The Starting Point
PURPOSE FOR A NEW YEAR - #1 of 4
Matt. 22:34-40 / Matt 28:18-20
• As last year has now ended and a new year presents itself, we have met twice to pray and dream about God’s desire for us, both individually and collectively. God has placed us here for a purpose, a goal, and a task. My last message was “Introducing Jesus.” Someone came up and said, “If I were asked to introduce Him to the world, I wouldn’t say anything, just fall on my face. I’m the flip side of the coin.” If that approach were taken by all, would people really know who Jesus is? Peter tells us to always be ready to give a “defense” for the hope that is in us. This means that to fulfill the purpose of Jesus in our lives requires us to be pro-active in our witness. The purpose/vision/mission (PVM) of this church can only be accomplished when that same PVM is lived out in the lives of those who claim to know Christ & are members of this body.
• Over the past 20 years there has been much talk, much written, and many emphasis on “Purpose.” Rick Warren is recognized as the “Father of the Purpose-Driven Life” & has now written Purpose-Driven Church, Purpose Driven Life, & has authored a study call “40 Days of Purpose.” However, as I read the scripture I think Rick only packaged what Jesus demonstrated & has brought it to light.
• There are some “deep-seated” reasons for the need of this type of emphasis in the life of the average church member and church. Allow me to set the stage, consider these truths:
o Churches & Believers have had an easy ride in USA. In fact 50 years ago if you had said that Christmas decorations such as the nativity scene would be ban from public property, we would have probably laughed. Because this nation was founded on Bible principles & religious freedom. We bought into that it was our ‘right’ & the nation’s desire to do these things. A result of this is that the concept of church membership has taken on a cultural, social meaning as opposed to a spiritual meaning identified by a changed life & following Christ to the cross.
o This concept was compounded by the acquired belief that the “Pastor and the Staff” were paid to do ‘the ministry.’ So instead of becoming people of mission & ministry, the average church member became ‘observers’ who ‘allowed’ their staff to do ministry which the Bible teaches is for every believer. (Never forget, in God’s eyes – every member is a minister!)
o In years past, people accepted Bible as truth & church as moral compass & conscious. The church had a ‘home-field advantage.’ People knew Sundays was ‘church time’, whether they attended or not. By the way, I just read a report that ‘if people are going to attend worship, Sunday morning is still the time they most likely will attend.
o The mid-20th Century brought a change in thinking. For the first time in this Christian Nation history “moral & theological rebellion” came and found traction. Call it what you will (I.E. social, sexual revolution, societal rebellion, etc) but it came none-the-less changing the landscape.
• In the midst of the societal uproar several things were happening which offered help & hope to the church which was, for the first time, beginning to lose its influence in society. The ministry of Billy Graham (& other evangelists) were calling many to Christ. There was also a movement of God in the lives of young people (1970’s) called “The Jesus Movement” where the ‘young hippie like people’ came to Christ. Personally, I remember that movement well and some of the changes which they promoted. All of a sudden kids didn’t come in their suits & ties & they didn’t sit on the back row & pass notes. They came to worship in sandals and blue jeans, they sat on the floor, & they had their Bibles & notebooks open ready to learn about a God who loved them supremely. (As an aside, Michael Catt & I are about the same age & both lived in the same general area & he talks openly about being a result of the Jesus movement). Bro. Mike states it well, “The church didn’t know what to do with these new followers who came to follow Christ without the trapping of the traditional church.” One of the hold-overs from this group is the music. They used guitars instead of organs.
• As a results, churches moves from a “ministry” to “maintenance” mentality. Church ministers became managers while pastors became chaplains. Honestly, the church seemed to lose it way. It would seem that 3 emotions infected the church;
i. FEAR – even though God’s people should not be people “of fear,” churches & member became afraid. With Jesus Movement came young people wearing bell bottoms, carrying bibles, showing emotion, & sitting on floor frightened people because they challenged our traditions. Bro. Mike says, “The church didn’t know what to do with them.” So they became afraid which led to;
ii. PROTECTION – Since that time (40 yrs), churches & church member have largely become defensively reactive as opposed to offensively proactive. The tendency is to protect as opposed to proclaim. The problem is that we possess greatest story & the only hope for mankind. Yet, since the 60’s, baptisms remain flat while population grows. Protect turf is a past time for some.
iii. ISOLATION – This is where we find the average church & church member today. Think about it: This country now has a “we-they” mentality, the churched & the unchurched. Among those who are ‘churched’ (like I mentioned on “Dream Night”), an attitude of “Circle the Wagons” seems to exist. There is a tendency to think like the Pharisee & when one interact with a non-church person ask, “Why do you eat with sinners?” And we wonder why we can’t reach’em!
• NOW-I have spent a great deal of time building the case as to WHY we need to hear, comprehend, & embrace ‘God’s purpose’ in our lives and in this church. Once again, our Lord has called us, given us a task, a mandate, and even the method to fulfill His ministry and mission for us.
• God calls you today just like He called Jonah. How will we (you) respond? We are just a few days inside a new year. If the Lord doesn’t return, you’ll have 12 months to live out His purpose in your life. If you choose to run away & do nothing you may find yourself, like Jonah, in a type of fishes belly - desperate. NOTE: Each step Jonah took away from God was going “DOWN!”
• Today, I call us to begin this New Year with a new vision of purpose, faithfulness, consistency, & witness. May you do this because of your love for the Lord & commitment to fulfill His purpose. In the time that’s left, let consider our purpose for this life, God’s church, and serving Christ.
1) YOUR PURPOSE DISCOVERED - What is your purpose? If I were to walk up to you and ask, “Why were you born?” What would you say? Most adults have already asked themselves this question but sadly, few have discovered a satisfactory reply. Perhaps we’ve looked in the wrong place.
• The results is that we live life by choosing a vocation that we like and hanging on to that for life. Candidly, this seems to be where most Baptist churches & American believers find themselves. I read some statistics which indicate that out of 100 people who are members of a church less than 2 can state their ‘intentional purpose’ in life. We know <90% of church are in trouble.
• 2 Issues worth noting: Everybody does HAVE a purpose of some kind. Purpose is developed in one of two ways. We either have it by “Default” which means we just let it happen. (Kind of a “kay-sa-ra”). The second way we develop purpose is “intentional.” This is where you sat down, prayed it through, & decided what God wanted you to do.
• If you really want to know & be able to express your life’s purpose right now, then review the last months of your life. Think about your priorities, attention, heart, & action.
• According to Jesus, the first priorities of life are found in our text. Jesus said that the greatest commandment (priority) should be ‘loving God with all we are & with all we have.’ WITHOUT taking a breath He adds that we should ‘love’ our neighbors as ourselves.’ When we marry His words of Matthew 22 with His final words of Matthew 28, we discover that the trifecta of His desire is for us to “Bring people, Baptize People, & Disciple People.” When our purpose becomes Loving God with all we are, life changes. At that point is us much easier to Love other people with God’s Love. Watch the progression; we love God and love others - - -
• THEN, the natural outgrowth is to reach people with God’s love. We bring them to Him, to His church, we baptize them, and we disciple them. In other words, our purpose becomes fulfilling the Great Commandment & the Great Commission. This is our calling, our mission, & our life.
• By the way, “to know what to do & don’t do it is sin.” Not everyone can preach, teach, or sing, but EVERYONE can love, share, & bring. In order to Love God you need to Know God. Jesus said, the only way to God is THROUGH ME. Before all else, Jesus must become your Savior & Lord. Has He? You may say, “I love the Lord like that.” And I respond “GREAT, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?” “YEA BOY.” That is great. So now perhaps we should think back over this past week and examine just how much of our Lord was in our Christmas celebration. Just a thought. A question: Hearing this call for purpose & knowing your own purpose, is it God’s?
• It is sad, but the very reason the Church & Christianity has lost influence & traction in the lives of people in America is because their spiritual purpose is does not seem so clear.
2) YOUR PURPOSE DIVERTED - To divert something means you “change directions.” In our area, we know about being diverted. When the interstate was being repaired, we were diverted. True, we could get to our desired destination, but it was a pain.
• When I received Jesus as my Savior, He had a purpose/a life’s course charted for me. Some people will tell you that ‘whatever you do – God planned it.” No doubt God is sovereign and He knows, but to suggest that every person lived by God’s divine purpose is a little frightening & perhaps unbiblical. Many people, perhaps some of us, have been called by God to ‘be & do’ something in particular & our response has been less than ‘okay.’ Perhaps we responded like Jonah & ran 180⁰ in the other direction. If you follow the life of Jonah, he wound up the in the belly of the fish, the prodigal son found his way to the pig pen, & Samson ended up with his eyes put out. The personal cost of living your own purpose & life on your own is high.
• Today, some of us need to do some diverting of our own. If we are honest, our life’s purpose is living for self, it’s all about me. It is inconsistent for a born-again Child of God to have a ‘me’ purpose. Paul said, “I want to know Christ” & Jesus says, “Love God first, then others.”
• By the way the acrostic for JOY is Jesus first, others second, & yourself last. To get to this point in life, some of us may need to divert soul, our schedules, or our speech. The starting point of purpose living for a new year is to discover His purpose for you & divert your life toward that.
3) YOUR PURPOSE Developed – To really develop God’s purpose for you means, “Spending a considerable amount of time with Him.” Why? Let me answer this in a couple of ways.
• First, you will never develop a love for anyone or anything without spending time with them, and Jesus is not the exception. We must spend time with him if they are to love him.
• Next, you will never fulfill the Great Commandment without spending time, quality time, with God, in His word, listening for His voice. By the way, remember what Bro Lawrence told us, “We need to do more listening than talking because He know more than us. We must make our time with Him a ‘priority’ time. If it’s not a priority, then it’s not love, and it won’t happen.
• It is only when we love God with all that we are that we have any hope of loving others like we love ourselves. Few people have trouble loving one’s self. The ad industry knows this because Discover Card has the ad of calling ‘one’s self.’ The tag line is “We treat you like you treat you.” This is the essence of Jesus’ word, “love others like you love you.” I don’t know that I’ve done a job communicating this truth, but – “When you love OTHERS like you LOVE YOURSELF, the natural response will be to live in Matthew 28 & fulfill Jesus’ final words, “Great Commission.”
• The first step is to fall in love with our Lord. Then people will see & know because we’ll show.
• The next step is to show that love to others – because we actually love them & are concerned.
• The next step is to share the hope that is found in Jesus & only Jesus. Sometimes this begins with a simple invitation to worship, Sunday school, Small group, or a party. God placed us, you & me, here for such a day as this. Are you fulfilling His purpose? Or do you need to return to Him?
• When your life is passed, what will last? When you face the Lord, what will you say on judgment day?