Category Archives: 40 Days of Purpose

Luke 12:13-21: 40Days of Purpose 1: What on earth am I here for?

What’s life all about? WHAT ON EARTH AM I HERE FOR?

Rock and roll has always had an opinion. Bruce Springsteen put it like this:

In THE DAY, we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway american dream

AT NIGHT we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines. Sprung from cages out on highway 9,

Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin out over the line

Baby this town rips the bones from your back

Its a death trap, its a suicide rap.

We gotta get out while were young `cause tramps like us,

baby we were BORN TO RUN.

 

Life’s all about THRILLS. And ESCAPE.

 

Neil Young had the world at his feet, but was still searching for love.

I want to live, I want to give. I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold. Its these expressions I never give That keep me searching for a heart of gold. And I’m getting old.

 

Or that OTHER great theologian and philosopher, Mick Jagger. For all his excesses, his booze and drug-taking, even though he’d had relationships with the most beautiful women in the world, he still CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION.

When i’m ridin’ round the world And i’m doin’ this and i’m signing that And i’m tryin’ to make some girl. Who tells me baby better come back later next week

’cause you see i’m on losing streak.

I can’t get no, oh no no no. Hey hey hey, that’s what i say I can’t get no, i can’t get no I can’t get no satisfaction.

 

Mick’s doing his best to find it in THIS WORLD. Another option is to hope for something better. John Lennon imagined a better world than he could ever experience.

Imagine there’s no Heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people Living for today You may say that I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will be as one

 

Nice dream. But is it ever possible?

 

Many Aussies connect with the lyrics of Cold Chisel. Khe Sahn speaks about a Vietnam vet searching for meaning in everyday life.

So I worked across the country from end to end
I tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
I held a job on an oil-rig, a-flyin’ choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend

And I’ve travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I’ve been back to South East Asia, you know the answer sure ain’t there
But I’m driftin’ north to check things out agai-ai-ain

Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost go-one

 

This guy was asking the question. What on earth am I here for? What’s the point? You see, people need a reason to live. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. But lots of people don’t have it.

 

And so, the youth suicide rate for young males in Australia is one of the highest in the western world. After motor vehicle accidents, it’s the leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds.

 

Many people don’t have a REASON for LIVING.

Today we’re going to try and answer it. We’re looking at life’s three biggest questions:

1. The question of existence – WHY AM I ALIVE?

2.  The question of significance – Do I MATTER?

3. The question of intention – what is my PURPOSE?

 

1. Question of existence: Why am I alive?

First up. Existence. WHY am I alive? The playwright, Jack Hanley wrote, “I hope life isn’t a joke, because I don’t get it.”

 

Sci-fi writer, Arthur Ashley Brilliant said “my life is a superb CAST,… but I can’t figure out the PLOT.”

 

Dr. Hugh Moorhead, Chairman of Philosophy at the Northeastern Uni in the US, wrote to 250 well-known philosophers, scientists, writers & intellectuals and asked them, “What is the purpose of Life?”

 

And then he wrote a book about their answers. And it made pretty depressing reading.  Some of these experts offered their best guesses.  Some admitted they made up a purpose in life. Some admitted they didn’t have any idea as to what the purpose of life was and if Dr. Moorhead knew, would he please let them know.

 

I guess many people’s responses are summed up in the rather long title of a book by Joseph Taylor,

“I Have No Answers To The Meaning of Life And I No Longer Want to Search For Any.”

 

There are plenty of people out there who ARE searching for meaning. And they come up with a number of solutions.

 

1. Probably most popular is the Self-Help approach. Go into any bookstore and you’ll find hundreds of self-help books. The LATEST best-seller is “The Secret” which is not REALLY that much of a secret. Because it says basically what every other self-help book says.

 

Discover your dreams, go after your goals, have some ambitions,           believe you can achieve, never give up. And the universe will PAY BACK your positive thoughts by GIVING IT to you.

 

Which basically means that you’ve got to INVENT YOUR OWN PURPOSE. It’s ALL ABOUT YOU. YOU decide what’s important. Then go after it. Your purpose is whatever you decide. But what happens when you GET it. And find out it’s not really what you wanted after all?

 

2. Or then there’s The Survivalist. Who says, “The purpose of life is just to stay alive.”  Live as long as you can — just keep going, nothing more. And so, plastic surgery, or vitamin regimes, or exercise addiction can become your life’s purpose.

 

3. Or what about The Naturalist? There’s a few of these in the night clubs around Sydney. They say, “The purpose of life is just to perpetuate itself.”

 

So rap singer, Ice T, wrote, “The only reason we’re here is to reproduce. Just chill out and reproduce.  Keep the species alive.”  Doesn’t that just motivate you to want to jump out of bed in the morning? Or jump INTO bed.

 

4. Or there’s HEDONISM. There’s plenty of hedonists in night clubs TOO. They say, “The purpose of life is pleasure – have fun, just party.” That’s Bruce Springsteen, or Mick Jagger. But that’s the ultimate in shallowness. One difficult situation blows THAT world-view out of the water.

 

5. Or there’s the humanitarian. They say, there’s nothing beyond this life, so the best we can do is be NICE to each other. Relieve some suffering. Make the best of it. Dream of making the world a better place. Like John Lennon.

 

Except we CAN’T even be NICE to each other. That’s a PIPE DREAM. And even if we COULD, you’d still DIE.

 

6. Then there’s the Materialist. He says, “Life is all about the acquisition of things.”  For him, success in life is measured by the things he owns.  The bumper sticker on his Rolls Royce says “He who dies with the most toys WINS”.

 

It’s what gets the multi-millionaires up in the morning. They don’t work because they NEED to. They work to earn money to give themselves A PURPOSE. To have more than their competitor.

 

It’s what the rich fool in our parable lived for. He was so successful, he’d run out of space to store all his crops. So he thought (Lk 12:18),

‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

 

He thought he’d got everything worked out. That his future was all mapped out. But his planning only went as far as the end of his LIFE. Which, unfortunately, wasn’t the end of HIM.

 

Because God calls him A FOOL.

‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 

Or, to put it in the words of ANOTHER bumper sticker. “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.

 

None of those purposes WORK. You can try any of them but still end up wondering “What on earth am I here for?”  What did GOD put me on this earth for?

 

You see, the purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment.  It’s far greater than your own happiness.  Even your own peace of mind.  You were made by God and you were made for God. And you were put here for His purposes.

 

And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense.

 

God never made anything without a purpose.  Every rock, every plant, every animal has a purpose. And if you’re alive, you have a purpose.  No matter what stage of life you may be in.

 

If you want to know if God still has a purpose for your life, check your heart.  If it’s still beating, God still has a purpose for you here on earth.

 

Over the next 40 days we’re going to look at the five purposes God has for you.  The five reasons God put you on this planet.  Today, though, I just want us to see God’s MOTIVE.

 

It’s very clear in the passage from Ephesians 1. One of the HUGEST passages in the whole Bible. Uncovering the WHY of the Universe. And in particular, of YOU. Ephesians 1:4&5.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be ADOPTED AS HIS SONS through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

 

Do you hear what that’s saying? If you are a Christian, even before God said ‘Let there be light’ he had CHOSEN you for a purpose.

 

And if you’re not a Christian, perhaps he’s calling you right now? Perhaps that’s why God’s organised you here TODAY. To RESPOND to that offer of finding your purpose.

 

Here’s why people were made. To be in a relationship with God. To be adopted as his CHILDREN. To be accepted as holy and blameless.

 

The long and the short of it is To be LOVED by him. He chose you to be a recipient of his love. If you don’t get anything else as we start this 40 days, I want you to understand this, God says He made you to LOVE you.

 

God made you so you could be in a relationship with him.  He didn’t need you.  He wasn’t lonely.  But God is love. And He made you to be a recipient of his Fatherly love.

 

That’s why you’re alive.

 

2. Question of significance: Do I matter?

The second big question of life is the Question of Significance: Do I MATTER?  And it’s a question that’s been around for thousands of years TOO

 

King Solomon put it like this in Ecclesiastes. He HAD more, and ACHIEVED more than any man of his time. If there was ANYONE who’s life MATTERED, it was HIM. But when he sat back and had a look at it all, here’s what he said.

Eccl 1:2  “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

 

A bit further on in Ch 2 he said

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

 

What’s the point? Do I really matter? Whatever I do today, will be broken, or rusted, or worthless, or meaningless TOMORROW.

 

But you and I were made for MEANING.  We were made to MATTER. Our lives are meant to have significance. And they do — in God.

 

How do I know that? Because of what you were WORTH to God. What it COST him to BUY you back. Look further down in Ephesians 1 —verses 7&8.

“In Jesus we have REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

 

You are so valuable and significant to God, he bought you back to himself – that’s what redeemed means. And he paid for you with the blood of his only son. Forgiveness could only come at an incredibly high price. But God was willing to PAY it. For YOU.

 

That’s the riches of God’s grace that he LAVISHED on you.

 

Because if you think something VALUABLE and SIGNIFICANT, you’ll pay WHATEVER IT TAKES.

 

The National Gallery in Canberra paid $2.4 million last month for an aboriginal dot painting by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. Double the previous record. The gallery director said it would the CENTREPIECE, the KEY WORK in the gallery’s new wing of Aboriginal art. And that it was CHEAP for what they’d got.

 

Now, the illustration breaks down a bit at this point. Because presumably, the painting was GOOD. It was WORTH that sort of money.

 

But, with us, we’ve done nothing to DESERVE such generosity. To be considered so valuable. That’s what the verse means when it talks about God lavishing the riches of his GRACE on us. Grace- that’s an undeserved favour.

 

Perhaps a better illustration is BRAT CAMP. I don’t know whether you’ve caught any it. It’s an ABC doco Thursday nights. This is the second series. It’s about a group of out-of-control British teenagers sent to a Utah cattle ranch. It’s the last resort for their desperate parents.

 

One girl, Xanthe, was forced to read a letter from her mum aloud, through sobbing tears, detailing how much she’d been hurt by Xanthe’s swearing, verbal and physical abuse, her stealing and drug taking.

 

Which much like the way WE treat God. Like rebellious teenagers, we tell God to get lost. Sometimes we’re aggressive, but often, we just ignore him.

 

But the amazing thing about the show is that the parents will do ANYTHING to win their teenagers back. The camp itself must cost tens of thousands of dollars.

 

Like Xanthe’s mum. In her letter she was telling Xanthe how much she’d been hurt. But all the way through, the letter was full of assurances of how much her mum STILL LOVED HER. No matter what she did.

 

And as Xanthe read it through tears, I reckon the tears were a combination of SHAME at realising for the first time the hurt she’d caused. As well as tears of gratitude as she experienced grace and love and forgiveness. Perhaps also for the first time.

 

It’s a great picture of how each of us have treated God. And how God has responded in turn. We’ve abused God’s love. Taking his love and the gifts he showers upon us for granted. Not caring about what he wants for us.

 

But STILL, he will pay EVERYTHING to buy us back. Redeem us with the blood of his son which satisfies his wrath, and wins forgiveness.

 

Father and child – the relationship restored.

 

Do I matter? Of course you matter to God. Just remember the cross. That’s how much you matter to God.

 

So the question of existence – why am I alive?

God answers it by saying, “I made you to be MINE, that’s why you’re alive.”

 

In the question of Significance – Do I matter?

God says, oh yeah you matter.  You matter so much I sent my Son to take your punishment so I could have you around forever.

 

3. Question of intention: What’s my purpose

Which brings us to the third question, the “Question of INTENTION: What is my PURPOSE?”  What on earth am I here for?

 

You see, if there IS NO GOD, if you’re just a freak chance of nature,           if you’re just complex pond scum – then guess what?

Your life has no point. There’s no real reason, meaning or purpose.

 

But there IS a God.  And he made you for a reason. And if you want to know your purpose you need to look to Him.

 

Here’s a question for the blokes. How many of you have BROKEN something trying to FIX it, or GET IT TO WORK, because you DIDN’T READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST?

 

They say real men don’t read instructions, and they don’t ask for directions. It might be TRUE. But it’s DUMB, or even downright DANGEROUS, isn’t it.

 

It only makes sense that if you want to find out how something works, you should read the MAKER’S INSTRUCTIONS.

 

And the only way YOU’RE going to ever know your purpose in life – it’s not by listening to the philosophers, because even the best ones are just guessing.

It’s not looking within, because you’re not going to find it there.

It’s not reading self-help books, because they just tell you to create your own purpose.

 

You’ve got to read your Maker’s instructions. It’s the only way you will ever know your purpose in life.  You want to understand the meaning of life? Then look to the God who made you.

 

Here’s what he says. Back to Ephesians 1. The next couple of verses — 9&10.

“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed IN CHRIST, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — TO BRING ALL THINGS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH TOGETHER UNDER ONE HEAD, EVEN CHRIST.”

 

First notice that it’s no longer a mystery. God has MADE KNOWN his will. He’s PUBLISHED his purpose statement.

It is no secret.

 

So if you want to know your purpose in life, start getting to know God. Start reading his Word, the Bible. The more you get to know God, the more you’re going to understand the ways and the wisdom of God. And the more you’re going to understand the meaning and purpose of life.

 

You’re not going to learn it on some talk show.

You’re not going to learn it in some séance.

You’re not going to learn it reading tea leaves.

You’re not going to learn it going to a seminar.

The only way you’re going to learn the meaning of life and your purpose in life is to get to know God in his word.  Where he’s revealed the mystery of his will.

 

But secondly, and even more importantly, these verses in Ephesians actually tell us what his will is. What God’s purpose is for your life, for my life, for the entire universe.

“to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”

 

God’s purpose all revolves around Jesus Christ. It BEGAN in Christ. It ENDS in Christ.

 

So Colossians 1:16 says of the Lord Jesus,

“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

 

From go to woe it’s all about Jesus. You began in him. And your purpose is all wrapped up in him. Your life’s goal is to be slowly but surely coming more and more UNDER THE KINGSHIP OF JESUS. And bringing as many people as you can under his kingship as well.

 

Which is what 40 Days of Purpose is all about. Each of the five purposes are saturated all through the Bible. You were made for Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry and Evangelism.

 

Will you commit to spending the next 40 days finding out about how those purposes fit together in bringing everything under the headship, the kingship of Jesus?

 

At the bottom of the outline, there’s a box with some boxes for you to tick. Now, we’re not asking you to hand this in. It’s for you to keep. Your own commitment to yourself. To be involved in discovering your life’s purpose.

 

You can decide your level of involvement. Though my preference would be the full involvement of all four elements, it’s up to you how involved you will be.

 

Believing that God created me for His purposes and that the best use of my life is to fulfill those purposes, I commit the next 40 days to better understanding God’s five purposes for me.

I will participate in a 40 days of Purpose small group.

Our regular home groups have disbanded for these six weeks, and there’s half a dozen groups, at lots of different times of the week, for you to join.

 

It’s not too late. Just let me or a group leader know,

 

I will read each day’s chapter from the Purpose Driven Life book.

If you need a copy of the book, let me know.

 

I will do my best to hear all 7 messages in this series, The Christ-Centred Life.

What I’ll be saying over the next six Sundays will set the scene for each week of the 40 Days. So what I’ve been talking about today, you’re going to be studying in a little bit more detail this week.

 

I will endeavour to memorise the verse for each week

Each week there will be a memory verse which summarises the lesson for the week. It’s there on the news sheet.

 

You can also get a key ring with each verse on a tag. That comes free with the book.

 

Here’s an opportunity to absorb God’s word by remembering it.

 

The fact is, if you added up what time it would take you to do all those things – I took the time to add it all up and I was generous.

It would still be less than 48 hours total.  So here’s my question –  Is the rest of your life, indeed, the rest of your eternity, worth 48 hours of your time, over the next six weeks?

 

I’d think so.

 

I want to ask you to sign this and I want you to take it home, and I want you to put it up somewhere to remind you.

 

I realize that all of us here are at different stages in our spiritual journey.  That doesn’t matter.  We’re all going to go through this journey together,           no matter what stage you are in.  Whether you are still a seeker, not to sure you buy this Christian thing, or you’ve been around following Jesus for decades.

 

Whether your walk with the Lord is decidedly shaky at the moment,           or you’re going from strength to strength.

 

I am sure the next six weeks will help you get to know God better. And his purposes for you in Christ.

 

Let’s pray.

 

 

 Ephesians 4:17-31: 40 Days of Purpose 7: Futility

We’ve just spent the last 40 days looking at our PURPOSE. What God MADE us for. I wonder how well you can remember our five purposes.

God’s PLANNED us for his PLEASURE. That’s WORSHIP.

He’s FORMED us for his FAMILY. That’s FELLOWSHIP.

He’s CREATED us to become like CHRIST. That’s DISCIPLESHIP.

He’s SHAPED us for SERVING him. That’s MINISTRY.

And finally, He’s MADE us for a MISSION. That’s EVANGELISM.

 

Now that we know our PURPOSE, I want you to think about the OPPOSITE of purpose. It’s FUTILITY.

 

Futility.  Here’s a good definition (show cartoon).

Trying to achieve a goal. And not getting anywhere.

Trying to realize a certain objective. But not making any progress.

 

We love the cartoon because we probably all know people like that. People who are intelligent in ONE area of life, but completely hopeless in OTHERS. Brilliant academically, but with no common sense. Who can give a lecture on the plays of Shakespeare, but who can’t hold a conversation at a dinner party. Or who can understand the intricacies of nuclear physics, but who can’t navigate to the corner shop.

 

We laugh because WE can see the BIG PICTURE, the SIMPLE ANSWER – the sign which says “PULL”. All Nigel can see is a big solid door that won’t budge. A barrier stopping him from getting where he wants to go.

 

Futility.

 

And yet there’s also something PROFOUND and PERCEPTIVE about the cartoon. Because it represents so much of what life is about.

 

People all over Sydney – in fact all over the world – PURSUING something, but never CATCHING it. Working towards a goal, but never arriving. Futility and frustration.

 

Or perhaps even MORE depressing, people who arrive at their goal, only to realise that it can’t deliver what it promised. It’s not really what they wanted at all.

 

It starts as children – we want that new bike, or that new doll, or those new collector cards, or that new computer game. That’s what will really make us happy.

 

Then we get it, and it DOESN’T. Or perhaps it does for A LITTLE WHILE. But then we get bored, and want something else.

 

Then as teenagers we want that motorbike, or computer, or that peer group, or that sporting success, or that boyfriend or girlfriend, or that party, or that drug. That’s what will REALLY make us happy.

 

Then we get it, and it doesn’t. Or perhaps it does for a little while. But then we get bored, and want something else.

 

Then as adults, we want that career, or that investment, or that car, or that house, or that husband or wife. Then we want 2.4 kids, or the boat, or the holiday house, or the electronic goods, or the overseas holiday. THAT’S what will really make us happy.

 

Then we get it, and it doesn’t. Or perhaps it does for a little while. But then we get bored, and want something else.

 

And so we go through life, building up possessions, building up relationships, building up STUFF.

 

Searching for pleasure that doesn’t satisfy and leaves us thirsty. Building wealth that rusts or rots or breaks down. Chasing intimacy that’s betrayed or built on lies.

 

All because we think they’re the things that will make us happy.  And sometimes they do. For a while.

 

But stuff and people are only TEMPORARY. And so, as we get older, we get more interested in HEALTH, longevity, fitness, eating and living right. In an effort to fight off DEATH. Because when all’s said and done. When all the goods have been bought, and the fun’s been had – what then?

 

WHAT’S THE POINT? It’s all FUTILITY.

 

I was talking to the one of the soccer dads a few years ago– let’s call him Andrew. And this is a reality that he’s coming to realise.

 

Andrew’s led a pretty hard sort of life. He’s been an alcoholic, and drug addict. He’s been down and out. He was addicted to sex, ruining his marriage. He chased after everything life offered. Pushing every door he could find, trying to FIND something.

 

And for a while he thought he was happy. But all that “happiness” ruined him. He was so happy, he nearly DIED.

 

He gradually got his life together, attended AA and drug rehab programs, even Sexaholics Anonymous.

 

And now he lives for his three boys. He wants them to have what he never got. And so every moment and dollar he has goes into their future. They’re keen soccer players, so he spends all year driving them around, watching their games and training. Phoning coaches and scouts. Pleading their case.

 

Andrew thinks he’s enlightened. Learned his lessons. About what’s REALLY important in life.

 

But AS FAR as Andrew has come, he still hasn’t opened the door. Because ultimately THAT won’t satisfy either.

 

His kids probably WON’T get a career out of soccer, and THEN WHAT? And even if they do – THEN WHAT?

 

There’s got to be more to life than that! It’s FUTILITY.

 

Solomon

King Solomon was at the opposite end of the spectrum to Andrew. He lived in Israel about 3000 years ago. And he was the greatest king Israel ever saw. God gave him everything that life had to offer.

 

And he chased happiness and pleasure harder than Andrew. And he’s the conclusion he reached. It’s found in the book of Ecclesiastes.

(Eccl 2:1-11 NIV)  I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” … {2} “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” {3} I tried cheering myself with wine, …. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. {4} I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. {5} I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. … I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. {8} I amassed silver and gold for myself, …. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well–the delights of the heart of man. {9} I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. …{10} I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. …. {11} Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, EVERYTHING WAS MEANINGLESS, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

 

Utter and complete FUTILITY. How sad! Life that’s built on the foundation of earthly things is POINTLESS. Because they can never satisfy.

 

Which is why we need to look to God’s purposes for us. He made us, and the world, to work in a certain way.

 

Life is at its best when we operate under optimum working conditions. When we live according to the Manufacturer’s instructions.

 

It’s this perspective Paul had as he wrote Ephesians. They were people who USED to live as if God was irrelevant. As if he had no claim on their life. Life was nothing more than chasing the next high. The next fix of happiness. The futility of pushing against the PULL door.

 

The Ephesians BEFORE

But that had changed. And Paul writes to make sure they never go back there. Look at the start of the passage. Describing the Ephesians BEFORE. There in v17.

(Eph 4:17 NIV)  So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the FUTILITY OF THEIR THINKING.

 

There’s that word again. Futile. And it describes the life non-Christians live. Seeking, but never finding. Acquiring, but never satisfied. In particular, it’s futility of THEIR THINKING. Look at the next verse.

(Eph 4:18 NIV)  They are darkened in their UNDERSTANDING and separated from the life of God because of the IGNORANCE that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

 

When you refuse to recognise God, and the life he’s designed. When you choose to do things YOUR way, not God’s – that’s FUTILITY OF THINKING.

 

And the result of that kind of thinking? The consequence of refusing to look to God to fill the hole that he’s designed? You’ll try to fill it up with all sorts of OTHER things. God- SUBSTITUTES. Look at the next verse.

(Eph 4:19 NIV)  Having lost all SENSITIVITY, they have given themselves over to SENSUALITY so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

 

More drugs. More alcohol. More money. More luxury. More parties. More sex. All trying to REPLACE God. Substitute with STUFF what God designed to be satisfied ONLY in a friendship with him.

 

Paul’s warning them. Don’t live anymore in that FUTILITY.

 

Or that’s where you’ll end up. So desensitised to pleasure and happiness, that nothing will satisfy. You’ll have cupboards full of everything the world offers, but you’ll be EMPTY. Nothing will hit the spot.

 

The Ephesians NOW

It’s a pretty dark picture. But it’s not where Paul stays. Because that’s not where THE EPHESIANS are. In v20 he describes the Ephesians NOW. He says;

(Eph 4:20-21 NIV)  You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. {21} Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.

 

Paul ought to know – he taught them himself. And what he’s saying is “You’ve found the key. I’ve shown you the TRUTH. The big picture. The TRUTH that’s in Jesus.

 

The truth that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son, so that whoever trusts in him, won’t die, but will have ETERNAL life. ABUNDANT life. Life the way it was DESIGNED.

 

So I tell you this, says Paul, and I insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do.

 

Don’t go back. It’s time to start living like the people of God. It’s time to start living like people of the light. It’s time to take off your old life… and put on something new.

 

And that’s what you were taught, he says, when you came to Jesus. Weren’t you? That the gospel doesn’t just offer forgiveness from sins and an excuse for more sinning. But a whole new start.

 

Surely, he says, verse 22, you were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be life God in true righteousness and holiness.

 

It’s so easy TO SAY, but every Christian will tell you, the reality seems SO DIFFERENT. It’s SO HARD to get those dirty old clothes OFF. And it seems to take SO LONG to put the NEW ONES on.

 

You think you’ve left a particular sin behind, but then it sneaks up on you, and you get dragged in again. It might be lust, or gossip, or bitterness and unforgiveness, or covetousness, or jealousy, or rage. All sorts of grubby old dressing gowns we keep getting drawn back to.

 

And the sort of behaviour and attitudes we SHOULD have. They seem to take SO LONG to put on. Generosity, patience, encouraging speech, prayerfulness, service, acceptance, LOVE. Things we should have mastered long ago, but there doesn’t seem to be much progress.

 

And yet, Paul EXPECTS it. COMMANDS it. You (AND ME) – we’ve been created to BE LIKE GOD IN TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS.

 

So PUT OFF, and PUT ON.

 

4. Being Different – It’s All In The Mind

And for Paul, the key seems to be in OUR THINKING. Attitudes and ways of thinking. For Paul, being different – it’s ALL IN THE MIND.

 

Without a BASIC REORIENTATION of our wills and desires, without a renewed MIND, a re-direction from serving SELF to serving Jesus, any change in BEHAVIOUR is just WINDOW DRESSING.

 

Nothing more than a temporary turning over a new leaf. A new Year’s resolution that will last a week, or maybe a month, or a year, if you’re really lucky. A “re-arranging of the deckchairs” while the Titanic plows its way towards the iceberg.

 

Look at how often Paul mentions things to do with thinking, attitudes, and the mind.

 

V17 Futility of THEIR THINKING.

V18 Darkened in THEIR UNDERSTANDING. And IGNORANCE.

V20. On the other hand, you did not come TO KNOW Christ that way

V21 You were TAUGHT

V22 TAUGHT again

V22 Your old self is being corrupted BY ITS SINFUL DESIRES.

V23. Be made new IN THE ATTITUDE OF YOUR MINDS.

 

Putting on the NEW nature only comes with a RENEWED MIND, which only GOD can do.

 

So ask him to GIVE you that. To renew your mind. Give you A DESIRE to do his will. A DESIRE to study his word, or meet with his people. Ask him to REMOVE your DESIRE for OTHER things – materialism, acceptance by others, lust, the need to be in control.

 

Pray, along with Paul in Ch 3, that God would SHOW you how high and wide a deep is the love that God has for you in Christ.

 

That your life would be so full of GOD that there would no longer be the desire to replace him with the EMPTY things that USED to tempt you.

 

Pray that you would be able to see the FUTILITY of the way the world works. Understand its short-sightedness, its poverty, its selfishness and emptiness.

 

Pray that God would give you THE FAITH to TRUST HIS PROMISES. Faith in God’s promises is the key to your obedience and godliness TODAY.

 

His promises to give you PEACE. Promises to work all things for your good. Promises to meet your needs. Promises that his Holy Spirit will equip you for standing up for him, and building holiness into your life.

 

Promises of your inheritance and hope. Promises that your future is secure because your past is forgotten.

 

Understanding THOSE things is renewing your mind. That’s where the UNDRESSING and the DRESSING begins.

 

4. Taking off the old and being clothed in the new – the Process in Practice (4:25-5:2)

Look at how the process works out in practice. In the next two paragraphs Paul lists some things TO TAKE OFF. Some undressing to do.

 

And then gives the corresponding things TO PUT ON- – to be CLOTHED IN. And often there’s AN ATTITUDE that goes with this process.

 

V25. Put off falsehood. Give up lies.

Then PUT ON TRUTH. Speak truthfully to his neighbour.

 

Then change your thinking. You’re MEMBERS OF ONE BODY. You’re CONNECTED. Don’t treat each other as ENEMIES, because you’re BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

 

Or v26. Put off the sort of sin that flows from anger. Deal with it before the day is over, because that’s just how RESENTMENT builds. And Satan loves that sort of lack of communication among God’s people, or between husband and wife.

Then Verse 28. Get rid of stealing. And do something useful instead. Put on productive work – don’t expect others to support you. The ATTITUDE needs to be SERVING each other, not BEING served. And when the ATTITUDE changes, then stealing will stop. Counting on the generosity of others, while you do nothing – that will stop too.

 

V29. Put off unwholesome talk. And put on instead HELPFUL words – what actually BUILDS PEOPLE UP. Words make a DIFFERENCE.

 

A few months ago I got a lovely present from someone here at church. They’d picked up I was a bit discouraged. People were leaving, church wasn’t growing. And – some of you know about this – they gave me a lovely card, with a jar full of minties. And each mintie had the name of someone here at church. The card said something like, “Here’s all the sheep God’s given you to look after. Give thanks for them, and look after them!”

 

For the next few weeks I was munching on different people from church!

 

And it came at just the right time. Recognise that words make a difference.

 

And v31. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger and brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

 

Put all of those things OFF. The colour and style doesn’t suit you at all.

 

And replace it with what? V32. Put on Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.

 

And the summary of the whole NEW CLOTHES. Ch 5 verse 1. Be imitators of God, therefore, as DEARLY LOVED CHILDREN, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 

That’s WHO YOU ARE. God’s KIDS. Shouldn’t you be able to see the FAMILY RESEMBLANCE?

 

Like Father, like SON. Like father, like DAUGHTER.

 

You’re to be DIFFERENT. NO LONGER LIVE LIKE THAT.

 

Pete Williamson was talking about his experience as a non-Christian walking into a church for the first time at 18. He said he didn’t understand a word that was said for about the first six weeks. But the reason he kept coming back was because he could see how much people LOVED each other. How DIFFERENT that was from anything he’d ever SEEN before.

 

Is that what people would say about US? “I’ve never met people LIKE them!”

 

You’re on display. So I wonder, at the level of AMBITIONS? On the level of MATERIALISM? On the level of what you do with your money? On the level of your language in the workplace? On the level of gossip? On the level of honesty? Are you different? Or not?

 

If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to CONVICT you?

 

Or us as a church? Is that the case at Western Blacktown? Do we VALUE God’s people growing more like Jesus? How do we ENCOURAGE that? How are we living out God’s purposes. In a way that makes us STAND OUT from those around us?

 

Perhaps the Ephesian church WASN’T like that. I mean, it’s almost an odd thought. Paul’s writing this letter to a church full of people who need to be TOLD not to lie to each other. Seems he’s writing to a church where if you put your handbag down on the floor, the person in the row behind’s likely to nick it. A church where they actually need to be told to cut out swearing at each other. Where they haven’t figured out they need to be different to the world they’ve come out of.

 

And most important, does the difference start from the inside? Are you actually being made new in the attitude of your minds? Remembering you’ve been re-created to be like God in true righteousness. And holiness?

 

Time to put off the old self. And put on the new. Time to DRESS for the OCCASION.

 

1 Corinthians 9:12-27: 40 Days of Purpose 6: Evangelism: Made for a Mission

L. played his soccer grand final yesterday. They lost. But I think he’s moved on already. For the last few months Lachlan’s dragged himself off to practice twice a week. But he’s OVER soccer – at least for THIS year.

 

He still likes PLAYING, but he gets bored with the same old drills at training week after week. And he’s had enough of the tantrums from some of the other players.

 

But his coach still pushes them hard. Gets very worked up. He REALLY wants to win.

 

It’s a bit of a problem when you don’t want the same things as the one who’s in charge. When your priorities are different.

 

And it sometimes seems like Christians are like that when it comes to EVANGELISM. Telling people the good news about Jesus.

 

We can see the IMPORTANCE of it. At least THEORETICALLY. But for most people it doesn’t seem that important PRACTICALLY. There’s not much in their life that SHOWS that people becoming Christians is important.

 

It seems we don’t think it’s as important as GOD does. Dare I say it, sometimes it seems like we’re OVER it.

 

I read about two men who’d been business partners for over twenty years. They met one Sunday morning at the newsagent.

 

One of them asked, “Where are you going this morning?” “I’m going to play golf.  What about you?” The first man responded, “I’m going to church.”

 

The other man said, “Why don’t you give up that church stuff?” The man asked, “What do you mean?” “Well, we’ve been partners for twenty years.  We’ve worked together, attended board meetings together, and had lunch together, and all of these twenty years you’ve never asked me to go to church.  You’ve never invited me to come with you.  Obviously, it doesn’t mean that much to you.”

 

For many Cs, it doesn’t seem like evangelism is that important at all. Rick Warren says that Christians and non-Christians AGREE when it comes to evangelism – NEITHER of them LIKE IT!!

 

Evangelism. Or MISSION. Is the fifth, and final, purpose God has for your life.

 

What God Wants

It’s a bit of a problem when you don’t want the same things as the one who’s in charge. And the reality is God wants nothing more than to see people SAVED. Becoming Christians.

 

There’s a        of verses printed there in the news sheet that make that point. The first verse is from 1 Tim 2:4.

1 Tim 2:4-6: God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

He hates to see people thumbing their noses at him. He hates the thought of people headed for eternity without him. But he LOVES it when people RECOGNISE him, and turn back in repentance. Jesus says there’s a party in heaven every time ONE sinner repents!

And you wondered whether you made a difference in the Universe? But heaven ROARED when you accepted God’s gift of forgiveness.

And just in case you doubt that God really DOES want people to be saved. Look at how it continues.

5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.

 

The cross is God’s PROOF of his love. HOW MUCH does God want to save you? How much does he LOVE you? How much does he want to spend eternity with you?

 

THIS MUCH (       arms wide)

 

Among other things, the cross is God’s PUBLIC DECLARATION of how much he loved the world.

 

Some people pay for a newspaper advertisement to show their love. Or buy a huge diamond ring. Or skywriting. Or a public marriage proposal at a footy game.

 

Or even a tattoo with their loved ones name or picture. That’s COMMITMENT! But there’s plenty of people who’ve regretted THAT one.

 

But God publicly declared his love for his world, and wrote it in LETTERS OF BLOOD. John 3:16

16 “For God so LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his ONE AND ONLY SON, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

The cross is ONE proof that God loves to see people saved. And here’s the SECOND proof – the fact he hasn’t sent Jesus back yet.

 

Have a look at the second verse printed there. It’s from 2 Peter Ch 3. Some people were making fun of the Christians. “Where’s this Jesus you said was going to come back? He’s taking AGES. Perhaps he’s not really coming.”

 

And so Peter writes to REASSURE the Christian church.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is NOT slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is PATIENT with you, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.

 

Peter says, it’s got nothing to do with God not keeping his promise. Or giving up on you. In fact, the OPPOSITE’S true. It’s all because he wants to see people saved so much. He’s hanging on AS LONG AS HE POSSIBLY CAN because he doesn’t want anyone to perish.

 

Like the father who runs back into the burning house again and again. Searching every room, rescuing everyone of his children. Risking death himself. The flames grow bigger and bigger, but his love is so great, he’ll hang on as long as he possibly can because he doesn’t want anyone to perish.

 

To value evangelism, you need to want the same things God wants. And NOTHING is more important to God than saving lost people.

 

Mission Possible

It’s why Jesus came. It was HIS mission. And the mission he gave for US to continue.

 

After his resurrection, Jesus was preparing his disciples. He had A MISSION for them. In John 20:21, he says

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I AM SENDING YOU.”

 

The mission HE had is the mission he’s given THE DISCIPLES. And what’s more, he’s given it to US AS WELL. The mission to GO FISH. Of proclaiming the news that Jesus is King. And that he’s beaten sin and death.

 

A few days later, Jesus is about to return to heaven. But here’s what his final words were. Describing the nature of the mission he’s sending the disciples on. Acts1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

Jesus calls us to be WITNESSES. Notice what he DOESN’T say. He doesn’t say, “You will be my DEFENCE LAWYER.”  He didn’t say, “You will be my SALESMAN.”

 

You don’t have to come up with a tricky and complicated strategy. You don’t have to CONVINCE someone to buy your product. And you don’t need to DEFEND God.

 

All God wants you to do is to be A WITNESS. What is a witness?  A witness is somebody who just tells what they’ve SEEN. From their point of view.

 

And that makes you an EXPERT WITNESS. Because no one knows YOUR LIFE  better than YOU.

 

And Jesus calls you to tell people about YOUR EXPERIENCE of Jesus. What does Jesus mean to YOU? What difference has he made in your life? How have your prayers been answered? How do you see life differently now you’re following Jesus?

 

And the up-side of that is that people like to hear about personal stories. Much more interesting that THEORY. Or FACTS. People these days are less interested in whether something’s TRUE than they are in whether something WORKS.

 

Does Jesus WORK for you? Is life BETTER with Jesus? Is it richer, deeper, brighter? Do you have more purpose? More joy? More assurance? More hope? More LOVE? More forgiveness?

 

Do you have less fear? Less guilt? Less frustration? Less bitterness?

 

Have you THOUGHT about those things? Why not spend some time writing them down?

 

Jesus calls you to be a WITNESS. A witness of what you’ve seen and experienced.

 

An introduction agency – 2 Cor 5:18

ANOTHER way of thinking about your mission. Is that God wants you to be an INTRODUCTION AGENCY.

 

I don’t know whether any of you have had much success as a MATCH-MAKER. Setting up two friends who you KNOW would make a great       .

 

My sister’s still single. And we’ve been trying to introduce her to suitable single guys for YEARS.

 

I’ve said to Casey McNeill as long as I’ve known her I want to find her A NICE CHRISTIAN BOY. Maybe one day I’ll succeed.

 

If you’ve had any success as a matchmaker, you’ll know what a nice feeling it is to introduce two of YOUR friends to each other. And then to see them HAPPY.

 

And it’s the same with evangelism. Here’s the way Paul describes his mission in 2 Cor 5.18.

2 Cor 5:18-20 God reconciled us to himself through Christ and GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION:(that’s just MAKING FRIENDS)

 

Look at the next verse. How that friendship begins.

19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be RECONCILED TO GOD.

 

We’re to be bringing people and God together. Match-making. Turning enemies into friends.

 

It’s heart-breaking when we know that close friends or family don’t understand the joy we’ve got. That they’re missing out on Jesus. And that they won’t be with us in eternity.

 

And if we get joy out of seeing two FRIENDS get together, how much MORE joy should we get when we see Jesus and one of our OTHER friends introduced to each other. How good is THAT!!!

 

Be prepared! – 1 Peter 3:15-16

One other aspect of your mission the Bible teaches is that we’re to BE PREPARED. The opportunity to say something about Jesus could pop up when you least expect it. And you need to be READY. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says this

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience,

 

Which has got nothing to do with Bible-bashing someone, or lecturing them. It’s about BUILDING bridges, not TEARING THEM DOWN. You want to have conversations with people that will make them keen to speak to you AGAIN about Jesus. Not turn them off so they cross to the other side of the street when they see you coming.

 

Colossians 4: 5 says

Be WISE in the way you act toward outsiders; MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY.

 

Be Prepared!

 

All things to all men – 1 Cor 9:19-23

Let me say a few words about the HOW of taking opportunities. HOW we go about giving an answer for the hope that’s in us. Open your Bibles to 1 Cor 9. It’s the passage read earlier. Down at v19.

 

Paul’s talking about how he gives up his right to earning a wage for the sake of the gospel. And then he goes on to show how this attitude flows into EVERYTHING he does. It’s not just to do with MONEY. He gives up EVERY OTHER RIGHT. Whatever is needed, so that people might be saved. Verse 19.

(1 Cor 9:19 NIV)  Though I am free and belong to no man, I MAKE MYSELF A SLAVE TO EVERYONE, to WIN as MANY as possible.

 

And then he gives some examples. A whole approach to life that’s based on giving up HIS preferences for the sake of others. MOVING TOWARDS SOMEONE ELSE to make the gospel more acceptable. Whether it’s Jews in v20. Or non-Jews in v21. Look at his summary in v22.

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some

 

For you it might mean joining the RSL Club because that’s where your workmates go after work. It might mean signing up for an Adult Education craft, or cooking, course with your neighbour. Or joining a gym with your workmate during your lunch hour. Or organising a Father and Son camping weekend with your son’s soccer team. Or coaching your daughter’s netball team. Or volunteering for the P&F association at your school.

 

Because that’s the way to build bridges with people who don’t know Jesus.

 

WHATEVER it might be. It’s about giving up your rights. So the gospel might be furthered. And it often means doing what DOESN’T come NATURALLY because it’s what gives you the opportunity to share Jesus.

 

And remember your motive’s to SHARE THE GOSPEL. The temptation for me is to DO those things so people will think I’m a good guy. “Oh, isn’t Dave good. He gives up his time to coach this, or do that!”

 

But it’s got to be FOR THE GOSPEL. Look at v23.

23 I do all this FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL, that I may share in its blessings.

 

Check your motives. How is the truth of the gospel impacting on those relationships you’re building? How is it redeeming the time you’re putting into them?

 

Are you sharing IN WORD as well as ACTION?

 

Being all things to all men would be an EASY life if we were just yes-men. Chameleons changing to suit whatever environment we were in. Following the path of least resistance. Never wanting to disappoint anyone. But that’s not what Paul means by being all things to all men. That’s not Paul’s motivation. His lifestyle is much more difficult.

 

He does it so that people might hear and understand and accept the good news about Jesus.

 

So get training! – 1 Cor 9:24-27

It’s NOT an easy life. Keeping the gospel as number one priority is hard-work. It’s easy to SAY. But much harder to DO. When it comes to the cold, hard facts of how you use the hours in your day. How you fill up your evenings. Or your holidays. Or what you direction you steer conversations in.

 

Every choice you make. The hard decisions about putting yourself SECOND. And someone else FIRST.

 

Next week is the evangelistic breakfast. You’ve got the choice to invite someone along. Or you could just sleep in. What will you CHOOSE?

 

On the 29th of this month is the Woodcroft Festival. You’ve got the choice to come and help. To talk to people. To hand out leaflets. To ask them what they think about God. About the world. Or you could choose to stay at home and read the paper.

 

Janice has organised a whole stack of brochures and maps for letter-boxing. You could choose to take a few bundles. And then rearrange a few things in your week to DELIVER them. Or you could choose to let SOMEONE ELSE do it.

 

Keeping the gospel NUMBER ONE is hard work. Takes tough decisions. Sometimes it will have tough CONSEQUENCES.

 

So Paul says GET TRAINING. V24. Just like a runner who runs until he drops. All just to win a medal or a trophy. Paul says we should strive just as hard. V24

Run IN SUCH A WAY as to get the prize.

 

The athlete’s totally focussed. His eyes are always on the goal. His diet, and sleep patterns, and training, and social life, and work commitments, are all designed around that final goal. Of winning the contest.

 

And Paul’s point is that THEY’RE devoted to a prize that DOESN’T LAST. How much more should Christians strive for the ETERNAL prize. The inheritance that God’s got for us in heaven. Verse 25.

(1 Cor 9:25 NIV) They do it to get a crown that WILL NOT LAST; but we do it to get a crown that will last FOREVER.

 

And with a crown like that in view, a Christian’s training should be just as single-minded. Verse 26.

(1 Cor 9:26-27 NIV)  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. {27} No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

 

He trains. And punishes his body. He works on his weaknesses. He crucifies the old nature. He does without physical comforts. He endures prison and beatings.

 

Because his eyes are on the prize. Not the gold medal from some politician. But the reward of seeing people in eternity because he introduced them to Jesus. The reward of a “Well done, good and faithful servant” from his Lord and Saviour. The Master who’d given his servant the task. “Proclaim my gospel”.

 

A huge and scary mission. But you’ll never find one that’s more important. Or more satisfying.

 

You’re not alone

And one final point. Remember you’re not alone. God doesn’t give us our mission AS INDIVIDUALS. But AS A CHURCH. It’s a mission we work at TOGETHER. Supporting each other. Training each other. Standing SIDE BY SIDE as we present Jesus to a world that’s perishing. 1 Peter 2:9 says

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

We’re not a thousands of individuals. We’re a PEOPLE. A NATION.

 

I know it’s not a word, but the Jeff Fenech “youze” actually translates this BETTER. It’s plural “you” here.

But youze are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that youze may declare the praises of him who called youze out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

It’s what God made you for. For MISSION.

 

Let’s work at it TOGETHER. Standing side by side. As a holy and royal people. People who know the light. Declaring his praises to a dark world. There’s nothing God wants MORE.

Matthew 25:14-30: 40 Days of Purpose 5: Ministry: Shaped for Serving God

A couple of weeks ago was the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. August 16, 1977.

His influence is pretty amazing. He’s still as popular as ever. Still selling thousands of records. The most impersonated singer of all time.

At Parkes, where Craig and Sonya Bland are, there’s an annual Elvis festival. There’s Elvis’s everywhere! Craig was telling me they had a combined churches gospel music service this year – The Music Elvis Loved!

But despite his enormous success, Elvis was an unfulfilled and unhappy man. He died of obesity and drug dependency at 42. (Or else he’s alive and living in Parkes).

And his wife, Priscilla, said this about her husband:

“Elvis never came to terms with who he was meant to be or WHAT HIS PURPOSE IN LIFE WAS. He thought he was here for A REASON, maybe to preach, maybe to SERVE, maybe to save, maybe to care for people.  That agonizing desire was always with him and HE KNEW HE WASN’T FULFILLING IT…  So he’d go on stage and he wouldn’t have to think about it.”

What a sad story. The whole world at his feet, the potential to do so much GOOD. To make a REAL DIFFERENCE. But Elvis didn’t have a clue where to begin looking. How to find his significance.

We’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about OUR PURPOSE. What on earth we’re here for. Because God DID made us for A REASON.

So far, we’ve seen your first THREE purposes. You were planned for God’s pleasure – that’s WORSHIP. You were formed for God’s family – that’s FELLOWSHIP. And you were created to become like Christ – that’s DISCIPLESHIP.

Called to full-time ministry

Today we’re looking at your FOURTH purpose – you were shaped for SERVING GOD. Which is about MINISTRY.

You may not know it, but EVERY ONE of you has been CALLED to FULL-TIME MINISTRY. Let me explain what I mean.

First, everyone’s been CALLED. Look at the start of Eph 4. Paul’s writing to the whole Christian church at Ephesus. V1.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the CALLING YOU HAVE RECEIVED.

And then, a bit further down in v4.

4 There is one body and one Spirit- JUST AS YOU WERE CALLED TO ONE HOPE WHEN YOU WERE CALLED-

To be CALLED means you’ve been CHOSEN and SELECTED. That’s how it ALWAYS works when you become a Christian. You might think YOU’VE chosen GOD. But the reality is it’s God who’s chosen YOU, and who’s worked a whole range of people and circumstances to bring to him.

God’s picked you personally. Simply because of his grace. With a special purpose in mind.

He’s planned the works

Which is what this whole series is about. Finding your purpose. Finding GOD’S purpose for you. And you can see what THAT IS back in Eph Ch 2. Just on the previous page. Ch 2 v10. Let me start reading from v8.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

That’s everything that’s involved in God’s CALL. He gave you the free gift of salvation through FAITH. Never something you can EARN. But look at the NEXT verse. Here’s God’s PURPOSE in that.

10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Why were you created? To do good works.

WHICH good works? ANY OLD good works? No. Specifically, the ones God’s PREPARED for you to do.

Everything planned and chosen by God himself. God didn’t just CALL you, but he PLANNED OUT what you’d spend the rest of your life doing – your life as A CHRISTIAN, offering your body as a living sacrifice.

Those good works are what we call your SERVICE. Or your MINISTRY. Servant and minister translate the same words in Greek. That’s all a minister is – a servant.

A servant of GOD. And a servant of HIS PEOPLE.

That’s your fourth purpose. Called to be a full-time MINISTER!

Which we NORMALLY think of as someone who does what I do. Who’s full-time TEACHING about Jesus, or LEADING the church, or TELLING OTHERS about Jesus. But that’s not the only sort of full-time ministry. The reality is if you’re a FULL-TIME CHRISTIAN, then you’re a full-time MINISTER. Whatever you do for a living.

You never clock off being A Christian. Which means you never stop being a minister.

He’s planned the tools

You see, there’s LOTS of different sorts of ministry. As many different combinations as there are Christians. Because there’s countless different JOBS that need doing.

Have a look at how God’s organised things. Back over in Eph 4. V7. He doesn’t just give us the WORKS to do, but he gives us the TOOLS to do them WITH. v7.

7 But to each one of us GRACE has been given as Christ APPORTIONED it.

(That’s talking about gifts for the job). Handed out exactly was Jesus WANTS them. And then, jump down to v11 to see what we’ve been GIVEN.

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

That’s the sorts of people we NORMALLY think of as being ministers. And they’ve been given GIFTS of teaching and evangelising and prophesying.

But notice, that’s only the BEGINNING. Here’s what the purpose of all THEIR jobs is. V12

12 to prepare God’s people for works of  … SERVICE (that’s MINISTRY)

Who’s to do the MINISTRY? It doesn’t actually say the teachers and leaders. It says ALL GOD’S PEOPLE. Using the tools that God’s given to EVERYONE. The teachers and leaders do the EQUIPPING. They put the tools into the HANDS of the ministers. Which is mainly to do with GOD’S WORD. Explaining it, helping people to see God’s plans and purposes, and how they fit in to them. Showing and training people how to put it into practice.

That’s one of the major parts of my job – EQUIPPING you to do ministry.

And then it’s YOUR job to get out there and DO the ministry. Serving people in a whole range of ways.

I reckon we do pretty well as far as people serving. For a church our size, our roster is pretty full. But can you do MORE?

There’s a list on the inside of the news sheet I want you to spend some time looking at, and praying about, over the next week.

How can YOU serve God’s people?

I’d love to know your ideas as well for how we might be able to do MORE ministry. Outreach in the area, or things WITHIN church.

I’ll reprint it next week, and I’d love you to fill them out, and hand them in. If you WANT to do something, I want to HELP EQUIP you to DO it.

He’s planned the reason

But not only has God planned the works, and the tools. But he’s also given us the REASON. What’s the PURPOSE of that ministry? That SERVICE?

so that the body of Christ may be BUILT UP

To be built up is to be STRENGTHENED. To be MADE MATURE, or COMPLETE or SECURE. To have SOLID FOUNDATIONS. Look at how the whole church is described from v13.

13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become MATURE, attaining to the WHOLE MEASURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST.

14 Then we will no longer be INFANTS, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE, we will IN ALL THINGS GROW UP into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, GROWS AND BUILDS ITSELF UP IN LOVE,

It’s a wonderful picture. Of individual, as well as GROUP, maturity. It’s a picture of VITALITY – of energetic LIFE. Of HEALTH. Of stability. Of solid maturity. Of loving, truthful, serving involvement in each others lives.

Earlier this year you might remember, the presbytery sent a committee to visit our church. To check our progress. And the Leadership Team had to fill in a questionnaire. And one of the questions was “Where do you want to see the congregation in 5 years time?” GREAT QUESTION!!

But we didn’t want to answer in terms of size. Numbers. Or buildings, or budget. So, after some thinking, and I guess some input from passages just like this one in Eph 4, here’s what we came up with. A goal, if you like.

What do we want WBPC to be in 5 years?

“To be a vibrant, energetic, and active, loving, outward-looking, Bible-saturated, joyful, godly, generous, mutually encouraging, and prayerful body of believers, who long for heaven, and who follow Jesus courageously as individuals, families and a congregation.”

Is that something YOU’D like to be working towards? If we’re going to GET there, we’re going to need YOUR help. It’s God’s PURPOSE for YOU as PART of his church. Notice how the description in Eph 4 finishes. The end of v16.

AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK.

Church is not a spectator sport. It’s a team sport. It’ll only begin to RESEMBLE that if YOU are doing your bit.

Mt 25

Which is the lesson from the OTHER Bible reading we had. Matthew 25 v14. If you can flip over there please. P 702. Each part MUST do its work.

It’s one of the stories Jesus told as he taught the disciples about THE END OF THE AGE. What it’ll be like when he returns. Judgment day. For example, have a look at Ch 24 v42.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

And then, at the start of Ch 25, he begins,

25:1 “AT THAT TIME the kingdom of heaven will be like..

And then, down where our passage begins in v14.

14 “Again, it will be like A MAN GOING ON A JOURNEY, who called HIS SERVANTS and entrusted his property to them.

The MAN represents Jesus. And the servants are US. So this is a story about NOW. It might only be a short story, but it covers a huge period of time. A story about life for the servants of Jesus IN BETWEEN his going and his coming back. Between 33 AD and NOW, and then ON INTO THE FUTURE.

Until Jesus comes back, this parable describes the WHAT and the HOW and the WHY of your life.

Jesus entrusts his property to his servants.

And the first thing we learn is that JESUS ENTRUSTS HIS PROPERTY TO HIS SERVANTS. V14, and 15.

He ENTRUSTED HIS PROPERTY TO THEM 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.

The word “talent” used to refer to a unit of WEIGHT. About 35 kg. Then it referred to a unit of MONEY. But, at some stage, simply as a result of THIS PARABLE, it came to refer to an ability or gift.

Because that’s what the talents – the MONEY – REPRESENTS in the parable. Gifts.

That’s what Jesus gives to his servants, so that they can go about their Master’s BUSINESS. It’s exactly the way Eph 4:7 described it.

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

So, not only does Jesus ENTRUST his property to his servants. But he DECIDES how it gets distributed. In the Eph passage we see that different PEOPLE get different GIFTS. Divided up just as Christ sees FIT.

In the PARABLE, that’s described in terms of the three servants receiving different AMOUNTS of money. Distributed according to ABILITY.

God’s wired you up to be AN INDIVIDUAL. You have a special skill-set that fits like a glove with the sorts of GIFTS he gives you.

You might have a LOGICAL brain, or you might be better at FEELING. You might love ORGANISATION, or you might be better at meeting with PEOPLE. Your fingers might work better on a computer keyboard, or a guitar, or under a bonnet. You might be better at TEACHING out the FRONT, or perhaps you’re better at ENCOURAGING from the BACK.

Your responsibility

But whatever your ABILITIES. Your personality. And whatever your GIFTS. Your responsibility as a SERVANT, is to USE them for the Master’s business. V16.

16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and PUT HIS MONEY TO WORK and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more…. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

It’s not good enough to say, “But I haven’t been given much. I don’t need to do anything WITH it.” Jesus distributes things exactly as he wants them – who are you to say, “He’s botched it up?”

Your responsibility is simply to do the MOST with what you have. To promote your Master’s business with the best you’ve got.

John Wesley, the hymn-writer and great English evangelist had THIS as his motto.

“Do all the GOOD you can by all the MEANS you can by all the WAYS you can in all the PLACES you can and at all the TIMES you can to all The PEOPLE you can as LONG as you ever can.”

How well does YOU LIFE measure up TO THAT? Or are you just passing time? Treading water? Making excuses?

We can sometimes think that nobody will NOTICE what we do. Or that we’re not that IMPORTANT. But that’s confusing PROMINENCE and SIGNIFICANCE. I’ve got a NOSE that’s prominent. Everyone can see it. But it’s not that SIGNIFICANT. You’d notice if it wasn’t there. I’d look pretty funny I reckon. But I’d LIVE. A nose is prominent, but not significant.

Whereas MY LIVER on the other hand. Isn’t prominent AT ALL. But I could never live without it. It does so many things in the body, I’d die within a few days without it. SIGNIFICANT, but not PROMINENT.

And it’s the same with much of the ministry that happens. Just because a ministry isn’t PROMINENT doesn’t mean it’s not SIGNIFICANT.

Every member of the body is needed. That’s the way God’s designed it. And every part MUST do its job.

It’s not up to YOU to worry about how PROMINENT your ministry is. Do it for no one else than JESUS. Serve, for an audience of ONE.

Because the reality is one day the Master will COME BACK. And he’ll call you to give an account for how well you’ve INVESTED the talents he gave you. He’ll want to see A RETURN. Look at v19 of the parable

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

The servant with TWO talents does the same. And look at the Master’s response to BOTH. Exactly the same. Because even though they both had different ABILITIES, and were given different TALENTS. They made the most of what they’d been given. They’d been FAITHFUL. V23.

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

What incredibly wonderful words!

But listen to what awaited the THIRD servant. V24.

24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

In other words, you WASTED YOUR LIFE!

And down to v28.

28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Don’t waste your life!!  That’s the title of a book by John Piper – one of my favourite authors. “Don’t Waste Your Life”. And he writes this.

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, about a couple who ‘took early retirement … when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in … Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot boat, play softball, and collect shells.’ At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke… But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream:

Come to the end of your life–your one and only precious, God-given life–and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.

Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.

You know, I started this message talking about Elvis.

A curious fact about Elvis… The only Grammy award he won for any album out of 250 million albums sold, was for a religious album that he recorded called, He Touched Me

(I’m going to play you part of it now.)

I wonder whether they sung THAT one at the Parkes combined churches gospel music service. It would have been a GREAT one to do.

Did you catch some of the words

“After the lightning and thunder, After the last bell has rung, I want to bow down before him And hear Him say, “Well done”

He is my reason for living, He is my King of Kings. I long to be in His possession. He is my everything.”

The question is, is that going to be YOUR song? Is Jesus YOUR reason for living? Are YOU his possession? His instrument? Is he your EVERYTHING?

After the last bell is rung, is Jesus going to say that to you? ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Philippians 3: 40 Days of Purpose 4: Discipleship: Created to become like Christ

The City to Surf’s just been on again. 50,000 runners who all start in the City, and then head up Oxford St to Bondi.

 

And there are two sorts of competitors in the City to Surf. There are the SERIOUS runners – not necessarily trying to WIN, but still seeking their own sorts of victory. Perhaps it’s just to run a personal best time.

 

And, for them, it’s that FINISHING LINE AT BONDI that’s the focus. And that big digital clock over the line. And for the whole race, they imagine crossing the line, and raising their arms in victory. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FINISH.

 

And then there’s the Back of the Pack crowd. They’re called that because they have a different starting line. It’s BEHIND the serious runners. So they don’t get in the way.

 

And that’s where you’ll find the fancy dress. The party-goers. Those out for a good time. A laugh. Or just a pleasant Sunday morning stroll.

 

And for THESE competitors, it’s ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY. The finishing line, and their time, are really an after-thought. It means nothing to them if they stop for coffee for an hour along the way. Or do a spot of window-shopping. Or wave to everyone watching beside the road.

 

And, according to Paul, the Christian life is just like a race. And like a race, you can run it in one of two ways. You can be a SERIOUS runner – like Paul. His eyes are on the goal. He’s straining towards the line. To win the prize. The prize of eternity with Jesus.

 

Like v8 of Phil 3.

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

 

V10. 10 I want to know Christ

 

Or v13

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize

 

For Paul, King Jesus loved him. King Jesus had saved him. And so he’s going to give him EVERYTHING. His mind’s on HEAVENLY things. ETERNAL things. And he’s not going to get bogged down along the way by earthly distractions.

 

And although the race was TOUGH, Paul couldn’t imagine anything else. Because every struggle along the way was making him MORE AND MORE LIKE JESUS. Fitter and fitter for eternity. The race was tough, but the prize was WORTH IT. And everything else he’d given up was just RUBBISH in comparison!

 

That’s the serious runner.

 

And then there’s the OTHER type of runner in the Christian race. The BACK OF THE PACK SLACKER. They’ll tell you they’re in the race, but their mind is on everything BUT the race. Paul says their mind is on EARTHLY THINGS.

 

It’s the pretty trinkets along the way that grab their attention. The bright lights of Kings Cross. Or the expensive shop fronts of Elizabeth Bay. And all they can think about are their sore feet, or dry mouths, or empty stomachs. And they forget why they began the race in the first place. In fact, they don’t look much different from the spectators standing beside the road. Barely distinguishable.

 

When it comes to YOUR Christian race – which are you? A serious runner, or a back of the pack slacker?

 

We’ve come, today, to the THIRD purpose of your life. God CREATED YOU TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST.

 

First, he PLANNED you for his pleasure – that’s WORSHIP. Second, he FORMED you for his FAMILY – that’s FELLOWSHIP. And THIRD, he CREATED you to BECOME LIKE CHRIST.

 

You can see that’s what Paul wants, there in v10.

10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

 

Whatever hills you climb, or pain you endure as you run the race of your Christian life, God’s put them all there so you’ll BECOME MORE LIKE JESUS. He wants to SCULPT you into the shape of Jesus. Take on his attitudes. Take on his behaviour. His characteristics. Respond to situations the same way Jesus would. Love what HE loves. And hate what HE hates.

 

1. Sculpting you into the shape of Jesus

And the key to the whole thing for Paul is there in v10. “I want to KNOW CHRIST” You can’t be CONFORMED to Christ, unless you know what he’s LIKE. Unless you KNOW him.

 

That’s what DRIVES Paul. He’s already said it back in v8. There’s nothing worth MORE than KNOWING CHRIST JESUS HIS LORD. Everything else is RUBBISH.

 

He’s not saying that he DOESN’T ALREADY know Christ. Just that he wants to know him BETTER. Every Christian knows SOMETHING of Christ. But the goal of the race is to KNOW HIM BETTER.

 

The tool of TRUTH

Because Christianity ISN’T knowing about a BOOK. Or knowing a set of rules. Or words to songs. It’s about knowing a PERSON. A living, active, powerful person. It’s about thinking his thoughts. Experiencing his presence. Understanding more and more what MOTIVATES him.

 

Paul was lucky enough to have MET him. On the road to Damascus. But that was just the beginning. He ALSO spent plenty of time in his Old Testament working it all out again.

 

And even though Christianity isn’t knowing a BOOK. WE learn about Jesus by studying his book. The Bible is how we learn what Jesus is like.

 

And it’s the first tool God uses to sculpt us into the shape of Jesus. The TRUTH of his word. 2 Tim 3:16-17 says THIS

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, 17 so that the man of God may be THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED for every good work.

 

God uses his Bible to SHAPE us. It’s the very reason he caused it to be written down. Teaching us, rebuking us. Adding bits here. Cutting off bits there. To mould us into people who are thoroughly equipped. People who resemble Jesus.

 

The Word of God is the SWORD of God’s Spirit. The scalpel and the weapon. The hammer and the goad. The medicine and the bright searchlight. The mirror.

 

It’s the TOOL he uses to do his work. In his people, and in his world.

 

So if the Bible is God’s TOOL to thoroughly equip us, then we need to PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO IT. Sometimes when you’ve been a Christian for a long time, the temptation is to SWITCH OFF when the Bible is read, or being explained. Because you’ve heard that passage BEFORE. And the words just WASH OVER you.

 

But the Bible is God’s TOOL. You can’t be SHAPED by it, if you not letting it DIG INTO YOU. And that takes EFFORT. And it can even be PAINFUL.

 

1 Peter 2:2 says

2 Like newborn babies, CRAVE PURE SPIRITUAL MILK, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,

 

Does that describe YOUR attitude to God’s Word? Think about how a hungry baby CRAVES a feed. Poor old Owen, fading away to nothing, sometimes looks like HIS LIFE DEPENDS ON IT unless he gets fed in the next minute.

 

God’s word is LIFE. We should crave it like THAT.

We must be HUMBLE enough to sit under its AUTHORITY. Not to think WE KNOW BETTER.

We must be COMMITTED enough to APPLY IT THOROUGHLY. To receive it, research it, remember it, and reflect on it.

 

The tool of trials

That’s God’s FIRST tool for sculpting us into the shape of Christ. His Word teaches us to know Christ.

 

But what IN PARTICULAR do we learn about Christ? Back in Phil 3, Paul goes on to give us SOME SPECIFICS. The two events in Jesus’ life on earth which DEFINE who he is. Look there at v10.

(Phil 3:10 NIV)  I want to know Christ and THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION and the fellowship of sharing in HIS SUFFERINGS,

 

Jesus is BOTH the resurrected Saviour AND the suffering servant. He’s both the victorious God, and the weak and frail human being. He’s the mighty Lion of Judah who is ALSO the slain lamb.

 

And for Paul to KNOW Christ is to know those qualities in his OWN LIFE. To know Christ better means to EXPERIENCE the power of Christ’s RESURRECTION. AND to join in Christ’s SUFFERINGS.

 

To know “the power of Christ’s resurrection” means experiencing victory over sin. Putting to death the old attitudes and behaviours. It means experiencing the power of the gospel in his own life. And seeing how it changes the lives of people he witnesses to. And they’re all things Paul wants to know.

 

The power of Christ’s resurrection

 

What about “sharing in his sufferings”? Why on earth would Paul WANT a share in Jesus’ sufferings?

 

Because that’s God’s SECOND tool for sculpting you into the shape of Christ. TRIALS.

 

Have you ever watched the locksmith cut a new key using the OLD one? The OLD one was cut into the right shape using a super-hard cutting tool. They attach the old key to ONE side of the machine, and the new blank one to the OTHER side. Then they start that super-hard grinder spinning. And the cutting-tool passes back and forth over the blank, guided by the shape of the MASTER.

 

And by the end, you’ve got a NEW key, exactly the same shape as the MASTER key. Cut using the same TOOL.

 

And it’s the same with US being shaped into the likeness of OUR master. The reality is that God uses suffering – TRIALS – as one of his tools to sculpt you into the same shape as Jesus. Because that’s exactly what JESUS went through.

 

As the Christian follows Jesus through suffering, he becomes more LIKE him. The fruit of obedience is Christlikeness. It’s literally that we “share in the shape of his death”. We are moulded into the shape of SERVANTS as we follow THE SERVANT KING.

 

It’s false advertising whenever an evangelist promises that when you become a Christian, all your problems will be solved. If anything, the OPPOSITE is often true. Listen to what Jesus himself says. John 15 v20.

(John 15:20-21 NIV)  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. {21} They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

 

To follow Christ, means we WILL suffer. It MAY mean persecution for being a Christian. That certainly happens in many countries today. But it might just mean suffering the consequences of putting Christ first.

 

Missing out on a promotion. Or refusing to cut the corners, and not winning the contract. Or doing without the new car, or new clothes because you support that missionary.

 

You see, we don’t just share in ANY sufferings. We share in CHRIST’S sufferings.

 

Christ suffered because he put his FATHER’S will before his own. He lay down his life for his sheep. We SHARE in Christ’s sufferings when they flow from OBEDIENCE  like HIS. Obedience to the FATHER’S will. Which puts the needs of others first.

 

We are shaped like Christ when we RESPOND like him. When we show LOVE in the face of HATE. Patience in the face of short-temper. Peace in the face of anger. Hope in the face of cynicism and failure. Perseverance in the face of giving up. Obedience in the face of rebellion. Purity in the face of evil.

 

And they’re all things God wants to see in you.

So if you’re praying for any of these, look out!!

 

Tool of time (12-16)

That’s why Paul wanted to knowing the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Because it was TRAINING him for the race. Making him fitter and stronger to make it to the finish line.

 

And even though Paul can’t WAIT for that. He doesn’t make the mistake of thinking he’s arrived already. Look at v12.

(Phil 3:12 NIV)  Not that I have ALREADY obtained all this, or have ALREADY BEEN MADE PERFECT.

 

I’ve watched some of Lachlan’s Cross Country races. 4 km this year.

 

And even though Lachlan’s not a sprinter, he’s got good endurance. And he knows not to worry if people sprint right at the start. They’ll run out of puff. He knows how far 4 km is. He knows how far to the finish line. So he runs his own race.”

 

And what normally happens is that when the gun goes off, 20 kids SPRINT for the first corner. Lachlan starts at a steady jog. They turn the corner, all bumping into each other. And a few of them slow to a trot almost immediately. After the first 200 m half of them are walking. And within half a km, Lachlan’s caught all but one.

 

It’s immature to pretend you’ve made it when you’ve still got a long way to go. But Paul’s not like that. He knows he’s still got a long way to go. That’s what maturity is.

 

But what’s he talking about? What’s the “all this” he hasn’t obtained yet? It could be his resurrection. But that’s a little obvious. Of course he’s not dead and resurrected.

 

It’s the complete knowledge of Christ, and complete Christ-likeness he hasn’t achieved. He’s not COMPLETE, or PERFECT, or MATURE, or perhaps even FULLY-EQUIPPED. The word for “perfect” can mean all of those things.

 

And you can see that Christ-likeness is what he’s talking about when you look at the second half of that verse. It’s tricky, but it’s beautiful. V12.

(Phil 3:12 NIV)  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect but I press on to take hold of that  FOR WHICH Christ Jesus took hold of me.

 

In other words, I’m working towards the goal which is the very reason Christ chose me to begin with. My job-description is to be Christ-like. That’s why Christ chose me. And that’s what I’m working towards. Following him. Becoming like him. Living FOR him.

 

And then Paul goes on in v13.

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself YET to have taken hold of it.

 

I’m not there yet. But I’m GETTING there. And it takes TIME.

And that’s God’s THIRD tool for sculpting you into the shape of Jesus. TIME.

 

God’s got your whole life planned out so that by the END of it, you’ll resemble Christ. And you can be sure it’s going to TAKE a lifetime.

 

Nothing that happens in your life happens accidentally. God uses the WHOLE THING to SHAPE you.

 

He COULD do it INSTANTLY. But that’s not the way he MADE us. Like everything, shaping you is a PARTNERSHIP.

 

* It takes a lifetime because we’re slow learners. We’re quick to forget and slow to remember.

 

* It takes a lifetime because we’ve got a lot of bad habits to UN-learn. Often we’ve learned sinful attitudes and habits over YEARS. But we expect God to fix them overnight.

 

Taking off the OLD self. And PUTTING on the NEW self takes a long time. And anyone who says different, is fooling themselves.

 

* It takes a lifetime because GROWING HURTS.

 

One of Lachlan’s soccer team-mates had the whole of last season off because of growing pains in his legs. His bones grew so quickly, his muscles and tendons couldn’t keep up. And he couldn’t run without pain, or risking permanent damage.

 

He just had to be patient, and let everything else catch up to his bones. He’s back playing know, even stronger AND BIGGER than before.

 

So be patient, and don’t get discouraged if YOUR growing seems slow. God promises that you WILL get there. Because it’s not just YOU. He’s working WITH you. Listen to what Paul says about the Philippians in Ch 1:6.

6 I’m confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will CARRY IT ON TO COMPLETION until the day of Christ Jesus.

 

He’s worked out everything else in your life. So you can be confident he’ll work out your Christlikeness.

 

Which doesn’t mean we sit back and do NOTHING. It’s not LET GO and LET GOD. Remember, it’s a partnership. In Phil 2:12-13 Paul put it like this;

work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

 

God’s DESIRE and his PLANS are behind you. So there’s no FRUSTRATION, no spinning wheels. No wrong turns. Everything is an opportunity for God’s plans to be worked out in YOU. So WORK AT IT steadily and conscientiously and consistently, and firmly and confidently.

 

Or as Paul puts it here in Phil 3, PRESS ON.

 

V12. Press on to take hold of THAT FOR WHICH Christ Jesus took hold of you.” Take hold of Christlikeness. Take hold of a life which glorifies Jesus.

 

And it’s this reason for living which Paul is SINGLE-MINDED about. Look at HOW he presses on. V13.

(Phil 3:13-14 NIV)  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, {14} I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

One thing. Pressing on. And he does it by FORGETTING what’s behind. That’s failures AND victories.

 

Forget past hurts, and disappointments, and discouragements. They can sap the LIFE out of you. Make you BITTER. People who’ve laughed at you, or rejected you. Or perhaps even just IGNORED you. That can be worse. And you wonder why you’d ever bother doing THAT again.

 

But the way to press on is to forget what’s past. And keep your eyes on the prize.

 

And sometimes we need to forget THE VICTORIES TOO. Especially if they make us complacent and proud. And make us trust in our own abilities. And make us think we’re further along the race than we really are.

 

Don’t look back. Press on toward the goal. And keep your eyes on your prize.

 

What’s the prize? From the context it’s probably Christ himself. We know Jesus now only A LITTLE. But COMPLETE and INTIMATE knowledge is what’s waiting for us at the finish line.

 

That’s the prize. Eternal fellowship with Jesus. Resurrection. And turning up to the throne of judgment. And King Jesus is there. And he says, “Good friend. I’ve been waiting for you. I ran the race. And although it was tough, you followed after me.

 

God’s used the race to sculpt you into a shape just like me.

 

“Well done, good and faithful servant. I can’t WAIT to spend eternity with you. Enter into your rest. You should see the party I’ve got ready for you!” That’s a prize worth striving for!

 

Press on.

 

Take hold of the very thing which was the reason Christ took hold of you. Christlikeness. Knowing Christ. In his sufferings and power.

 

Forget the past. Strain forward to win the prize. It’s what you were MADE for. Created to become like Christ.

 

 

 

Romans 12: 40Days of Purpose 3: Fellowship: Formed for God’s Family

Groucho Marx was famous for saying he wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would let HIM in.

 

What he was saying was that he had a fairly realistic view of himself. He knew his faults. But that he wanted to be part of a group of people BETTER than him. And if they actually thought he was good enough to measure up to their standard, then it can’t have been a very high standard. And therefore, not a club he wanted to be part of.

 

The sad thing is there are lots of Christians out there who have the same sort of view about CHURCHES. They’re always on the lookout for a better bunch of people. Better programs. Or bigger. Or friendlier. Or better preaching. Or a youth group that’s more exciting.

 

They’re church-shoppers. Steeple-chasers.

 

There’s a saying, “Don’t bother looking for the perfect church. Because when you FIND it. And JOIN it, … it won’t be PERFECT anymore.

 

But the reality is that’s not what church is about. God didn’t save us to become part of an exclusive CLUB. A spiritual elite. Not even a pretty ORDINARY sort of club.

 

He ADOPTED us into HIS FAMILY.

 

There’s a few different ways the Bible describes a group of Christians. And no, it’s not a gaggle of Christians (that’s geese). Or a choir of Christians. (that’s ANGELS). I sometimes wonder whether a PRICKLE of Christians isn’t appropriate. Like a prickle of hedgehogs.

 

But the Bible doesn’t use any of those. The most OBVIOUS one is CHURCH. Church just means GATHERING. We’re also called A VINEYARD, or A VINE. And we’re A TEMPLE. And we’re A BODY. Which we’ll think about in a few minutes. But the title I want to BEGIN with this morning is the one of FAMILY.

 

We saw that idea a couple of weeks ago when we looked at Eph 1. Eph 1:5 says

In love 5 he predestined us TO BE ADOPTED AS HIS SONS through Jesus Christ,

 

God, our HEAVENLY Father, ADOPTED US INTO HIS FAMILY. He made us his SPIRITUAL sons and daughters. And He signed the adoption papers with the blood of his son, Jesus.

 

A bit further on in Eph. Ch 2 v19, it puts it like this.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and MEMBERS OF GOD’S HOUSEHOLD,

 

The word for HOUSEHOLD is the same one the Bible uses for FAMILY. We used to be orphans. Aliens. Foreigners. But NOW, because of what Jesus has done for us, God’s made us FAMILY.

 

Which means, among other things. That you’re STUCK with the people here who are PART OF YOUR SPIRITUAL FAMILY.

 

There’s a saying, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Or “Blood is thicker than water”. In other words, you stand by your family. Even if they ARE a little unusual. Sometimes you’ll fight, but you’d never abandon them. You LOVE them. You’re committed to them. Through thick or thin. Because you’re CONNECTED.

 

And it works the same with church. Let’s be COMMITTED to each other like FAMILY. Because the reality is we’re STUCK with each other. We’re CONNECTED to each other. Because we’re all connected to Jesus. WE’RE family because Jesus is the LORD of us all. And God’s the FATHER of us all.

 

You can’t be joined to Jesus. But not joined to the REST of the family. The two go together. Being a Christian is a team sport. You can’t say you love Jesus, but not the OTHER’S who love him.

 

The church is Jesus’ BODY. You can’t say you love someone, but hate their BODY.

The church is Jesus’ BRIDE. You can’t say you love someone, but not their WIFE.

 

God’s made you part of HIS FAMILY. So stick with each other through thick and thin. Be Committed because we’re connected as family. That’s what families DO.

 

Over the years I’ve heard all sorts of reasons for why people stop coming to our church. Some of them are fair enough. Like moving to Townsville – that’s not bad. But most of them are just SOFT. People not willing to stick it out. Or not committed to this group of people. Or they don’t like something, and they’re after something better. I just have to bite my tongue, and hear them out.

 

I guess I’m preaching to the choir, because you’re all HERE. But perhaps you’re thinking about it. Let me encourage you to be COMMITTED to this group of God’s people. And SHOW that by working hard to overcome differences, fill-up shortcomings, and correct misunderstandings.

 

Be committed because we’re connected as family.

Family responsibilities

And when you’re part of a family, there are RESPONSIBILITIES that go with it. We could look at plenty of passages, but I thought we’d look at the first part of Rom 12.

 

I hope some of you noticed this was the same reading we had last week. If not, you’re all asleep! We looked at v1 last week, this week, we’ll look at the NEXT part. Because THE REST flows out of v1.

 

Remember last week, we talked about how we were made for WORSHIP. And that worship wasn’t just the songs you sing. Or what you do in church. But it was how you use your whole life, in response to what God has done for you in Jesus. That’s worship. V1. In view of God’s mercy, offer your body as a living sacrifice. That’s what worship is. Giving back to God because he’s given to you.

 

And then it goes on to talk about what that sort of sacrifice LOOKS LIKE. V2 says that if you want to find out what God’s will is, you need to TRANSFORM YOUR MIND. Change your way of THINKING.

 

And then in v3, it talks about HOW your thinking needs to change. “Don’t THINK OF YOURSELF more highly than you ought.” Be REALISTIC about where you fit.

 

And it’s here that we come across THE OTHER title the Bible uses for a group of Christians. A BODY. Look at v4.

4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ WE WHO ARE MANY FORM ONE BODY, AND EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS. (literally: individually members of one another)

 

In other words, part of what it means to think REALISTICALLY about yourself is to recognise that you’re just ONE PART of something BIGGER. You’re not the HEAD, the most important – you’re just PART of the body. It’s not all about YOU.

 

The word “MEMBER” is a biblical word. It means BODY PART. So we talk about being members of the church BODY. Which makes sense when you’re USED to the idea, but I wonder whether the MEMBERS of the local Labour party, or the local RSL club, or footy club, think of themselves as JUST BODY PARTS.

 

But the argument in this paragraph is that it’s A REALISTIC way to be thinking about yourself. Just a body part in the total body of the local church.

 

And what’s more, it’s right thinking like THIS that’s the START of offering yourself to God in WORSHIP. You need to see that church ISN’T ALL ABOUT YOU before you can begin responding to God as a living sacrifice.

 

If you come home, and say, I didn’t get much out of church today YOU MISSED THE POINT. It’s not ABOUT you. It’s about offering yourself TO GOD. And TO OTHERS.

 

So, in a way, Worship DOES happen in the context of church. But not in the way you might think. Offering yourself as a living sacrifice, in view of God’s mercies, happens as you live out being simply a body part in the body of the church.

 

You were MADE to be joined to the rest of the members of the body. It’s as unnatural to be a Christian on your own, as it is for a kidney, or a hand, or an ear, to exist on its own. God designed you to be connected to the other body parts of the body. It’s how you work best.

 

We don’t like to think of ourselves NEEDING other Christians. We like to think we’re rugged individuals. We’re fine on our own – thank you very much. But that’s the way God’s designed the Christian life.

 

Perhaps you’ve been burnt in churches before. Or it’s just too much hard work dealing with people. Or perhaps you don’t agree with the preaching, or you don’t like the singing, or the kids don’t stop squirming. There’s a thousand reasons why people stop coming to church.

 

But it’s UNNATURAL. Because you’re part of the body.

 

And the flip side of that is it’s WORTH IT to be in the body. It’s WORTH the time, and the energy, and the emotion, and the hassle, and the boredom. Because the body of believers is GOD’s way of FEEDING and ENCOURAGING you. Of supporting and nurturing you. Of strengthening and keeping you alive.

 

You were made to be part of the body. You were FORMED for God’s family. And if that’s true then there’s a few things that FLOW OUT of that.

 

Unity

The first is the idea of UNITY. It’s there in v5. “We who are MANY form ONE BODY”. Many parts United into ONE WHOLE.

 

But UNITY doesn’t mean UNIFORMITY. That’s what you get if you’re a member of the Holden Owner’s Club – you all drive Holdens. Or the Bromeliad Society – everyone likes growing bromeliads.

 

In the church, our unity doesn’t come from common interests, or common backgrounds. We are joined to each other, simply because we’re joined to Christ. WHATEVER OUR BACKGROUND, we’re UNITED because we all have the SAME Holy Spirit. That’s what 1 Cor 12:12 and 13 says

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-WHETHER JEWS OR GREEKS, SLAVE OR FREE-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

 

Every nation. Every colour and age. Every educational background. Every footy team. Married and single. Attractive and … interesting. God, by his SAME Spirit, lives in each one of us. That makes us united.

 

Eph 4:4 gives us a few MORE areas in which we’re united.

4 There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one HOPE when you were called- 5 one LORD, one FAITH, one BAPTISM; 6 one GOD AND FATHER OF ALL, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

We ALL hope for heaven. We ALL serve the Lord Jesus. We ALL trust the work of Jesus alone for our salvation. We ALL were baptised. We are ALL children of our heavenly Father. And so we’re united in PURPOSE AND DIRECTION AND GOALS. To live obedient lives, seeking to honour and proclaim the Lord.

 

But as strong as those ties are. The reality is, because we’re sinful people, sometimes those ties aren’t strong enough to KEEP us united. And we’re tempted to GIVE UP. We’re united in PRINCIPLE. But not always in PRACTICE.

 

In the verse immediately before those ones, Eph 4:3. Paul pleads with them MAKE EVERY EFFORT to KEEP the unity of the Spirit. In other words, just because we’re all Christians, doesn’t mean it’s going to BE EASY to stay united. And all pulling in the one direction.

 

So don’t let little niggling things DRIVE US APART. Work hard at being patient and kind. Speak the truth in love.

 

Belong

The FIRST thing being part of the body means is that we’re UNITED. The SECOND point Romans 12 makes is that since we’re all part of one body, we all BELONG TO EACH OTHER. See it there at the end of v5? It literally says

We who are many form one body, and INDIVIDUALLY MEMBERS OF ONE ANOTHER.

 

WE affect the members around us, and THEY affect US. For good or bad. You can make a difference to the other parts of the body. In fact, more than that. You are INDISPENSIBLE. The other members NEED you.

 

There are no useless members. Each one has a part to play in the health of all the rest. In 1 Cor 12 Paul plays around with the idea of different body parts, and how every part has a role. V14.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

 

Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. In fact, variation is GOOD. Differences are part of God’s plan. Because, that way, everything gets done.

 

You may think “I can’t sing”, or “I can’t lead”. “My knees knock together whenever I stand up the front”. Or “my hands shake at the thought of teaching kids church. Nobody will notice if I’m not here”.

 

But we need people to do ALL sorts of things. God has designed THIS CHURCH at MARAYON exactly the way he wants it. This group of God’s people has everything – every ONE – we need  to be doing the job God wants for it.

 

You’re HERE for A REASON.

 

If you reckon our church should be doing … SOMETHING. “Wouldn’t it be great to run an after school kids club, or a homework club, or organise letterboxing, or run a church library, or coordinate meals for people, or teach Scripture, or run a young adults Bible study?”

 

And you look around, and there’s no one who can DO it. Perhaps that’s because God is tapping YOU on the shoulder. Even though you don’t think you’re up to it. Maybe he’s giving you the DESIRE first. And then he’ll give you the ABILITY. And THE CONFIDENCE.

 

And even if it’s not doing something OBVIOUS. Something you’d immediately label as ministry. You can make a real difference in the lives of people here by SHOWING you CARE. Showing you’re interested. By LISTENING to people. By asking questions.

 

The coffee break is a really valuable time at church. It’s MINISTRY time. It’s not REALLY a break. If anything, it’s where there’s a break from the up-front stuff, and where everyone ELSE BEGINS their work.

 

You BELONG here. Because you MAKE A DIFFERENCE. There are people here who don’t even realise they’re encouraging to ME. When I can see Diane concentrating on what I’m saying. When I see Jo Steele scribbling down notes. When I see Jason or Ruby following along in their Bible. When I hear Jacob up the back belting out a hymn, or I see the kids standing on their seats, singing along, or I hear people say AMEN at the end of a prayer, they’re encouraging to me.

 

When I see Rob turn up at Doonside high to teach Scripture every week. Or Dean and Di and Josh and Rob and Jason turn up to Youth Group every week. That’s encouraging. Or Sue spending hours every week preparing KYB  – even though I know she doesn’t find it easy. That’s encouraging.

 

When I see everyone turn up to the Doonside Festival, and chip in. When I see Ann and Kelly and Nicole painting hundreds of faces. Or Dionne making hundreds of juggling balls, or Daphne and Mary making cups of tea. That’s encouraging.

 

When I see Steve or Andrew, or Bob turn up at 9 am with a smile on their face to set up church. That’s encouraging to me.

 

Whatever it is. In countless ways, we can SHOW that we’re CONNECTED to each other. That we’re COMMITTED to each other. And that we BELONG to each other.

 

Gifted to give

The third thing the Romans 12 passage says about being members of a body is that we’re GIFTED TO GIVE. The WAY we show we belong to each other is by USING THE GIFTS God gives us to build each other up.

 

If we think about the human body, every part has a job to do. They’re all different. And they each contribute in a different way. But there’s no one part that can do without any of the others. And there’s no part that’s USELESS. They’re all mutually beneficial. You have two eyes for a reason. And one heart. You have toenails, and knuckles, and elbows for a reason. You have HAIR for a reason (or LACK of hair as the case may be).

 

And it’s the same with church. V6 of Rom 12.

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

 

All different sorts of gifts. All contributing to a healthy body in different ways. This is one of a few lists of different gifts in the Bible. But there’s two things I like about this list;

 

First, how many UP-FRONT gifts are there? Prophesying (probably), and teaching, possible leadership.

 

But what about the rest? Serving, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, showing mercy. These are all things even the most TIMID person can do. You can even do them WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING.

 

No matter how ungifted you feel. Or how unable to contribute. This list has something for YOU to do.

 

Serving. Turn up early and help set up the chairs. Bring a slice for morning tea. Help organise the mission dinner. Offer to pick up someone who can’t make it to church. Invite a family over for lunch. Why not offer to babysit so some parents can have a night out alone?

 

Encouraging. Why not resolve to make one phone call a week to someone from church? Or write a card. Even send an SMS or email. If you notice someone’s not at church, give them a ring to ask if they’re alright. Tell someone you appreciate the job they did.

 

Contributing to the needs of others. There’s obviously the financial side of that. Supporting ministry by giving. But there’s OTHER ways you can contribute to the needs of others. Give up YOUR TIME. Daisy had her garage sale last week – I know Dionne did some ringing around to help Sallee chase up some things. Perhaps someone needs a hand with the garden, or a lift to the airport. Or a hand practising music, or preparing their kids church lesson.

 

Showing mercy. Jodie and Pam are going to be run off their feet in a few weeks. Perhaps there’s something you can do to help them. Doing a bit of vacuuming, or shopping. Cooking a meal. Can you look after the kids while THEY get out for a couple of hours?

 

There’s much more to using our gifts than just the obvious showy gifts. And they’re all for the building up – the encouragement – of the body.

 

The second thing I like about this list is that it emphasises the ATTITUDE BEHIND the gifts. Did you notice that?

if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give GENEROUSLY; if it is leadership, let him govern DILIGENTLY; if it is showing mercy, let him do it CHEERFULLY

 

It’s not encouraging to have someone use their gifts for you, but to do it with the wrong attitude. You don’t want someone helping you setting up chairs if they’re going to GRUMBLE about it all the time. Or drop hints about how BUSY they are.

 

You don’t want someone offering to be on a committee, and then never turn up, or not do the jobs they’d promised. Or offering to play music, then not turning up, or turning up late, or not bothering to practice.

 

We encourage people by THE ATTITUDE we have as we do things just as much by the actual things we DO. When you serve people, do it GENEROUSLY. Do it CHEERFULLY. Do it DILIGENTLY.

 

 

We’ve been formed for God’s family. We’re members of his body. We’re UNITED to each other. We BELONG to each other. God’s gifted us to give to each other.

 

Let me give you TWO challenges in closing.

 

I’ve talked today about being a member of the body. Is that something you’ve OFFICIALLY done. By making a public commitment?

 

We’ve got TWO sorts of members in the Pressie church. Firstly there are ADHERENT members. That’s anyone who comes to church. If you’re in our address book, or you’ll be in the new version. You’re an adherent member.

 

Secondly, there are FULL members, or COMMUNICANT members. That’s people who’ve made a public declaration that they’re a Christian, and that they’re committing themselves to this group of God’s people. Committing themselves to serving and giving, and doing what a member does. And that gives them certain rights, as well as responsibilities. Many of you are communicant members.

 

But perhaps you’d like to make that declaration. That commitment. Perhaps you’re NEW. Or perhaps you’re a young person who’d like to TAKE OWNERSHIP of the baptism vows your parents made. To make a stand for yourself – that Jesus is your boss.

 

There are some brochures on the back table that explain more about that. See me if you’re interested.

 

The second challenge I want to make is for you to tick the boxes on the news sheet. Simply for YOUR BENEFIT. Not for anyone else to see. They’re Nine characteristics of biblical fellowship. Taken from the Purpose Driven Life book.

 

Will you commit to;

sharing your true feelings (authenticity) – 1 Jn 1:7-8

encouraging others (mutuality) – 1 Cor 12:25-26

supporting others (sympathy) – Col 3:12

forgiving others (mercy) – Col 3:13

speaking the truth in love (honesty) – Eph 4:15

admitting your weaknesses (humility) – 1 Peter 5:5-6

respecting our differences (courtesy) – Titus 3:2

not gossiping (confidentiality) – Prov 16:28

making meeting together a priority (frequency) – Heb 10:25

 

That’s what it means to be a member of the body of Christ’s church.

Mark 12:28-34: 40 Days of Purpose 2: Worship: Planned for God’s Pleasure

AUSTRALIAN IDOL’S just begun its new series on Channel 10. Series 5. I don’t even think we had a break from Big Brother. But we’re straight into it. Scouring Australia to find the next IDOL. The next singing and dancing sensation for us to WORSHIP. Which is what you DO with IDOLS.

As if we don’t have enough things in Australia to worship ALREADY.

Most people say we’re not very RELIGIOUS in Australia. But I don’t reckon that’s true. There’s LOTS of things we worship. Every weekend, more than 100,000 people in Sydney will RELIGIOUSLY head to their local cathedral and join in with thousands of others to worship. They focus their attention on the object of their worship, they sing songs, they raise their hands in praise, they work themselves into an emotional frenzy. They even PRAY on occasion.

It’s the idol of …. FOOTY.

But it could just as easily be netball, or cricket, or fishing. Or some other sport.

Then there’s the idol of GARDENING, or cleaning the CAR, or renovating the house. The idol of weekends away, of bike riding, of quality time with the family, of music and concerts and restaurants, or even the idol of just of sleeping in and reading the Sunday papers.

And that’s just on THE WEEKEND! During the week, we’re busy worshipping MONEY, or WORK, or SUCCESS, or APPROVAL, or POWER and INFLUENCE, or EDUCATION, or SECURITY, or MATERIAL POSSESSIONS.

Our idols are anything that’s so important to us, they consume our time, our thoughts, our attention, our money. Anything that TAKES PRIORITY, that becomes more important than anything else. Our idols are the things we WORSHIP.

Normally when we think of WORSHIP, we only think of CHURCH. We get mental images of exuberant praise, of great music, of getting caught up in the emotion. Or perhaps you think of worship as quiet and reverent contemplation. Of meditation. Or candles and robes and choirs and organs. I guess it depends on what your background is.

But what if we BROADENED our view of what WORSHIP is/ to something like this dictionary definition – To worship is “TO IDOLISE OR REGARD WITH ADORATION a person or principle”? (repeat)

Then we can begin to imagine how it’s possible for Aussies everywhere to be WORSHIPPING their IDOLS. Whether it’s Damien Leith the SINGER, or Benji Marshall the FOOTBALLER. Whether it’s their Commodore station wagon, or their Commerce degree. Their new EXTENSION, or their new PROMOTION. Their new BABY, or their new BIKE.

Whatever they idolise, or regard with adoration, whatever they focus their attention, or their time, or their money on, is what they WORSHIP.

Let me show you a picture that captures the idea of worship pretty well. Taken last year at a Jane Fonda book signing in a Pitt Street shopping mall. It’s a picture of 33 year old Sydney man, Simon Bloomfield. He’s showing to the star herself the tattoo he got five years ago of Jane Fonda in her famous role as Barbarella. He got her to sign, not only the book she’d just launched but also a 1968 Life magazine of Simon’s with Jane as Barbarella on the cover, and his own Barbarella cartoon book.

Worship is about that sort of devotion. An expression of admiration. Of ADORATION.

Humans will worship just about ANYTHING. It’s in our nature to worship. Every culture the world over worships SOMETHING. But most people worship the wrong things. They settle for LESSER things. For UNDESERVING things. Rather than worshipping the one who DESERVES our adoration.

But we were designed to worship GOD. Because he’s the one who’s EARNED the right. Rev 4:11 says this about God

11 “You are WORTHY, our Lord and God, to RECEIVE GLORY AND HONOR AND POWER, (why?) for you CREATED all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

God CREATED us, and so he DESERVES our honour, and attention, and adoration. In fact, it’s that VERY THING that we were MADE for. To WORSHIP God.

Planned for God’s pleasure

Which is more than just for OUR good. OUR benefit.

The incredible truth of the Bible is that God is PLEASED when we worship him. When we focus our attention and adoration on him. It’s what we were CREATED for. Made for worship. Planned for God’s PLEASURE.

It shouldn’t REALLY surprise us. After all, WE love it when someone shows their affection to US. Like when you walk in the door after work, and the kids scream out “Daddy”, and come running down the hall to meet you, and give you a big hug.

Although as the kids get older, they might just GRUNT in your direction. But even when the DOG is happy to see you, it gives you pleasure.

And it’s the same with God. (Not that I’m saying that we’re like dogs). But God gets PLEASURE out of his children. ESPECIALLY when they WORSHIP him. When they respond to him in gratitude and adoration.

We saw it last week in Eph 1. Not sure whether you noticed it, or not. Have a look at it again with me. (p827) It’s soaked with talk of God’s pleasure. Eph 1 from v5.

5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with HIS PLEASURE AND WILL-

It PLEASED God to adopt us as his sons. And then jump down to v9.

9 And he made known to us THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL/  ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PLEASURE, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

God’s WILL, his PLAN, what brings him pleasure/ is US. HIS children. And as we saw last week, it’s all tied up in bringing everything together under the kingship of Jesus.

But then look a bit FURTHER on, down to v12. It’s how WE fit into God’s plans. V 11, we were CHOSEN by God’s will , v12,

12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might BE FOR THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY.

That’s your purpose in life. God’s design for you is TO BE FOR THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY. To WORSHIP him. All of his plans have that goal in mind. To be for the praise of his glory. It’s what brings him PLEASURE.

What is worship?

Last week we saw that God made us to be in a relationship with him. And we focused on HIS side of that relationship. He made us to love us. To bring us back to himself through the work of Jesus.

This week the focus is on THE OTHER SIDE of that relationship. He made us to LOVE HIM. The most famous part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is the first question. Q1. What is the chief end of man? (In other words, what’s humanity’s main purpose). And here’s the answer “The chief end of man is TO GLORIFY GOD AND ENJOY HIM FOREVER.”

To GLORIFY God, and enjoy him forever.

Which is MUCH more than simply what you do at church. The Bible’s view of worship is much bigger than that. Flip back a few pages to Roman Ch 12 v1. (p803). One of the best verses for showing us the wide sweep of what it means to WORSHIP. Answering the question “What is WORSHIP?”

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to OFFER YOUR BODIES AS LIVING SACRIFICES, HOLY AND PLEASING TO GOD — THIS is your SPIRITUAL ACT OF WORSHIP.”

What is worship? It’s offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

a. In view of God’s mercy

The first thing to notice is that worship is IN RESPONSE to something God has done.

Notice it there? “In view of God’s mercies”. Whatever we’re to do in worship, it’s to be IN RESPONSE to God’s mercies to us.

So, What are God’s mercies? Well, that’s what Paul’s just spent the previous eleven chapters explaining. Like near the end of Ch 11 it talks about God’s mercy. V30.

“You who were at one time disobedient to God have now received MERCY”

The incredible good news of Jesus is that God offers forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. Jesus’ takes the punishment that WE deserved, and God offers us, instead, the forgiveness and mercy that JESUS deserved.

And it’s only in view of THAT TRUTH that people can worship God. In response to THAT reality. There’s no other way to offer your thanks and praise to God than on the basis of his mercy IN JESUS. THROUGH Jesus, if you like.

Anything good in life comes from God because of Jesus.

Any thanks you bring to God has to BEGIN with Jesus.

If your praise doesn’t come in view of God’s mercies expressed in Jesus, it’s not worship that’s pleasing to God.

If you want to live your life according to God’s purposes, then that’s the first step. Recognising God’s mercies expressed in the gift of his Son, and responding with repentance and thanks.

Is that something YOU’VE done? If you haven’t done that. You can do it TODAY. Recognise God’s mercies expressed in the gift of his Son, and respond with repentance and thanks That’s the first thing you need to do to be living a life PLEASING to God.

b. Offer yourselves

Second thing to notice about this verse is that worship is about OFFERING YOUR BODIES.

Notice that it doesn’t say worship is what you do when you come to church. It doesn’t say worship is about singing spiritual songs. It doesn’t say worship requires performing religious rituals.

It says our worship is offering ourselves to God. Being living sacrifices. Which is a contradiction. An oxymoron.

Because sacrifices are DEAD. But the truth of this verse is that God wants our WHOLE LIVES given to him, as a CONTINUAL response to his mercy.

A few chapters earlier, Rom 6:13, puts it like this;

13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, AS THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BROUGHT FROM DEATH TO LIFE; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

You are to be a LIVING sacrifice. Because God has brought you from death to LIFE. You used to be DEAD – headed for judgment, and separation from God, living the HALF-LIFE of worshipping idols and STUFF. But God rescued you.

So we should offer the parts of our body to him as instruments of righteousness.

c. Pleasing to God

The third thing to say about Rom 12:1 is that a life lived like THAT, offered to God, in view of his mercies, PLEASES him.

What an incredible truth that is. That we can bring a smile to the face of the creator of the Universe when we do our little bit to serve him. When we commit whatever we think and say and do TO HIM. For his glory. For his praise. For his purposes. Which is WORSHIP.

God made us and saved us to be his children. His side of that is showering us with love. our response is Worship.

Let’s think a bit more about what that LOOKS like. What it looks like to offer our bodies to God, in worship, as living sacrifices. Jesus summed it up in our other Bible reading. Can you turn with me back to Mark 12:28-34? (p718)

This lawyer comes up to Jesus and asks him a very important question. He asks him which of God’s commandments is most important. Sum up how we should live God’s way. (In other words it’s the BIG QUESTION “What on earth am I here for?”)

Jesus answers by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Verses that even to this day, are repeated daily by devote Jews.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus,  “is this:  ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart  and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

Here’s the number 1 priority of your life. Your primary objective. Your highest priority. Love God.

Here is how to respond to the one true God. Here is the essence of worship. Here is offering yourself as living sacrifice. Love God. With EVERYTHING YOU HAVE and EVERYTHING YOU ARE, love God. In response to his immeasurable love for you, love God.

I reckon there are THREE ASPECTS to this love for God.

First, God wants me to love him passionately.  He says, “with all your heart and all your soul.”  Your heart and your soul is about your complete being. With whatever it is that makes you you.

Love God with YOUR WILL. Make the conscious decision to CHOOSE to love God, to the neglect of OTHER things you might love.

Love God when nobody else is doing it. When it’s hard, or embarrassing. When it doesn’t make sense to. When it’s easier to give up.

Love him with all your heart and soul.

Second, God wants me to love Him thoughtfully.  It says,  “love Him with your mind.”  In other words, he doesn’t want mindless religion.

Some people think worship means putting your mind in neutral. Letting the feelings take over. As if when you come to church you leave your brain at the door. That that is true worship.

But it’s not the worship God wants. He wants us to worship him THOUGHTFULLY. To FOCUS our attention on him.

And let’s face it, it’s hard for sinners like you and me to keep focusing our attention on God. We just get so easily distracted. Life is cluttered with noise and distractions. SMS’s, MP3s, DVDs and LCDs shouting out for our attention.

We just busy ourselves with whatever it is, and we think about God less and less. But He wants to teach us to focus our attention on Him. To BE STILL and know that he is God.

The best way to do that is to get into the regular habit of reading his word, and spending time in prayer. Every day. Engaging our minds on God. Struggling to understand what he is saying to us in his word. Grappling with context and style of writing and what it means here and now. Thinking through the difference that Jesus and the cross and resurrection makes.

God’s given each of us A MIND to wrestle with these things. And to think through our response. And God will REWARD that sort of effort. Your love for God will grow. And the fruitfulness of your ministry will grow.

You know, the further you go in the Christian life, the more study you do, the more you realise that you’re only beginning to scrape the surface of the depths of who God is, and what his purposes are.

He wants you to worship Him THOUGHTFULLY, know and love Him thoughtfully.  To love him with all our MIND.

3. And finally, He says, I want you to love me practically.  “love Me with all your STRENGTH”, with your abilities. With your mouth, or your hands, or your feet. Love me with your money, with your time. Love me when it’s hard. When your tired. Love me in your work. Love me at home with your family. Love me when you’re on your own, or when you’re in the middle of a crowd.

This is where it’s vital to grasp that worship isn’t just what we do in church. It’s our whole life.

Back to the description of true worship in Romans 12:1.

8  “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God”. Eugene Peterson paraphrases that in The Message,

“Take you everyday, ordinary life— your sleeping, your eating, your going to work, your walk-around life— and place it before God.” That captures it pretty well.

We are called to worship God in EVERYTHING we do. By doing whatever we do WITH HIM IN MIND. For his glory. Out of love for him.

What about Monday morning changing who you work for? I don’t mean changing jobs. I mean changing who you do you work FOR. Who you aim to please. Colossians 3:23 puts it like this.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, AS WORKING FOR THE LORD, not for men.

Whether you’re PAID to work or not. Whether it’s working at making pizzas, or tidying your room. Whether it’s teaching kids about woodwork, or mowing the lawn. Whether it’s practising the piano, or practising LAW. Work at it with all your heart. Do it to PLEASE God.

That’s WORSHIP that pleases God.

You see, some people compartmentalize their life saying, “Okay, here’s my worship.  I go to church once a week.  Maybe I go to a small group once a week,       and maybe I have a daily time where I’m reading his word and praying, and that’s my worship.

And then over HERE, I’ve got my career. And then over here I’ve got my social life.”

No, no.  God says I want you to invite me into every area of your life.  I want to be involved in all of it. Invite me into the whole thing.

Will you CHOOSE to do that?

You see, under the sovereign grace of God, the one who created the entire universe with a word, who is in total control of everything, and who needs for absolutely nothing. He chose to make the world in such a way that there are three things he doesn’t have unless you give them to Him.

1. He doesn’t have your affection, unless you give it to Him. That’s loving God with your heart and your soul.

2. He doesn’t have your attention unless you give it to Him.  That’s loving God with your mind.

3. And he doesn’t have your ability, unless you give it to Him.  That’s loving God with your strength.

All those things are gifts of God’s sovereign grace. He gave us heart, soul, mind and strength. But, by the work of his Spirit, we CHOOSE to turn those things towards him. In response to his mercies. As a spiritual act of worship.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.

Because that is the first purpose for which he made you. You were planned for God’s pleasure.