2005-10-09_The Greatest Purpose
The Greatest Purpose
Shaun LePage, October 9, 2005
A. I am about to speak two words which have caused more fear and anxiety than almost any other phrase in the English language. Ready? “Pop Quiz”. As a student in third grade or ninth grade or in college, I hated these two words. If a teacher or professor came into the room and said, “Take out a sheet of paper and a pencil, we’re going to have a pop quiz,” a shot of adrenaline would rush through my body, causing my brain to turn to mush, rendering me unable to have a coherent thought.
B. Every teacher I’ve ever had had a bit of a mean streak. They sadistically enjoyed the fear and anxiety they caused in their students by speaking the words, “Pop quiz”. So, before we begin, I want to ask a question: Do we have any teachers here today? Then it gives me a great deal of pleasure to let you know that this morning, we will begin with a pop quiz. But, relax! You don’t need to take out a sheet of paper and a pencil. You can take this pop quiz in the safety of your own mind.
C. I’m going to ask three questions for this pop quiz. These are the three most important questions I can think of. That’s a pretty strong statement. But, I’m serious. Let me say it again: These are the three most important questions I can think of. Now, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer—I’m not the Bible Answer Man. But, in all my years as a Christian and in all my years of studying the Bible, I have not come up with any questions more important than these three.
D. Now, if you know the answers to these questions before I give you the answer, if you’ve known the answers to these questions and have had time to let them sink in and become a part of how you think and how you approach life, then you will agree with me that when you learned these answers, it was one of the most significant days in your life. I prayed for you as I prepared for this morning that God would use this message to rekindle the fire of your passion for what is most important in life.
E. For those of you who do not know the answers to these questions and will discover them today for the first time, I’m excited for you. Please know that I’m not saying this is the best sermon you’ll ever hear, but I believe this could be the most significant truth you will ever hear. It’s not about me—I’m just a vessel. I’m just the wine glass—the wine is the good part. If you will drink in the great truths of God’s Word this morning, I believe your whole life will change. It’s about the timeless, life-changing truth of God’s Word. If you’ve never heard the truth I have the privilege of sharing with you this morning, I believe today could be one of the most important days in your life.
F. As I said last week, we’re going to be looking at our shared values over the next several weeks and as we think about how we live out these values, I want you to think in terms of three relationships: God, unbelievers and believers. These three relationships will serve as an outline for our study—my hope is that it will really help us to develop a vision for what we must do about what we value. More on this later.
G. So, let’s take that quiz. I’m not going to make you try to answer these questions on paper, but I would like you to write these three questions down (fill in the blanks on your outline):
1. Question #1 (and the most important question): What is most important to God?
2. Question #2 (completely dependent upon question #1): What is the primary purpose of every individual and every church?
3. Question#3: How do we accomplish our primary purpose—as individuals and as a church?
H. Now, have your neighbor check your answers—No!
II. Body: Let’s answer these one at a time:
A. Question #1: What is most important to God?
1. Do you see why this is such an important question? Since God is our Creator—The Intelligent Designer who has an intelligent design for our lives—and since He is our Lord and Master and since He is our Judge to whom we are ultimately accountable for how we live our lives, we need to know what is most important to Him. Then, everything else falls into place. We simply need to make sure that what is most important to God is most important to us. Practical Theology 101.
2. Here’s the answer: What is most important to God? His glory!
3. Listen to the first three of the 10 Commandments, Exodus 20:1-7: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
(i) Do you see it? No other gods—these commands are given to direct us to Him, to focus on Him and give God—and God alone—glory. God will not share His glory with anyone or anything else.
(ii) Notice also, He is a “jealous God”! That’s hard for us to get because we think of jealousy as a bad thing. But think of it this way: If a man catches his wife in an affair with another man, is he wrong to be jealous? Absolutely not! His is a righteous jealousy—she vowed to love and know no other man but her husband. He not only should be jealous, but he must be jealous. A million times more, God is righteously jealous for His glory.
(iii) The third command is not to take the Lord’s name in vain. To treat it as common or to use it as a vulgarity. This, too, is about His glory. His name is wrapped up in who He is and when we misuse His name, we dishonor Him.
b) Listen to what God said in Isaiah 48:9-11: “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.”
c) Go to the New Testament.
(i) The Transfiguration.
(a) In Matthew 17, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain and there was “transfigured”—in other words, Jesus let the three disciples see Him in His glory. Moses and Elijah appeared as well—the greatest law-giver and the greatest prophet. Peter was so overwhelmed that he blurted out that he would build three tabernacles as a way of honoring these three great men. But God, the Father, spoke from heaven and rebuked Peter.
(b) Listen to verses 4 and 5: “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’”
(c) Peter was putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. But God quickly corrected him and let him know that Jesus would not share His glory—even with great men like Moses and Elijah. This is God’s Son—God Himself—no ordinary man. He is the God-Man and He will not share His glory.
(ii) Acts 12:21-23 is an amazing illustration of God’s unwillingness to share His glory: “On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’ And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
d) This may make God seem like an egomaniac to you. Perhaps you’re thinking all this make’s God seem arrogant and proud. Not at all. God is the only one worthy of glory. He is the only one worthy of worship. He’s the only one worthy to be praised. He would only be an egomanic or arrogant or proud if it wasn’t true! But it is true!
(i) God is infinitely valuable and important. Revelation 4:8 tells us the four living creatures “…day and night do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” Later, the 24 elders fall down before God and cry out, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power…” (v.11).
(ii) God is completely unique. Over and over, the Scriptures tell us there is no one like God. After Moses and the Israelites watched God drown the entire Egyptian army, they sang in Exodus 15:11, “…Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?” Expected answer? No one! There’s no one as majestic and awesome as you! Guess what? God agrees! He later said—in Isaiah 40:25—“‘To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?’ says the Holy One.” Again, expected answer? No one!
(iii) God is the sustainer of all things. Listen to Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Does not the One who holds all things together deserve glory?
(iv) We must understand that God is so wonderful; God is so good and great and enjoyable and loveable and awesome that it is an enormous privilege to have been created by Him and know Him and serve Him and give Him glory. Our salvation and our hope of eternal life depends on the fact that He is as wonderful as His Word tells us—wonderful enough to deserve glory.
(v) So when we glorify God there is benefit for us. This is how He’s wired the universe—He’s the center. He’s the point. He’s the ultimate Source of joy and peace and contentment and joy and blessing. Remember the second commandment in Exodus 20? “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
(vi) When we begin to steal His glory and give His glory to someone or something else, we not only spit on His name, but we turn everything backwards. We are His creation. We don’t deserve glory. He does. Everything or anything else we might decide to glorify is also His creation and unworthy of glory. Nothing else and no one else deserves His glory. To glorify anything or anyone else is foolish and this foolishness will result in trouble, pain, judgment and a pointless, vain existence. Our lives will be empty and meaningless. Like chasing after the wind.
(vii) Let this sink deep down into your heart. Never forget that what is most important to God is His own glory.
B. Question #2 (completely dependent upon question #1): What is the primary purpose of every individual and every church?
1. You’ve probably already guessed: Our purpose—both as individuals and as a church—flows naturally out of what is most important to God. Our primary purpose is to glorify God.
a) 1 Corinthians 10:31: “…Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
b) Ephesians 3:21: “…To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
2. In fact, everything God created was created for the purpose of bringing glory to Him!
a) Psalm 19:1—“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
b) Colossians 1:16—“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
3. So, God deserves to be glorified and that is what is most important to Him. Our purpose as His creatures and as His Church is to glorify Him. The third and final question is: How do we do that?
C. Question#3: How do we accomplish our primary purpose—both as individuals and as a church? At the risk of oversimplifying things, let me answer this question with two broad answers:
1. Never try to steal His glory.
2. Always try to give Him glory.
a) Remember 1 Corinthians 10:31? “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That’s pretty broad, but the point is very significant: Whatever you do with your time on earth is an opportunity to glorify God.
(i) If you’re a businessman, you can do business with integrity and point others to Christ.
(ii) If you’re a teacher, you can love the unlovable student and tell them of the love of Christ.
(iii) If you’re a father, you can reflect the love and discipline and grace of your heavenly Father to your children. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
(iv) If you’re a student, you can do your work as though you were doing it for Jesus Himself—this will glorify Him.
b) As a church body, we should think in terms of those three relationships I mentioned earlier: God, unbelievers and believers.
(i) We glorify God when we seek Him and imitate Him and love Him. We’ll talk more about this next week.
(ii) We glorify God when we invite people to trust Christ.
(a) Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16? “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
(b) Peter communicated this same idea in 1 Peter 2:12: “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
(c) Just before the risen Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples that they would be His witnesses to the world. He is the message. He is glorified when we tell unbelievers the good news.
(iii) We glorify God when we grow up in Christ or when we help each other grow up in Christ.
(a) Peter—in 1 Peter 2:5—compared us to stones in a temple being built up for God’s glory: “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
(b) Peter also tells us that as we use our gifts and serve one another and build up the body, God is glorified. This is 1 Peter 4:8: “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
A. How did you do on the pop quiz? You know what? It doesn’t matter! What matters is what you do with what you’ve heard. It’s not new to some of you. But to some of you, maybe it is new—that’s history, that’s yesterday. What really matters is today and tomorrow. What you do this afternoon and tomorrow and this week and next week and next month for the glory of God. What matters is whether or not you fulfill your purpose—to glorify God in your life, in your relationships, in your work, in your use of your time, your talent and your treasures. What matters is whether you seek to glorify God in your decisions in your goals in your plans. What matters is whether we as a church body glorify God together.
B. We value the Bible, we value community, we value prayer, we value worship, we value outreach, we value world missions, we value the priesthood of believers, we value innovation. These values are inherently connected to our primary purpose: to glorify God. As we seek to develop a vision for acting upon these values, my prayer—and I know it is yours also—is that God will be glorified every step of the way.
1. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. (Psalm 145:5)
2. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24, 25)
1 Lit as utterances