Welcome to our first week in our New Year’s Kick-Off series, Life. On Purpose!
Over the next eight weeks we’re going to explore what it can actually look like to live life with a clearer, more powerful, and more Jesus-shaped vision of why we’re here and what we’re meant to do in life. And hopefully by the end of this series, you’ll understand your own purpose with a fresh perspective and a deeper passion!
The truth is, the Bible is a book that, from beginning to end, is about purpose. It’s an epic story that’s meant to show us the incredible purpose that God has for the world – and to invite us into it. It’s meant to be a gift that in many ways shocks us out of the tendencies that we all have toward apathy, self-absorption, boredom, hopelessness, and hatred. And it’s meant to shape our lives so we don’t waste our time on things that don’t matter, waste our passions on things that shrink our hearts, or waste our work on things that steal rather than serve.
The story goes something like this.... God is more indescribably good, loving, beautiful and powerful than we could possibly imagine. And He created the universe to be a living display – just a taste – of all his goodness, love, beauty, and power. As His crowning work, He made humanity – man and woman – “in His image”. And this title – “Image Bearers” – was given to us to help us understand our identity (who we are), and our purpose (what on earth we’re here to do).
We are God’s image bearers. Every person is created with God’s image somehow stamped into their DNA. We are made with hands that can create like the Creator. We are made with mouths that can speak like the One who spoke the world into existence and continues to speak to make Himself known. We are made with minds that can think and rationalize like the One who holds all wisdom and knowledge. We are made with wills than can freely choose, like the One who is ultimately free and sovereign over all things. We are made with a conscience, like the One who is Holy and Good, containing no darkness or evil in Himself. We are made with hearts and the deep impulse to love, like the One who is described as Love itself, and who desires to be in loving relationship with us. So each time we look at a human being, we look at an “image of God” – a beautiful reflection of His beauty, a taste of His glory.
But there’s more. “Image Bearer” isn’t just a title that describes who we are. It’s a title that describes why we’re here. Just as we have been given an identity of immeasurable dignity, we’ve been given a purpose of indescribable honour. We are here to do the work of bearing God’s image – of reflecting and pointing to his goodness, power, beauty, and love through all that we do. So we’re meant to use our hands, mouths, minds, wills, hearts, and consciences in God’s service, to bring more of His goodness into the world, and to bring more of the world into His goodness.
The problem with this is that from the time of the first woman and man, humanity has failed at this incredible purpose. Rather than reflecting God’s goodness to the world and reveal His glory for the good of others, they used God’s goodness for their own good and glory. And the world has been reeling from the effects of this ever since.
The good news though, is that God has refused to let us be, even though over and over, humanity has mixed up, broken down, and rejected this incredible calling to be His image bearers.
So he started again with Abraham. God chose this one man to be a new founder, and promised that through his family God would raise up a whole nation of people who would know their Image Bearing identity, and bring God’s incredible goodness to the rest of the world. It was a good game plan, but it quickly went off course, and within a few hundred years, this nation wound up having almost forgotten God and enslaved to the nation of Egypt. Instead of bringing God’s presence and freedom into the world, they forgot God’s presence and ended up as slaves. Dead end...
So he started again with Moses. God chose this one man to be his messenger, and promised that through him, God would free His people from Egypt, bring them into a new home, and guide them to be people who lived out their calling as His Image Bearers, bringing God’s incredible goodness to the rest of the world. It was a good course correction. But it wasn’t long before this broke down as well. Though God was true to his promise, it wasn’t long before Israel forgot that God was their King. Instead of following God’s leadership to transform the world around them, they rejected God’s leadership, cried out to be led by a human king, and became just like all the nations around them who didn’t know God.
But God still refused to give up. So, He graciously gave in to their request, and chose one man to be king – David. And he called David, and all the kings that followed him to rule over Israel in a way that empowered them to be God’s Image Bearers. Through this kind of leadership, God promised to bless them, and make them a blessing to all the nations around them. But again, this incredible calling crumbled. Not even David could properly fulfill this mandate. And after David, came one king after another who failed to lead with the kind of faithfulness and justice that would reflect God’s. Instead of Israel becoming a great people who would reflect God’s glory in great ways to the nations around them, they became corrupt, and were eventually conquered by the nations around them...
This is where the story of the Old Testament ends. Without much resolution. It’s a story of God’s incredible design for humanity’s purpose on earth, and their repeated failures to live out their purpose. With each new failure, and each “new beginning” by God, the story becomes less hopeful, not more.
This is the backdrop that Matthew had in mind when he began to pen his biography of Jesus. He knew that what he had experienced was a “new beginning” unlike any of those that had taken place in the past. In fact, there was something about every one of these past “new beginnings” that was meant to point to this One. And the first four chapters of Matthew’s gospel are pointing to this in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. He starts with the genealogy of Jesus (not an uncommon thing in this kind of literature during Matthew’s day), and reminds his readers about the key roles that Abraham and David were meant to play in God’s purposes (Mt. 1:17). And as he goes on to explain some of Jesus’ earliest experiences, they actually sound an awful lot like Moses’ experiences... Narrowly escaping a massacre of babies... Getting stuck in Egypt... Coming through the Jordan river... Wandering around in the wilderness for 40 days (OK, not 40 years, but you get the point!)...
Do you see what Matthew is doing here??
He’s wants us to see the thing that has absolutely wrecked his life (in the best sense of the word!), and has given him a whole new, crystal clear, passion for God’s purposes -- and his own.
Because in Jesus, God has made a new beginning – but better. He sent His Son, to be the Image Bearer that every human was called to be, but always failed to be. Jesus is the One who is a better founder than Abraham – who wouldn’t forget his purpose or his God. Jesus is the One who is a better Messenger than Moses, who would bring God’s Words into the world in a way that would truly change people’s hearts. And Jesus is the One who is a better King than David, who would lead God’s people into a way of life that would not only transform them, but would transform the world. And this time, it wouldn’t fail!! Something altogether different had happened. A new beginning. A new Image Bearer. A new King. And this King came to bring in a whole new Kingdom, and fill it with people who He would transform to become made-new-Image-Bearers as well!
Day 1: Matthew 1:1-17
Day 2: Matthew 1:18-25
Day 3: Matthew 2:1-23
Day 4: Matthew 3:1-17
Day 5: Matthew 4:1-25
As you read through the daily readings for this week, reflect on the questions below.
All the questions could apply in one way or another to each day’s reading, and you may find that they help you see a different side of Jesus’ identity and purpose when you ask them each day... ·
Where do you see references to Abraham, David, or Moses – either their names explicitly stated, or in stories in these chapters that have similarities to their Old Testament stories.
What do you think Matthew is trying to communicate about Jesus by recording these particular episodes from his life? ·
What are some ways that already in these chapters, you see Jesus ‘bearing God’s image’? ·
What are some ways that you see Jesus already being revealed as “King” in these chapters? ·
What have you read about Jesus that most makes your heart say, “Yes!”
What have you read about Jesus that most makes your heart say, “No!” or “I’m not sure about that...”.
Take some time to talk to Jesus about this now in prayer.