Even Good Intentions Are Not Enough
Of late, “intention” is a word that has been circulating within my mind. So, when I recently heard a Christian psychologist say something like, “Intentions don’t produce results,” my mind went to work.
“Intention” expresses our desired end, but does not necessarily express the actual end. So for us finite creatures, intention is good but not enough. It may start something, but mere intention won’t keep or complete it.
For example, how many times have we been corrected/confronted by our spouse or friend only to respond, “Well, I did/didn’t intend to….”? The result was different from our intention. But our intention did not change the outcome, much less excuse our fault.
So, good intention is necessary but not enough. It needs more. Intention must be accompanied with continual focus and consistent action. It needs to be tethered to decision-making, discipline, and diligence. Knowing and maintaining our intentions can help direct our decision-making, fuel our discipline, and strengthen our diligence, but, good intentions alone will not bring the desired results.
So what good intentions are still lying dormant in our past? Have we intended to invite someone over for dinner? Have we intended to apologize and seek forgiveness? Have we intended to learn the Bible and increase in prayer? Have we intended to call a friend or family member? Have we intended to evangelize? Have we done it?
Lest I leave us discouraged, first, we should rejoice that our salvation is not dependent upon our intentions, but upon faith alone in Christ alone. The gospel declares what God has done in Christ, not what we must accomplish! Second, we should fix our eyes on the faithful God who always fulfils what He intends.
God intended to create humanity in His image; He intended to call a people for Himself; He intended to establish His rule through His anointed King; He intended to provide salvation through sacrifice; He intended to purchase redemption through ransom; He intended to provide reconciliation through vicarious death. And He did! He fulfilled all of these intentions through, by, and in Jesus Christ the Lord.
God intends to sanctify His people; He intends to conform His children into the image of the Son; He intends to judge the living and the dead; He intends to condemn the wicked and establish universal righteousness; He intends to create the new heavens and earth; He intends to complete what He started; He intends to eternally dwell with His redeemed people. And He will! He will fulfil all of these intentions through, by, and in Jesus Christ our Lord!
May God grant us grace to fulfil our godly intentions that we may reflect His image well.
The Everlasting God
In Genesis 21:33 we discover that “the LORD is the Everlasting God.” This is a transcendent truth which goes beyond all that we are familiar with. The people we know, the bodies we inhabit, the possessions we own, the creation we see, even the experiences we have, do not last. They have a beginning and an end.
But not God! He is the Everlasting God! And the prophet Isaiah implies that we ought to know and continually keep this truth before our minds, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.” (Is 40:28)
The everlastingness of God is good news for His people. Because God is everlasting:
But what is good news for believers is tragic news for unbelievers. Because God is everlasting His judgment and wrath toward unrepentant, unbelieving sinners is also everlasting. (Mat 13:36-42; 22:1-13; 25:41, 46; Rev 20:7-15)
Sinner-friend, there is no need for you to live and die under God’s wrath. For God, in love, sent Jesus to live the life you couldn’t (sinless) and to die the death you should’ve. Then He raised Jesus from the dead, declaring Him to be the Son of God in power. Now God has promised forgiveness and eternal life to all who repent of their sins and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t be unbelieving, but believe! The Everlasting God is waiting for you to turn to Him.
Encouragement and Accountability
There I was, warm in my study minding my own business, when the sweet voice of my daughter said, “Dad…I’m going on a run…” (oh no! here it comes) “Do you want to go with me?” Now, in the theoretical sense, yes, I wanted to go. But, in the immediate moment of moving away from warmth and comfort to coldness and exertion, no, I did not want to go. So with a laugh I responded “No, I don’t want to go for a run.” But then my conscience took over and I realized that I had just been given a great opportunity not just to run, but to spend time with my daughter. So, I layered up and laced up, and off we went. We talked a little, shivered a lot, and breathed hard, but my daughter helped me to keep moving forward in one of my goals.
Unwittingly, she had just been used by God to remind me of two aspects of Christian living that are vital for producing healthy Christians and churches: encouragement and accountability. Just as my daughter provided the encouragement and accountability I needed to run on a cold day, so we are to provide mutual encouragement and accountability that we may grow in grace and godliness.
My daughter’s encouragement and accountability came in three ways. First, she came to me and asked a question. Sometimes, that’s what a person needs. He needs someone to come and inquire about him. Someone who will take a genuine interest. This was a part of what the angel of the Lord did for Hagar in Genesis 16. “The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness…And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?'” (Gen 16:7-8) Timely and appropriate questions are a kindness.
Secondly, she provided an opportunity for me to run with her. She didn’t remind me of my goal and send me out the door. In the Christian life, we need to provide opportunities for encouragement and accountability where we are available to enter in with our brothers and sisters; to “run” with them. We need togetherness. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!…And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Eccl 4:9-12) Togetherness is key.
And finally, my daughter had established an example of disciplined running that encouraged me to try the same. In the faith, godly examples our powerful instruments in the hand of the Lord to grow and mobilize His people. We need to see godliness lived out in day to day responsibilities and relationships. Paul told Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12) Godly examples are crucial.
May God continue to grow us in the graces of encouragement and accountability!
p.s.–Just an added thought–I could have reasoned, “Who does my daughter think she is. I have run many more days and miles than she has. I don’t need this young whipper-snapper’s help!” But, I would have been wrong. Let’s not resent the zeal of those young in the faith and discount our need for their involvement in spurring us on to love and good works.
Yesterday, I kept bumping into the word “humility”. From the morning devotional, to a mid-afternoon meeting, till I closed the book I was reading and went to sleep, humility seemed to be the word of the day for me. No doubt, it’s because I need to grow down in Christ-like humility.
I want to submit to you just two thoughts regarding humility.
First, humility comes from the gospel. In Philippians 2:3-9 the Apostle Paul writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves….Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him…”(bold-type mine)
Humility, then, comes from and grows out of faith in the gospel of the Self-humbling of Jesus Christ who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45)
Secondly, humility sends us back to the gospel. The more we grow in the grace of humility, the more we see our desperate need for the gospel. Gospel humility makes us all the more aware of our sinful capacities. William Jay, a 19th century Presbyterian pastor, rightly observed, “the more [one] advances in the divine life, the more he sinks in his own estimation.” Isn’t this why the great Apostle Paul said toward the end of his life, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost”? (bold-type mine) Gospel humility produces a growing gospel dependency, for, the more I see my sins and shortcomings, the more I must see my Savior.
Loved ones, we will never out grow our need for the gospel. So let us drink freely from the well-spring of salvation, and, as we grow in gospel humility, let us say with John Newton, “I am a great sinner, but Jesus Christ is a great Savior.”
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.