Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Why is the search for purpose and meaning something that nearly everyone thinks about?
- Read Proverbs 19:21. Why do we need to align our life’s purposes with God’s purposes? How do we go about doing that?
- If our life’s purpose is to put Jesus on display, in what ways are you doing this well? In what ways do you need to grow in this?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
So I think it's safe to say that everybody everywhere wants to know that they have a purpose in life. In fact, part of the reason I know that is not just from anecdotally being able to talk with people and having people always wrestle with that question, but even if you ask the internet, which people have a tendency to do a lot these days, and you put in "find my purpose" or something like that ... I did it in a popular search engine. I put in "how do I find my purpose". 1.65 billion results, 1.65 billion results. So there are people all over the world that are asking the question about what their purpose is.
Now, what's interesting about that is that I started surveying some of the results, some of the most popular results there and looking to see what they had to say about finding your purpose. And generally there was a common theme, and the common theme was around this idea. It was around your own individual self interests. That was the common theme. I'm summarizing, but it was along the lines of what makes you happy, what do you get passionate about, what energizes you. And by the way, as far as those things go, those are good things to be able to discover about ourselves and maybe ask some of those questions. But what we're going to do today is we're actually going to be looking at this at a significantly higher level. We're not going to look at it at just the level of personal self interest. We're actually going to look at this at a much higher level, and that's what the Apostle Paul does. The Apostle Paul actually gets us to a place where we start elevating our mind and elevating our eyes so that we can see this in a different way.
So, for us, when we go into Ephesians chapter one, when we're looking in Ephesians chapter one, that's where we're going to be and what we're going to do is we're going to discover that Paul has us elevate our eyes so that we see purpose at a higher altitude than, maybe, what we have a tendency to view it as, generally speaking. Now, what I will confess is that the two verses that we're going to look at in Ephesians chapter one, and remember, we talked about a broad swath of Ephesians one last week, but what we're going to look at today when we get to there in just a moment in verse 11 and 12 is they are a little bit complex from an understanding standpoint, and really even from a translation standpoint. And I'll get to that in just a moment.
And so, sometimes with complex things it may be better for us, or easier for us to try and take it apart a little bit and then put it back together. I've got five nieces, and I have four nephews. I love all of them. If they're all watching ... They're probably at church wherever they're at, but I love them all. Got nine of them, so I've got busy siblings. What's great about this is that of these four nephews there's one of them, his name is Branson, and he's really good with his hands. I've noticed when he gets gifts or has toys or those kinds of things, and he's still young, but he will take those things, and he will take them apart and then he put them back together again, because in doing that it's not that it's any different once he finishes. It's not that it's any different when he puts it back together. It's the same but what happens is he has a better understanding of what he's working with at that moment.
Now, he and I ... He's blessed with being able to work with his hands and he and I do not share that giftedness. I am terrible at that. If I take something apart it's with a sledgehammer and there's no putting it back together, but he can do that. But what I will do from time to time is I will use my mind to be able to do the same thing, to be able to pull something apart and then put it back together to see if we can understand it in a better what, and that's what we're going to to do today in these verses. We're actually going to pull them apart a bit so that we can see them and understand them. And you're going to have to hang with me, because we'll dive deep for a little bit, but we're going to come up for air. And by the time that we finish all of this we're going to go, "Oh, okay. So that's what that means, so that's what I'm being asked to do, so that's what I'm supposed to be looking to ask God to help me in." But we're going to have to get there, and I'm going to ask you to join me as we pull this apart, and then put it back together.
Let's begin in Ephesians chapter one verse number 11. It says, "In him we were also chosen." Now, stop right there. We're already, at this point, in a challenging translation place. Some of the great scholar minds of our day that weigh in on this, there are different ways of rendering this because in the Greek languages it's very complex as to what's being modified and what the verb is actually pointing to and the nuance of translation. For instance, when you look at "in him we are also chosen" that's the NIV translation, but if you're looking at this in the NIV you'll see a footnote next to chosen, and you'll drop down, and you'll see that it talks about being made heirs, H-E-I-R-S, being made heirs.
Some of your translations, if you're not reading an NIV, actually says, "In him we have an inheritance." Also, you could potentially translate this that in him we have been made his inheritance. Or, in other words, this is modifying God in this moment. So it's very complex in the way that we translate it. I actually prefer the one, and I think scholarship generally is ... the majority scholarship has to do with the idea of in him we were made an inheritance, or we have an inheritance. That's my preferred translation, but this is not wrong. It can absolutely be translated this way. It doesn't make it wrong. There's just nuance to the translation.
Now, the reason that I say this, you're going to go and do ... We're going deep from the jump. You're already with us. But the reason that I say that I like the idea of translating it "in him we have an inheritance" is because the root word that we're translating here, or the NIV is translating "chosen", that same root word is the root word for what we see in verse 14 that actually says we've been given the Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. It's actually the same root word and, I think, contextually those things fit together better. Although, chosen still fits in the greater context back when you back up all the way to verse three.
Now that I've gotten by that and everybody's going, "Okay, all right." In him we have an inheritance, or we are also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. Now, I haven't confused you at all because I've highlighted the things that I want to talk about real quick from the outset because those words, those words have meaning. I want you to say them with me when I point to them. Are you ready everybody? Class participation. We're going to say it out loud on every campus, whoever's watching. Here we go.
(Plan. Purpose. Will.)
All right. Let's try it backwards.
(Will. Purpose. Plan.)
Okay. We've confirmed people can read. Awesome.
Why do I do that? Because these words, plan, purpose and will, these are all in the same meaning family. In other words, the plan of God, the purpose of God, the will of God have in their meaning ... they're in a similar meaning family. Now, the thing that trips us up sometimes is when we're reading we have a tendency to read words that are trigger points for us that we just go, "Hey, wait, wait, wait. What is that saying? Wait, wait, wait, wait. Did he just say the will of God? Because I've got questions about the will of God. I want you to talk about that, Jerry. Let's talk about the will of God because that's always messing with my mind. It's always messing me up when we talk about the will of God. I'm not ever sure what to make of it. Does God want me to drive a green car or a red car? Does God want me to marry this person or that person? Should I date this person, that person? Should I buy this house or that house? And I'm really turned around about the will of God."
I don't know if I'm going to be much help today, but I am going to give you at least an understanding of the will of God that may help you a little bit. Now, that's not singularly the main point of our text, in terms of where we're going, but we have to get some of these out of our heads so that we can understand what is actually happening. You see, there's a couple of aspects to the will of God that I don't want you to miss. The first aspect of the will of God is what I would call the sovereign will of God. And here's how I would define it, the sovereign will of God is the will of God that cannot be stopped or violated.
So when I use the term sovereign, I mean that God is completely and totally in control, that God is god over everything. There's nothing that's god over God. God is god over everything. Does that make sense? God is sovereign. Or you could break it down by saying God is so very in control, sovereign. God is sovereign. And the sovereign will of God means the will of God that cannot be stopped or violated. In other words, God has decreed this is what's going to happen and that's what's going to happen, period, end of story.
So, for instance, when God was all by himself, God as father, son and spirit, and there was nothing anywhere, anything, just God existing in eternity past, God decreed that he was going to create everything, and he spoke it into existence. That is the sovereign will of God. Nothing could stop it. Nothing could violate it. God said, "This is what I'm going to do." That's what God did, period, hard stop, end of story.
When God chose Abraham out of all the peoples on the Earth and said, "Abraham, out of you, I know you're the son of a pagan idol-maker, but I am going to create a people for myself that I have always predestined to have. I'm going to create a people for myself from you. I know you're old. I know your wife's old. I know you can't have kids. Don't worry. I've got this. I'm going to create a people and through this people I'm going to bring the savior of that people and the savior of the world. And it's not contingent upon you, Abraham. It's contingent upon me. This convent is one that I am initiating and that I will fulfill, and it's not really one that you have to fulfill. I'm just saying I'm going to do it." That's the sovereign will of God. It cannot be stopped. It cannot be violated. When God says that Jesus is going to return for his people, there is coming a time where that is going to happen. Nothing can stop it. Nothing can violate it. God has said it. That's what's going to happen.
Everybody clear on the sovereign will of God? All right. You're clapping. You're excited about that. Awesome. It's great. I'm explaining stuff, and you're fired up. It gets better. If you're clapping now, just wait.
So that's the sovereign will of God. Let me give you another nuance to the will of God, and it's the moral will of God. Theologians use different terms. I'm choosing not to use those terms today. I'm just using terms that we can all ... like, put-the-cookies-on-the-bottom-shelf-so-we-can-all-eat-them terms. Sovereign will of God and the moral will of God. These are my definitions by the way, so you don't have to say they're from the bible, or they're inspired. They're just Jerry-isms. Here's what the moral will of God is, the revealed desires and heart of God for human flourishing. That's what, generally, we're talking about when we talk about the moral will of God. The revealed desires and heart of God for human flourishing. In other words, when we look at this book that God has revealed himself in through his holy prophets and apostles, what we have is a revelation of who God is and how God desires for us to live in light of that. This is, functionally, what we would call the moral will of God, God's heart for how people should live, God's heart for what he wants to see in the world, God's desires for those things, what God wants.
So what this does is this actually assumes that there are people that will embrace the moral will of God and there are people that will not embrace the moral will of God. In other words, this will can be violated by human beings because they're not always choosing paths that are about their human flourishing. For instance, Jesus talked about this, and the Apostle John talked about this, and many others in the scripture talked about this, but I'll show you a quick illustration. Here's what Jesus said, Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the," what, "the will of my father who is in heaven." You see, this is presupposing that there are some who will not do the will of the father and there are some that will do the will of the father. And so, this will could actually be violated, this moral will of God, what God desires for humanity.
John says it this way in 1 John Two, "The world and its desires pass away but whoever does the will of God lives forever." See, these passages are talking about the moral will of God, how God's heart is revealed in all of these things. So in one sense, listen carefully, so in one sense God's will cannot be violated, his sovereign will. It cannot be stopped. It cannot be violated. But in another sense, God's will can be violated by human beings, the moral will of God, when we choose pathways of disobedience, when we choose not to honor what he's revealed of himself. So in one sense we cannot violate the will of God, and in one sense we can violate the will of God. Are you with me so far?
This is important for us to understand because sometimes we get real turned around in the way that we understand these things. By the way, this is the way that the early church understood the nature of God. They understood God as sovereign, but they also understood the complicity of evil people and evil behavior that God does not approve of. This is really, really clear. In fact, when we look at this idea that God's will cannot be violated and that God's will can be violated, we can see it most clearly in the death of Jesus. The sovereign will of God was for the son of God to go to the cross to die for the redemption of humanity. This was the sovereign purpose of God. He is the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. God had always designed this. And by the way, Jesus being God was in on this. He didn't just go, "Oh, come on." He was in this. He was willing to do this. This was the sovereign purpose of God for Jesus to go to a cross to die for the sins of humanity as the perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God.
But, God has also decreed in his moral will that murder, and manipulation, and evil, and injustice, these things are inconsistent with the heart of God and the desires of God. And so, culpable were wicked people who were doing these very things in the death of Jesus. So God's sovereignty determined this would happen but God did not approve of the evil in which it took place.
You're going, "Dude ..." Hey, just stay with me. We're going to learn some things here. The early church actually looked at this way as well. They looked at the death of Jesus this way. They looked at it as God's sovereign plan but also that wicked people were involved in this and that God was not approving of those evil things from his moral heart. In fact, when Peter was preaching in Acts chapter two notice what he said. He's talking about Jesus and he said, "This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and for knowledge. And you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." Where does Peter put the blame? He's talking to Jewish people there, and he's saying, "You did this. You put him to death. You nailed him to a cross. These were wicked things, but it was a part of God's deliberate plan."
The sovereign will of God and the moral will of God. Are you following that a bit? Just one more illustration. When the early church was praying after Peter and John had been locked up, and then they got out, and then they started to pray to God, they actually, in Acts chapter four, opened their prayer by saying, "Sovereign Lord." They actually acknowledged God's sovereignty over everything. And then here's what they went on to pray in Acts chapter four, "Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." You see, this was their understanding as well, that there were evil people that conspired to kill, and this is not consistent with the moral heart of God but that this was God's deliberate plan, his sovereign choice to see that this would happen in the life and the death of Jesus. The sovereign will of God and the moral will of God.
This actually helps us, by the way, as we read the scripture. It helps us as we grow in faith, even when it comes to issues related to salvation. Because, for instance, when we read what Peter said about our salvation we find this. He said, "The lord is not slow in keeping his promises," some understand slowness, "Instead, he's patient with you not wanting," that translate also, "not willing that anyone should perish, but everyone to come to repentance." In other words, God's moral will is this. His desire, his heart is that everyone comes to a place of repentance and come to know him. But what do we know about God's sovereign plan? We know that that won't be the case. He knows that that won't be the case. But God has, listen to this, God has actually made provision for everyone that does come to him in Christ that they would be saved. God has done this. It's his heart that people would repent, that they would not perish. This is God's desire.
So, here in verse 11 that we're starting to pull apart just a little bit when we see this plan, purpose, and will idea of God, this is talking about the sovereign will of God. What is sovereign will? Well, he basically says this. It's God's sovereign will that he has predetermined that we would be a people who have an inheritance in Christ. That's what he's predetermined. We have an inheritance with Christ and in Christ we have everything that that affords, which we talked about last week. That's God's sovereign will that we're reading about in verse number 11. But we have to ask this question, what's it for? But why? Why has God chosen this sovereign idea, this predestined idea that we would be in Christ and that when we are in Christ we have an inheritance and have everything we are afforded as people in Christ? Why? Well, here's why.
He says, "In him we were also chosen," or we have an inheritance, "having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we who were the first to put our hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory." Now, leave that up for just a second. To take our minds ... To put our minds at ease real quickly, Paul uses this phrase, and he says, "In order that we ..." He actually uses "we" language here and then in the next verse, verse 13 and 14 ... Turn to verse 13 real quick. He says, "Then and you also were included in Christ when you heard the message, or truth, the gospel of our salvation."
Now, if you'll just go back to the previous slide. In order that we, he's talking about Jewish Christians like himself. We were the first to respond and here's what God's intent, his predetermined plan was for us that we would be for the praise of his glory. And then he says, "And you, you're also included in this." He's talking to people who are of a Gentile background, non-Jewish background. Remember, he's writing to the Ephesians and he's saying, "By the way, you're included in this when you believed, so you've got everything in Christ too." Those of us who first believed, the we, and then those of you who have believed after us, these Gentile Christians were all included in these promises that when we are in Christ we have an inheritance that cannot be snatched from us, and we have everything that that inheritance affords us.
Now, Paul is saying here, he's saying that the predestined sovereign plan of God is for the purpose of his people being for the praise of his glory. Now, this isn't the first time in this really long run-on sentence, you remember last week, those of you that were here, I told you verse three through verse 14 is one sentence in the Greek language as if Paul was walking through an exhibit and God was going, "Look at my glory," and Paul's just going ... He's just writing everything. It's a really long run-on sentence. Well, when we look at that there are other places in this really long sentence where he's talking about that we are designed for the praise of his glory.
If we scroll up just a bit in this passage into verse five it says, "He predestined us for adoption to son-ship through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace," to the praise of his glory. Then if we fast forward beyond our text today and go to verse 13 and 14, Paul says, "When you believed you were marked in him with a seal, the promised holy spirit who's a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession to the praise of his glory."
Now that I've landed you there, let me tell you what this text is saying in verses 11 and 12. This text is saying this very simply. The purpose of our lives is the praise of his glory. Write that down. That's what this text is telling us. The purpose of our lives in the praise of his glory.
Now, here's the interesting thing. Some of you are saying, "Okay, fair enough. That is what the text says, but I've still got some questions. Like, for instance, what does that mean?" "Here's my question, Jerry, the purpose of our lives is for the praise of his glory, could you say that in a simpler way?" Well, Paul said it this way, so I'm just copying his words, but let's see if we can pull it apart for a minute because some of you are going, "Okay, if my life is for the praise of his glory, what's glory? What are we talking about when we say that?" It's a word that we use, but we don't always know what we're saying when we say that.
Don't you love it when little kids use words that they don't know what they mean, and they'll just say it because they heard mom or dad say it? Hopefully it was a good one. They heard mom or dad say it and then they'll walk around the house, and they'll say something like, they're two, "What's the problem," "I don't know. It's the asbestos." And you're like, "You're two. What are you talking about?" You heard dad taking about asbestos or something. They don't know what it means. They don't know what they're talking about.
It also happens in people who are older than that. Like, for instance, my oldest son who's going to be traveling back from school with his younger brother today, who hopefully isn't seeing this and none of you will remind him of his, but he one time was texting me about when his baseball team got into a logistical nightmare. I mean, it was a nightmare for their team. It was around housing and hotels and, just, it was a mess, and they didn't get to bed until it was like three in the morning. They had to play at nine in the morning, and it was just ridiculous. And he's texting me all this information. And says, "Dad, it was crazy. This was a debauchery." He was like 20 when he did this, maybe. And I went ... I texted back, and I went ... I had laughing emojis on there, and I went, "Did you mean debacle?" And he was like, "Yeah, probably."
Still, to this day ... I told my dad about. Of course, Edie knew. Still to this day we will use that phrase if something's going really bad. We'll be like, "This is a debauchery." And we'll just use it because we think it's funny, and it's ridiculous. Please don't tell him that I told you that. So when he gets here, it's just our secret. Me and a few thousand people have a secret on my oldest son. Don't do that. That's bad parenting.
And, by the way, over the next few months when they're home I won't be giving you any illustrations about them because they'll be here. When they leave, game on. Kidding.
So we do that sometimes. So we do that with this word glory. We sing about it. We talk about it but we don't really know what we're saying when we say that. If my life ... If the purpose of my life is the praise of his glory, what am I saying when I say that? What is glory? Well, let me give you just a quick definition. It's not going to be on the screens or anything but it's just something that ... These are my words, generally speaking. Glory is when God takes his character and his attributes and his essence and he makes them public. That's what we're talking about. In other words, you could actually break it down this way and say this, glory is when God's holiness goes public. Glory is when God's holiness goes public. The nature, the character, the essence of who God is is put on display.
Now, answer this question for me in your head. Don't yell it out loud, because if you get it wrong I'd hate to embarrass you. Just answer it in your head. How has God best put his attributes, his character, and his very nature, how has be best put them on display and made them public? I'm going to give a one-word answer, Jesus. Jesus. In fact, when we look at the scripture itself we start to figure that out because like the half-brother of Jesus, James, he gives Jesus a title when he's referring to him. Listen to what he said in James chapter two, "My brothers, show no particularly as you hold the faith in our lord Jesus Christ, the lord of" what? Glory.
Listen to how the writer of Hebrews said it in Hebrews chapter one, "The son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. He's the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being." So Jesus, listen to this, Jesus is the best illustration I can offer you about what the glory of God is because he is the character, the attributes, the essence of God put on display, made public. This is Jesus the glory of God.
So when we said that the text is teaching us that the purpose of our lives is for the praise of his glory, you could actually say it this way if you wanted. The purpose of our lives is to put Jesus on display. The purpose of our lives is to put Jesus on display. Again, I told you, we're pulling this thing apart and putting it back together so that we understand a little bit better about what is going on here.
Now, if the purpose of our lives is the praise of his glory, that tells me at least two things that I need to know about our purpose. You might be able to think of more and if you do, congrats. You win. I've got two. That's all I'm giving to you, two. Here's the first. Our life's purpose is bigger than ourselves. That's the first thing that I learned. If in fact it's true, and obviously it is because we're quoting the text, if the purpose of our lives is the praise of his glory, or putting Jesus on display, then that means that our life's purpose is bigger than ourselves.
Now, here's the thing we have to learn. Our life's purpose is not about us. It is involves us. It includes us, but it is not primarily about us. It's about Christ. The purpose of our life's ... By the way, this is what God determined that the purpose of our lives would be for the praise of his glory. So that means it's not actually about us. The purpose of our lives is not about it. It involves us, but it's not about us. It's about Christ.
Now, this is new for the believer. This is new. You see, because before we became a believer it's just about you. Let's be honest. It's about us. Now, I'm not suggesting that there's a part of humanity that can all understand a little bit about what it means to have a purpose that's bigger than ourselves. We all can understand that. Believer or unbeliever. For instance, when I got married I realized, dude, I'm not single. I've got ... This has to be bigger than me. When we had our children, I still remember walking out of the hospital putting our child in our car seat in our car. And I'm like, "Wait a minute. We've got to take them to our house? Is there a nurse coming with us? Because I watched her, she wrapped him up like ... He was like this, and he wasn't doing anything. I can't do that. I haven't had any training. I don't know if this is going to work," and that's why I was just like, "Thank God for Eddi," because she knew how to do all those things. I didn't know how to do jack squat. That's why I was just praying, "God, thank you for Eddi as she wraps him up like a tortilla."
I don't know how to do that. Thank you as she cleans him up with all the things and all the stuff, because the diaper, I'm not really good at that. But I learned quickly this is bigger than me. This has to bigger than my life. I've got a little one back here now that I'm driving to my house that we have to care for.
Or maybe you've had a cause that you get fired up about or somebody in your life. You've got a cause that you're fired up about, and it's bigger than you. And so, you've had a glimpse of this idea of your purpose being bigger than you but what happens to an unbeliever is it always turns in on itself somehow. It finds its way back to being about you. That's just what happens. It's our nature. It's just our nature. It's our sinful, selfish nature. It just somehow comes back to being about us. Do you know why? Because we just give in to all of the cultural messages that are pressing down on us.
And all of those messages that are pressing down on us are basically telling us, "Hey, look. Your purpose is really to live your best life and to be your best self," and when they're saying be your best self, ladies, what they're saying to you is, "Hey, getting old is no good. You need to be young at any expense. Fill yourself up with whatever you got to fill yourself up with. That's the world's telling us. Do what you got to do. Clip, cut, change, whatever because you got to be your best self. You got to represent your Instagram life."
For men, who knows. It could be, "You've got to be super successful. You've got to be shredded. Take this testosterone booster and all of a sudden you'll be the hulk." Right? There's guys who are like 135 pounds who are going, "I'm doing it. I am doing it. I'm in." It's not your purpose, man. It's not your purpose. Plus, no one will like you when you're angry.
Or we've been told by the culture it's all about living our best life. I hear that phrase so much. "Man, I'm living my best life." It always involves ... By the way, when somebody says they're living their best life it always involves tanning in the sun, or sitting on a cruise ship or a yacht or something like that. "I'm living my best life." It's never, "Hey, I'm at the nursing home caring for my spouse." That's never their best life. It's always something different, something superficial. By the way, I like sun. I really like sun. I like sun a lot. I live in Buffalo. When sun comes out I'm like, "I like you. I like you, sun. Stay around. Be my friend." I like the sun. I like having fun. God's given us things to be able to enjoy but let's not be confused that somehow our life is all about these things, because we end up spinning back into them, even if we have kids, even if we've got a spouse, it still spins back into all of my stuff, how I can make myself happy and do all my stuff, have my best life and be my best self.
It's not about us. It's bigger than us. It's about Christ. That's something that we need to make sure that gets inside of our head. You see, your temporary sense of accomplishment is not the hope of the world. Christ is. Your fleeting success is not the hope of the world. Christ is. Your indulgence in living, what you call, the good life is not the hope of the world. Christ is. Your pursuit of your own happiness is not the hope of the world. Christ is. That's why we have to understand that our purpose is bigger than ourselves. It's about Christ. This is what God had determined.
But it tells me a second thing. Our life's purpose is not only bigger than ourself, but it's also God's purpose. Our purpose, our life's purpose is also God's purpose. Saying, "Jerry, I don't know what you're saying when you say that." Hold. I'm coming.
Here's what I mean by that. Just like God established by his sovereign will that our purpose is to be to the praise of his glory, God is also just as committed to his own glory. Some of you are going, "Okay? What?" Think about it this way. Who decided that what our life's purpose was to be was to be to the praise of his glory? Who decided that? God did. God determined that. Why? Because God is as committed to his own glory as he is asking us to be.
Now, having said that, some of you are going, "Does that pose a problem?" Because in your mind there's a tension, and you maybe heard it from your unbelieving friends, and maybe you have had this thought in your mind before because you're saying, "Wait a minute. Is that a problem? God has predetermined that we would be a people whose purpose in life is the praise of his glory. That seems a little self-absorbed." That's what we think. It may run through our heads. I would never say this, but does that mean that God is an egomaniac? Could it be that God is just a narcissist who's always wanting us to tell him how awesome he is? Huh? Man, I mean, this is a struggle that people have in their minds and in their hearts.
By the way, isn't this the very thing, bringing attention to ourselves, isn't this the very thing that God tells us not to do? Doesn't he say, "This is not the life you're supposed to lead?" "Hey, everyone just wanted you to pick up on this. I'm awesome. Everybody tell me that. Everybody feel free to pitch in. Sing songs about me." Isn't this what God has told us not to do? So is God egomaniacal? Is he narcissistic? He is self-absorbed? That's a question that can come to our mind when I say that our life's purpose is also God's purpose, that God is just as committed to his glory as he's asking us to be.
So what do we do with that? Well, like many times in my past, C.S. Lewis has been a help to me, and he is again on this idea. He wrote a very slim little book called Reflections on the Psalms. You could imagine, when you read through the psalms, if you've ever read through the psalms, you hear commands to praise God over and over and over. There's entire psalms that are just nothing but praise him, praise him, keep praising him, praise him some more. Oh, you're tired. Keep praising him. Take a nap and then get up and praise him. That's basically ... That's my translation but that's generally what it says.
So you imagine that C.S. Lewis is confronted with this idea, because he's a pretty thoughtful guy. I don't know if you know this, but he's smart. He was smart. And here's what said. He lamented the idea that ... the miserable idea that God should in any sense need or crave for our worship like a vain woman wanting complements. He said this is the farthest thing from what God is all about when he calls us to praise him. And then he goes on to talk about what this idea actually is. Please stay with me here.
He says, "The most obvious fact about praise, whether of God or anything, strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is its appointed consummation. If it were possible for a created soul fully to appreciate, that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme beatitude."
The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, but we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify him God is inviting us to enjoy him. My man. My man is on something. Let me tell you what he was on. He absolutely pulls ... Some of you are going, "Man, I just read that. I still don't know what he's talking about." Let me pull the plug on this argument that God is narcissistic, that God is self-absorbed, that God really wants people to praise him because he's someone who's in need on compliments all the time, as if he has a need. He pulls the plug on that, and he says, "You know what, as opposed to this being self-absorbed, God's the farthest thing from self-absorbed. In fact, what God is doing in commanding us to praise and to glorify him is selfless. Do you know why? Because he knows that our only satisfaction, our only joy, our only completion can be found in him, the one who made us and who loves us. And in him and through him are all things.
He knows that and that is why he calls us to be in a place, and that is why he predetermines that when we are in Christ that the purpose of our life is to put him on display. Because the world ... Listen to this, because not only does that merit the satisfaction of our own heart, not only does that fill us with joy, but also, also because the world around us is looking at us to see if they're interested in the Jesus we proclaim. And what God's desire is is that we would put Jesus on display because what the world needs is Jesus. Not us, not our success, not our titles, not ... They need Jesus, so God's great design is that the purpose of our lives are bigger than ourselves, because it not about us. It includes us. It involves us, but it's not about us. It's about Christ. Why? Because God is just as committed to his glory as he's asking us to be because he knows that it is only when people receive him, and his glory is made public in Jesus that they can find full completion and hope and joy and reconciliation. That's the only way it can happen.
This is why we have pulled this apart and put it back together again. Because the purpose of our lives is the praise of his glory. So nothing's different than when we started. Same verses, same text, same big idea. But let me ask you this question, how then do we allow our lives to put Jesus on display? Here's what I would suggest to you. I would suggest that you ask God some questions, and you listen for his answers. I'm going to ask you to do it today, because what I don't want you to do is, I don't want you to let the seed of the world get swept away. This word, I'm not talking about my words, I'm talking about his word, this is precious seed. And instead of just being a hearer only and deceiving ourselves, why don't you take some of these questions and ask the lord to speak to you about them?
For instance, if you were just to pray, "God, how am I putting you on display in the way I do my work and to the people that I work with? God, how is my marriage putting you on display? God, how is my singleness putting you on display? God, how is my parenting or my grand parenting putting you on display? God, how are my friendships putting you on display? God, how are my ... how is my social media use putting you on display?" I would recommend right there you probably pause for a little while. He'll probably have more to say on that than you may want to hear.
Now, when I say that, by the way, when you ask questions about all of your life and how do I put Jesus on display in my social media use, I'm not just saying, "Hey, on your wall put a fish." That's fine but that's not what I'm talking about. "I'm going to put a picture of Jesus. I got a photograph of Jesus." No, you don't. You don't have a photograph of him. You don't know what he looked like. Stop talking like that. "Well, it's a picture." Okay, they don't know what he looked like either. "I'm going to put that on my wall," put a picture of Jesus, "I'm going to put him on display." Not what I'm talking about, not what I'm talking about.
What I'm talking about is the way you interact with people online. See, some of us need, listen, some of us need to operate more in humility with a listening ear and be slow to speak, or type, and quick to listen. See, some of us are convinced we're so right about everything in the world, particularly politics because it's so divisive in the world that we live we're so convinced that we're right about everything. And so, we just ... we try and drop bombs instead of actually getting to know people, paying attention and listening with people who are willing to do that. And by the way, I've just learned that comment sections ... Really? You think that's where you're going to solve the problems of the world, in a comment section? That's just where people get called names and, "That's just stupid," and, "You're stupid," right? We may need a dose of humility.
Let me just ... Let me see if I can help with this. All of you who think that President Trump is right about everything he ever does, you're wrong. All of you who think that President Trump is wrong about everything he ever does, you're wrong. So stop acting that way because it doesn't put Jesus on display. We put Jesus on display ... Listen. We put Jesus on display more ... Do you want to make a point or do you want to build a relationship? Do you value people over your opinion, or do you value or opinion more?
Now, I'm not talking about things that we all agree on that are horrible that happen in our culture, that are evil by everyone's standard. But I'm talking about, there is ... we have to be able, as the people of God, to be able to converse about some of the things that we converse about in this life with other people who may not see it exactly the same way. We need to be able to do that in a spirit of humility. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have an opinion. You're welcome to your opinion. We all should be able to formulate that, and we all should be able to engage, but we need to do it in a manner that's pleasing and puts Jesus on display instead of a manner that looks, at times, really arrogant, and really childish, and really ugly. We're doing nothing in accordance with the purpose God has designed for us when we're doing those things.
So I'm just pleading with you in love to say the people of God need to be the ones who set the standard for how we engage with people who don't think like we do. Doesn't mean you can't have an opinion. Doesn't mean you can't have convictions. You can. You should. We should form time out of the word of God, but the way in which we do that. Or maybe you could pray this, "God, how are my ambitions putting you on display?" Because for some of us our ambitions have gotten to really be much more about you than about putting Jesus on display. Doesn't mean we can't dream big dreams, by the way. Jesus may very well have us dreaming dreams that are so much bigger than we are that we can't even begin to think about them. He may have us wanting to do things that we're like, "If I knew that he was going to do that with me 20 years down the road, 10 years down the road, I'd be so scared I wouldn't do it." That's why he reveals it to us just a little bit at a time.
Because I can tell you right now as a 20-year-old when I said yes to his call, if I would have gotten a picture of this, I'd of been like, "Wow, no, no, no, no." I'd of freaked out but God just brought me along. That's what God's doing in your heart and your life. See, the purpose of your life, the purpose of your life is the praise of his glory, putting Jesus on display. Will you allow him to speak to you in every crevasse of your life and ask him, how's he doing that in your world?
Let's bow our heads together.
Father, I'm grateful that your word is so rich to us, and I pray by the power of your spirit that you would take your word and apply it to the hearts of your people, and that we would allow this to be seed in all of our hearts that falls on fertile ground, taking deep root and blossoming into fruitfulness in our lives, that we'd be a people who would be known by who we love and how we respond to people in love while still being a people of truth. People that are like Jesus who is full of grace and truth at the same time.
And for those us here, maybe, who have never responded in faith to Jesus, I hope that you would. God's heart is that you would know him and come to him. And if God is knocking on your heart to say, "I want you to begin a relationship with me, I want you to know that you can have your sins forgiven, your life changed, everything made new in this life and in the life to come. If that's something you're inquiring about that you want to know more about, then when we dismiss in just a moment I'll ask you to come across the atrium into the fireside room. We've got some pastors and other friends in there who would love to take just a moment or two and talk to you about what it looks like to receive Jesus, to know him personally.
Father, may you write everything you want to write in our hearts so that we'd be shaped more into your image, because you are the one who has determined that we have a purpose that's bigger than ourselves, and a purpose that can satisfy our hearts, because it's not just about us. It's about the glory of who you are and that's what the world needs. We can be used by you to show a world their need of you. Thank you for that privilege and that honor. What a great purpose for us to walk into. I pray that you would use us and fill us as purposeful people for the glory of Christ.
We pray in Jesus name, amen.