(Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog)
The world today is full of troubles—wars, environmental crises, senseless violence, economic uncertainty, troubling new viruses, social upheaval. When you look at the chaos around the globe it can make you wonder, Does God have a plan? Why did He create everything? And if He does have a plan, how do we fit into it?
In this post, we’ll look at verses from both the Old and New Testaments, along with some key notes from the Recovery Version, to find the answers to these pressing questions.
God is a God of purpose
The Bible shows us that God never does anything aimlessly. He always acts intentionally, with a plan in mind. For instance, Revelation 4:11 says:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, for You have created all things, and because of Your will they were, and were created.”
This verse makes it clear not only that God has a will, but that He created all things because of His will.
Now let’s read Ephesians 1:11:
“In whom also we were designated as an inheritance, having been predestinated according to the purpose of the One who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”
Here the words purpose, counsel, and will indicate to us that God is a God of purpose.
From just these two verses, we can see that God wants something. And to obtain what He desires, God has a plan and works everything according to the counsel of His will.
God’s creation of man
Now that we’ve seen that God created everything because of His will, let’s consider God’s creation, especially His creation of man.
Genesis 1 tells us that when God created the heavens and the earth, He simply spoke. God said, “Let there be,” and things came into being, including light, dry land, plants, light-bearers (the sun, moon, and stars), sea creatures, birds, and animals. God was happy with what He created. The Bible tells us God saw it was good.
Then God came to the peak of His work of creation: man. In Genesis 1:26, the Bible records for the first time God’s thought concerning the man He would create:
“And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”
God wanted to make man in a unique way: in His image and according to His likeness. Since God has a mind, emotion, and will, He wanted man to have a mind, emotion, and will.
He also wanted to make man according to His likeness, that is, to resemble Him. For example, when you look at a photograph of a person, you see the likeness of that person. God wanted man to be according to His own likeness.
Then, instead of simply saying, “Let there be man,” God created man in a very intentional way. Genesis 2:7 says:
“Jehovah God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
In addition to creating man in His own image and according to His likeness, God also made man with a distinctive feature: the human spirit. Zechariah 12:1 says:
“Thus declares Jehovah, who stretches forth the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth and forms the spirit of man within him.”
The human spirit is so special that God’s Word places it on the same level as the creation of the heavens and the earth! That’s because the spirit of man enables man to contact, receive, and contain God.
No wonder after God created the heavens, the earth, and finally man, Genesis 1:31 says this:
“And God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
Only after man was created did God look upon all His creation as not just good but very good. God was happy with all He created, especially man.
God’s plan for mankind
God already had myriads of angels to worship and serve Him. What was in His heart for mankind was something different.
In God’s heart was the deep desire to enter into the human beings that He created with such thought and care. He wanted us to receive Him so He could be joined to us. God wanted to share His life with us and live in us. In such an intimate relationship, God would be everything to us. He would live together with us, and we would be one with Him.
And because we were created in God’s image and according to His likeness, by being filled with Him, God would be manifested and expressed through us and with us. Simply put, this is God’s plan.
The fall of mankind
We’ve seen how God created man according to His plan in a wonderful way. But in this universe, God has an enemy, Satan. Satan hates God, and he hates man because man will fulfil God’s desire. So Satan seized the opportunity and tempted man into disobeying God. Instead of receiving the life of God as God intended, man took in the evil nature of Satan. Because of that, all mankind was polluted by sin and separated from God. This corruption has been the source of all the vicious evil in the world throughout all of human history.
But nothing can deter God from carrying out His plan with mankind! In His wisdom, God Himself became a man, Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. He took care of the problem between the righteous God and sinful mankind. Because the redemption Jesus accomplished is thoroughly effective, God’s plan can be fulfilled with everyone who believes in Jesus.
God’s plan and our life as believers
As believers in Jesus Christ, when we received Him as our Savior a number of wonderful things happened to us. We were forgiven of our sins and saved from eternal judgment. And what’s more, Christ came to live in our spirit, our deepest part.
Now the Savior who loves us and died for us is no longer outside of us. First Corinthians 6:17 says:
“But He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”
Note 2 in the New Testament Recovery Version on one spirit explains the amazing meaning of this verse:
“This indicates the mingling of the Lord as the Spirit with our spirit. Our spirit has been regenerated by the Spirit of God (John 3:6), who is now in us (v. 19) and is one with our spirit (Rom. 8:16). This is the realization of the Lord, who became the life-giving Spirit through resurrection (15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17) and who is now with our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22). This mingled spirit is often referred to in Paul’s Epistles, e.g., in Rom. 8:4-6.”
First Corinthians 15:45, referenced above, says:
“So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul’; the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving Spirit.”
Now as the Spirit the Lord is more than near to us. His Spirit and our spirit are mingled as one. This brings us into the most intimate relationship with the Lord.
God’s great plan for every one of us is that we would know Him not merely objectively as our Creator God, but subjectively as the One who saved us and came to live in us.
It’s because He lives within us that we can know Him in a personal and experiential way. He can speak to us inwardly and we can fellowship with Him. We can enjoy Him as He walks with us, supplies us, comforts us, and supports us all the time. At any moment, we can contact and experience Him in our spirit.
How God fills us
It’s an astounding fact that the Lord is now living in our spirit, and we can experience Him at any time. But He doesn’t want to stay confined to our spirit. He wants to fill us by spreading out from our spirit into our whole being. As He fills us with Himself, He can be expressed through us.
We see this in 1 Thessalonians 5:23:
“And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our being is composed of our spirit, our soul, and our body. God wants to sanctify us wholly, that is, in every part.
Note 5 in the New Testament Recovery Version on this verse is enlightening and includes references to some key verses, which we encourage you to read. The note helps us see how God works to sanctify us wholly. The first section of the note defines our spirit, soul, and body:
“This word strongly indicates that man is of three parts: spirit, soul, and body. The spirit as our inmost part is the inner organ, possessing God-consciousness, that we may contact God (John 4:24; Rom. 1:9). The soul is our very self (cf. Matt. 16:26; Luke 9:25), a medium between our spirit and our body, possessing self-consciousness, that we may have our personality. The body as our external part is the outer organ, possessing world-consciousness, that we may contact the material world. The body contains the soul, and the soul is the vessel that contains the spirit. In the spirit, God as the Spirit dwells; in the soul, our self dwells; and in the body, the physical senses dwell.”
Then the second section explains how God sanctifies each part:
“God sanctifies us, first, by taking possession of our spirit through regeneration (John 3:5-6); second, by spreading Himself as the life-giving Spirit from our spirit into our soul to saturate and transform our soul (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18); and last, by enlivening our mortal body through our soul (Rom. 8:11, 13) and transfiguring our body by His life power (Phil. 3:21).”
Our daily Christian life
Our life as believers in Christ is one of experiencing and enjoying the Lord who dwells in our spirit. In a loving and intimate relationship with Christ, we can know Him and experience Him as everything to us.
We can maintain our fellowship with the Lord by praying to Him, feeding on His Word, obeying Him when He speaks to us about any matter in our daily life, and confessing any sin He makes us aware of. As we do this, He has the opportunity to grow in us and spread from our spirit into every part of our soul; eventually, He’ll even enliven our body. By being fully saturated with Him this way, we redeemed and regenerated human beings created in God’s image and according to His likeness together will become His expression in this universe for His glory.
This is why God created all things, and this is His plan for every human being. God desires all men to be saved so they can be part of His wonderful plan.
Seeing God’s plan will revolutionize the way we view the world and humanity. Nothing is happening in a random way. His enemy is still at work inciting chaos and trying to keep people away from God. But God, who is far greater, is operating in many ways to save people and bring them back to His original plan. This view will be a solid foundation for our Christian life and even help us tell others about God’s plan for them.
The subject of God’s purpose and plan is great and profound and has many aspects. We’ve only touched upon it briefly in this post. For a more detailed view, you can download The Economy of God here and start by reading chapter 1.
And if you live in Australia, you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version here so you can read all the New Testament verses we mentioned in this post and their accompanying notes and verse references.
When the love of the Lord Jesus first touched us and we repented and confessed His name, a deep joy we’d never known before filled our hearts. What a joy it was to be forgiven and born again! God wants all His children to continue to rejoice in His wonderful salvation for their whole lives. This should be the normal experience of every believer, as we see in 1 Peter 1:8: “You exult with joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.”
We’ve experienced such a wonderful salvation, and now we have access to all the riches of Christ. We should be overflowing with unspeakable joy. But while we can never lose our eternal salvation, we can sometimes lose the joy of our salvation. How does this happen? Let’s look at two possible causes.
1. Sin causes us to lose the joy of our salvation
Although we’re saved, we all still sin, fail the Lord, and disobey Him. The sins we commit cause us to lose our joy. After we sin, we feel that something’s wrong; we sense a barrier that’s come up between us and the Lord. Isaiah 59:2 tells us,
“Your iniquities have become a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”
Our sins separate us from God because God is righteous; He can’t tolerate sin. This is why even a small transgression creates a barrier between us and God. Big or small, our sins cause us to lose the joy of our salvation.
2. Grieving the Spirit who indwells us causes us to lose the joy of our salvation
Romans 8:9 tells us clearly that “the Spirit of God dwells in you.” When we received the Lord Jesus as our Saviour, He not only redeemed us, but He also came to dwell in us as the Spirit. Now we’re no longer alone; we have another Person living in us, and He has His own thoughts, feelings, and preferences. Whenever we go along with the Lord who lives inside of us, He’s happy. And when He’s happy, we’re happy.
In Ephesians 4:30, Paul says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.” Note 1 in the New Testament Recovery Version explains what it means to grieve the Holy Spirit:
“To grieve the Holy Spirit is to displease Him. The Holy Spirit abides in us forever (John 14:16-17), never leaving us. Hence, He is grieved when we do not walk according to Him (Rom. 8:4), that is, when we do not live according to the principle of reality with grace in the details of our daily walk.”
Let’s say, for example, we want to go to a certain place. But when we think about going, we feel uneasy. This feeling tells us that the Lord doesn’t want to go there. Though we may try to reason that it’s really okay, the uneasy feeling won’t go away; the Lord Jesus simply doesn’t want to go there. But say that instead of agreeing with the Lord and obeying Him, we go anyway. By not walking according to Him, we grieve Him and make Him unhappy. And it’s impossible for us to be happy when He’s grieved.
How can we recover and maintain the joy of our salvation?
As Christians, our joy can sometimes seem very elusive. We may even find ourselves crying out as David did, “Lord, restore to me the joy of Your salvation!” What can we do to recover our joy in such times, and how can we avoid losing it in the first place?
Just as a delicate flower is maintained and nurtured by the proper soil, water, and sunlight, our joy is preserved by the right conditions. Here are four healthy habits that can provide the right conditions to maintain our joy.
1. Confess our sins quickly
Whether our sins are small transgressions or serious offenses, we must confess them to the Lord. This includes grieving the Spirit. Whenever our conscience makes us aware that we’ve sinned, we shouldn’t wait to confess to the Lord. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We confess, and God is righteous to forgive us and cleanse us. When the problem of sin is dealt with and our fellowship with Him is restored, we experience the joy of salvation once again.
Learning to confess our sins without delay is a good habit to develop. There’s no reason to wait. The sooner we confess our sins and failures to the Lord, the sooner we can enjoy sweet fellowship with Him once more.
2. Take in God’s Word as our spiritual food daily
We all know how grumpy and irritable we can be when we haven’t eaten and are physically hungry, or even undernourished. We experience the same thing spiritually when we haven’t been eating. If we spend time daily to delight ourselves in His Word, the words we feed on become the gladness and joy of our heart, supplying us throughout our day.
Eating physical food is an enjoyment to us, but eating the Word of God brings us true and lasting inner satisfaction. A daily habit of taking in God’s Word as our spiritual nourishment will help us maintain our joy in God’s salvation.
3. Speak to the Lord in prayer all the time
When we come to the Lord, we don’t need to kneel down and solemnly recite a formal prayer. We can simply open our hearts and speak to the Lord Jesus in a personal way. At any time, day or night, we can talk to Him. In John 16:24, the Lord Jesus says to “ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be made full.” Speaking to Him in prayer about everything brings us joy. We can even pray by simply calling upon the name of the Lord.
By opening to the Lord in prayer every day and throughout the day—not only at set times or during major life events—we strengthen our loving relationship with Him. By staying in fellowship with Him, we maintain our joy.
4. Fellowship with other Christians regularly
Having fellowship with other Christians also helps us maintain our joy in the Lord, since one of the greatest joys of the Christian life is to come together with others who love Jesus.
Concerning the believers’ fellowship, in 1 John 1:3-4 the apostle John shows us that genuine Christian fellowship is not a duty or a ritual but a matter of joy:
“That which we have seen and heard we report also to you that you also may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write that our joy may be made full.”
Gathering with other believers to read the Bible, speak about Christ, and praise the Lord refreshes us, encourages us, and makes our joy full.
May we endeavour to build up these healthy habits in our daily lives. By confessing our sins, feeding on God’s Word, speaking to the Lord in prayer, and getting together to fellowship with other Christians, we can maintain an overflowing joy in our Christian lives.