“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17.)
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23.)
Here is the ultimate goal for every Christian and the end of true Christian discipleship: to do everything for the Lord Jesus Christ.
All of the other commandments, all of the things God has commanded us not to do and all of the things He has commanded us that we should do, are all summed up in this: do everything for the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, since love is the summary of the Law, Paul’s commandments here are just another way of saying “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.”
Let’s be clear about this: the goal is the complete annihilation of the Old Man and the complete putting on of the New Man. No matter how difficult and unlikely this may seem, let’s at least be clear about the goal.
I find that in whatever we set our hearts and minds to, it’s important to have a goal to shoot for. When I was younger just about my only concrete goal was to break the world’s record in the mile. I discovered in second grade that I was fast, especially at long distances, compared to my peers. So I began to dream of breaking the world’s record in the mile. My dad had been a runner in college, and my hero growing up was Jim Ryun. Starting in 2nd grade, I kept an annual record of my time in the mile and charted my progress. 8:00 in second grade, 7:43 in 4th grade, 7:21 in 5th grade, 6:41 in 7th grade.
Beginning in 7th grade, I ran cross-country every year, and beginning in 9th grade I began running track as well. In the summer before 10th grade I got myself up early every day to bike 2 miles to cross-country practice and run. Every day of every practice, I ran hard. Whenever we ran quarter or half miles to build up speed, I always tried to run with the fastest group, and I gave it my all, while those who were my speed at the meets always took it easier. In 11th grade I ran 250+ miles in a month. I’d run for an hour or more after school, and then come back home and run 2-4 miles in the evening as well. One day in practice, after following the team captain, Mike Clidas, and getting lost, I ran somewhere between 16 and 20 miles with only one stop halfway through for a little water.
I did all these things because of my one big goal. After realizing that I wasn’t getting that much faster and that “Hey, I’m killing myself running all these miles!” I gave up running after my junior year of high school.
In retrospect, two things amaze me. First, that I ever had that much energy in my life! Second, to what great lengths I went in order to achieve a goal that didn’t even survive through high school and has been dead for 33 years now.
It’s funny, but from 2nd grade through 11th grade, and even for several years beyond, I thought of myself as a runner. That’s who I was. Even as recently as a few years ago I still had occasional dreams that I had the energy again to run effortlessly. Running was my identity. I hung out with other runners. I spent my time running. My goal was to be the best runner I could be, and so I gladly gave up a lot of other things that in retrospect I probably should have gotten involved in.
All of that is just a much lesser version of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Our identity is that we are Jesus Christ. We are Christians, and our life is hidden in Christ. For us, to live is Christ. This is who we are and who we’re supposed to be. If we don’t at least acknowledge this as our goal, then we will never do a very good job of reaching for it.
But how many Christians that you know have as their highest goal to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and to do everything in life for Him? This is supposed to be the goal of every Christian, but how many of us can say that it is? Let’s be clear: no matter how imperfectly we do this, our goal should be to do all things for Jesus Christ.The only way I know to do this is to dedicate myself to the lifelong process of discipleship within the life of a local church. It won’t happen all at once, but it won’t happen at all if you don’t dedicate yourself intentionally to seeking Jesus Christ and doing all things for Him. It won’t happen, either, if you try to do it all by yourself.
As I reflect upon my spiritual growth and my growth in trying to do all things for Jesus Christ, it occurs to me that I’ve had a lot of help along the way. Every time I’ve perceptibly moved forward in giving more of my life to Christ, it’s happened in the context of a group of dedicated Christians.
The process of wanting to do all things for Jesus Christ began, for me, in the context of a Christian home with dedicated Christian parents who took me to church every Sunday and had family devotions at home and gave me a Christian worldview. Things moved forward around the time of my baptism in ninth grade when my dad suggested I start reading the Bible every day, and that’s been my goal ever since. I learned to study the Bible, and not just read it in a meandering way, in my senior year of high school when my Sunday school teacher asked me to join him for a study of Philippians. Studying the Bible in slow motion, verse by verse and section by section, was a revelation to me.
In college, I was supported by being a part of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, and after college I became part of a church that taught me to apply Christ and a Christian worldview to all areas of my life, including my intellect. The fact that this was done in the context of a vibrant church where many people were zealous for the Lord and to learn how to apply their faith to their culture – and had fun doing it – was truly a formative time in my life.
I have had many other godly examples and mentors. After all this, I think this Christianity thing is finally catching on.
Unfortunately, many Christians simply stop growing. Many are only partially formed as Christians to begin with, and then at some point they stop growing all together. I don’t know why we think that Sunday school is good for kids but that continued Christian education isn’t necessary for adults. I’m amazed at how many invitations to Sunday school classes, Bible studies, small groups, worship services, etc. Christian adults routinely spurn. Through such means, and others, God is offering us an opportunity to learn together to how to do all things to Jesus Christ.
But maybe that’s just it. Maybe some of don’t really want to do all things for Jesus Christ. Maybe if we come into contact with other Christians who are zealous to teach and to learn we know that we’ll be confronted with our “issues.” That’s exactly right. But remember that it is God who is confronting you, so that you can be His true disciple, learning to do all things for Him.
How often we use as an excuse for not entering more deeply into discipleship the very fact that we don’t really want to be disciples!
Let’s be clear one last time: Jesus Christ Himself – not Fr. Charles or your pastor or your parents or friends – is calling you to do all things for Him. You can resist His call on your life, but at least be clear about who and what it is that you are rejecting.
Your motivation for life, your goal in life, should be to do all things for Jesus Christ: to have Him in all of your thoughts; to make all of the moral decisions in life based on Him; to think about the world and your life from His perspective; to think His thought after Him; to act as He would act; and to offer up your entire life to Him as a whole burnt offering. Whatever your job in life, whatever your circumstance, however difficult the things in life may be: do all things as to the Lord.
However imperfectly you may be doing this in life, begin by acknowledging the call of your Master on your life: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23.)
Prayer: Father, I ask for Your grace in my life to give me a desire to do all things for my Lord Jesus Christ. Renew me in His image, and teach me to love You with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind, that I may prove a faithful disciple of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. What means of discipleship is God offering you that you should be accepting?
2. Reflect on your life. What means has God used to make you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Give thanks to God for each one of these people or things.
3. Remember a time in your life when you had a big goal that you dedicated yourself to. Compare this dedication to your dedication to doing all things for Jesus Christ. Use this as a motivation to seek Him more zealously.
Resolution: I resolve to honestly examine my life today. How much have I desired to do all things for Jesus Christ?
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson