(Psalm 113:2-5a, 1 Peter 4:7-11)
What is God's ultimate purpose for us as followers of Jesus Christ? " Is it salvation? " Is it blessing? " Is it joy, peace, and contentment?
In the context of our mission and outreach ministry what is God's ultimate purpose? " Is it making disciples? " Is it helping others? " Is it equipping others to do God's work?
Well, one could make a strong case that all of these activities are God's purpose for us. And I agree, but the question is, what is God's ultimate purpose, the one purpose that stands out above all others?
Well, I mentioned salvation, which seems like an ultimate purpose and is certainly something we talk about a lot, making disciples is another. But I'm suggesting that even salvation and making disciples aren't God's ultimate purpose for us. These are
certainly important tasks that God wants us to undertake, but they're not God's ultimate purpose for us. You see all of these efforts I've mentioned, and there are many more, are tools for achieving God's ultimate purpose, they're not the ultimate purpose in and of themselves.
So in other words when we're active in helping others through our mission and outreach efforts, by our giving, sharing the gospel, building houses and schools, making lunches, feeding the hungry, helping the sick and so forth, we are supporting the means to
achieving God's ultimate purpose.
Does anyone want to take a stab at answering the question, what is God's ultimate purpose for us?
Well lets see if our two scripture readings shed some light on the subject, and I'll pick out the parts of these scripture readings that point to God's ultimate purpose. First from Psalm 113, "Let the name of the Lord be praised." And now from 1 Peter, "If
anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."
So now, do any of you have an idea of what God's ultimate purpose is for every single person?
The short answer is, worship. Worship is God's ultimate purpose because God is ultimate not humanity. Mission and outreach ministry, which we lift up to celebrate today is not the ultimate purpose of the church. Evangelism is not the ultimate purpose of the
church. Worship is. Mission and outreach only exist because genuine worship does not.
Consider this. If everyone truly believed in their hearts that God is the almighty, the creator, the redeemer, and the sustainer, then we all would be disciples, we all would love the Lord our God, and we would love our neighbors as ourselves, we all would
accept Christ and would experience grace and salvation, there would be no need for mission and outreach. We can only hope and pray for such a day.
But as we know, the reality is we all don't worship God, we all don't act out of a desire to bring glory to God, so we need the divine tools of mission and outreach to reach others for Jesus Christ, with the hope of leading folks to a relationship with
Jesus, and ultimately a life centered on worshipping God.
Now understand when I speak of worship I'm speaking of something far more profound then singing a few hymns or praise songs, and listening to scripture being read and proclaimed, on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
I'm speaking about disciples that gather at the foot of the cross, acknowledging what Jesus did for them, and then responding to the resurrection of Jesus Christ with an outpouring of devotion and an offering of themselves to bring glory to God. These are
folks who refuse to be dampened, discouraged, or distracted from their desire to glorify God.
You know there is no godly reason to ever be dampened, discouraged, or distracted; we can always find a reason to praise God. And it's this understanding that's at the heart of worship; it's this understanding that fulfills God's ultimate purpose.
In life we have essentially two paths we can choose. Some people choose the path of bitterness and complaint as they're to response to God, and still there are others who chose the path of contentment and praise. And the decision of choosing between these
two paths faces each of us every day of our lives as we encounter different situations.
Choosing bitterness leads to a life that destroys our love for God. It tells us we can't trust God. Clearly bitterness offers a pessimistic view of life and offers little hope.
Choosing contentment does just the opposite: it fuels our heart with endless reasons to praise God. And quit frankly there are many reasons to praise God even when we are experiencing the darkest days of our lives. The reasons may be hard to see sometimes
but they're there.
As I was preparing my message this week I looked back at some situations I faced when I chose the path of bitterness rather than the path of contentment. And let me tell you, my bitterness consumed me and kept me from doing the things I now know God wanted
me to do.
Because I was bitter I failed to see the blessings in my life, and I failed to see how God was active and present through what I was experiencing at the time.
In my case if I had chosen instead to be content with what happened I would have brought glory to God simply by acknowledging to God that I trust him, and that's really all God wants. He wants us to trust him.
Now God doesn't have an ego pump that needs to be primed by our worship. God is saying, "Look, I know humanity, you worship what you trust and you place your hope in what you worship, and I want that to be me, not for my sake but for yours."
Now as I continue to look back on those situations of bitterness I experienced I can see how God had my best interests in mind, and I really had no reason to remain bitter about the outcome. Sure I didn't get my way, but that's no reason to remain bitter.
God used these situations to help me grow, and to help lead me to a more productive and contented life. I see that now, I only wish my relationship with God was closer back then so I could have seen what God was doing at the time.
Also, realize that contentment doesn't mean complacent, passive, or being a doormat for people to walk on. Contentment means trusting God, realizing we won't always get what we want, and things won't always go our way, but that God will always take our
disappointments and our hurts and use them for some good and godly purpose.
This past week I was reading a story about the great hymn writer Fanny Crosby. She described a life-changing incident that happened to her as a baby.
She said, "When about six week old I was taken sick and my eyes grew very weak and those who had charge of me poulticed (pol-tised) my eyes, meaning placed herbs, and other things on them. There lack of knowledge and skill destroyed my sight forever.
As I grew older they told me I would never see the faces of my friends, the flowers of the field, the blue of the sky, or the golden beauty of the stars… Soon I learned what other children possessed, but I made up my mind to store away a little jewel in my
heart which I called 'content.'"
This contented worshipper of God went on to write about 8,000 hymns of praise, such as: To God be the Glory, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, Blessed Assurance, and Rescue the Perishing. These hymns and all the others she wrote were simply the result of the
fire that burned in her heart for Jesus.
Someone once asked Fanny, "Do you wish you had not been blinded?" She replied, "Well, the good thing about being blind is that the very first face I'll see will be the face of Jesus." Fanny could have been bitter about her situation or bitter with the
people, who in their effort to help, worsened her situation, but Fanny chose the path of contentment, and through her music worshipped God.
When we serve God through our mission and outreach projects and trips, our overall purpose must be to set the hearts of those we encounter ablaze for God. We accomplish this best:
- By modeling Christ,
- By praising God and glorifying God with our voice and efforts,
- And by allowing our hearts to burn bright for God in the way we live. If we will just do these things, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
But regrettably, and all too often our worship is restrained by the complications and overwhelming distractions of this world. And oh how easy it is to have our fire for God quenched. It doesn't take a whole lot.
- Just the pressures and trials of life can be enough to dampen our soul
- Or we grieve the Holy Spirit by allowing bitterness, rage, and hate to take over the Holy Spirit's place in our heart
- Or we ignore God's revelation in the world
But rather than being overwhelmed and bogged down by the troubles we encounter, we ought to be overwhelmed even more by the grace and love of God.
So we have to understand that our mission and outreach efforts can only be successful when our passion for God fuels our compassion for others, and our worship of God motivates our witness to others.
Let me say that again. Our mission and outreach efforts can only be successful when our passion for God fuels our compassion for others, and our worship of God motivates our witness to others.
Without a worshipping heart, mission and outreach become just another helpful task or project, rather than a heartfelt desire to bring glory to God.
So, if worshipping God is God's ultimate purpose, then mission and outreach must be one of our primary tasks as the church. Why is this?
- People can't worship God until they first know him through Jesus Christ
- People can't know God until they hear of him
- People can't hear of God unless we tell them
- And we can't tell them about God unless we get out of our pews and go to them!
The church is a living organism, which operates under the power of the Holy Spirit. And the church is God's means to communicate the message of Christ to the people of the world. We have been tasked by God to bring people into the image and likeness of Jesus
Christ, with God's agenda as our driving force.
So as we focus on God's agenda, and the mission he has given his church, we become God's instruments to fulfill his ultimate purpose, which is to draw worshippers into a heartfelt relationship with him.
Therefore as the local church we serve as God's primary mission source and mission force in God's overall plan to restore humanity to a right relationship with God. Thanks be to God!
Read other messages by Pastor Wade