Sermon Podcast Audio
Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing this idea of renewal. As we enter a new year, what are those areas that we feel like needs some attention, something we may have lost or forgotten. Something that might need a little jolt to get us back on track. It seems that every new year is essentially the same though. January 1st comes along, people reevaluate their lives, make resolutions, and really try to live differently. And so we tell ourselves I am going to do things differently. 2015 WILL be different.
And we resolve to lose weight, get in shape, eat better, be more financially responsible, make better choices with our money, evaluate our retirement plan, work on our marriage, parent better, be a better son or daughter. We could go on and on.
The nice thing is how willing everyone is to help us. Weight Watchers ramps up their advertising this month. And not only that, they will waive their joining fee AND the first month’s fee as well. Isn’t that nice! Other health clubs do the same.
The problem with all of this is that it tends to take our focus and place it squarely on…ME. How do I improve? How can MY life be better? And not only are we the focus of why we are doing these things. We also become the reason behind it. I’m doing this because I want to feel better. I want to look better. I want to be financially secure. Now, I am not saying any of those reasons are bad, but when we become our own reason and motivation for doing something, if we are like the majority of people, we can also be our greatest de-motivator.
I’ve shared before about the time I decided to run a 5K. In the beginning, I was all ramped up to do it. Until one day, I came to that mind blowing conclusion, I HATE running! So this past week, Alan Vongnhay says, “Brent, let’s start working out together. My first thought was aren’t you supposed to leave and go away…I mean go off to college?” But in a moment of weakness, I agreed to his plan. Tuesday evening after work, we went to the YMCA in Waukee. We get there and he says to me, “This is what we are going to do. We are going to run a mile in under 10 minutes.”
I looked and at him and reminded him of how much I abhor running, but he insisted. So we ran. Liz, my daughter who LOVES to run, went with us. And we set off. After about two laps, they realized just how much I was slowing them down, so they left me. But don’t worry, they would catch back up and Alan would say, “How are you doing.” I assume he asked because I looked like I was about to die at any moment. But I would simply say, with as much breathe as I could spare to speak, “I hate running!”
I did finish that mile in about 10 minutes. But I can tell you, if it was up to me, if Alan and Liz weren’t there, at about lap 5 of 15, I would have been done! My reason for being there would have evaporated.
If we want renewal in our lives, it is going to take something beyond ourselves in order to keep us going. The first week of this series, Ryan talked about being a renewed person and how important it is for us to renew our minds by getting into God’s word. But is our only reason for this is to just be better or gain knowledge or is there a greater purpose behind this?
Last week, I talked about our motivation, our passion, and how now is a good time of year for us to think about what we are giving ourselves to. We need to discover what we are passionate about and make sure we aren’t pursing the wrong things. And if we find our passion for God is fading, we need to remember what he has done for us, repent of the things that keep pulling us away, and return to our first love.
But today, I want to talk about what I think is one of the biggest questions we continually have to address. And that is what is our purpose? What is the reason for my life? Why am I here in the first place? How can I find my purpose and give myself to it again? And where does my purpose come from? And how can I keep from forgetting?
To be able to answer the question of why am I here is one of the greatest challenges we face. Because we all want purpose. We all want our lives to count for something. And if we don’t feel like we have a purpose, we go in search for one, and sometimes any purpose will do, or we create one, and that can be equally dangerous.
In John 17, we find Jesus at the end of his ministry. He has spent the last three years with his disciples, healing people, teaching people, caring for people. And in this moment, he realizes his time on earth is quickly coming to an end. He spends his final moments praying. John 17 is this final prayer. And beginning in verse 20, Jesus gives insight into that question of why we are here and as we look at it, we find how we can renew our purpose.
““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-26 NIV)
Renew our Purpose to Know God
As we read this, one thing I want you to catch who it is that Jesus is praying for right here. He has just finished praying for his disciples in the verses before this. But now, he is not just praying for them, he is praying for all those who will come after his disciples and also follow him. This is a prayer specifically for you and me. And here at the end of the prayer Jesus reveals the primary reason we exist and the reason that he left the heaven, the reason that God took on human flesh and came to earth. Verse 26, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known…”
Our purpose is first and foremost, to know God. And one of the most amazing things about this is that God desires to be known. People all around us, maybe even some of you, are searching. Looking for something. There is spiritual interest everywhere. And people run after this fad and that fad, all in an effort to find God.
But for many people the answer seems too simple. The answer is, however, that God wants to be known. We don’t have to search that hard to find him. But we think it can’t be that easy when it really is.
If we go back to the very beginning and read Genesis, we see in Genesis 3 a God who desires to be known. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they were hiding from God and yet, he was there. Seeking them. In Romans 1, Paul talks about how God is not hiding. Paul writes, “what may be known about God is plain to them… For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen…” (Romans 1:19-20 NIV)
And the entire purpose for Jesus coming to earth was to reveal God to the world. We are created to know him. To live in relationship with him and so that Christ might indwell our lives.
When Christ says his desire is for us to know him, there are a couple of things it doesn’t mean. First, it doesn’t mean to just know about him. We can know this book backwards and forwards. We can win every Bible Jeopardy competition from here until eternity. But if our experience with Jesus ends with simply a knowledge about him, then we have missed it. Jesus didn’t come so that we could know about God, he came so that we could KNOW GOD, personally, intimately. Think about your spouse or you best friend. Think about that relationship. How does that work? What do you talk to that person about? How do you feel about that person? That’s the relationship we should have with God.
Next month, I have been asked to go on a mission trip to London to see how churches and ministries are reaching a truly post-Christian culture. I am excited about the trip. But if I am honest, I am a little torn. Kerri is my best friend. She and I do everything together. I know previously I shared that I am not much of a romantic now compared to my younger days. But no offense to anyone reading this, if I am going to go somewhere and experience something new, I would rather have her with me than anyone else. I am sad that she won’t be able to go with me on this trip.
Why? As I said. She’s my best friend. I want to be with her and spend time with her. I know her and she knows me better than anyone else. There is an intimacy in our relationship that is exclusive to us.
And that is God’s desire for my relationship with him and for your relationship with him. A profound spiritual intimacy. And that goes way beyond facts and figures about him.
Why is my relationship with Kerri so different. Because we have experienced life together. When we moved to Iowa, hours away from everything we knew and family and friends, we had each other. We tackled this adventure together. And nothing can replace living life together. Experiencing the ups and downs together. We have to be unsatisfied with simply knowing about God and really get to know God, experientially.
Also, to know God also doesn’t mean doing things FOR God. This is a big one for us. Because even though we hear things like we can’t earn salvation. We hear that the message of Jesus is not a religion of us working our way to God, but it God coming to us, we still find ourselves thinking if I want to appease the deity, I must be very active for him. Because we all know Jesus likes us better when we do stuff for him. WRONG!
It is true that when we know him, there will be a motivation to want to serve him. Just like my desire to spend time with Kerri, and do things for her. It is the overflow of an intimate relationship. But those things, all the activity, doesn’t replace actually knowing. If all we do is worry about activity for God, we miss out on the best part…God himself.
So how do we know him? We spend time with him. We pray which includes moments of talking AND listening. We pay attention to his Word. Walking daily in the Spirit of God. Experience the ups and downs with him. And this isn’t always easy. We desire physical contact and we don’t find that here. But it is understanding, as best we can, who he is and staying near to him. And when we really begin to know God, we begin to change. We begin to reflect the character of God. When we know, it shows.
When We Know God, It Shows
When we know God certain things will happen. We will begin to be different, live differently. We will be transformed. And we see this in worship. When we really begin to see and know God, we cannot help but to respond. And worship is a natural response. The late Biblical scholar John Stott crafted my favorite definition of worship. He said, “All true worship is a response to the self-revelation of God in Christ and Scripture and arises from our reflection on who he is and what he has done. The worship of God is evoked, informed, and inspired by the vision of God. The true knowledge of God will always lead us to worship.” (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 250)
We will worship, but we will also serve. The more we know God, the more we will look like Jesus and we will live like Jesus. No, we won’t grow our hair out, all have beards, start wearing sandals and walking or riding donkeys places. We will look like him in how we respond to others. We will become servants as Jesus was a servant. Offering our lives to others. Elevating the needs of others above our own needs. And we will do this not because we have to, but because we want to. Our motivation will be from love not obligation.
But probably the greatest difference there is when we know God is in our relationship with one another. And Jesus talks about it a lot in the passage today. When we know God, there will be unity. Unity is not common especially where traditionally there are barriers. And yet look around. At Ashworth Road, we find people of different races, different cultures, different genders, different income brackets, all able to come together under the unifying name of Jesus Christ.
And when it shows that we know Him, we are able to discover the second part of our purpose. And that is to know him AND to make him known.
Renew our Purpose to Make Him Known
In verse 21, Jesus prays, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” And in verse 23, “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me…” (NIV) It is not just about us, living our wonderful life with God, knowing him, and nothing more. We are called to know him and then to make him known. Jesus has done his job. He has come to earth and revealed God to humanity. Now it is for those who remain, those who follow Jesus to pass on that same message to others.
It would be so simple for us to meet here every week, sing our songs, listen to amazing preaching, bask in the glow of our Jesus moment, and then go home. But as Jesus prays, he is revealing his heart, the importance what he has been doing. After all, you and I sit here today because someone made Christ known to someone who made Christ known to us. And this pattern has been repeated for generations. And that is exactly what Christ is telling us is part of our purpose for living.
Multiple times in John 17 he says, “that they may know” “or “that they may believe”. And not just us, but those around us, those that aren’t here yet. When Jesus voices these words, he is praying for those who have yet to come to faith in him, those who have yet to follow him. And here is an important point. As Christ followers and even as a church, we don’t just exist for ourselves. We aren’t here to see how much money we can raise or even how pretty we can make this building look. We exist for those that are not here yet, but one day will be here, because we have made him known.
As one commentary I read this week put it, “This is the essence of Jesus’s vision for the church. It is not a community that heals people just so that they will be whole (though healing is important); it is not a community that teaches so that people will be gratified by knowledge (though wisdom is valuable); it is not a community that evangelizes so that it will grow its ranks (though its mission to the world is crucial). The church is a community that invites people to touch the glory of God, to be changed by it, and to bear it to the world.” (Burge 477)
Those around us pay attention to what we value and worship. Those around us pay attention to what and how we serve. And above all, those around us pay attention to whether or not we in the church have unity. And nothing will undermine our message faster or greater than how we respond to the knowledge of God. When we say we know God and yet put other priorities before him, our message lacks credibility. When we say God changes lives and transforms us and we live like everyone else, people doubt. But when the world see our love for God and they see our commitment to him and our unity, it reveals something that can only come from God.
We need to renew our purpose in life. If we don’t, we find that we will then create one for ourselves. And you cannot self-purpose you life! There is no meaning is a self-purposed life. We must find our purpose from outside ourselves. And Jesus’ prayer highlights exactly what our purpose is.
Our purpose is not to grow a big church, although we might see new people come into our fellowship in the process. Our purpose isn’t to do great things for Jesus, even though I think great things will happen. Our purpose isn’t to make a name for ourselves, neither personally or as a church. Our purpose is to know him and to make him know.
We need to renew our purpose because it is so easy for us to get off task. We drift. We elevate the wrong things and if not careful we focus on the insignificant.
Ask yourself, do I know God? Not about God. Not do I do stuff for Him. Do I know God? Do I experience God in my life every day? And am I making him known? Can others see Christ in my life though what I worship and serve? Can others see Christ in Ashworth Road through our unity?
Let’s commit to make 2015 a year to Renew. Renew us as Persons. To Renew our Passion. And to Renew our Purpose to know him and to make him known.