God's Purpose for Your Life: You are the salt of the earth; . . . you are the light of the world.
(Matt. 5:13–14)

         Why did God create you? What is your purpose for living? What did God put you on the earth to do?
         I don't imagine these questions were uppermost in Carolyn McKenzie's mind when she picked up the phone to call her local radio station with a concern. Yet, at the moment she made that call, she set in motion events that answered those questions in a profound way for her own life.
 The power of a concerned mother

         Carolyn McKenzie is a Memphis, Tennessee, homemaker, wife to her husband, Mark, and mother to their four sons. "One night," she recalled, "my youngest child, who is handicapped, was playing with the radio, and I overheard an advertisement for a topless club. One thing that caught my attention was that the advertisement invited young women to come in on Wednesdays to strip for amateur night. Every woman who participated would receive fifty dollars and the winner would be paid a three-hundred-dollar prize. I thought, It's such a shame that they would have that on a radio station with such a young listening audience.
         The next day Carolyn picked up the phone and called the radio station to complain about the ad—but the station refused to do anything about it. So Carolyn listened to the radio each night, wrote down the names of businesses that ran ads around the ad for the topless club—and then she called those businesses. "I'm a concerned mother in the community," she said, "and this ad for a topless club is running back-to-back with the ad for your business. Is this the kind of thing you want your business to be identified with?"
         She went on to tell these business owners that the topless club had attracted the attention of the vice squad and the health department because it contained peep show booths where patrons engaged in anonymous sex acts. Trained as a healthcare professional, Carolyn was concerned not only about the moral threat posed by such businesses, but also about the health risks to the community. "If you're as concerned about your community as I am," she said, "please let the radio station know how you feel about this advertiser and the damage it does to your company's image."
         Change didn't happen overnight, but Carolyn was persistent. She kept listening to the radio station, she kept calling local businesses—and before two months had passed, the ads for the topless club disappeared from the airwaves.
         But Carolyn's work wasn't finished. She talked to the district attorney about prosecuting such businesses. He told Carolyn that many of the businesses were operating illegally, but that pursuing violations against them was a low priority in his office. "Every call I made, every question I asked," she said, "was met with, 'We don't have enough manpower; we don't have enough money.' To me, that was no excuse for inaction."
         Carolyn contacted a group called the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, and she discovered what other people had done to clean up their communities. "I learned about a bill that had been passed by the state of Delaware, requiring that doors be removed from so-called 'peep booths' so that the booths no longer offered any privacy. Though it was still legal for people to go into the booths and watch dirty movies, they could no longer engage in sex acts, either alone or with other people."
         She got other people in the community involved, she got the D.A.'s office involved, and she went to the Tennessee state legislature, testifying before legislative committees. A doctor with her group documented the fact that he had found dried and fresh semen and human waste on the floors, walls, and chairs in the peep booths. As a result, a strong bill was enacted by the state legislature, over the loud protests of the rich and powerful pornography industry.
  "My daughter is a topless dancer"

         Sometime later, as Carolyn McKenzie was doing a radio interview on a call-in show describing her battle against pornography in her community, a woman called the show. "My daughter is a topless dancer," said the caller. "She wants to leave, but she has tremendous credit card debts and she makes good money as a dancer. She doesn't know how to get out of the business. Can you help her?" Carolyn agreed to meet with the caller's daughter.
         When Carolyn met with the young woman, she told her, "If you promise to leave the strip club now and never go back, I'll help pay your bills." Carolyn and her husband were not wealthy and had no idea where the money was coming from—but she felt God telling her that He would provide. "My heavenly Father has always met my needs," she told the young woman, "and I know He is going to meet your needs too. I'm not going to ask you to go to church or a Bible study with me right now—but I'm going to pray for you. Then we'll see together if God provides for you."
         "Carolyn was just so bubbly and positive," the young woman later recalled, "that she made me feel like everything was going to be okay. She put her arms around me, and I could feel the love."
         Carolyn and her husband provided short-term help for this young woman, but ultimately the solution to her problems was found in answered prayer. The young woman found a job, and her husband—who was AWOL from the navy—turned himself in and was reinstated. Within a year this young woman and her husband had paid off all their credit card debt and were paying their bills on time—without having to sacrifice this young woman's morality and dignity. Most importantly, these two young people committed their lives to Jesus Christ.
         And that was just the beginning! Since then Carolyn has helped a dozen or more young women escape the trap of the pornography industry, and many of them have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Their stories are heartbreaking: Some started dancing topless as young as eighteen; some were single mothers; some were forced into prostitution. Lured by the promise of easy money—as much as a thousand dollars a week—they soon found themselves in degrading circumstances, unable to escape, surrounded by filth, violence, drugs, disease, and men who wanted only to use them. Many of these young women drank or used drugs to anesthetize themselves to the pain of their hopeless condition. The strip club managers constantly berated them by asking, "Who would ever hire you to do anything but strip?"
         But Carolyn found a local businessman who trained and employed many of these young women so they could leave the dark world of pornography and come into the light. "Carolyn helped me become a human being again," reflected one of the young women Carolyn rescued. "Without her, I know I would be in a strip club tonight."
         And it all began when Carolyn McKenzie picked up the phone to call a radio station.
         Why did God create Carolyn McKenzie? What did God put her on the earth to do? Certainly He desired for her to be a follower of Christ, a life partner to her husband, Mark, and a mother to her four boys—but clearly He also created her to be salt and light in a corrupt and dark world. By the grace of God, Carolyn McKenzie has discovered God's purpose for her life, and she is allowing God to use her in a mighty way to redeem her little corner of the world and to bring others into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Creatures of purpose

         You and I are conscious and rational beings. We cannot live without a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives. Whether it is clearly understood or only implicit, everything we do is activated and motivated by a sense of purpose. This is not to say that every human purpose and motivation is a good and noble one. Some of us are motivated by greed, hate, revenge, or lust. For some of us the only purpose for living is to acquire money, fame, power, or sex. Whether our purpose is evil and debased or noble and exalted, whether it is a conscious purpose or a hidden and unconscious drive, every act of every human being is tinctured through and through with a sense of purpose. So it's important that we examine and ask ourselves, "What is the purpose for my life? What is my motivation for the things I do?"
         If it is true that an unexamined life is not worth living, I think it is even more profoundly and biblically true that an unexamined life may lead us into great conflict with God. He is our Maker, and He created us with a specific purpose in mind. If we outline a purpose for our lives that does not square with His, then our own self-willed purpose is doomed to be self-destructive. A computer and a hammer are both tools, but their creators have designed them with very different purposes in mind. If you attempt to use a computer to fulfill the purpose of a hammer, the result will be the destruction of the computer! So it is with us. We must put ourselves to the purpose for which God designed us—or our lives will ultimately be wasted and ruined. It is critically important that we find God's purpose for our lives so that we can find true meaning and fulfill our reason for existing.
         You and I are mortal human beings. We are rushing at a constant and inexorable rate of sixty seconds per minute, sixty minutes per hour, toward the Final Reckoning, toward the Great Assize, the Ultimate Judgment. When we stand before the One who has made us, He will ask, "How have you used the time I have given you? Have you fulfilled the purpose for which I placed you on the earth?"
         What will our answer be?
         If we do not want to be ashamed on that day, then we need to determine God's purpose for our lives right now, today, while we still have time to fulfill it and be used by God. We have to ask ourselves, "What am I living for? What is the purpose of my life?"
         The secular humanist world in which we live has an answer for the question. It is a deceptive answer, but it is repeated loudly, and it assaults our senses day and night: "There is no purpose to life—no purpose at all! There is no God who gives you purpose. You are simply an accident in time and space. All you have is this moment, so enjoy it while it lasts!"
         This philosophy is shouted at us in all sorts of ways in every information and entertainment medium we encounter. The beer commercials put it this way: "You only go around once, so grab all the gusto you can!" (The advertising sloganeer who came up with that one is in for a big shock when he wakes up in eternity and finds out that you go around forever!) The English mathematician-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead stated this philosophy with dreary, desolate conciseness: "Human life is a flash of occasional enjoyments lighting up a mass of pain and misery." And the famed American eccentric, Gertrude Stein, put it this way: "There ain't no answer. There ain't going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer." Well, that's no answer at all—and it's certainly not God's answer.

God's Answer: The Two Mandates

         If I asked you what the purpose for your life is, what would your answer be? I suspect that if I asked fifty people, I could get fifty different answers. And each of those answers would suffer from a single defect: They would all be partial.
         But is there one complete, absolute, all-encompassing answer to the question of human purpose and meaning? Can I know God's purpose for my life? My friend, the answer is yes!
         God's answer to the question of human purpose and meaning centers around the two great mandates He has given us in His Word. A mandate, of course, is a directive or command that points us in a specific direction. The first of God's two mandates—the Cultural Mandate—is found at the very beginning of the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:26–28:
         Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
         Here we see that God had a discussion within the confines of the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and He made a decision: "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." This was God's original intention: to make human beings in His own image. And He blessed human beings and made them His "vice-regents"—that is, His corulers over His creation with authority given by Him to act in His name and in His stead. And He instructed human beings, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion" over all the creatures of the earth. We are, in effect, God's junior partners. He has given us the command to multiply and fill the earth, and He has given us the responsibility to have dominion and sovereignty over all the earth in the name of the living God.
         That mandate is still in force today. As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.
         God commanded us to advance—and we have disobediently retreated. Instead of exercising dominion in the name of God, we have abdicated and relegated this world to the control of the dark and bloody god of this world, Satan. In so doing, we have robbed God of His rightful glory in the world He has made.
         You don't have to look far to see the result of our retreat from the Cultural Mandate. Unbelief has replaced belief as the cultural norm. On our television screens, which once presented a godly image of the family on such popular shows as Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver, it is now difficult to find a single healthy, intact, churchgoing family. Is it because healthy families don't exist? Were the families of Jim and Margaret Anderson or Ward and June Cleaver hopelessly unrealistic? No, of course not. But today's culture—which is bent on tearing down Christian moral values—would like us to think so. Prime-time TV is a nightly moral meltdown of adultery, fornication, and homosexuality—and rarely can we find even a hint of healthy, married sexuality as God intended.
         Step away from the TV in your own family room, visit the local cineplex or bookstore or magazine rack, and you will find that the corrupting influence of unbelief is just as pervasive there. Tragically, the response of all too many Christians has been to abandon these centers of cultural influence to the dominion of Satan. That is a major mistake—and an act of disobedience against God's Cultural Mandate. We need to have an effect for God in those areas of influence. The first mandate, the Cultural Mandate, was given at the dawn of creation. The second mandate, the Great Commission, was given at the dawn of the new creation, at the very beginning of the Christian era, soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We find the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–20:
         "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
        Here again, we see one of the reasons for the mess the world is in today—and once again we have to confess that it is our failure as the Church of Jesus Christ to carry out God's second mandate, the Great Commission. Here again, God has commanded us to advance and we have retreated. We would like to blame the world's ills on the atheists, the ACLU, the NEA, NOW, on other godless institutions—but a great share of the blame belongs squarely at our own doorstep, because we have disobeyed the Great Commission to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The solution to the world's problems

         We cannot complain about the weeds of godlessness that have sprung up in God's garden—because we have allowed it to happen! The majority of young people in this country neither know where Jesus Christ was born, nor where He died, nor could they name half of the Ten Commandments. That is our failing, our disobedience, and no one else's. We who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ have allowed this to happen because we have not witnessed to the world about the wonderful message of hope that we have received.
         A glance at polling data will show that, while the Church has not been totally inactive, it has not been nearly as effective in carrying out the Great Commission as it could and should have been. According to the Gallup polling organization, the number of Americans who claimed to be born-again Christians in 1994 was 35 percent. A year later it was 39 percent—an increase of about 8 million adults. By 1998, it was 42 percent. Now that's good news and bad news. The good news is that we see a positive trend—more and more Americans cross the threshold into God's kingdom every year. The bad news is that most Christians did absolutely nothing to carry out the Great Commission!
         Think about it: If every Christian in America had simply led one person to Christ during 1998, the number of born-again Christians would have doubled from 42 percent to 84 percent in one year! By the year 2000, according to this simple mathematical calculation, the entire nation would have been converted, and Christians would have had to fan out past our borders to find unsaved people to evangelize!
         You may say, "Well, that's not a realistic way to look at things! Certainly some people are so hardened against the Gospel they would never respond to it—there would always be at least a few agnostics, atheists, or adherents to other faiths." Well, let's accept that argument for a moment. Suppose that with every Christian leading just one other person to Christ per year, we reached a saturation point—and only 90 or 95 percent of Americans became born-again Christians. Our nation would still be overwhelmingly Christian, and nearly all of the problems of our society—crime, immorality, domestic violence, addiction, abandoned and abused children, and so forth—would vanish like frost before the rising sun.
         The solution to the desperate problems of our world is for us to become involved in our culture and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Christians would do those two things, our nation—and ultimately our world—would be transformed almost overnight.

Our three duties

         From these mandates—and particularly from the Cultural Mandate—we can draw three specific Christian duties that constitute our purpose in life according to God. We see these three duties spelled out, one by one, in the Cultural Mandate:
         1. God expects us to participate and cooperate with Him as He seeks to refashion us into His image, after His likeness. This duty is embodied in the first section of the Cultural Mandate: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.'"
         2. God expects us to be fruitful and multiply—that is, we are to evangelize. This duty is embodied in the next section of the Cultural Mandate, when God blesses human beings and says to them, "Be fruitful and multiply."
         3. God expects us to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it in His name, as His vice-regents. This duty is embodied in the final section of the Cultural Mandate, where God says, "Fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
         I have been a minister of the Gospel for more than forty years, and in all that time, in a thousand different ways, I have tried to make the point that Christians are called to make a profound difference in the world—and that Christians are empowered to make a difference if they will only be obedient to these duties under the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. To my astonishment, I have seen this simple message—which is so utterly biblical and basic to what the Christian faith is all about—met with an amazing level of resistance!
         I don't know how many more years God will give me to proclaim this message, but I can tell you this: When it is my time to leave, amid all the many encouraging and fond memories I will take with me, the greatest and most puzzling disappointment I will feel is the fact that many hundreds of Christians who have listened to me speak or have read my books will remain as useless and ineffectual in the kingdom of God as when I encountered them.
         Are you fulfilling God's express and explicit purpose for your life—or are you living in silent rebellion to His command, day after day, year after year? If you are choosing the latter course, you have no right to complain about the problems of your world, because those problems are directly traceable to your rebellion and the rebellion of Christians just like you. My friend, I say this with all compassion and love for you in the hope that your conscience will be afflicted and your heart moved to obedience.

Judgment must begin at the house of God.

         Is it really such a burdensome thing God asks of us, that we heed these two commands, the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commis-sion? Is it such an overwhelming challenge He places before us, that we be involved in our community and our world, and that we lead just one person to Christ per year—just one? Jesus' commands to us are so simple: In Matthew 4:19, He says, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." And in Mark 16:15, His last command is, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature."
         A passion for being salt and light should infuse all that we say and do every day of our lives. Our hearts should burn with a passion to win people to Jesus Christ; a passion to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the land with men and women who reverently, adoringly bow the knee to Christ; a passion for carrying out God's mandates in every sphere of life and activity, reclaiming and refashioning this foul world to its former beauty and glory, conquering and subduing and having dominion over it in the name of God who made everything. That is the purpose God calls every one of us to fulfill. That is God's purpose for your life.
         In the pages to come, you will find that there is no need to flounder, hesitate, or wonder about God's purpose for your life—He has clearly spelled it out for you in His Word! When you understand that purpose, when you give yourself daily to fulfilling that purpose, you will discover what it truly means to live each day with a sense of joy, exhilaration, and satisfaction. Together in these pages, you and I will explore:
         • What it means to be made in God's image, how that image was fractured and marred within us—and how it can be restored;
         • How to live true to God's purpose for our lives;
         • How to fulfill our Lord's command to be salt and light in a dark and corrupt world;
         • How to live boldly and courageously, challenging the false beliefs and corrupt power structures of this world; and
         • How to fulfill God's purpose for our lives in all the arenas of life—in our marriage relationship, in our parental role, in our workplace, in our church, in our society, and in our world.
         Friend in Christ, I invite you to come with me on an adventure—the greatest adventure imaginable, the adventure of living your life in the center of God's will, fulfilling His purpose for your life, carrying out His grand eternal plan! As you discover what it means to be God's salt and light in this corrupt and dark world, you'll encounter the thrill of seeing Him transform your life into a walking benediction, a sweet fragrance of His grace moving through the world and drawing other people to Himself.
         Are you ready to accept the challenge? Then come along! Turn the page—and prepare yourself for the dazzling vision of what God is about to accomplish through your life!

Led By The Carpenter by D. James Kennedy.  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.

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