What was humankind's original purpose? Why are we here, anyway? In another lesson, we looked at God's purpose for your individual life (see "God's Purpose for Your Life") but it is difficult, if not impossible, to fully comprehend our individual purpose apart from God's overall purpose for humankind. Therefore, this lesson focuses our attention on God's original intention for humankind and how Christ provides for us the supreme fulfillment of that purpose.
Everything that has ever been invented has always had a larger purpose behind it. Take military inventions for example. Some, like camouflage, are incredible, while others are a colossal FAIL! One of the biggest military invention fails was the Russian Tsar Tank.
Designed and built by the Russians in the early part of the 20th Century, its 27’ high front wheels were designed to overcome significant obstacles. The turret in the center reached a height of 24'. The hull alone measured more than 36' across. It was a mammoth tricycle!
You don't have to be an engineering genius to see that the dinky 5' wheel in the back carries much of the weight of the monstrosity. Consequently, it became stuck easily on small obstacles like soft ground or little ditches. Worse yet was the fact that the two 250 horsepower engines driving the front wheels could not get the tank unstuck because there wasn't enough weight to provide decent traction. Pity the fool who approved construction of this beast; it was a major waste of time and money. (To see more failed military inventions go here: http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-failed-military-inventions.php.)
Now consider the human body. You may never have thought of the human body as an invention, but in reality, it was the greatest of God’s creations. Six times in Genesis 1, God evaluates his work and calls it "good." Only after he created man and woman, each with a human body and made in God's own image, did God call all that he created"very good." Humankind is the pinnacle of God's creative work.
This is no exaggeration! Listen to these awesome facts about the human heart:
- The human heart beats 100,000 times per day and 35 million times per year. In a 70-year lifetime, it will beat 2.5 billion times.
- It pumps 5 quarts of blood per minute, 2,000 gallons per day, and 1 million barrels in a lifetime. That’s enough to fill three super tankers!
- The human body has 60,000 miles of blood vessels. That's enough to circle the world twice!
- The human heart beats fast enough to fully circulate the entire vascular system in only 20 seconds.
- It does all this and it only weights 8-10 ounces!
That's just the heart! Let's not forget about the complexity of our nervous system, the brain, and the eyes. The human body is truly an amazing invention!
But merely understanding how the body works through medical science does not explain why God invented it in the first place. For what purpose did God create humankind, in all the complexity of the human body? Why are we here? What is our purpose?
The answers to these questions are found in the central person of the entire Bible. He is the anticipated one of the Old Testament. He is talked about, admired, and loved in the New Testament. He is the main character of the Gospels. And he is the reigning King of Revelation. His name is Jesus Christ.
In Christ we discover what humankind was supposed to be and do from the beginning. Where the Adam failed, Christ succeeded in every way. Consequently, Christ shows us, through his life, our original purpose. What was Jesus' purpose during his earthly ministry? And how can we apply that to our lives?
The passage below is taken from Matthew 22. This chapter is an epic showdown between Jesus and his biggest challengers, the Pharisees and Sadducees. They come to him with carefully crafted questions in order to trip Jesus up in his words and shame him publicly. The final question asked of Jesus concerns the greatest commandment. In Jesus' day, this was a question of great intrigue. For it was believed that if anyone could fully obey that one commandment, then they would be perfect in fulfilling the whole law. But with more than 613 commandments, debate raged as to which one was the greatest. What better question to pose to Jesus? Read on to see how Jesus responds.
Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus Christ into the world and for the clarity of purpose for which he lived his life. He loved you and others so well -- better than anyone else who ever lived. In doing so, he reflected your image throughout the world and exhibited your greatness in the process. May you enable me to represent you well! In Jesus' name, Amen!
When you consider the concept of “purpose” it can be helpful to look at the actual definition of the word. While doing this, it may be even more helpful to imagine God speaking the definition to you face-to-face. Take a look below at the definition from dictionary.com:
[pur-puhs] noun, verb, pur·posed, pur·pos·ing.
1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
3. determination; resoluteness.
4. the subject in hand; the point at issue.
5. practical result, effect, or advantage: to act to good purpose.
verb (used with object)
6. to set as an aim, intention, or goal for oneself.
7. to intend; design.
8. to resolve (to do something): He purposed to change his way of life radically.
verb (used without object)
9. to have a purpose.
10. on purpose, by design; intentionally: How could you do such a thing on purpose?
11. to the purpose, relevant; to the point: Her objections were not to the purpose.
1. object, point, rationale. See intention.
7. mean, contemplate, plan.
Being creative is one way that we portray God and his love to those around us. It may seem like a concept out of left field but stop and think for a second – God introduces himself to the world, first and foremost, as a Creator. It’s basically the first thing we discover about him, and we use that title of Creator to describe and refer to God all the time. So if he made us in his image to do his work here on earth, it’s not a big leap to see that he made us all with the ability to create. You might look at yourself and think “no way! Everything I try to create ends up a pile of glue and glitter in the trashcan!”
But God didn’t intend for us all to paint like Michelangelo or rap like Tupac or dance like the prima ballerina. He gave each of us ways to be creative specifically and purposefully. Perhaps the way you create is by completely owning the half pipe on your skateboard, or giving makeovers to yourself and friends. Being creative can be found in cooking, telling jokes, making mixes and playlists, arranging furniture, scaling the rockwall, inventing something! There is something creative in all of us and I challenge you to try and discover what yours is! Finding out the ways you can be creative is finding out more about your part in God’s purpose. So for the next week, make a list of one thing to try each day, share it with a friend, family member or leader so that they can hold you accountable and also help you process how each endeavor went and what it showed you.
Don’t give up the first time, remember it took Thomas Edison over 10,000 tries to create the light bulb!
God commanded all of us to love him and love our neighbors as ourselves. We reflect his glory and purpose when we love those around us. So in order to be able to do that most effectively, it’s probably a good idea to figure out what your “love languages” are. Here is a link to take a quiz that will assess the way you communicate and receive love. Sometimes we develop or change because of experiences or just maturing so feel free to take this quiz again in later years. Also this website, based on Gary Chapman’s book series The 5 Love Languages can expand on and explain more of the way God created each of us uniquely to express and experience his love. It’s pretty cool! So have fun and try to answer honestly about how you are now rather than how you would like to be.
Genesis 1:27 – this key passage shows us that humankind's purpose was to reflect God in all creation, to be the visible image of the invisible God in all creation.
Romans 5:12-17 – a passage that tells us that, where Adam failed to uphold God’s image, Christ succeeded.
Hebrews 1:3 – another passage that tells us Jesus succeeded in upholding the original image given to Adam before the Fall.
Take a look at this song, part of the movie Prince of Egypt. It’s the part of the story where Moses has just left his palatial life as second prince to the Egyptian throne. He finds himself in the desert with a tribe of nomads – a place he never expected to be. You might be able to relate to how he feels right now – purposeless and totally off balance. Listen to the words the leader of the nomads says and consider the value of living a life devoted to God’s purpose rather than your own. The possibilities are endless and your part in the big story has yet to discovered!
Here are a couple of videos about Gabby Douglas, the young Olympic athlete from the 2012 summer games. There is clearly a greater purpose to her life:
Once you begin to crack into that area of your heart that knows you were created for a bigger purpose, it can start to be pretty overwhelming. The great depths and lengths of this world’s story can sometimes make us feel like a tiny speck in an ocean. While that is in some ways true, God is a relational God. He desires a one–on-one encounter with YOU. Specifically YOU. Take a minute and write down how that makes you feel. Draw it or even act it out if you communicate better that way. The goal here is to identify and articulate what you think of this grand and yet very specific God. Talk to him and tell him how you feel. If you need a place to start, take a look at David’s Psalm 63:1-8.
O God, you are my God,
and I long for you.
My whole being desires you;
like a dry, worn-out, and waterless land,
my soul is thirsty for you.
Let me see you in the sanctuary;
let me see how mighty and glorious you are.
Your constant love is better than life itself,
and so I will praise you.
I will give you thanks as long as I live;
I will raise my hands to you in prayer.
My soul will feast and be satisfied,
and I will sing glad songs of praise to you.
As I lie in bed, I remember you;
all night long I think of you,
because you have always been my help.
In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
I cling to you,
and your hand keeps me safe.