When your entire life is built around being a follower of Jesus and being in the church, it’s easy to forget how much of what we say as Christians can sound strange to outside ears. To be washed in the blood sounds like a scene from a horror movie, to carry your cross just sounds morbid and uncomfortable, and a hedge of protection sounds like a really ineffective gardening/defensive hybrid. One of the things that also gets tossed around a lot in Christian culture is the word “intentional” or sometimes “intentional living”. I happen to be at a church that doesn’t throw this around a lot, so it took me a while of being around other believers before I picked it up, but it’s fast become one of my favorite Christian living concepts.
Before we get into my thoughts about it, let’s look at a verse from Luke.
Luke 13:22 Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem.
Jesus was a man on a mission. He lived, fully and completely, every day, present with those around him, open to whatever popped up, interacting with those he encountered along the way. BUT, Jesus was working toward a very specific goal. This verse tells us that he was living a full life, but that he was “always pressing on toward Jerusalem.” This wasn’t just living, it was intentional living. Jesus knew what his mission was and he knew what needed to be done, and even though there were plenty of things to do on the way, he never took his eyes off of the end goal.
Intentional living is one of those concepts that can transform your life on every level. It provides purpose to every day. Living an intentional life means that you hold fast to the truths of the Bible, that God created you for a purpose and that He’s equipped you to carry out that purpose. You wake up each day and ask how you’re going to move closer toward that purpose that day.
Of all the feelings that I hate the most, I think feeling purposeless might be the worst. I also think it’s all too common. When you’re not actively engaged in following Jesus, you are not living out your true purpose. That means that no matter what you do and no matter how high up the corporate ladder you climb or how much money you make or how many friends you surround yourself with or how deeply in love with your wife you are, you will always have an emptiness inside of you. I spent about fifteen years of my life being purposeless. Entertainment didn’t do the trick, friends didn’t, relationships didn’t, hobbies and artistic pursuits didn’t. I floated, day to day to day, accomplishing nothing of consequence. There was no intention to my life, no purpose, no end goal. I remember having really good days, a day filled with good food and laughs and friends, and then I’d get home at night and lay in bed and cry. I remember being so completely confused by this because it made no sense. I’d just had what I defined at that point in my life as a great day, so why then was I so sad and unfulfilled? It’s because I wasn’t moving toward the thing I was created to move toward.
Jesus always gives the best example, and Jesus was a man who was always moving toward something. He knew his end destination, the purpose of his time on earth. When you study the Bible and look for guidance on intentional living, you’ll find that it always involves moving forward.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Paul wrote about it too, talking in his letter about the forward motion of his life.
Philippians 3:12-14 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Paul got it. Not perfect, not to the end yet, but living intentionally, past behind him where it belonged, future in front of him. He had an ultimate goal too, the one that every believer should have. Heaven. Intentional living with heaven in mind keeps a man from all types of traps. A one night stand isn’t a worthwhile endeavor when viewed through intentional eyes that are fixed on heaven. Eighty measly, short years, aren’t worth much to a man who is moving intentionally toward eternity in paradise. That’s easy to give up and to use to serve others and serve God when you know it’s all in pursuit of a worthy goal.
Intentional living should be tied into every single aspect of our lives. Why am I watching TV right now? Do I need a little time to unwind, or am I putting off important tasks or ignoring responsibilities? Why am I going to work every day? Is it just to make a buck so I can pay the bills or is it a place where I can do ministry and be a shining example to others? Why am I messaging this cute girl from church on Facebook? Am I just lonely and looking in the wrong place for companionship or am I trying to get to know someone that my spirit feels is a potential partner?
Having intentionality in every aspect of your life doesn’t kill creativity or spontaneity. Jesus wasn’t just running toward Jerusalem with his head down. His life was full. He taught along the way, healed along the way, and loved along the way. We studied a few weeks back about Jesus coming across a funeral procession. He was open to the unexpected, to the circumstances of life that happen to all of us. But he was intentional when he engaged people. He taught with intention, knowing that he needed to educate and inspire the future leaders of the church. He even died with intention.
Make intentional living a cornerstone of your life. Just as Jesus was always pressing toward Jerusalem, we need to identify the Biblical and Godly goals in all the areas of our lives and we need to live in a manner that looks to achieve those goals.
I love all of you and I really appreciate those of you who come here and study the book of Luke alongside me. God is so wonderful and the Bible is such a delightful book to study, it’s never wasted time.
If you’ve got a prayer request or just need someone to talk to, my email is always open to you at firstname.lastname@example.org.