Pastor Tom Millner
Ecclesiastes 3:11-14, Philippians 4:4-8,13, James 1:22-25
SpiritSong Worship Center
Ecclesiastes 3:11-14 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him."
Philippians 4:4-8,13 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
James 1:22-25 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does."
This is the Word of the Lord. Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
You've heard us say that God created us for a purpose. What purpose is that? – To be loved by Him! What does that look like? Where do we go wrong? How do we get back on track? The answer my friend is blowing in that wind Pastor Les spoke about last week… the one that wants to blow through us in this place…the one described and outlined in this Book (the Bible)!
Well, if God created us to love us, and if indeed God does love us, so what? What does that mean, what does that look like? What does God's purpose look like in the reality of this world?
The first clue of what that means comes to us from the creation story in Genesis. God who is love, who is creator of all things, created us humans as a divine reflection (in His image) of Himself. Therefore, we were created to reflect the nature of the creator. So the purpose of the creation (mankind) is to reflect the nature of the creator! That's where the "rub" begins! The created can never be more than the reflection of the creator…it can never be the creator! We humans buy the lie that there should be more. There is another creation who was made to be the lead lover in the heavens who thought himself capable of being more than the created…he was thrown out of heaven and now lives to amass his own group of followers – Satan! Scary thought, isn't it? Sometimes, the divine nature we experience is not too far removed from the one that masquerades as the divine (light). That's why we have to keep our eyes on the One who is the true source of our divinity and not look to the frequent appeal of the fake one! There was one man in antiquity who walked in obedient faith that God is Who He says He is. Abraham walked by faith (acted like he really believed God and loved others as himself), and was therefore made the "father of a great nation." Unfortunately, his descendants didn't do as good of a job reflecting the love of their Creator. They wound up in slavery in a hostile land. Even in those circumstances, however, they were given the opportunity to live out God's purpose (love), but they didn't quite make it. God (in His loving nature) showed grace and mercy by bringing them out of bondage with a promise of a better land and life. He went so far as to give them a recipe for living out the reflective image of Himself. That recipe is in the Ten Commandments. Jesus summed them up like this; "Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, and mind. The second is like that – love your neighbor as yourself." Having no other God's before Him (including self), making no graven images either material or imaginary (personal agendas included), not misusing the very character of His name (acting like He really doesn't matter), and keeping one day each week as devoted to Him is an act of love for him that engages our hearts, minds, and souls with Him! Giving honor to our parents, and to others by not murdering, adulterating them, stealing from them, lying and gossiping about them, and not being envious of what they have been gifted or earned, is loving others as we would love ourselves! This also honors and loves God because it reflects the Divine nature of the one who is the Creator. You'd think that's sufficient for us to then k now and live out our purpose?
Not quite. You see, we're slow learners when it comes to our Divine nature. You see, when it comes to making dirty pants, we've turned it into an art form! So, Love Himself went a step further. He decided to come to us as one of us, show us what it looks like to be the true reflection of His Divine nature and what did we do with that? We (humans) had to do away with Him who "showed us up." So Love being who Love is, expressed His mercy and grace by giving His perfect life as a sacrifice for our imperfection, so that even in our imperfection, we could live out the hope of our Divine reflection, with a little help from our friend, the Holy Spirit! Seems like everywhere we turn in this story, God is at work, perfecting us to do what is His purpose for us from the beginning! To Love Him and love one another! So how God's love plays out in our lives is that He gives us unconditional mercy and grace (all sufficient to meet every emotional and spiritual need we have) and all He asks in return is that we live out His reflection by shining that Light of love onto others (mercy and grace). If we're spending all our time seeking the reassurance of His love that has been given so abundantly, we're not living in the light of His love, but in the light of the great pretender!!! The measure of the faith we have that His grace is sufficient is the amount of mercy and grace we extend to others without desire for recognition! Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Workers Union said: "I only love God as much as the one whom I love the least." Think about it! How much time do we ponder how to love more dearly the one we love the least? Why don't we do that more often? It's the purpose of our existence!!! It is the true reflection of the Divine in whose image we are made.
We are called here to be the Body of Christ – the living Love of God! Christ did not live for Himself, but for the glory of the Father and the sake of His earthly brothers and sisters. And so are we too called to do the same, if we are a part of this Body of Christ.
Today, we leave here for the beach where 13 or more people will demonstrate their faith in the love of God by submitting to the water – a symbol of dying to self, and then being raised from the water symbolizing a resurrection into a new life in Him. The life in Him is a life in Love, even for those whom we like the least! Love is an action. Life that is an act of love is a life lived as witness to Love Himself.
Some years ago there was a celebration in Zaire (in Africa) of the 100th anniversary of Christianity in that theretofore pagan nation. The streets were full of those celebrating the wonders of Christ in their lives and giving glory to God for those who had sacrificed so much for the cause of Christ there. Suddenly an aged man came slowly to the center stage and approached the host, imploring him to let him speak a word of truth about the past, or it would forever be lost with him in the grave. He recounted for the crowd how when the missionaries first came, they told the story of Jesus and His self sacrifice for the sins of all. The story to them seemed so strange. They wondered to themselves how they could know to trust these stories to be true. They reasoned, the best witness to someone's story about life is how they die. So the tribal leaders undertook the systematic task of poisoning the missionary families. One by one, the Children of the missionaries began to dye off from mysterious and painful causes. A few of the adults also died. At the loss of each, the missionaries surrendered each life to the glory of God and gave thanks for the joy of having known each one. These acts of love and the never wavering mercy and grace being shown the tribe gave witness to the power of Christ in their lives. The tribal leaders believed and so a whole of a nation began to turn to God. The old man had testified as to the power of God lived out in the lives of those He redeems.
Our lives are His witness. What of Him are you allowing to be reflected in you?