(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.
You’re not alone if you’ve ever asked yourself this question. Many of us didn’t know what came next after we received the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
We surely appreciate the tremendous steps God took to redeem us and impart His eternal life into us so that we could be born again. But believing in Jesus Christ is just the beginning of our Christian life. So much more lies ahead! Let’s look at some things that should occur after we first believe in the Lord.
Believing in Jesus Christ is the inward aspect of our salvation, and being baptised is the outward affirmation of our salvation. So after we believe, the next step is baptism. These two go together.
Mark 16:16 says, “He who believes and is baptised shall be saved.” The second part of note 1 on believes in the New Testament Recovery Version helps us see why both believing and being baptised are necessary:
“To believe and to be so baptized are two parts of one complete step for receiving the full salvation of God. To be baptized without believing is merely an empty ritual; to believe without being baptized is to be saved only inwardly without an outward affirmation of the inward salvation. These two should go together. Moreover, water baptism should be accompanied by Spirit baptism, even as the children of Israel were baptized in the sea (water) and in the cloud (the Spirit)—1 Cor. 10:2; 12:13.”
By believing and by being baptised, we receive the full salvation of God!
Consecrate yourself to the Lord
Another step we need to take after we’re saved is to consecrate ourselves to the Lord Jesus. To consecrate yourself means to give yourself to the Lord. Paul says in Romans 12:1:
“I exhort you therefore, brothers, through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.”
By consecrating ourselves to the Lord, we become a living sacrifice, putting ourselves completely in God’s hands. Previously, our lives were for ourselves; now, they’re for Him.
Consecrating ourselves to God helps us walk in His way, grow in His life, and enjoy His salvation. It also allows God to work in us.
Be transformed: A lifelong process
After believing and being baptised, we begin to undergo a lifelong process of Christ spreading from our regenerated spirit into our entire being, filling us with Himself. This process is called transformation in the Bible.
Ephesians 3:17 says, “That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.” When we believed in Him, Christ came to live in our spirit. But in this verse, we see a further step: Christ wants to spread from our spirit into our heart to make His home there. He wants to “settle down” in our heart, not as a guest but as its resident.
As Christ makes His home in our heart, we’re changed—that is, transformed—in our inward parts: our mind, our emotion, and our will. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually over time.
In Romans 12:2 the apostle Paul exhorts us to “be transformed.” Note 3 on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version helps us see what transformation is and how it takes place:
“Transformation is the inward, metabolic process in which God works to spread His divine life and nature throughout every part of our being, particularly our soul, bringing Christ and His riches into our being as our new element and causing our old, natural element to be gradually discharged. As a result, we will be transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18), that is, conformed to the image of the firstborn Son of God as His many brothers (Rom. 8:29). Thus we will be suitable for the building up of His Body.”
An excellent picture of transformation is a piece of petrified wood, which is the result of a process that takes millions of years. It begins when a branch is buried in soil with constant exposure to water. As the water flows around and through the branch, minerals in the water gradually replace the material of the wood. Over time, the wood is transformed into an object that has the colour, texture, and weight of a stone.
As we allow God’s life as living water to saturate us and spread in us, we too are being transformed. But this incredible transformation takes place in our soul, with all the elements of who Christ is!
Cooperate with God to be transformed
Since God never forces Himself on us but allows us to exercise our free will, our transformation occurs only with our cooperation. So how can we cooperate with God to be transformed? Here are just a few ways:
- Praying—as we speak to the Lord in prayer, we open our hearts to Him. This helps keep our hearts in a good condition toward Him.
- Scheduling a daily time with the Lord—setting apart a dedicated amount of time with the Lord Jesus every day is critical to maintaining a healthy relationship with Him. We can spend that time talking to Him, singing to Him, and prayerfully reading His Word.
- Calling on the name of the Lord—whether loudly or quietly, we can call on the Lord Jesus to contact and enjoy Him throughout the day.
- Reading the Bible—a healthy habit of daily Bible reading is one of the best ways to receive the transforming elements of Christ. This is how we’re nourished with spiritual food. First Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, long for the guileless milk of the word in order that by it you may grow unto salvation.” Just as a baby needs milk to grow, we need the Word of God as our spiritual nourishment so we can grow unto salvation.
- Obeying the sense in our spirit from the Lord—now that the Lord dwells in us, we get a sense from Him concerning many matters in our daily life. For example, maybe we want to purchase a particular item, but we have an uneasy feeling from the Lord in our spirit about it. That’s an opportunity to obey Him. Obeying Him to not buy that item allows the Lord to spread a little more into our soul.
Meet with other Christians
God doesn’t intend for Christians to be alone. After we’re saved, we need to find other believers in Christ so we can meet, fellowship, and grow together. We can even pray, “Lord, lead me to others who love You and follow You.” Gathering together to fellowship with believers in Christ strengthens our faith and encourages us to experience more of Christ.
Additionally, when we gather with other believers to fellowship and praise the Lord, God can be expressed through a group of people, thus fulfilling His plan.
So much awaits us after we first believe in Christ! We’re now on a lifelong journey of enjoying Christ’s presence and experiencing His rich and full salvation that continues throughout our entire lives.