The Ultimate Disconnect
[David begins by sharing the gospel in Spanish]
Amen. How many of you have any clue what you just “amen”-ed? I’m guessing none of you do because either on one front you don’t know Spanish and you wouldn’t understand Spanish. Or number two you know Spanish really well and I just obliterated the Spanish language with my accent. So on both fronts I’ve got a feeling nobody understood what I was saying.
I had the opportunity over the last few years to spend some time in some Spanish speaking places, Spanish speaking countries, doing some mission stuff. I don’t know Spanish. That’s about the extent of the Spanish I know. But I figured if I was going to go on a mission trip to a Spanish speaking country, I should at least know how to share the gospel in Spanish.
So I learned just a kind of a gospel presentation in Spanish. It was kind of cool to be in a country where the only thing you knew to say, the only way you knew to communicate was by communicating the gospel. It was kind of awkward at times. You’d go up to someone and say “Hola”, which is “Hello” in Spanish, then it just becomes an awkward silence. Then I’d just start sharing the gospel because that is all I knew to say. Then along the way they would stop and ask me questions or make comments and I would look at them and kind of nod my head and keep going because I had no clue what they were saying to me.
But I wanted to learn some more Spanish while I was there. And we were doing some sport camps with some kids so I wanted to be able to tell some little guy that they were strong. So I went to one of our translators and said “How do you say strong in Spanish?” And they said “Well the Spanish word for strong is ‘Fuerte’.” I said ok. So all day long I went up to these little kids and I’d grab their muscles and I’d say “Puerta” and then I’d kind of make this motion and point at them. Like “You puerta” or “You puerta”. Well somebody stopped me towards the end of the day and said “Dave, Dave what are you doing?” and I said “What do you mean?” And they said “Well the Spanish word for strong is ‘Fuerte.’” But I was saying “Puerta” and in Spanish “puerta” means door. And so all day long I was going to these little kids and grabbing their little muscles and was like “Dooooor.” “Dooooooor.” “Doooooooor.”
So I thought I’d try again the next day. We were playing soccer with some of these kids and I wanted to tell them whenever they missed a goal “Good try”. So I said “How do you say ‘Good try’ in Spanish?” and they said “well say buen hecho which means ‘good act’ or ‘good try’”. I said “Ok.” So all day long I’d go up to kids and after they missed a goal and I’d just kind of get down and go “Buenas noches”. Or I’d see them across the field and I’d say “Buenas noches, buenas noches” every time the kid missed a goal.
Well some of you know that in Spanish “Buenas noches” means “Good night.” And so every time the poor kid missed the goal, I’d kind of get in his face and be like “Good night kid. Good night. Good night! Good night! Good night!”
Maybe the worst of all of these was compounded by the fact that I was leading this mission team on the field. I remember when we got down there. I got the whole team together at the beginning of the week and I said “Listen. We are going to go out on the field today. And people are going to come up to us and they are going to start speaking ninety miles a minute in Spanish to you and you are not going to understand a thing they are saying. And you need to be able to communicate with them that you do not understand what they are saying.” And so I said “This is what you need to say…” And I gave them a few lines and I said “We are going to practice these together.” I said “The first thing you look at them and you say ‘No comprende’. Which I thought meant “I don’t understand” or “I don’t comprehend”. And then I said “Say ‘No habla espanol’.” Which I thought meant ‘I don’t speak Spanish’. “And then say ‘Lo siento’.” Which means “I’m sorry”. And so we practiced it together. “No comprende. No habla espanol. Lo siento.”
We went out and all day long people would come up to us and start speaking Spanish and my team was faithful, they gave the line over and over again. I found out pretty quickly though that just like in the English language if you change one small letter it changes the meaning of everything that you have communicated. You see our team was going out to people and whenever they would start speaking Spanish to them, we would look at them “No comprende”. Which we thought meant “I don’t understand or I don’t comprehend”. Which actually means “You don’t understand or comprehend.” “No comprendo” would have been much more appropriate.
Similarly “No habla espanol” instead of meaning I don’t speak Spanish actually means you don’t speak Spanish. And so all day long people would come up to our team and start speaking Spanish, we would look back at them and say “You don’t understand. You don’t speak your own language. I’m sorry.” And then walk away. It was the height of self-centered egotistical Americans on the mission field. There were some basics in the Spanish language somewhere along the way I had missed out on.
What I want us to do. I want us to dive in Scripture. And I want us to see a basic truth of Scripture. That if I can be honest with you this morning, after 27 years of being in church, somewhere along the way I missed out on completely. Until just recently in the last couple of years in my life and this truth more than anything I think has turned my life, reformatted my life, upside down. And I want to show you this truth.
What we are going to do. If you’ve got your Bible and I hope you do. I want to invite you to open with me to Psalm 67. We’re going to do things a little different. Instead of studying just one passage we are going to kind of use Psalm 67 as something to vault us into the rest of Scripture, it is going to vault us into a study of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I want to show you this one truth of Scripture revealed all over the pages of this book. We are going to start in Psalm 67. We will read the whole chapter together but we are really going to focus on the first two verses.
Basic truth of Scripture. And I know in your small groups you have been talking about ‘What is the purpose of humanity for today?’ and that is a question I think is worth diving into since we are a part of humanity. What I want us to do as we think about Psalm 67 in Scripture today, I want to talk about what I believe to be The Ultimate Disconnect in the church today, particularly the church in America. The Ultimate Disconnect. And it deals with this truth that we are going to look at and it deals with the purpose of humanity. Psalm 67:1 says”
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him (Ps. 67:1-7).
I want us to focus especially on verses one and two. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (Ps. 67:1-2). One truth and we will split it up into two parts.
God Desires to Bless us
The first part is this: If you are taking notes, “God desires to bless us”. That’s how this Psalm begins and it’s how it’s filled throughout the whole thing. It’s with the blessing of God. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us” (Ps. 67:1).
Now this is a prayer that is rooted way back in the Levitical priestly prayer. Numbers 6. The priest would pray over the people of God. They would say “May God be gracious to you. And bless you and may His face shine upon you.”
God’s Blessing Is Gracious
I want you to see in this passage. We aren’t going to camp out long here but I want you to see God’s blessing is gracious. It’s based not on what we do but what He has done out of His initiative for us.
May we never forget when we gather to sing praises to Christ. May we never forget that not one of us deserves to be here. Not one of us has lived the life that warrants even the privilege of giving praise to this God. We are here because of the grace of our God. And because it is an initiative that He has taken and we should never cease to be amazed at that grace.
God’s Blessing Is Comprehensive
I want you to see that God’s blessing, His comprehensive, may His face shine upon you. It basically means that may God show His favor completely to you.
Let’s not be Western, too materialistic when we read this verse. When we think about the blessing of God and start thinking about all the possession we have. That is not what the psalmist is talking about here. It’s not talking about all the things that we have that show the blessings of God.
We know in our lives that those things can actually draw us away from God very easily. The blessing of God is summed up in His grace and His mercy, His salvation that He has brought to you and me. The fact that He sent His Son to die on the cross. That is the epitome of the blessing of God. It’s comprehensive.
God’s Blessing Is Personal
And I want you to see also that His blessing is extremely personal. There is an interesting difference between Numbers 6 where the priest says “May God be gracious to you and bless you and may His face shine upon you” then in Psalm 67 where it says “May God be gracious to us.” It shifts it to the first person and says this blessing is for all of us.
I want to remind you that the God we serve and the God who said to His people in Isaiah 43 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…For I am the Lord your God…you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you” (Is. 43:1-4). What incredible words from God. A God who said in Isaiah 49:16 that He has the names of His people engraved on the palms of His hand. Think about that! How about Zephaniah 3:17 when God says to His people “[I] will quiet you with [my] love.” You have got to know the context of that chapter. God is talking to a people that had disobeyed Him, that had turned their backs on Him, and He said, “I am going to bring you to a stand still with my love.” And it says, “He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17). What an amazing picture the Old Testament gives us of a God who sings over us.
And I will remind you coming into this room today in a world of broken and shattered homes by people who have loved us for a little while and then left us. Whether it’s your parents or whether it’s your spouse who loved you for a little while and left you. I want to remind you that the God of the Bible says that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God desires to bless us! Let that soak in for a second. He desires to bless you.
But don’t put a period on it there. If you look in Psalm 67:1 it doesn’t say “May God be gracious to us and bless us and may His face shine upon us—PERIOD”. Instead there is a comma there. There is a purpose clause that comes after that.
So here’s what I want us to do. We could easily stop here and say alright we have talked about the blessing of God, great sermon, and go home feeling good about the blessing of God. But that would miss out on the whole point of this passage. Instead I want us to think “Ok, God desires to bless us now let’s ask the question ‘Why?’” That’s not a question I think we ask very often.
Why does God desire to bless you and me? What is the purpose? We know we have experienced the blessing of God. The Church at Brook Hills has experienced the blessing of God, but why? And the answer that verse 2 says; is says so “that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (Ps. 67:2).
Make His Salvation Known in all Nations
So here’s the truth. One basic truth. God desires to bless us so that we might make His salvation known in all nations. Now that is basic truth of Scripture that I want you to see this morning that is revealed from cover to cover.
If you are taking notes this morning I am going to give you 20 Scriptures over the next few minutes. Now don’t get concerned. We aren’t going to be here for a few hours. What I want to give you is 20 Scriptures that show us from cover to cover this blessing of God. If you have time to turn in your pages and follow along you can. If you just want to write them down you can.
What I want us to do is I want us to start in the book of Genesis 12:2-3. God calls Abraham and says “Abraham I am going to bless you.” I want you to see this is God calling out His people, the people of Israel, and He says “Abraham I am going to bless you. I am going to make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse.” So we see the blessing of God but now let’s see the purpose behind it. “So that through you all peoples on earth will be blessed.” So here is the economy of God. He says “Abraham I am going to pour out my blessings on you and the result is you are going to make my blessings, my goodness, My grace known among all the peoples of the earth. You are going to be my conduit of blessings.” That how God starts with His people.
Now Abraham had a son, his name was? Abraham had a son and his name was? Isaac. Ok Isaac. In Genesis 26:4 God comes down to Isaac and says a very similar thing. He says to Isaac in Genesis 26:4 “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands.” And here it is; there’s the blessing. Now let’s see the purpose—“through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Gen. 26:4). So God says, “I am going to bless you Isaac so that all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”
Isaac had a son. His name was Jacob. In Genesis 28:14 God says the same thing to Jacob. “I am going to make your descendants, Jacob, as numerous as the stars in the sky. They will spread out to the west and the east, to the north and to the south, all peoples will be blessed through you and your offspring.”
Now get the picture. That’s Jacob, he’s a single guy at this point. Single guys who are in the room, take heart. Jacob has got to be thinking “I don’t even have a wife yet and I am going to have as many descendants as there is dust on the earth?” And God says “Yeah. I am going to bless you. I am going to bless you in an unusual way and the result is all peoples on the earth is going to know that I am good.”
So I want you to see the why that is driving God. Does it stop in Genesis? I don’t think so. You get in the book of Exodus. You see God delivering His people out of slavery in Egypt. You see a very interesting story come about in Exodus 14. As God is leading them out of Egypt He brings them to the Red Sea. Now everybody is thinking “What is Moses doing leading us to the Red Sea? No where to turn to the right or the left. The Egyptians are about to overtake us and we have this huge body of water in front of us.” Why would God lead His people to that predicament?
He did it so that He said “I will harden pharaoh’s heart and I will gain glory for myself. I am going to show the Egyptians. They are going to know that I am the Lord.” So that’s what He did. He split the sea in half, and sent His people through and the Egyptians knew the salvation of God that He brings to His people. They knew the goodness and the power and the grace of God. You look throughout the rest of the Old Testament and you will see people always saying “We remember this is the God who split the sea in half.” God is showing off His greatness, His grace, His majesty through blessing His people in an unusual way.
Let’s keep asking the question, “Why”. Deuteronomy 4:5-6 we know God gave His people the Ten Commandments. Why did He give them the Ten Commandments? Deuteronomy 4:5-6 says that God gave His people the Ten Commandments so the people would follow them and show the wisdom of God to the nations and the nations would know that God is all wise. And God is good. God is blessing His people with the Ten Commandments so that His character is known among the nations.
Joshua 5 and 6, one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament. Remember that story about the first battle going into the Promised Land? City called Jericho. This huge city with massive walls around it? It’s a great story. Joshua 5:13 says Joshua was walking outside the city wondering how in the world he was going to take the army into this massive city.
Basically in that day he had five military options available to him to take these walls. He could either try to take the army over the walls; they could try to go under the walls; they could try to break through the walls; they could send a decoy in (like a Trojan horse type thing); or they could starve the people inside the walls and make them come out. Five options: over, under, through, send the decoy in, or starve them out.
God comes to Joshua and says here is the battle plan. Joshua is thinking “Okay. Over, under, through, maybe the decoy route, maybe we are going to stave them.” God says “Get out the trumpet players, call the music guys together, and pull out the sheet music. What you are going to do is you are going to march around the city for a few days and you are going to play some cool music.” And then here is the kicker and you can almost picture God’s face at this point, can’t you? Then here is the kicker, after you’ve played music for a few days, one day you are just going to shout really loud and the walls are going to come down. That’s weird. That’s highly unusual. We have got to ask the question “Why?”
Why is God giving this as the battle plan for taking the first city in the Promised Land? Well I believe He is doing what He has done throughout Scripture. He is organizing and orchestrating the events of His people, don’t miss it! He is organizing the events of His people so that in the end only He gets the credit for what happened.
Let me tell you what you don’t see in Joshua 6. You don’t see all the Israelites going up to the trumpet players telling them what an incredible job they did that day. “Ralph I’ve never heard you play so well. Harry you hit the high C! It was awesome man! We went running in!” NO! You see the people on their faces saying “Only God could have done this”. God blessed His people in a very unusual way to put His glory on display.
It continues 1 King 10:1-19. We all know Solomon was the wisest man in that day. Why was he so wise though? 1 King 10 says he was wise so that people like Queen Sheba would come and see his wisdom and give glory to His God. She starts singing God’s praises. That’s the only reason he could have been so wise.
Daniel 3:29—another unusual story. Why would God let His servants, these three Hebrew boys who were so diligent in serving Him, why would He let Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be thrown into a fiery furnace? Well He did it so that these guys would come out on the other side without a drop of sweat on their brow. And if you look at Daniel 3:29 you will see that the king says that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego deserves the praise of everyone in this land. He has delivered them for His glory.
Same thing in Daniel 6. We know the story. Daniel gets thrown into the lion’s den. Praise the Lord, the next morning he comes out and some other guys get thrown in. Why did God let that happen? Well look at Daniel 6:25-26 and you will see that King Darius said after Daniel came out of the lions den, “Only Daniel’s God is living. All the people in this land, I’m giving a decree. We are going to praise the God of Daniel because He saves His people.” God puts His glory on display through blessing His people. I believe that is the motive that is driving God throughout the Old Testament.
You know Psalm 23. You’ve memorized it, but have you ever thought about it though? I’ll just start it. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness” (Ps. 23:1-3). Finish it. “For His name's sake.” Why does He guide us? Why does He lead us? “For the sake of His name.”
How about Psalm 25:11. Why does God forgive our sins? Because He wants to. Well yeah He wants to, but why? “For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Ps. 25:11). “For the sake of your name, do it.” Is that how we pray? “God forgive my sins for your sake?”
How about Isaiah 48:9-11. Very interesting verses. He says “For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath” (Is. 48:9). He says “I’m not going to part my punishment on you for my sake. For my own namesake I do it.” You go to the end of that verse and it says that He does it because He is not going to yield His glory to another. God says “I am going to work among you like I am so that my name is known among the nations as great because my glory does not belong to anyone else. It is all for me.” This is a very interesting picture of God.
How about this verse? Turn with me to it Ezekiel 36. You need to underline these verses in your Bible. These are amazing verses I want you to see from the mouth of God expressing the motive, the heart of God.
Just to give you the background, basically this is God talking about discipline among His people. Why He is going to discipline them in a certain way. What is driving His motivation? Listen to what He says in verse 22, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says…” (Ezek. 36:22). Listen to this, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes” (Ezek. 36:22-23).
Did you catch that? God said to His people “When I pour my blessing. Pour my judgment on you. I’m not doing it for your sake, I’m doing it for the sake of my name among all of the nations. The nations will know that I am holy and they will know my character, my greatness, and my glory.”
Now is this just an Old Testament thing that just dies away when we get to the New Testament? I don’t think so. Mathew 24:14—this gospel, this salvation, is going to go to all the nations and then the end will come. Mathew 28:18-20—go and make disciples where? All nations. Mark 16:15—go and preach the good news where? To “all” creation. Luke 24:47-49—Jesus died so the repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached in all nations. Acts 1:8—you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be witnesses where? In Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. God is in the business of making His salvation known among all nations through blessing His people.
Why did Jesus go to the cross? Why did Jesus go to the cross? Just to die for me? I think Scripture tells us a little deeper then that. John 12:27-28. What does Jesus pray before He went to the cross? “Father what shall I say? Save me from this hour? No it is for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father” do what? “glorify your name. A voice came from heaven and said I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”
Throughout the New Testament we see a people, a people like Paul whose ambition was to make the glory and salvation of God known in all nations. That was the very purpose of the church and the Book of Acts.
Now we started all the way back in Genesis 12. I want to take you to the end. Revelation 7:9-10. Mark it down. This is where all of eternity is headed. There is going to be a day, Revelation 7:9-10 says that from every tribe and every language and every people—people from all over the nations, every nation will be represented, the Scripture says. Around the throne of the Lamb who was slain; the Lamb who won the ultimate battle. It says they will sing out that “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10). In the very beginning of this book it starts off with God saying He is going to bless His people so that all nations will know how good I am, and eternity tells us that there is going to be a day when all nations are going to bow among the thrown and sing praises because He alone is worthy of the glory.
So there it is. From cover to cover in Scripture. God desires to bless us so that we might make His salvation known in all nations. A simple truth.
But here is the question I want to ask of you. I want to ask it of you as individuals and I want to ask it of you as a church. God desires to bless us so that we might make His salvation known in all nations. The question I want to ask you is this: Are we a people today who have disconnected the blessing of God from the purpose of God? Are we a people who have soaked in the blessing and disconnected it from the purpose?
You say, “What do you mean, Dave? Disconnecting the blessing of God from the purpose of God. How do we do that?” Well let me give you an example. I think if you were to walk into the average church in Birmingham or across the United States and you were to ask the average person sitting in a pew or a seat there to sum up the message of Biblical Christianity. “What’s the message of Christianity?” The response you would get is something probably along the lines of this: “Well Christianity means God loves me. The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send His son Jesus to die for me. That is the message of Christianity.”
What I want to say to you is that I do not believe that that message of Christianity is biblical. I don’t believe biblical Christianity says God loves me or that God loves me enough to send His son Jesus to die on a cross for me. I don’t think it’s biblical and here’s why. Based on what we have just looked at.
Do a little English class with me for a second. If God loves me is the message of biblical Christianity, the essence of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? God loves “me”. And therefore Christianity is about “me”. When I come to church it is about “me”. And the music fits my preference. When I think about my life and my plans and my dreams and my family it’s about me and my portfolio and my comfortability and my plans and my dreams and what I think is best.
And what I want to say to you based on the authority of Scripture is that “God loves me” is not the message of Christianity. Christianity does not say, “God loves me.” Put a period on it go home. Christianity says, “God loves me so that His grace, and His glory, and His majesty and His mercy might be made known in all nations.”
Now who is the object of Christianity? He is. I’ve heard it a million times. They stand giving testimony and say, “When Jesus died on that cross…”—I’ve heard songs about it—“When Jesus died on that cross He died just for me.” And while I in no way want to take away from the extremely personal nature of God’s love for each one of you I do want to say to you that when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t just die for you. He died so the repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached among all the peoples of the world.
This thing is not just for us. It wasn’t just for us in Birmingham. It wasn’t just for us in the south. This is intended for the nations to hear. Nations many of whom have never even heard His name today. And this is the very crux. The very purpose of biblical Christianity.
I know what you are thinking, “Well Dave, God loves me so that I might make His salvation known in all nations; So that I might make His glory and His greatness known in all nations. Are you saying that God has an ulterior motive in loving me? That when God loves me there is another reason kind of behind it? And when God saved me from my sins that He did it with an ulterior motive behind it? Is that what you are saying Dave?”
That is exactly what I am saying. How could any one of us be so bold or so arrogant as to think that we are at the center of God’s universe? You are not at the center of God’s universe. I am not at the center of God’s universe. God is at the center of His universe. And this is something, and let’s be honest with each other, this goes against the grain of many of the ways we think. Even the way we live out our Christianity. When was the last time a preschooler came home from Sunday school, or small group, or whatever preschoolers do here at Brook Hills… They came home and they have drawn a picture and at the top it has their picture on it. And the top says, “God loves Himself.”
But isn’t that, think about it. Some of you were here a couple weeks ago when I shared about Asian believers who sit on stools for 12 hours a day and who are going into nations to share the gospel and are making the gospel known around them. I got an email just Tuesday of this week. Those 30 house church leaders I had been working with in December emailed me and told me that in the month of December they lead over 100 people to faith in Christ. They said that God is doing amazing things.
Now we ask the question, “How can we see that kind of stuff happen here? How can we have that kind of heart? How can we have those kind of churches? How does that happen here?” Well I believe those people are seeing what they are seeing, have such a deep, God-centered mission in their lives, because they realize they have a God-centered God. Not a me-centered God. That is a huge difference. It’s a huge paradigm shift and it’s a completely different way to think about our faith. Yet it is in Scripture from cover to cover.
And I know what you are thinking. Some of you are thinking, “Well does that make God selfish? For God to love me so that He gets praise, and He gets worship, and He gets glory?” That’s a good question. Scripture says love does not seek it’s own. Obviously we are not supposed to be selfish just except for God? What’s the deal here?
Think about it this way. If God is infinitely good and infinitely loving; if all that is love is summed up in God, then what is the greatest way that He could show love to you and me? By giving us what? Himself. And enjoyment in Himself and worship of Himself and glory in Himself.
The beautiful picture that God’s Word gives us is a God who is centered on His glory but praise the Lord we get to be a part of this thing. And we get to experience grace and satisfaction and joy and pleasure and the blessing of God.
We Experience God’s Blessing Most When We Are Most Involved in Fulfilling His Purpose
And don’t miss it! Connect the two together. We experience God’s blessing most when we are most involved in fulfilling His purpose.
You want to see joy on the faces of believers; you go to the persecuted countries of this world where people find themselves following Christ at the risk of their lives. You will see joy greater than many times we have ever begun to imagine and here’s why. Because they know the purpose of God and they are giving themselves to that purpose. They believe and they go out into their neighborhoods, their families, their workplaces, their schools and they believe they were created to make the glory of God known in those places. They want it to be reflected in them. And they are experiencing the joy for which they were created. They go together. His blessing and His purpose.
But somewhere along the way there is a dangerous temptation for you and I to disconnect the two. Focused on the blessing but disconnected from its purpose. Please hear me loud and clear. I am not saying in any way that God does love you deeply. He does love you deeply, passionately, each and every one of you who are sitting before me now. His love is gracious to the core. I am not saying He doesn’t love you deeply but I am saying this: The purpose of your life goes much deeper then simply receiving the love of God. It is reflecting and reproducing that love to the nations and showing His glory and His majesty to them. And it’s interesting, I think, when we disconnect the two and we focus on the blessing and ignore the purpose we begin to miss out on what the blessing really is.
And you and I know that this goes against the very core of everything in our culture. That we would say this thing is not just for me, it is for me to make known in Birmingham and all nations. And it goes against the core of everything we call success in this culture. Success is found in us promoting ourselves and doing good for ourselves. Teenagers are told if you want to be successful get a good education. Why get a good education? To get a good job so you can have a nice family, so you can have a nice car, a nice home and you can be comfortable. And build a nice portfolio and you can retire well. You can be a Christian through it all.
But what I want to say to you is that I do not believe that that is success. I do not believe that is success but I am not saying some of those things are bad things in and of themselves. But that is not the picture the Bible gives us of success. Yet it is exactly what our culture says.
I came across an article a while ago in U.S. News and World Report about success, success in retirement. And I want you to hear the picture that it gives of success. I think it’s the picture that we see all over the place. This article said:
“Getting a life. Whatever it is--work, family, faith, hobbies, or just puttering around the yard--retirees need to find those things or something new that matters most to them to sustain themselves in retirement. It's important to ‘know yourself,’ [the article says] and have certain passions you can indulge. In Miami, for example, Robert credits a willingness to be flexible for a comfortable retirement. Sixty-six, he retired almost two years ago. He and wife, Pat, have a spacious home in a Miami suburb where real-estate values have more than doubled since they bought in 1991. They have season tickets to the Miami Dolphins (his) and the Miami Heat (hers). He plays golf three times a week, and they have a time-share condo in St. Maarten. Even his health seems to be better, largely because he has more time to walk and play golf. Pat's no slouch, either, having taken cooking, sewing, tennis, and golf classes as well as doing some modeling in her retirement. ‘You take what the fates give you,’ Robert says. ‘I consider myself a very lucky person.’”
Now is that success? In our culture it most certainly is. It’s an article about how to retire. But we have got to ask the question when you stand before God in heaven to give an account for how you have dealt with the blessing He has poured out on you. What are you going to say?
“God check out my portfolio. God look at all the money I left. God did you see my golf game? Did you see me play tennis? How well I cooked?” The blessing and the purpose of God… This is what our culture says is success.
Let me show you in another article that I read just two weeks later in the same magazine. The first article was pretty long. This one is pretty short. Just a little snippet and I want to read it to you.
Paul and Oreta Burnham said they always expected a happy ending, even though their son and his wife had been held hostage by extremist Muslims in the Philippines for more than a year. But just after 3 a.m. last Friday, they discovered that wasn't to be: Their son Martin, 42, was killed during a rescue attempt by an elite corps of U.S.-trained Philippine troops; his wife, Gracia, 43, was wounded during the gun battle that ensued, she was freed. The couple were Kansas missionaries. CNN reported that Martin Burnham told his wife two days before he died that he had a premonition something would happen--and he wrote a letter saying goodbye to his children, ages 11, 12, and 15. Martin Burnham, shot and killed on the mission field in the Philippines.
“Now wait a minute Dave. I thought you said this was going to be a story of success. How can you say a guy that got shot and killed by a Muslim extremist in the Philippines is a success?”
Here’s how I can say this. Martin Burnham breathed his last breath in the Philippines and in the very next instance was transformed into the presence of Jesus Christ. And there he bowed before Him and began to sing His praises, giving Him the glory that is due His name in an eternal paradise that you and I can not even phantom. And you know where Martin Burnham is today? He is in the same place. And you know where Martin Burnham will be two billion years from now? Granted He wasn’t able to walk and play golf and be healthy but two billion years from now he is going to be in the same place, enjoying the same paradise because he connected the blessing of God with the purpose of God.
Please hear me. Please hear me. This is not a mission’s sermon. Please do not walk out of these doors today and say that was a good mission’s sermon. Don’t even say that was a bad mission sermon’s. Just don’t call it a mission’s sermon all together. It is not a mission sermon, it is a sermon about the mission of our lives. It’s the reason for which we have been created. It is the reason for which we have been saved.
I am saying to you based on the authority of Scripture that God has blessed you; He has blessed this church with a global purpose behind it. He wants His greatness, His salvation, His mercy and His majesty to be made known in all nations. And I believe that is why God has created you, that is why He has saved you, not ultimately for our sake but for His sake in the nations.
And that means a total new way of looking at our lives where it is not about us and how we can gain success but how can I most effectively make the glory of Christ known in all nations with the life that God has entrusted to me. And that changes the way that we live and that changes the way that we do church. It changes everything because we are consumed by the God-given purpose for which we were created.
Some people might say that is idealistic that I was created to impact nations, change the world for the glory of Christ. It is idealistic. “Thanks Dave, for the pay it forward speech, change the world speech. It didn’t really do much for me.”
But if you think it’s idealistic I say two things. Number one: I say it’s biblical. From cover to cover in Scripture I believe God has created each of us for this purpose. I remember teaching in a seminary classroom one day, a student looks at me as we are talking about this and he says: “Sounds great Dave but it’s just not doable. It’s not going to happen”. I just can’t help but think that there is going to be a day when they bow around the throne of Christ next to brothers and sisters from Birmingham and Atlanta and New Orleans and Cambodia and Laos and Thailand and Vietnam and Africa and Asia and we are going to sing praises to the Lamb who is slain and the Lamb who won the ultimate battle on that day. And if I even had a bit of a sinful nature in heaven I would look at him and say “It happened.” This is the purpose for which we were created.
Second thing I say if you think it’s too idealistic. I say those that say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it. This is the purpose for which we have been saved at church. This is the purpose for which God has blessed each of our lives so I challenge you to take the blessing of God and connect it with the purpose. Let’s put biblical Christianity together and lets experience blessings for His purpose.
Will you bow your heads with me? With your heads bowed and your eyes closed I want us to enter into a time of reflection and response to God’s Word. I want you to think about the blessing of God in your lives. I know that there are many of you who have never truly experienced His blessing through salvation. Some of you in this room have never entered into a relationship with Jesus and been forgiven of your sins and experienced salvation He came to bring when He went to a cross. And if that has never been made real and been made personal in your life, even if you have been in church for years and it has never been a reality for you. Then I want to invite you to say, “I want to experience the blessing of God. I want to experience the salvation of God.”
And then for those of you who are believers, brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to ask you the question this morning: have you disconnected the blessing of God from the purpose of God? And if you have, then I want to challenge you to say, “I am going to take some steps in my life to reformat everything around this one purpose.” I am not saying you know all of what that means but I do want to challenge you to come before the Lord and say I’ll do whatever it takes. I want to make your glory, your salvation known in all nations.
And as a church I want to invite you as God is leading you to do that, I want to invite you to take advantage of this time and say, “God I want to connect your blessing with your purpose. I want to put them together. I want to experience the purpose for which I have been created and stop living in a self-centered Christianity.” I want to invite you to take advantage of this time to express that to the Lord.
God, God I praise you for your grace that we see all over your Word. You have blessed your people in some unusual ways. And God I want to be so bold as to ask you that you will bless The Church at Brook Hills in unusual ways. And bless the brothers and sisters who are sitting before me this morning in unusual ways, God, so that your glory will remain known through me and your salvation will be known through them in all nations. God forgive us for making this a mission’s thing that is reserved for a few. God help us to see this as the purpose, the mission for which we were created. And God I pray that your body would stand up and connect your blessing with your purpose. May we fall down before you and say God use us, whatever it takes, use us to make your salvation known in all nations. For the glory of your name we pray, Amen.
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