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Living For Our Purpose

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Living For Our Purpose

Matthew 4:17-25
Series: Christ’s Plan to Change Our World

Chuck Colson tells the following story: During World War II, the Nazis set up a camp factory in Hungary where hundreds of Jewish prisoners had survived in disease infested barracks on little food and gruesome back breaking work. Each day the prisoners were marched to the compound’s giant factory where tons of human waste and garbage were distilled into alcohol to be used as a fuel additive. Even worse, for the prisoners, than the nauseating odor of the stewing sludge was the realization that they were fueling the Nazi war machine.

One day Allied aircraft bombers destroyed the factory. The next morning hundreds of inmates were herded to one end of the charred remains. A Nazi officer commanded them to shovel sand into carts and drag it to the other end of the plant. The next day the same process was repeated in reverse; they were ordered to move the huge pile of sand back to the other end of the compound. At first some prisoners thought there’d just been a mistake, but the process continued day after day.

One man began crying uncontrollably and the guards hauled him away. Another screamed until he was beaten into silence. One, who had survived three years, ran. Guards ordered him to stop as he ran toward the electrified fence. Prisoners cried out, but there was a blinding flash and a terrible noise as smoke puffed from his smoldering flesh. In the days that followed, dozens of prisoners went mad. They ran from their work only to be shot by guards or electrocuted by the fence. The Commandant smugly remarked that soon there’d be no more need to use the ovens.

The difficulty those men faced was activity without any purpose. They could shovel filth and human waste for the factory’s use, even thought it hurt their cause. At least there was a discernable purpose. But forced to work without purpose many of them snapped.

I wonder how many of us are engage in meaningless living. Certainly we’re busy people and our days are filled with of activities, most of which we’d view as good. We go to school and work, advance our careers, retire, play golf or bingo and then die. But what was it all for? Did our activity result in anything more than moving a sand pile from here to there? When it’s all said and done what was the purpose of living on this planet?

It’s important to find your purpose. If you don’t the best you can hope for a life of meaningless activity. You’re going to have to anesthetize yourself for 70 or 80 years so that you don’t think about it. People do it all the time with work, entertainment, materialism and even addictions. The worse case scenario is that you could come face to face with purposelessness and let it drive you to despair. More than a few have given up on finding any meaning and opt for a quick release.

I’m sure that you want to experience a higher, nobler level of life than that. My guess is that you want to live a life of significance. You desire to leave a legacy after you’re gone. In your heart of hearts you crave to make an impact on this world which will positively affect the lives of other people. I bet there are also a number of you here today who want to stand before God when this life is over and hear him say, “Well done” If so, then you must begin living for our purpose.

There’s only one way to accomplish this. You will find your purpose by following your leader. You do follow something or someone. It could be a person and their example or advice. Most of us follow perspectives about life. It could be an ideology such as communism or democracy. You may build your life around the stuff that our 21st century American culture says is important. These leaders will give a purpose, but it’s artificial.

The only leader who can give you real purpose and meaning is the Creator of life. He’s the One who’s knows your reason for being born. Of course you understand that I’m talking about God. If you want to find your purpose, make God your leader and follow Him. That’s sounds good, but how do you do it? Let’s look at:

1. THE STEPS OF A GENUINE FOLLOWER

Jesus was just beginning his ministry on earth. God had come into the world as the man Jesus and when we pick up the story He, as yet, has no followers. He’s a single revolutionary, an individual seeking to change the world. Here’s where he begins, Matthew 4:17 “From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (NLT)

Some people read this and think that Jesus was merely telling people how to make it to heaven. That only part of his message. He called people to a Kingdom, a new way of living life. The Kingdom of Heaven is made up of all those accept God’s rule over their lives. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t begin after we die. We become citizens of it in this life and it simply continues into the next. Jesus made it clear that there are some prerequisites to entering the Kingdom of God. The first step is:

1. Repentance from your rottenness. Following God always begins on this level. We’ve got to admit our rottenness in light of a pure and holy God. Make no mistake, every human being falls into the category of sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT)

I read where the Romans sometimes compelled a captive to be joined face-to-face with a dead body, and to bear it about until the horrible effluvia [vapors] destroyed the life of the living victim. Virgil describes this cruel punishment: “The living and the dead at his command were coupled face to face, and hand to hand; Till choked with stench, in loathed embraces tied, The lingering wretches pined away and died.” Without Christ, we are shackled to a dead corpse; our sinfulness. Only repentance frees us from certain death, for life and death cannot coexist indefinitely.

To be a follower of Jesus Christ we must begin by recognizing and turning from our sin. But there’s an essential second part to this process. Jesus said that we need to turn away from sin and simultaneously to God. The second step is:

2.) Confidence in Christ.  Some would use the term faith or belief. Either one of those terms work, but today they’ve become quite watered down. Faith is more of a warm fuzzy feeling about the great beyond. That’s why I’ve chosen the word, confidence. We must have a confidence in Christ to truly be one of his followers.

John Paton was a missionary to the cannibals in New Hebrides Islands. He was working one day in his home on the translation of John’s Gospel; puzzling over a phrase  which was John’s favorite expression to “believe in” or to “trust in” Jesus Christ. “How can I translate it?” Paton wondered. The islanders were cannibals; nobody trusted anybody else. There was no word for “trust” in their language. His native servant came in. “What am I doing?” Paton asked him. “Sitting at your desk,” the man replied. Paton then raised both feet off the floor and sat back on his chair. “What am I doing now?” In reply, Paton’s servant used a verb which means “to lean your whole weight upon.” That’s the phrase Paton used throughout John’s Gospel to translate to “believe in.”

Have you put your whole weight upon Jesus Christ for your eternity here and now? Can you say that you are staking it all on a promise like Romans 3:22, 25, where it says, “We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we can all be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.” (NLT) Turn away from sin and to God. Those are the necessary first steps of a follower. My guess is that for most of you here today, these two steps are old hat. You came to faith years ago and you’re still sitting on your blessed assurance. There’s more to it than that as Jesus made clear to some of his first followers.

Matthew 4:18-20 “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people” And they left their nets at once and went with him.” (NLT) You will find your purpose by following your leader. To truly be led by God you must have a:

3.) Commitment to His cause.  Peter and his brother, Andrew, experienced what many of you have. They’d heard Jesus and believed his message. They had turned from sin and to God. If you read the other three Gospels, especially John, you’ll see that Jesus didn’t just walk up to them as a complete stranger and command them to follow. He had developed a relationship with them. They trusted Jesus and his cause and were completely committed to both. You can see their commitment they gave up everything to follow him.

He may not call you to do that, but are you willing go wherever, whenever, however and do whatever he tells you? Honestly, in some areas of our lives most of us could say “yes.” But some places  we prefer to keep under our own control and fail to yield to Christ.

Hernando Cortes had a plan. He wanted to lead an expedition into Mexico to capture its vast treasures. When he told the Spanish governor his strategy, the governor got so excited that he gave him 11 ships and 700 men. Little did the governor know that Cortes had failed to tell him the entire plan. After months of travel, the eleven ships landed in Veracruz in the spring of 1519. As soon as the men unloaded the ships, Cortes instituted the rest of his plan. He burned the ships. With no means of retreat Cortez’s army had only one direction to move, into the Mexican interior. Cortes understood the price of commitment and he paid it.

Complete commitment to the cause is not an option when it comes to following Jesus. It is an absolute necessity. Commitment is what transforms our actions, which speak louder than our words. It is making the time when there is none. Commitment is the stuff character is made of. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.

There is a forth, related step that we must take to follow our leader and find our purpose. Look what two other brothers had to do: Matthew 4:21-22 “A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him leaving the boat and their father behind.” (NLT)

There’s a reason why Matthew gives us this little detail about James and John’s father being in the boat with them. He wants the reader to understand how difficult it can be to follow Jesus sometimes. Don’t you imagine that dad had a thing or two to say about his boys abandoning ship? They weren’t leaving him alone because elsewhere in the Bible we learn that Zebedee was wealthy enough to hire workers for his fishing industry. Nonetheless, I imagine he protested the call to follow Jesus. Even if he didn’t if must have been downright painful to leave family and career to pursue an itinerant preacher. But they did. Genuine commitment is revealed in:

4.) Loyalty to your leader. Jesus makes no bones about this. He calls us to a devotion to himself that makes all others pale in comparison. Look what gentle Jesus said to some would-be followers later on: Luke 14:26-27 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” The point here is not that we actively hate anyone when we decide to follow Christ. Our loyalty to him should be so strong that it makes our love for others seem like hate. You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve ever been committed to something.

How many parents have had their 16 year-old ask to take the car out at a certain late hour to a certain late place? Their immediate response was “no” because allowing their child to go would fly in the face of certain values. The kid persists, but the parents hold the line. Eventually the conversation dissolves with the kids saying, “Why can’t I do what all my friends are doing? You must hate me.” Some folks are called by God to move away from their extended family. There’s almost always tension. Grandparents might protest, “If you go we won’t get to see the grandkids grow up. How can you do this to them? How can you do this to us? Don’t you love us?”

Darrell L. Bock writes: “Sometimes a decision for Jesus means refusing to offer support to a family member for a decision that may be immoral in God’s eyes. Taking that stand may be painful, but necessary. It may mean refusing to endorse a relationship before God that has been conducted in a way that dishonors him. It may mean telling a brother, sister, relative, or friend engaged in adultery, in the painful act of confrontive love, that God is not pleased with his or her actions. It may mean discussing destructive behavior at the risk of never speaking to that person again. It may be perceived as loving God over family or friends, when ironically it means loving both.”

When you make a commitment there will automatically be people who don’t share that same commitment. Intentionally or unintentionally they’ll call your commitment into question. If you’re going to follow Christ you must be absolutely loyal to your leader.

Repent of your rottenness. Place your confidence in Christ. Commit to his cause. Be completely loyal to your leader. These are the steps to following your Lord. If you want to live for your purpose and follow your leader. I can’t tell you what your specific purpose is because I’m not God. But I can show you the some of the purposes God will lead you to.


2. OUR PRIMARY PURPOSES

All we have to do is see where Jesus led his followers. What he did in the next few verses is what he eventually entrusted his followers to do later on. Matthew 4:23-24 “Jesus traveled throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching everywhere the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed people who had every kind of sickness and disease. News about him spread far and beyond the borders of Galilee so that the sick were soon coming to be healed from as far away as Syria. And whatever their illnesses and pain, or if they were possessed by demons, or were epileptics, or were paralyzed V he healed them all.” (NLT)

As you follow your leader your life will look like his. Jesus purposes will become your purposes. As a follower you will:

1.) Demonstrate and declare truth. Jesus taught in the local synagogues. He declared the truth and he lived it. As his follower you’ll take up the same purpose. You may not teach, but you will certainly demonstrate and declare the truth at home, school or at work.

Once you start operating according to God’s design for life, others will take notice. Frankly, that’s the only thing that will convince most people in our modern world. If you can demonstrate that God’s commands lead to a life of peace, joy and love, it’s hard to argue with. When you demonstrate the truth people will ask you to declare it. Not only can you then share about God’s truth you can point them to the Truth-Giver. Followers both:

2.) Possess and proclaim hope. Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom. What is this Good News? It’s possible to have relationships that are healthy and whole. It’s possible to achieve your God-given potential in this life. It’s possible to be rid of guilt and fear and worry. It’s possible to be forgiven by God and have a right relationship with him. It’s possible to live forever.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you’ll not only have that hope, but God puts you in a position to proclaim it. As a citizen of his Kingdom you get the privilege of calling others into that eternal relationship with God. We also see that, just like Jesus, followers of God:

3.) Operate as agents of healing. Some may see miraculous incidents of healing. I can find no place in the Bible where supernatural healing is nullified for our day. God does still bring wholeness through his people today. You’re healing ministry may be different from Jesus’. You may be a healer of relationships or broken hearts. Jesus may call you to follow him into a place where you heal the hunger of someone who’s starving. You may be the bearer of wholeness to the down and outer who has been rejected by society. There are a million ways you could be an agent of healing. I promise you that as a follower of Jesus Christ that will be one of your purposes.

Find your purpose by following your leader. What will be the result of living a purpose-filled life?

3. THE RESULT OF LIVING FOR OUR PURPOSE?

Matthew 4:25 “Large crowds followed him wherever he went; people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.” (NLT)

We’ll see the same thing that Jesus initiated: A REVOLUTION! Not only can we find our purpose, but we can also change this lost and dying world. The founder of Methodist movement in England, John Wesley, once made this audacious claim: "Give me 100 men who hate nothing but sin and love God with all their hearts and I will shake the world for Christ”

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