To live the American Dream? To be happy? To be successful? To rock and roll? To express yourself? A Yale philosophy student who didn’t even want to take a stab at answering the question? We have some work to do here in NE Ohio!
Want to find out how to find our purpose? I did a search in Google on “Purpose of Life” and found out that you can go “higherawarness.com.” According to that website, to find your purpose “you draw it out of yourself.” Others say, “Discover your dreams. Go after your goals. Aim high. Believe you can achieve. Figure out what you re good at.”
But going “googling” to find out how to find your purpose will mean that you may have a hard time finding the truth. You were made by God for God. You were put here for His purposes. And until we get that, life isn’t going to make sense.
If you ask, “Is there a purpose for me?” then I might ask you, “Is your heart beating?” See, if your heart is still beating, then God has a purpose for you.
Welcome to 40 days of purpose. We’re ready to start on a journey that we’ve been planning for a long time.
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Do you know what these tools are? What’s the purpose of this? (Talk through the items…) You never want to confuse that with this!
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What’s the point?
There are two I want to make.
First, if you don’t know something’s purpose, it’s likely to be abused. Why are so many people hurting themselves and hurting others today? We don’t know our purpose. When you don’t know the purpose of something, it’s likely to be misused or abused.
Second, the only way to know your purpose in life is to consult the creator. You can’t listen to the crowd. They’ll confuse you! You can’t look within. You don’t have enough experience. You’ve got to talk to the Owner, the Creator. It’s the only way you’ll ever know your purpose in life.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10 (KJV)
You find your purpose by getting to know God. It all starts with God.
For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible… everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.
Colossians 1:16 (MSG)
If you want to know your purpose in life, start getting to know God. That’s why we are excited you are with us right now at CVCC. We are on a journey to get to know God. And the more we get to know God, the more we will understand His ways and wisdom. And the more we understand His ways and His wisdom, the more we will understand the meaning and purpose of our lives.
Watching the talk shows won’t cut it. Sitting in the classrooms won’t cut it. Going to seminars won’t cut it. We must get to know God. Why? It’s all about God.
So, during these 40 days, we are going to go to the Designer. He’s not hiding His purposes from us. But we’ve got to dig into the Owner’s Manual for Life – the Bible. He wants you to know His purposes. So, I hope you will stay with us over the next 40 days. God has some challenging and fulfilling and life-changing plans for you.
Three levels of living…
The Survivor level
You can live at the Survival level – barely getting by, just existing. These are people who are controlled by their circumstances. They put in their time at work and live for the weekend. Survival.
The Success level
You can live at the Success level. That’s where most of the people in NE Ohio are. By the world’s standards, we’ve got it made. We have a comfortable lifestyle compared to the rest of the world. We have freedom, possessions, good health… But in honest moments, we wonder, “Why do I still feel empty?” Success.
The Significance level
We can live at the Significance level. Not just Survival or Success, but Significance. Question. How can I live at that level?
People who are living at the level of significance know what on earth they are here for! You know God’s purposes for your life and you’re living them out. That’s what gives us significance.
Last week, we took a look at the big picture. It’s a question of significance.
Why did God make us? For His own glory!
We talked about how the engraving over the doors when you walk into this church says it well, “To God alone be the glory!” In the Latin it’s Sola Deo Gloria.
Everything comes from Him; everything exists by His power and is intended for His glory. To Him be glory evermore...
Romans 11:36 (NLT)
Then we asked the next logical question. If the purpose of my life is glorifying God, then how do I do that?
How can we glorify God?
One way to answer this is by looking at how Jesus glorified God. Jesus glorified His Father by fulfilling His purposes. On one of His last nights on this planet, Jesus prayed to His Father: “I have brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything You gave me to do” (John 17:4, CEV). Jesus fulfilled His Father’s purposes for His life. Now, we, too, can glorify God by fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives.
Let’s review those purposes we surveyed last week.
We were planned for God’s pleasure. That’s worship.
We were formed for God’s family. That’s fellowship.
We were created to be like Christ. That’s discipleship.
We were shaped for God’s service. That’s ministry.
We were made for a mission. That’s evangelism.
Over the next few weekends, we are going to look in detail at those five purposes.
Now, we say around here that we exist to help people grow to be passionate followers of Christ. That’s our purpose as a church. It’s entirely consistent with what we are going to learn these next 40 days.
Notice the emphasis on “followers.” Fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives will help us become passionate followers of Christ. That’s the way we walk in His steps.
This week, I was drawn to a very powerful and demanding few verses in the Bible that tell us what it takes to walk in His steps – to be His passionate followers – to live out God’s purposes for our lives. Let’s read it.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:57-62 (ESV)
Challenging. Stunning. And truth be told… disturbing. Jesus doesn’t make it easy for us, does He?
What’s it going to take for me to
follow God’s Son and
find God’s purpose?
Jesus encountered three people who flirted with following Him. What He said to them has been recorded for you and me. What He said to them, He says to us today. Three big ideas today come from these six verses…
1. I will count the cost.
Lots of people hear about the benefits of following Jesus and want to sign up. There’s forgiveness. And heaven. And purpose. And meaning. But you don’t get all that without paying a price.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Luke 9:57 (ESV)
At this time in Jesus’ ministry, He was popular. Crowds were hanging onto His every word. They liked the miracles He performed. So, this man may be saying something like: “Hey, Jesus, following You sounds good. Sign me up.” Maybe he’s thinking, “If I hang around Jesus now, I’ll have a place of honor later. I like the lights. I like the crowds. I like the miracles.” So he says, “I like hanging around with You, Jesus. We’re the center of attention. You’re where it’s at!”
He looks like a whatever, wherever, whenever follower of Jesus. But he was more than likely expecting Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom. And Jesus sees what’s in his heart. What’s He going to say to this guy who says, “I will follow You”?
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Luke 9:58 (ESV)
There was no room in the inn when Jesus was born. And there’s no place now for Him to spend the night. Jesus is saying “Think about the cost. Do you know what you are saying when you say you will follow Me? It’s not going to be big crowds and prestigious positions and popularity. There is a cross to carry.”
See, this guy missed the implications of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. Don’t miss this. If you want to follow Jesus and find your purpose it will mean some hard things. Sacrifice. Suffering. Service. Self-sacrifice. Rejection. Loneliness. All are part of the cost of following Jesus.
Think about it: Jesus died and rose. That’s the basis for our forgiveness. That’s the heart of the truth. Jesus died and rose. If we are truly going to follow Him, we must experience a death and a resurrection.
And He said to them all, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
Luke 9:23 (KJV)
There are no shortcuts in following Jesus and fulfilling your purpose. We die to self and then we fulfill our purpose. Death. “I die to fulfilling my own purposes for my life.” Resurrection. “I live to fulfill God’s purposes for my life.” No shortcuts. You can’t say, “I want to get it quick and easy.” There has to be a death to self. That’s why we are taking 40 days.
Moses’ life was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai.
Jesus was empowered for ministry by spending 40 days on the desert.
The disciples were transformed by 40 days with Jesus after the resurrection.
If you add up all the time we are asking from you over the next 40 days, it’s about 35 hours.
Six small groups at 1.5 hours = 9 hours
.5 hour drive time to and from those 6 small group meetings = 3 hours
40 daily readings at .25 hours = 10 hours
7 Sunday services at 1.25 hours = 8.75
.5 hour drive time to and from those seven services = 3.5 hours
34.25 hours. Less than 35 hours.
Here’s my question. Is the rest of your life and is all the rest of eternity worth 35 hours of your time now? So, let’s commit to this. It’s a small price to pay!
What’s it going to take for me to follow God’s Son and find God’s purpose? I will count the cost.
2. I will put Christ first.
Who or what is in first place in your life? Jesus has a radical way of exposing what’s in first place in your life. Let’s look at the second conversation in these verses.
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
Luke 9:59 (ESV)
Some scholars say that the fact that this guy is here hanging around Jesus is an indication that the dad isn’t dead yet. His dad is more than likely sick. So, he’s able to come and hear Jesus speak. Presumably Jesus is teaching close to this man’s home. There’s no evidence in the words here that the dad is already dead. What the man may be saying is this: “After my sick father dies and after the funeral, then I’ll come.”
He’s impressed by Jesus. But he’s not ready to follow immediately. “I’ll join you after my father’s funeral.” Do you see his indecision and his delay? This man has a priority over Jesus.
What is Jesus going to say to this guy?
And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:60 (ESV)
“The spiritually dead should bury the physically dead.” It seems like Jesus is heartless – that He doesn’t care about the grief process. However, we know He was deeply moved when Mary and John were at the foot of the cross when He died. And the overall teaching of the Bible is that care and respect and honor be shown to those who have died.
Here, Jesus has tailored an answer that this man needed from Jesus. To conclude from these words that we must never attend funerals – including your own family member’s funerals – is not what this is about.
Jesus often uses radical statements to make a point. He’s making His point about what it means to put Him first. He’s looking for a radical, revolutionary change in this man’s priorities – and in ours. He’s not looking to be resident within us. He’s looking to be president within us.
If the nearest and dearest relatives we have in the are standing in our way to keep us from following Christ, it is necessary that we have a zeal that will cause us to love Jesus more than we love them.
God wants your whole life. There’s not a single verse in the Bible that says you can live you life any old way you want to. God wants all of you. He doesn’t want ten percent. Or 50%. Or 99%. He wants all of you. God is very clear about this.
Give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.
Romans 6:13 (NLT)
It should be all of you! C.S Lewis once said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
If this is really true, it deserves everything you’ve got! It’s either all or nothing. It’s either true and should determine the rest of our life. Or we should just all chuck it and go do whatever we want to do.
A lot of people say, “I have my social life, my career life, my recreational life, my family life… and over here I have my spiritual life.” It’s like they are saying, “God is a piece of my life. He’s one part of the pie.” Wrong. God permeates the whole pie. He wants the whole pie to be under His control.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.
Matthew 6:24 (NASB)
It is impossible to have two number one priorities in your life. You’re always going to have a number 1 and everything else is going to be 2, 3, 4, and 5… You can’t have two number one priorities.
Let me let you in on a life-changing truth. To grow, you must learn to say “no.” You can’t say “yes” to everything. You have to say “no” to some things. You have to say “no” often to good things so you can have time for the best things. If you are serious about following Jesus and fulfilling your purpose for life, you have to make space for God in your life. And if you are going to make space for God in your life, you’re going to have to cut out some stuff.
We’re getting ready to ask you to add three new habits to your life. You can put only so many irons in the fire before you put out the fire. Your life is already overcrowded, but not everything in your life has equal value. So, you need to ask, “What am I going to stop doing?” Any time you take on a new challenge, you should say “What am I not going to do?”
There are some things you ought to procrastinate about in life, because they’re not worth doing. They’re not bad. There are just some more important things that should be done if you are going to grow spiritually.
Maybe you’re going to have to give up an hour a week of TV during the 40 days. You can go home and watch “Friends” or you can go to a group and make friends. Maybe you’ll need to go to bed 15 minutes earlier during the 40 days so you can get up and do your reading. Maybe you’ll need to cut back on your physical workout so you can focus on your spiritual workout.
There’s always a cost of putting Christ first in your schedule, but the rewards are worth it.
What’s it going to take for me to follow God’s Son and find God’s purpose? I will put Christ first.
3. I will not look back.
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
Luke 9:61 (ESV)
One scholar says that this man may have had the desire to set in order his family affairs and then get rid of some material things. After that, he’s all set to follow Jesus. Again, Jesus knows what’s going on in this man’s heart. Maybe Jesus knew that his family members would try to talk him out of following Jesus. And they can be very persuasive. Here’s the challenge from Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:62 (ESV)
Trying to plow forward while looking backward gives you a crooked furrow. Plowing in one direction while looking in the other direction will never work. Do that and you’ll be fit for following Jesus. This man is distracted and divided.
Jesus says, “I want you to be focused. I don’t want you to look back at what you’ve given up. If you look back at that worldly life I’m calling you to leave, then you aren’t fit for being My follower. I want you to look forward to where we’re going. Once you begin with Me, you keep on coming with me. No turning back.”
God can use these next 40 days in a profound way in your life. Here’s the plowing we are asking you to do. Here are the commitments we are asking you to make. Let’s make them and not look back.
1. I will do my best to hear all 7 messages in the series. This will set up what you’ll be studying during the week following.
2. I will read each day’s chapter. Schedule a daily appointment to read. Schedule it and do it every day for the next 40 days. It will take you about 15 minutes a day. If you haven’t already started the book, then start today. Read chapter 1 starting today and you’ll be reading in the section of the book that your group will be discussing this week.
So, you need to purchase your book.
3. I will participate in a small group. You say, “How do I sign up?” We are having a Connection Fair in Rooms 104-106 this Sunday. You can a Krispy Kreme donut. We have 2000 of them in rooms 104-106th. It’s not too late to join a group!
What’s it going to take for me to follow God’s Son and find God’s purpose? I will not look back.
I will count the cost. I will put Christ first. I will not look back. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Are you a true follower of Christ? Has there been a death and a resurrection in your life?
A few weeks ago, I was at our 707 Sunday evening service and saw some young adults being baptized. One of them was Jason Nehaz. The need to find out the answer to the question: “What on earth am I here for?” was something God used to draw Him to Jesus. Let’s take a look.
Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? If you aren’t sure of this, I’d like the privilege of leading you in a prayer to settle the issue. Let’s bow our heads. I’m going to pray a prayer and you can pray it in your heart:
Dear God, I want to know Your purpose for my life. I don’t want to waste the rest of my life on the wrong things. I want a death to my old selfish way of living. That’s sin. I know I deserve Your judgment for that. So, I turn from it. I want a resurrection in my life. I want to know You and follow You. Jesus Christ, I don’t understand it all, but as much as I know how, I open my life to You. I believe You died for me – for my sins in my place. I believe You are alive right now. I ask you to come into my life and make yourself real to me. Use this series to help me know what You made me for. Thank you. Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer a meant business with God, I want you to look for changes in your life in attitudes and actions. You’ll find yourself wanting say, “I will count the cost, put Christ first, and not look back.”
A point to ponder: The pursuit of a purpose requires the payment of a price.
A verse to remember: And He said to them all, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 (KJV)
A question to consider: What will I say “no” to in order to fulfill God’s purposes for my life?
Some of you are seekers, just checking things out. I’m not even sure I buy this, but I’m intellectually honest enough to check it out. Great. We are glad to have you on this journey.
Some of you are new believers. I’m excited for you. You are going to get off to a good start in your walk of following Jesus.
Some of you are stumblers. You’d say, “I call myself a Christian, but I’m not really very close to God. And I’ve been really honestly living for my own plans and not God’s.” This is a good time for you to come home.
Some of you are strong in the faith. You can go deeper with God and bring others long, too.
George Herbert said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”
In the video interview with people in downtown Cleveland, when asked “What’s the purpose of life?” one man said, “Do something with your life that will outlast it.” Not bad.