Living With Purpose
I once had the humbling opportunity to lead a worship service (chapel) for a group of military service member’s just weeks before they were to deploy to a foreign country. I had served as their chaplain for a 3-week training rotation at the National Training Center (NTC). Many of the Soldiers were tired and longed to enjoy the comforts of home and see their loved ones one more time before they left for their mission. I can assure you I knew the importance of this moment and my duty to share some parting words with them. Last words are important. Whether it’s a husband being shipped overseas to war, or the mother of two children going to serve her country in a foreign land, or even a coach’s pregame speech before taking the field, last words are often the thing that people hold on to and reflect upon as they try to push forward in life. They frequently represent something important, and they’re usually something you don’t forget.
Jesus’ last recorded words on earth are found in Matthew 28:18-20. They explain what his followers are to do in the period between his first coming and his second coming. What he said to his disciples, known as the Great Commission, represented something so profound that it enabled all Christians to have the privilege of building the Kingdom for all eternity. The last words Jesus spoke on a Galilean hill-side, became the marching orders for all Soldiers of God. Jesus Christ wanted the disciples, that day to focus on the mission, and pass it on. So that all who would follow would know that his power and presence would go with them.
The final words I gave to these deploying units at NTC was four simple points on how Christians should live. Many people profess to be Christians, but fail to live the Christian life as spelled out in God’s Army. There is a step-by-step plan in how to practice what we profess.
The first step is to live IN Christ. The Scripture is very clear in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any person be in Christ, they are a new creation.” Their sins are forgiven and their guilt has been removed. They are new creatures in Christ. Old things have passed away and everything is new. The Spirit of God comes into a person’s life and cleanses them, renews them, and gives them the Spirit of God’s love. They become alive in Christ. We can’t possibly clean up our lives by ourselves, and it’s impossible to let anyone else “fix” us to be presented to God. When we surrender to the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit, He assumes the responsibility of giving us the power to overcome our sin. Those who live in Christ are directed by the Holy Spirit and strengthened for the challenges of each day.
The second step is to live LIKE Christ. A popular question we can ask ourselves is “what would Jesus do” (WWJD)? Christ’s followers have Jesus’ example to follow in thinking, hearing, seeing, speaking, doing, and going. Jesus prayed often, was kind, compassionate, and understanding. Practicing daily prayer, Bible reading, exercising faith, loving others, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, comforting the bereaved—all of these helps Christians become like Christ. 1 Peter 2:21 says, “God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps.”
The third step is to live FOR Christ. We know that a good Soldier lives and sometimes dies for their country. They endure hardships, sacrifice ease and pleasure to protect their land and those he or she loves. As a good Soldier of God, we must be ready to perform the 3 “S’s” of a good Soldier: Service, Sacrifice, and suffering. Christ gave his life for us. We must do the same for him. We do this by literally denying self and giving him control of our time, talent, and treasure. “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20).
The fourth and final step is to live WITH Christ. Christ is with Christians in this life and also in the life to come. Christ has promised to come again and receive us to himself, that where he is there we shall be also (John 14:1-3). What a privilege it is to have the blessed assurance that we can walk daily in this physical life with God’s Spirit and also have Christ, God’s Son, usher us into heaven at God’s appointed time. Hallelujah! 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “We will be gathered up along with them (redeemed loved ones) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.”
Jesus has given us, the incredible responsibility to be his representatives in the world, to carry his message of love and peace to a world that is broken. That is why we need to know how Christians should live. As we go about telling others what good things God has done for us, we point people to Jesus Christ our Savior. We become the salt and light in our world. Jesus’ final words become our words. His message becomes our message. Isn’t it amazing, Jesus allows us to share in spreading his gospel? No higher calling or greater privilege exists.
• This bi-weekly column is written by Matthew Dobson. He’s a teacher, U.S. Army Chaplain, and the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York Community. His “Living With Purpose” Book series can be found and purchased on www. Amazon.com. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.