What a Gift, this New Purpose!
The Lord of the Rings movie began with Galadriel saying, “The world is changed.” And we know what Tolkien was going for there, but the world is not changed! It is always the same and there is nothing new under the sun, as Solomon said. But we have changed. We who know Jesus are not the same anymore. Peter wrote his first letter to Gentiles who had come to Christ to encourage them that they had now a completely different purpose. They once lived solely to satisfy the flesh and all its desires, and they may have winced as they read the descriptive but not exhaustive list: sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” Sounds like Friday and Saturday night at most college campuses! “But the times that are past,” Peter writes, suffices.” It is enough! What you did in the past is in the past and it is over. Enough of that!
There is hope here and not condemnation. Peter reminds us that our purpose is no longer to see how much we can satisfy the flesh, medicate our pain, escape from reality, or bury our faces in the cesspool of the world. We have a new purpose and when we stray from it, we remember the stench of those past indulgences. I remember being in Kenya many years ago when one of the men on the trip was walking through the Kibera slum. His worst nightmare happened as he lost his footing and fell into the side ditch, filled with raw sewage. Charlie managed to spare the Bible he was carrying by holding it over his head, but the rest of him was covered. When he got back to the room where we were staying, I smelled him before I saw him. Charlie knew as soon as he hit that cesspool that he didn’t want to be there. We have all been in the cesspool. Maybe ours was not filled with raw sewage, but cesspools come in all sizes and shapes and substances. Greed can suck us in and hold onto us. Unforgiveness. Lust. Even self-righteousness, with proud hearts praying, “Thank God that I am not like other men.” The real danger in being in a cesspool is when we get numb to it and don’t really care anymore about getting out.
Sin always leads us into a pit, and sin is always going to be part of the story. But there’s good news: sin is not the end of the story. God is. He can rescue you and me out of the deepest pit. Corrie ten Boom said, “There is no pit that is so deep that God is not deeper still.”
Here’s a warning, though: You may well be in a pit and not realize it because your heart is dull of feeling and hearing. If Charlie had not thrown his clothes away and showered “Kibera” off of him, he would have eventually gotten used to the smell. But nobody around him would have. Our new purpose is nothing less than living for the will of God. It is a daily goal and a life goal: to align my life with God’s purposes. To live according to his will, not mine. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” On earth. And in my life.
Edmund Clowney wrote, “They (these elect exiles) now knew a better way, a way that their scornful friends could not imagine. Fervent love for brothers and sisters in Christ had replaced lust, alert awareness of the times had replaced drunken stupor, but, above all, the joyful adoration of the risen Lord had replaced the folly of idolatry.”
What a change! What a gift, this new purpose!