January 19, 2020

Purpose: Why We Exist

Speaker: Bobby Gaither | Series: The Church At Hope Fellowship | We are entering a short series this morning on the Church— defining the why, what, and how of the church at Hope Fellowship. When we speak of the Church, we are not referring to the structure of the building, or the property we meet on. Church is not a place, it’s a covenant people in whom the Spirit of God dwells. And we exist as God’s chosen people whom he has saved by grace, through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. We, the covenant people of God, are the bride of Christ. We are saved— not to a place, but a person. My aim here this morning is to further define our purpose as a church. Purpose is what most often escapes articulation. Many know it intuitively, but it escapes definition. However, people recognize when it is lacking, or when they are doing something that is in-line with their purpose. Thus, our time this morning will serve to illumine why we exist, and why we gather together as a church body. Over the next 3 Sundays, we will look at the Purpose, Mission, and Vision of the Church, and see how we Hope Fellowship aim to carry that out. 

First, let me define what I mean by purpose. It’s the age old question, asked 100 times a day by my inquisitive, and/or exasperating children. It’s the question of “why?” And, believe it or not, it is the most important question you must answer as a conscious soul. Without knowing the why, you have no motivation for the what, and no driving force for the how! Let me give an example. Do you know why you go to work? Is it because your purpose in inherently filled in programming computers, answering phone calls and emails, driving bus, building roofs or constructing houses, or developing business opportunities and mergers? No. Though you may be operating in your skill set and gifting, those activities ultimately are your means for provision for food and shelter for your family. That job is a means to an end. And that end is not just that you and your family have provision; the end, or the why of your working 5 days a week, has a driving purpose which is this: you love life and the life of your family. Your why is to see, enjoy, and prosper that which you love, namely, your family.

So, why do you come and gather with the church? What do you think most people believe the is the purpose of church? I have listed what I believe to be a few misperceptions, which good-intended believers have proposed. Maybe you’ve heard these, and maybe they’ve come out of your mouth!

It’s a way for our children to learn good morals!

It’s what’s right! The right thing to do!

If I do the right things, I’ll receive God’s blessing!

It’s a means for the old, sick, and dying to be comforted!

If I go to church, I’ll receive forgiveness and my conscious will be appeased.

To be a part of a community and have relationship with others!

To glorify God!

I want to briefly address these supposed ‘purpose’ statements:

If the gathering of the church body exists for the root reason of teaching good morals, what do we produce? Self-righteous legalists, who believe the acceptance of their worship before God is based on their own righteousness. Is that the gospel? No.

If people gather together with the church body because they’re “doing the right thing, and will receive God’s blessing,” what does that reinforce to them? That God is one who can be in my debt, and if I do what he wants, he will give me what I want.

If gathering with the people of God is, at its root, a means of comfort for the old, sick, and dying, what does that speak of the gospel? That’s it’s power is limited to soothing the fear of death, and thus merely a psychological crutch for humanity.

If gathering with the people of God is merely the means to an appeased conscious, because I’m confessed my sin, paid my penance, so I can continue to live a life opposed to God without bearing the consequence of my actions, does that bear out the reality of the gospel of cross of Jesus, by which I have been saved? Does it rightly respond to the grace that had been afforded to me at the cost of the life of the Son of God? 

Lastly, and the most difficult one to argue with, is, the purpose of gathering with the church is to glorify God. First, I want you to know that I agree with this statement. This is the overarching purpose of all things. However, the way it is understood often misrepresents its reality. If what you mean by glorifying God is to offer to God a service, a work, a merit that would add to His glory, this purpose statement is wrong. You cannot add to the glory of God. He has everything, possesses everything and you exist because of His unmerited grace! Thus, there is nothing you can give to God that He doesn’t already have.

So, what does it mean to glorify God? You can’t add to His glory, but you can praise it! You can delight in it! And in doing so, you can display it.

Something important is happening in clarifying our purpose. The general principle is this: If purpose is to come and “do”— it implies a merit based salvation, and leads to a works based gospel. If purpose is to come and behold, delight, and be transformed so as to display glory, it is a work of God, and a gospel based in the glory and grace of God. 

As we develop as a local church body, we seek to have succinct statements that answer the why, what, and how. We identify these are our purpose, mission, and vision statements. This morning seek to propose and support to you the following purpose statement: We exist to behold, delight in, and display the glory of God.

Next week we look at Mission, which answers the what? The week after we will explore Vision, which answers how?

We have many texts today, as this is a Biblical Theological look at the question of why, but I want to begin in John chapter 17:1-5, 20-26. Would you stand, let’s read and then ask God to be with us as we look at His word this morning.

[1] When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, [2] since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. [4] I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. [5] And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

… [20] “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, [21] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. [22] The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, [23] I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. [24] Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. [25] O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. [26] I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (ESV). [pray]To Behold the Glory of God:

The entire arc of the gospel is this: mankind was created in God’s image, to be in face to face relationship with Him. This is our Creation narrative. Man and women sinned against God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In trying to be like God, they became less like God. This is the Fall. God set forth a plan from the foundation of the world to redeem His people from sin and death, and the wrath of God, which is the just consequence of rebelling against the perfect God of the cosmos. He had to create a new race, thus giving spiritual birth to mankind. He did so by sending the perfect Eternal Son of God to become flesh, fulfill the law perfectly, die the death we deserve, and satisfy the justice and wrath of God. This is called Redemption. And God, pleased with the perfect obedience of His Eternal Son, raised him from the dead, as a first fruits of the work of His Spirit which now dwells in mankind. He will give new life, transform, and raise from the dead all who believe in Jesus for salvation as their King, and bring them to His presence to live in the light of the glory of God, in face to face relationship with God the Father, and the Son, in the Spirit, for all eternity. This is called New Creation. 

Thus, we read in John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer, the purpose for which he came: to be glorified as the Son of God, and that His bride, His people, would behold His glory which he had before the world was.

Friends, you and I were created to behold glory! And not just any glory, but the glory of the most powerful, beautiful, perfect, magnificent being in the cosmos! 

Do you not feel that, when the greater joys of this earth seem to lack their luster? When something that had given you joy in the past seems to lose its sparkle. Could it be that your soul was never meant to be satisfied in that? Those joys are gifts from God, but they were meant as a taste of what is ultimately glorious, namely, the Supreme Being of the universe? And no, this is not yourself, but God.

Moses knew this when he asked, in Exodus 33, “Please show me your glory.” Do you see and understand that the petition to God to reveal His glory is exactly what he wants to hear from His people! Listen to Yahweh’s response: 

[19] And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (ESV)

And then God hid him in a cleft of a rock, for man cannot see his face and live. And he caused his glory to pass by him.

This isn’t the only place in the Bible where God declares that he will present himself before his people. Isaiah 40:9–10

[9] Go on up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of good news;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good news;

lift it up, fear not;

say to the cities of Judah,

“Behold your God!”

[10] Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,

and his arm rules for him;

behold, his reward is with him,

and his recompense before him. (ESV)

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4 that when we are saved, it is because we “see[ing] the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God… [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (ESV)

The book of Revelation is replete with beholding the Son of God, whom puts the stars to shame, for the earth will walk by the light of His face!

Why would we say our purpose is to behold? I would respond that you behold what you love! Where you direct your eyes sets the course of your feet. It is the means by which knowledge and input enters your mind and heart, and your eyes are also directed by your heart. When the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ has shone into your heart, your eyes will turn towards that glory. We praise with our mouths what we see with our eyes. Now, you might say, “what for the blind?” It is not the physical eyes we speak of, but the spiritual. They are connected, but it is the eyes of the heart that set their gaze towards the Lord and behold glory.

Briefly, how do we do that? How do we behold the glory of God?

We behold the glory of God, first and foremost, in the Word of God. Listen, the written word is life for those who find it. It was no accident that John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.” 

What we see in the Bible, the Word of God, is the glory of God recorded for us. In it His character is revealed, and His saving feats, and it is meant for us to pass on from generation to generation. We behold the glory of God in His word. That is why our aim every Sunday is to open the Word of God and reveal to you the person of Christ, His nature, character, and beauty!

We also behold the glory of God in His people. We, the church, who are weak sinners, saved by grace through faith, are being transformed into the very image of the Son of God. We display is saving grace, we display His mercy and justice, we display his steadfast love. We do this in context of the community of faith—the church, and this overflows into the world. We love and care for one another, we strive with one another, we sacrifice for one another. This is a means we behold the glory of God. 

Lastly, through creation. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaim His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1) The psalmist continued to say there was no place this voice declaring his glory would not be heard. Creation declares his glory.

And we were made to see it, to behold it!

But let’s be a good student and ask… why?

Why behold the glory of God? Because we are also purposed to …Delight in the Glory of God

Is this idea scandalous for any of you? That you were made to delight in God? Isn’t God about dutiful service, and most honored when I begrudgingly obey, doing the things I hate most in order to serve him? If that’s your paradigm, I wan’t to shatter it. I pray the Lord do so to you as he did me, and free you to enjoy worshiping him, delighting in Him, in all things!

First, let me point to scripture, that you may willingly follow me into discourse.

Psalm 1:1–2

[1] Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

[2] but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night. (ESV)

Psalm 35:27

[27] Let those who delight in my righteousness

shout for joy and be glad and say evermore,

“Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (ESV)

Psalm 37:4

[4] Delight yourself in the LORD,

and he will give you the desires of your heart. (ESV)

Psalm 43:4

[4] Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy,

Psalm 111:2

[2] Great are the works of the LORD,

studied by all who delight in them. (ESV)

Psalm 112:1

[1]  Praise the LORD!

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,

who greatly delights in his commandments! (ESV)

Psalm 119:174

[174] I long for your salvation, O LORD,

and your law is my delight. (ESV)

Psalm 63:1–4

[1] O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

[2] So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

[3] Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

[4] So I will bless you as long as I live;

in your name I will lift up my hands. (ESV)

Do you get the picture? There is to be delight in God! In His word! In His love! And this honors God! 

John Piper gives an example in his book, “Desiring God.” He contrasted duty and delight in the context of giving flowers to his wife. “Let’s say I give her flowers and she says, “Oh John, you shouldn’t have! Why did you do this?” And he replies, “Because it’s my duty as your husband to give you flowers…” That does not honor her! But if his response is, “Because it’s my joy to bring you flowers and make you happy!” That honors her! 

The same is true of God. We were made to behold, and delight in the glory of God— and his glory was most fully revealed in the person of Jesus, the Eternal Son.

Can I give you one more reference? In our passage in John 17, verse 13, Jesus says, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (ESV)

The God of the universe seeks to delight his people, his church, his bride…

Our purpose is this: we exist to behold, delight, and display the glory of God.To Display the Glory of God

This is where most learned and well-meaning Christians begin. But I tell you, without beholding and delighting, there is no displaying. For it is in beholding that one sees the glory of the Lord, and in response to seeing, our hearts are captured and transformed that we now love the glory of the Lord! But the efficacious power of the glory of God does not only capture our hearts to love him, it also transforms our person to display him!

2 Corinthians 3:18

[18] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)

Do you see the power of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Beholding, and delighting, serve to transform and are the power for displaying the glory of God. And this magnifies the glory of God, resulting in the praise of God, not man!

What does this look like, practically!?

When one is taken over by the grace of God in their life, they become graceful and merciful to others, patient with the one who would bother and oppress them, hurl insults at them. The person who beholds and delights in God is steeped in the word of God, with an identity that is unshakably rooted in union with Christ. They have within them the abiding Spirit of God, with the same power to love and serve the lost, the hurting, the needy, even their enemies, as Jesus, for that is what Jesus did. All this points to the glory of God, for they themselves couldn’t conjure up the moral perfection to love someone who sets themself up as an enemy. The glory of God seems to shine brightest in our affliction. But it’s not the only means by which He shines through us.

Another example: The musician, or athlete, or business person, who performs or speaks or sings with such eloquence and grace, skill and power, is able to freely do so, knowing they are walking in the gifting and calling of God with the resources provided by God. And this does not puff up their ego but draws them even more to humility and praise of God for the opportunity to use their talents and gifts and feel his pleasure! When praise from man comes, it is appreciated, but not idolized. It is stated that such a performance, or service, is done from joy— not duty, thus giving opportunity to honor the Creator. This is a harder one to learn as a follower of Christ, isn’t it? When we do something well— I tell you, the humble response is to take joy in what God has gifted you to do! It honors him! The alternative is a false humility… “ah, that was nothing…”

“I barely practiced…” “I messed up a couple places…” We offer a humble brag instead of rejoicing with the person giving the compliment!

What if your response was— “I had so much fun running that race, singing that song, giving that talk! I’m so thankful to God for the opportunity!”

Recall with me the reasons we listed for church. To become a moral person. To do the right thing and so please God. To be a part of the community. To glorify God! By beholding, and delighting, we will display the glory of God.

In displaying the glory of God, it’s more about being then doing, for our doing is result of being. And his gospel saves us, and is so powerful, that it transforms us into the image of his Son. 

THAT is a glorious gospel! And we are called to behold it, delight in it, and display it! 

That is why we take communion on a weekly basis. Communion is for the believer. In taking communion we behold the body of Christ, broken for us, and the life-blood of Christ, poured out for us. We behold his glory, that God is love, and greater love has no man than this— that he would lay down his life for His friends. Church, in communion, we behold His glory —  the glory of His gospel, by which He has saved, redeemed, and is transforming us!

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