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September 16, 2013

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How to set spiritual goals that receive God’s approval

by Dave Malnes

People are sometimes inspired to set goals for themselves. Resolutions are made at the beginning of each year that are designed to improve a person’s well being. Some goals are associated with career and some seek to increase their wealth.

Whatever the goal, a measure of sacrifice and discipline is required to accomplish them. What about spiritual goals?

Some will say that our lives on earth is a test. Some will suggest that by following the commandments set forth by God and being a good steward on this earth will allow a person to qualify for heaven. A benefit of trying to reach these goals could invite greater peace, happiness, or and joy.

Is happiness and joy a realistic spiritual goal? What if happiness keeps eluding a person no matter how hard they sacrifice themselves to achieve this goal?

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When goals that matter seem unattainable, many people will settle for just trying to do their best. In their effort to qualify for heaven, most will take comfort in just trying to be a good person and hope for the best. Yet, nagging questions about our purpose in life, what God thinks of us, or why we struggle to find joy in our lives is pushed back into the recesses of our mind. Instead we focus on activities and pursuits that help distract us from difficult questions.

Life does not have to be a never-ending pursuit to pass a test in order to qualify for heaven — or even to receive joy, peace, or happiness.

To accomplish the spiritual goal of acquiring God’s approval for heaven does, however, require a great sacrifice. It’s a matter of what type of sacrifice God desires and by whom.

Perhaps a recent NASCAR race I watched on television can help paint a better picture.

Two drivers were aggressively positioning themselves on the racetrack in the final laps of an important race. One of the drivers aggressively nudged another car out of the way to make a successful pass and caused a crash. After the race, the driver who crashed expressed his disgust by displaying with his hand the universal symbol of extreme displeasure and disgust. He not only wanted to express his anger, but also to offend the transgressor.

In our desire to have a right relationship with God, we can express how we feel about him in one of two ways — it can depend on what finger we use.

In one way, we express to God our faith by raising our index finger in the air to proclaim that he is number one in our lives. We trust his promises and all that He has done for us in Christ Jesus. By Christ’s substitute on the cross, we can be declared fully forgiven and worthy of eternal life in heaven.

The opposite way is to curse God through unbelief. But, we read in the gospels that Jesus reserves his strongest word for the those who believed they could be right with God by trusting in their own good works and appearances. To believe that we can become right with God based on our own efforts is the greatest insult we can give Him. It causes Him so much offense that it would be like raising up our middle finger to the heavens and cursing God.

It’s that extreme.

Few people desire to curse God. If our goal is to reach heaven and be judged according to our own sacrifice and determination, then it would be wise to investigate whether our actions are pleasing to God or offensive. That is the purpose of God’s Word. Here, we find out how Christ became the only sacrifice to meet God’s standards for righteousness.

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.. ..and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:20-24)

Take God at His Word and believe.

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