Summary: The introductory sermon to a 40 Days of Purpose campaign
(1) As I began writing this sermon, I had trouble deciding how to start because I wasn’t sure where to start. I have preached on the five purposes, (worship, outreach, fellowship, discipleship, and service) in the past and I think that many here have read the book, The Purpose Driven Life. Yet I believe that the format of this series will be used by the Lord to really help each one of us come to realize that our purpose on this earth is more than mere existence. Rather, it is a very profound and meaningful existence when we allow God to be at the center of life, influencing and directing our decisions, priorities, values, and attitudes.
As I began to write, a very clear, if unusual illustration came to my mind. When you hear it at first you might be taken aback by the suggestion in the question. But, in light of what this series is about, discerning God’s purpose for each of us and our circumstances, it is a very good question to ask ourselves as we begin this series.
So,… ‘I begin with the end in mind.’ In other words, I want us to focus on the result, the product of not just this series but our own lives in light of what the Bible teaches us about God’s good plans and purposes. In other words, I want us to think about the question, (2) ‘How do I want to be remembered at my funeral?’ as a way to think seriously about God’s purposes in your life.
(3)Would you smile at the things being said about how you spent your dash? How do you want to be remembered at your funeral?
(a) By your family?
(b) By your co-workers?
(c) By your friends?
(d) By your church?
(e) By your God?
Now the point of this is not to put us in a mood of gloom and doom. I believe, and more important, I believe that the Bible teaches us that with God, life is good and meaningful even when it is hard and difficult. God wants to be, and is, with us during the heavy times as well as the lighthearted times.
Because God has given us life, the natural life that we experience on a daily basis and the eternal life that Christ offers us, we need to ask ourselves today and for the next 40 days, (4) ‘What on earth am I here for?’
It was a pointed question they asked Jesus and it came on the heels of an interesting discussion with a group who did not believe in a resurrection about the resurrection and who will be married to whom in the afterlife. The Sadducees had their shot at tripping up Jesus and He had silenced them as Matthew writes in verse 34 of our main text. Now it was the Pharisees turn.
It is a very good question. It is one of those questions that goes to the heart of the matter. It is a question about what constitutes the essentials of the faith. It is also a critical question because the answer to it reveals what God thinks is most important. (5)
‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’
The debates that Jesus had with the Pharisees and Sadducees, two key schools of the Jewish faith in that day, dealt with interpretations of the sacred text as it related to issues of faith. Issues such as, who the Messiah was and what He was going to do; what constituted sin; what was acceptable on the Sabbath; how God healed; how a follower of God’s loyalty to the governing authorities was to be expressed; how sinful behavior was to be dealt with.
In this situation however, the issue of what was at the top, what was the greatest command of God to the people, is the central issue. ‘So Jesus, what is the greatest thing that God tells us to do?’
What then, is the purpose of our faith, the purpose of our obedience, the purpose of our laws? What is the purpose of life?
Jesus wraps it up in one word – love.
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
In this passage, Jesus simply makes clear what God made clear from the very beginning – that He loves us and wants our love (and obedience) in the return.
However, what about all of the rules and guidelines and rituals that are in the Old Testament? What if we looked at them as the way that God provided the Israelites to learn to love Him because they had to learn how to love Him?