Does your life have a primary purpose? Is there a primary purpose for all of humanity? I believe there is. This is what I preached on yesterday at Harbor Church where we continued our “To Be The Church” sermon series with a message titled, “To Be On Mission.”
Here is the link to the audio recording of the sermon and below is a written manuscript. I will warn you that I only use the manuscript as an outline when I preach so there will be differences in the manuscript and the audio. I hope the message remains the same.
To Be the Church #8
“To Be On Mission”
May 31, 2015
We have spent the last seven weeks looking at what it means to be the church; to live in light of our vertical relationship to God as well as our horizontal relationship with other Christians, people we would call our brothers and sisters, the people who make up this family Jesus has brought together through his gospel work of salvation, redemption, and reconciliation.
Now, in the closing two sermons in our “To Be The Church” sermon series I would like to take your gaze from the vertical and the horizontal within our church walls and now look outward, to set your gaze on two trajectories. Next week’s trajectory will place your eyes on where we are heading eternally, but today my hope is to set your trajectory on what is most important in this life.
So what is most important in this life? What is my purpose in this life? Why was I born? Why was I created? Is this whole life simply just chance? These are questions most people try to avoid because the answers provide a path to some very large truths. Truths too many people are trying to ignore in the hope that if there is a God and they end up actually coming face to face with him when this fleeting life is over they just might hope to be able to claim naivety and ignorance.
But that is not the case. God has clearly revealed himself throughout human history and no more clearly than in the life of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
So if there is a God and if he is purposeful with all of his actions then what was his purpose in creating humanity? And if he has a purpose for humanity does that mean he has a purpose for me?
And what is God’s purpose for his Church, this family of brothers and sisters?
And this is a good question but there is an answer that his been given to the purpose and the mission of the church that is correct while also misplaced and I believe it has done damage to the forward momentum of the church and its internal health.
If you polled the Christians in this room this morning and asked them what they believed the mission and purpose of the church is, the predominant answer would be an echoing of the words found in Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commended you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now, is this the mission of the church? Yes, yes and yes! But is it our primary purpose? No. And here lies the problem. It is our desire, especially those of us who are pastors and leaders of Christian churches throughout the world, to equip and mobilize the church for the work God has prepared for us and we have driven this message as our primary mission so predominantly that it has become the principal message that rings in Christian’s ears when it comes to our mission and purpose.
But this is not our primary mission or purpose. When we allow this mission to move into the slot of our chief mission we begin to put our emphasis and priority on work that we do and it has allowed a works based theology where we must please God through our actions and results in order to receive his salvation and love. We should all know and hear that this is not the message of the Gospel and in fact, is quite the opposite of what Jesus calls us to rest in.
The message of the Gospel is not to work to please God but rather, to rest and trust in the work of Jesus, in his life, his death, and his resurrection and to simply respond to this knowledge with the whole of our lives.
And here now we are getting closer to our actual chief purpose and primary mission, both for the church and for all humanity, and the answer to all of the questions we asked earlier about our purpose and our mission.
I started a book awhile ago and read through the first half of it and then set it on my “books to read next” shelf, which is not actually a shelf but rather a desk, and here lies the information that allows you to see the problem I deal with. When you own a desk that houses the books you need to read this allows for many books to be started and stopped and then lost for a season of time.
So last week I picked up this book by Matt Perman titled, “What’s Best Next” that I had been neglecting and while finishing it came across these words:
“The purpose of life is to know God, enjoy God, reflect his glory back to him, and do this in community with others through Jesus Christ.”
This may sound familiar if you read or listen to John Piper, a retired pastor and author, as his idea for the purpose of man echoes the Westminster Shorter Catechism and is this:
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
I want us to take the rest of our time together this morning and unpack what it means to have a mission and purpose statement for our lives and for our church that reads like this:
“The primary purpose of humanity is to know God, to enjoy God, and to reflect his glory back to him, all while doing this in the primary context of community with others through Jesus Christ.”
Section #1: To Know God
In week two of our “To Be The Church” sermon series I preached a message titled, “To Treasure God’s Word” and in that sermon I spoke of the Bible as the primary instrument for which God has used to reveal himself to humanity throughout history. It baffles me that so many people come to me with an earnest desire to know God more yet they neglect this primary tool that is so easily at their fingertips.
For thousands of years people have longed to have this book (the Bible) in their possession and at no time in history have we had it so available in so many easy to use forms. Most Christian homes have more Bibles than they do TV’s, which is quite an accomplishment in this media-saturated age. And the vast majority of you today have instant access to it on your phones and other media devices.
And not only do you have the Word of God so readily available for you to digest, you also have tools that come along with it. Reading plans galore, written and digital helps to explain things and give a more complete picture; even podcasts, videos, and blogs to help you grow by leaps and bounds in your understanding and use of these Scriptures.
But while technology advances so does our apathy and our desire for more pleasing and fleeting gratifications. Gratifications that all too often are sinful and at best foolish, and it becomes these things that we fill our lives with instead of the Word of God that would allow us to know God more fully.
And why is knowing God so vital?
Because knowing God allows us to enjoy him and it is his joy that is richer and deeper and wider than any other joy we have ever known. Listen to these words from the writers of the Psalms that declare this truth:
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
When the knowledge of God moves to your heart and stirs your emotions and affections you have no other response than to shout his praise and his goodness.
When we know God we experience his joy and all of the things we previously found our happiness in begin to be revealed as hollow and empty in comparison. Even the things God has created for us to enjoy; our relationships, our children, laughter, music, adventure and the like, all of these are now seen as truly enjoyable only because we see them as things connected to their Creator and given to us from his well of true joy.
We come to understand this joy only by growing in our knowledge of who God is and this is not just a one-time “A-Hah” moment but a knowledge that grows and matures throughout our entire lives until this momentary life ends and we move from the temporal into the eternal.
O, don’t you want to know God more deeply this today? But how many of us begin the journey of this knowledge only to place it on the shelf where it is neglected and passed over because of other “more important” things? We remain newborn children continuing to nurse on the milk only intended for infants while a feast of mature food awaits us!
To know God fully is to:
See him as Creator & Sustainer: woven into your beginning and your every day
See clearly our sinful rebellion: to see the things that keep us from God’s joy
See God’s desire for a covenantal relationship with humanity: He is faithful, even when we are not
See God’s plan for redemption unfolding in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus
See our final trajectory: The kingdom of God: new creation, life eternal
Even Jesus talks about the knowledge and enjoyment of God:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Knowing God leads us to truly and deeply enjoying God. I say truly and deeply because many of you enjoy God. You enjoy what you have experienced from his tender, loving, Fatherly hand: salvation, blessing, healing, reconciliation, and the list goes on and on. But these are not truly knowing God any more than experiencing an enjoyable date night with my wife is truly knowing her. No, knowing is deeper and wider than simply experiencing something. Maybe this is why so many marriages are hollow and empty and broken. We won’t take the time needed to really know the spouse in front of us, who sleeps besides us. How then will we be disciplined enough to make time to truly know our God? How often will be tempted to think we know him and instead only know a little of what he does and has done?
Section #3: To Reflect His Glory Back to Him
This knowing and enjoying has a bi-product. When you know God and this knowledge turns to joy your joy turns to an action, an action the Bible calls “worship.” Worship is the understanding of our reality and the actions we take when knowledge moves to our heart and then to our hands.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Be transformed in your mind (know God) which will lead to authentic joy (freedom) which then leads to authentic worship. If we will not be transformed in our mind we will remain bound by the knowledge of this world, knowledge that began at a tree in a garden when a man and a woman thought that a different knowledge would bring them even greater joy than they already knew and it is this knowledge that has enslaved us, the knowledge of temporary satisfactions (sins) that lead us not to joy but to sorrow and despair while demanding from us worship.
Think of the sins you most often struggle with. Think on how it tempts you by offering you momentary happiness and pleasure, a slice of comfort and rest. But then think on what you experience once you have acted on the sin. Sure, you might enjoy a feeling of momentary happiness but then comes shame and guilt. Ad then comes the reality of consequences or the fear of the consequences if your sin is found out. And now that momentary happiness weighs you down with a burden. A burden that is much larger than the happiness and comfort you received from it. And it calls you to return and offer up your life in worship to it.
Our knowledge is distorted, our joy is stolen, and our worship is now a garment of chains.
And this is why we turn to the hope of Jesus and the purpose of the church. We strive to know and enjoy God not only personally but also corporately. We strive for this together. We preach the Gospel to ourselves but also to each other in order to keep our eyes on the true joy of God our Father and to keep our eyes from the destructive temptations of this world. We remind each other of the Gospel and to strive to deepen each other’s understanding of who God is so that our joy may grow and our joy may be full. This is how we reflect God’s glory back to him. By not storing it and hoarding it within us but by sharing it with each other and also with the world.
Our mission is “To know God, to enjoy God, and to reflect his glory back to him, all while doing this in the primary context of community with others through Jesus Christ.”
It’s “through Jesus Christ” because he is God revealed to us. His is the life we did not live, a life that pursued the knowledge and joy of God with total abandonment. His is the death we deserved due to our distorted worship that is placed on created things instead of the Creator. His the resurrection from death that leads the way for every person who proclaims Jesus as Lord and lives their life with the sole purpose of knowing and enjoying God for this is the path to eternal life in his new kingdom.
And when we know God and enjoy God and reflect his glory back to him through authentic worship, then we will fulfill the mission Jesus gave to his church to make disciples.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
When you know God and you enjoy God then you will have the desire and the ability to go to Jerusalem (our home) and to Samaria (our neighbors) and to the ends of the earth.
Do you know God this morning? Have you responded to the Gospel by proclaiming faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Savior? If not, simply proclaim him! He has given you the ability to comprehend him as such as his gift of grace to you. Receive the gift! Take hold of the gift and put the gift to use.
Some of you must repent of your poor treatment of this gift. You received salvation but you have been undisciplined to use this gift of grace and this Bible and your relationships within this church to grow in your understanding of who God is. And this is why your life is filled with shallow joy. Repent of the sins of commission (actions you’ve taken) and omission (actions you have not taken) and walk in his knowledge and his joy today.
And let us reflect God together. May we be faithful to meet together, on Sundays as we hear the preaching of the Word, in our Life Groups throughout the week as we study God’s Word, and may we gather with those who do not know Jesus and bring them this life-changing news of joy and of hope, which is the entire purpose of God’s Word; to reveal who he is as loving Creator and Savior to his creation.
Father God, we praise you for you have not hidden yourself from us but you have made yourself known to us. You have revealed yourself throughout history through the Scriptures and you sent your Son, Jesus, to take on human flesh and enter into human history so that we might know you even more clearly. Help us cherish the gift you have given us. First, let us cherish the Holy Spirit who resides in us and illuminates all truth to our minds and hearts. Second, let us cherish the Scriptures where we see who God is, a Father who is loving, faithful, and sacrificial. May our knowledge of you continue to deepen our joy for you.
I repent of my sins of commission, where I have pursued fleeting things instead of time with you in your Word and in prayer. I also repent of my sins of omission, where I have simply neglected to spend time knowing and enjoying you because of apathy and laziness.
Help soften my heart, Holy Spirit, and create a passionate fervor and desire to grow in our knowledge and joy of God. And may this knowing and enjoying of you be reflected back through our actions as we mature to be more like Jesus. And might the world see and may you use our lives and our words to see many more people saved by the work of Jesus.