judgement seat. Now we don’t appear before Christ to determine our eternal destination, if we are in Christ, that has already been settled. But we do appear to have our works judged, to have Christ examine what we did in the flesh and evaluate them as good or bad. The reward for a life of good works is praise, the reward for a life of poor works is no praise. Paul mentions this in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “at that time, each will receive his praise before God.”
So how about you? Are you living your life to receive your praise before God? Are you trying to please Him? Really? How can you please Him more in the year to come?
2. To Know Christ. Another goal that Paul took seriously was that of knowing God, he wanted to know everything he could, to understand all there was about God. We see this in Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
Now to really understand this, remember who Paul was. Before meeting Christ, he was a man of the law, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, so zealous to keep the law and its traditions that he persecuted the church. A Jew in that day would think that he was doing everything right. But Paul found that until you know Jesus, really know Him, you can’t do anything right. Therefore, everything he did before he considered rubbish, garbage, it didn’t count for anything.
So how about you? What are you going to do this year to know Christ better? If you’re not already in an adult Sunday School class, that would be a great start. And there are three choices, each with a different format, so there’s something for everyone. Or how about a Bible study, if there’s a reason why one of those times won’t work, let me know, maybe we can work out something that will work.
3. To be Faithful to Christ. Being faithful to somebody means that you stand with them, stand by them, steadfast in affection or allegiance. I think one of the best examples of what it means to be faithful to Christ is found in John 15, in the example of the vine and the branches. John wrote in verse 4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
For us, that means to persevere, to remain faithful no matter what. To keep on doing the work of Christ. Matthew 24:13 says, “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” I know it’s really easy to let things slip. We get busy and miss a devotion or two, and it can get really hard to get caught up again. We miss a Sunday or two, and it can get hard to get back into the routine again. But it’s so important. The world tries to influence us by saying it’s okay. It’s not your fault, it’s just a busy time. It’s not a big deal. But it is a big deal. There wouldn’t be so many encouragements to remain strong, to persevere, to keep the faith, if it wasn’t a big deal. If you’ve found yourself slipping away, what are you going to change to get back? What can you do to reverse that?
4. To Love One Another. This one should be almost self-evident. We’re probably all familiar with Jesus’ new command. John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” We know that when pressed about the most important command, Jesus said, Love God. But then He offered a second like it, meaning it’s almost as important, Love each other.
This command means that we love people inside and outside the church. I think we all know that we’re supposed to love those inside the church, though there are sometimes issues there. There maybe people even in our church family we struggle to get along with, but that’s not right. So what can you change to truly love those in your church family? What can you do to show your love to those unchurched that you know? What goals can you set that will make love a priority.
5. To Live at Peace. This is very closely related to the last one, and I suppose that if we could truly love one another, we would be living at peace with them without thinking about it. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul is telling us to actively seek peace with everybody. Don’t hold grudges, don’t insist on getting your own way, and don’t turn your back on anybody. Find a way to get along.
Let’s leave the drama in high school. We don’t have time for it if we’re going to live a life pleasing to God. It only keeps us from being the person God intends for us to be. Live a life of peace – be at peace with everyone. We quoted Romans 12:18 already, but I think verse 19 tells us how to do that. It says, “Don’t take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” If somebody wrongs you, they will have to answer to God. Just live at peace with them. If you don’t, if you respond in any other way, then you have to answer to God, too. So as a believer, believe that God will judge. And love people and live at peace with them.
6. To Spread the Gospel. Another goal of the believer is to share what he knows. We need to share the good news of what you saw, as the shepherds did in the Christmas story. We’re probably familiar with the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:19, it says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” There are three commands in that verse: Go, Make Disciples, Teach.
I think the command to go means to leave where you are, to purposely seek out those who need to hear what you know. Don’t wait for an unbeliever to come to church, it won’t happen – go, seek them out, and share what you know. The word disciple means a follower, a pupil, an apprentice. So we should be urging them to become disciples of Jesus – followers, pupils, apprentices. What are you doing to make new disciples? Are you actively looking to share your faith? Are you bold when it comes to your faith? Do your friends know for sure that you are a believer? What changes could you make to expand your reach and your influence?
7. To Grow in Maturity. You know another goal of the believer is to grow in maturity. We should be growing in our faith, becoming more Christlike. In Ephesians 4, Paul is talking about unity in the church, and how we work together and teach together and grow together, and then in verse 13, he writes, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of fullness of Christ.”
I think this verse really talks about the role of the church. The goal of the church should be to have all believers coming together to grow so that we can all find unity together in the faith and knowledge of Jesus. I know that boards and committees are necessary, but the real work of the church is when we all come together and find unity of faith and knowledge of Jesus. Make that one of your goals, too. To spend time together, building faith and knowledge of Jesus.
8. To live in Heaven. And finally, to live in heaven. That’s the end goal of every believer, to live in the presence of God for all eternity in a place called heaven, where there is no more pain or disease or weeping. Our life together here is a precursor of our life in heaven. The relationships we start on this side don’t end on this side – there is another side where we spend eternity with God and with others who believe.
In John 6:40, Jesus says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” The last day in this verse refers to the day of resurrection and final judgment. The verse is an affirmation that Jesus will do God’s will, and God’s will is that all who believe in Jesus will be raised up and have eternal life.
We’ve covered a lot this morning. I purposely didn’t use any fill-ins on the notes page this morning, because I want to you have all of these. Some of you might not fill them out, and get home and it wouldn’t mean anything to you. Some of you might miss one or two, there are so many. But I want you to have them all, so you can refer back to them. Use them as a check list to see how you might be doing, and maybe what needs to change.
Some of you might need to look at all them, maybe you’ve never seen a list like this. You’ve come to faith but didn’t know what the next steps should be. If that’s the case, consider this list closely. See what little steps you can do to grow in each area.
Some of you might be pretty much on track, just one or two need a little help. If that’s the case, then just work on those for this year, then next year look at the list again and see what’s changed. Maybe pick another one or two.
My goal in this message is that with the goals clearly in sight, you can see clearly now. And this year will be a good year, because you’ll be living for the one who died for you.