Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Goal-Setting, A Christian Approach, Part 5

In this final installment on goal-setting from a Christian perspective, I have a simple bit of advice: Sin boldly.

The words are from Christian reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546). Luther offered them as advice to those wrestling with decisions.

The advice will make no sense unless one is a follower of Jesus Christ. That's because Luther's not really commending doing things contrary to God's will. Instead, it's tongue-in-cheek counsel to those grateful for the free gift of forgiveness and life that comes to all who believe in Jesus.

Basically, the Christian who "sins boldly" in establishing their goals in life goes through the following steps:
(1) Puts a relationship with Christ first in their life.

(2) Remembers the five basic purposes for all of our lives, as revealed in the Bible and summarized in Rick Warrren's book, The Purpose Driven Life:

  • to worship God with our whole lives (this begins with a relationship with Christ)
  • to fellowship with other believers in Jesus Christ
  • to grow into becoming more like Christ
  • to serve others in Christ's Name (at home, at work, at play, in the community, and even in church)
  • to pass on the Good News of God's free gifts of forgiveness and eternal life for all with faith in Jesus Christ

(3) Fulfills duties to family members, employers, clients, friends, and neighbors.

(4) Looks for ways to best use talents and abilities to pursue the five purposes.

(5) Becomes familiar with God's Word to better know the mind of the One Who designed us in the first place and Who therefore, knows how our lives can function optimally.

(6) Prays

(7) Seeks the counsel of wise believers who both know God and the person seeking counsel.

(8) Finally, Luther would say, if our intentions are to do God's will and we still aren't sure what the right thing might be, we should do the next thing that seems needing to be done. If our intentions are right, Luther suggests, God is loving and gracious. He will make the most of the decisions and goals we adopt even if, as imperfect people, we might take the wrong step.
The Christian is both the freest person on the planet and the greatest servant. We are called by Jesus to be servants of God and neighbor, as the One we know as God and Savior has served us. [Luke 9:46-48; John 13:12-17] We live in voluntary submission to the purposes of God knowing that He has designed us and has good plans for us. [Jeremiah 29:11] We feel completely free to adopt the lifestyle of loving servants of God and others because we know we belong to God forever.

The thing I notice about Christians--and here I'm talking about the absolutely radically committed Christians--is how free they feel to be utterly idiosyncratic. Their relationship with the God they know through Jesus causes them to be fearless about trying their hands at a million different things.

Business consultant Laurie Beth Jones, in her book, Jesus, Life Coach, writes:
I don't know how anyone attempting to follow Jesus could ever be bored. As author Annie Dillard says, if we truly knew who we were worshiping, we'd all be wearing hard hats in church.

Jesus came not to reinforce your comfort zone, but to set your old small-minded ways on fire.
No grouping of people I know of feels as much personal security about being themselves as Christians on fire for Christ:
  • Desmond Tutu has fearlessly spoken out for human rights in a clerical collar while dancing the traditional dances of his black African people.
  • Jimmy Carter witnesses for Christ at a summit meeting with Leonid Brezhnev and after losing his re-election bid, becomes the most unique ex-President in US history.
  • The members of MXPX and POD festoon their bodies with tattoos, play thrashing music that makes its way onto mainstream music charts, and still maintain their Christian integrity, even when featured on MTV.
  • Bono may be an "unchurched Christian," but he is in closer community with people from around the world, including the destitute poor and innocent victims of AIDS of Africa, acting as their advocates even in the counsel of prime ministers and presidents.
  • The late Mother Teresa and the millions she's inspired feel free to not worry about where their next pennies may come from and have simply taken care of the dying others pass by.
I have witnessed this fearless weirdness not just in the famous, but in the everyday people who populate my world. They are unabashed about carrying their faith, witness for Christ, and Christian sensibilities into their daily lives, having decided to end the bifurcation of their lives between "sacred" and "secular." (For a great discussion of integrating Christian faith into daily living, read D. Michael Bennethum's little book, Listen! God is Calling!: Luther Speaks of Vocation, Faith, and Work.)

Christians feel free to sin boldly and risk getting it wrong because they believe--I believe--the words of the New Testament, where it says:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. [Romans 8:28]
God wants you to have a fantastic life of significance and meaning. In order to enjoy that life, I invite you to:
Turn from sin and ask God for forgiveness. Sin is the thing that prevents us from enjoying life as God meant for us to live it. Sin is the condition of heart, mind, and will that rebels against God, the One Who designed us in the first place. (Mark 1:15)

Trust (or believe) in Jesus, God the Son, Who took our punishment for sin on a cross and rose again in order to open up eternity with God to us. (John 3:16; Romans 6:23)

Ask God to guide you through your life, including being part of a faith community where you'll be supported, encouraged, and challenged in living faithfully and authentically. (Luke 11:9-10; Romans 12:12-26)

Sin boldly, knowing that God will make the most of your best efforts to live life His way! [Romans 8:28]


Vicky said...

Hi Mark,

Found your blog through Google. Your 5 posts on goal setting are very inspiring to me. Thank you for posting them! I have purchased the book you mentioned by Jerry Sittser as well.

Mark Daniels said...

I'm glad you found the posts helpful, Vicky!

Tell me what you think of the Sittser book. I hope you enjoy it.

God bless.