Purpose Driven Life
1: Chosen for a Purpose
Psalm 139; Ephesians 1:1-14
know that I am not alone in experiencing some parental anxiety over the choice
of schools for September - or in our case a lack of parental choice. Our children
are precious and, humanly speaking, the decision about which school to send them
is very significant. It can impact an entire lifetime - both ours and theirs.
It did me. In our small community on the edge of Lowestoft if you didn’t make
it to the Grammar School (and I didn’t) there was only one alternative - the local
secondary school - which duly prepared me for a life as an apprentice.
From the age of eleven I was trained in such exotic subjects as navigation (Lowestoft
is a sea port); wood work; metal work; and technical drawing, as well as the 3
R’s, art and geography - which became my two favourite subjects.
But it wasn’t until I had begun my first job (two rather lonely years in East London) that I realized the joy of life-long learning (through evening classes) and the importance of discovering my purpose in life. I began to face questions like, “Why am I here?”, “What is my purpose in life?” and “Why do I exist?”
These are not merely existential or metaphysical questions solely for the philosophy classroom. They have a profound impact on whether we turn into rats in the rat race or human beings. It’s all about choices. Choosing the right school, choosing the right career, choosing the right partner, choosing the right neighbourhood, choosing the right church. These are all important and life changing decisions but none compares with discovering that first and foremost we were chosen. Chosen by God. Chosen for a purpose. Discovering as Jesus said “You did not choose me but I chose you.” Discovering what on earth I am here for. Discovering we have been created in the image and likeness of God with dignity, with meaning and purpose is the most incredible good news when that truth begins to dawn on you.
You are not an accident. The bible claims that even before the universe was created, God had you in mind, and that he planned you for his purpose. In fact, these purposes will extend far beyond the few years you will spend on earth because you were made to last forever.
On Sunday mornings between now and the end of July we are beginning what I consider to be the most important sermon series of my life. They are inspired by Rick Warren, #1 best-selling book entitled “The Purpose Driven Life” (published by Zondervan and available from the Church bookstore).
Apart from the bible, (and Ricks book is based around 1,200 scriptural references), I cannot remember being influenced more by any other book in my life. Rick highlights the fact that self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself. He shows that this is the wrong place to start. Instead we must begin with God, our creator and discover his reasons for creating you. The simple but profound truth of the entire bible is that you were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense, life will never be truly fulfilling. God has (at least) five purposes for your life.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians introduces us to these five purposes beautifully and we will return to it regularly:
1. You were planned for God’s pleasure
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world … In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
2. You were formed for God’s family
“he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (Ephesians 1:5)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household.” (Ephesians 2:22)
3. You were created to become like Christ
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins … in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:7, 12)
“speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ … and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:15, 24)
4. You were shaped for serving God
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
5. You were made for a mission
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ … His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 1:9, 2:15)
am convinced that knowing God’s five purposes for your life will reduce your stress,
will focus your energy, will simplify your decisions, will give meaning to your
life and, most important, will prepare you for eternity.
Regardless of your age, the rest of your life can be the best of your life - if you start living on purpose today.
now and July we are going to focus on the first of God’s purposes - that we were
planned for God’s pleasure - to know and be known, to love and be loved by God.
In the Autumn, and early next year, we will pick up the theme again and develop God’s four other purposes. We hope the Autumn home groups will also buy into the forty days of purpose study material. So lets begin to consider God’s first purpose : We were planned for God’s Pleasure. Please turn with me to Psalm 139. We can learn three things about God’s plan: We were planned for God’s pleasure - through creation, by consecration and for communion.
1. Planned through Creation
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13)
We did not evolve. We were created. We are not an accident. We were created purposefully. In this single verse David weds together two homely metaphors to illustrate God’s creative skill and active involvement in the development of the unborn child. The word used for ‘created’ describes the artistic skill of a potter. The biblical concept of creation is one in which God is actively involved in the process. Another translation says “you shaped me and modelled me”. God pictures himself then as a skilled craftsman shaping vessels of beauty with his hands. Getting his hands dirty in creating us. In the same verse God is described as a weaver knitting us together. So the psalmist affirms with great simplicity and reverence, using the everyday imagery of the Ancient Near East, that God fashions us like a potter, he knits us together like a weaver. What does this mean? God is not haphazard. He planned you with great precision, custom made, one of a kind, to exact specifications.
All David can say in response is, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14). Planned through Creation.
2. Planned by Consecration
The word ordained means to consecrate or set apart for a special purpose. And that is the word God uses to describe your creation.
“your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
If you want a biblical theology or ordination here it is. We are all ordained. Ordination does not follow theological college. Ordination precedes conception. In eternity past, God ordained you and your life for his purposes. We bear his awesome fingerprints, his precious hallmark, his holy image. It is this hallmark that sets us apart, as separate from the animals. No, you are not an accident. Your birth was not a mistake or mishap or fluke of nature. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it and planned it from before the creation of the world. It is not fate, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13)
God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long
you will live. God also planned where you’d be born and where you would life for
his purpose. God knows your future as certain as your past, and he knew it before
you had even been born.
Your race and nationality are no accident. God left no detail to chance. God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes. God’s motive in creating you was his love. The Message translation of Ephesians 1:4 says,
“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.” (Ephesians 1:4).
He planned it all for his purpose. No wonder the psalmist responds, “before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:4-5)
Again we see the analogy of being set apart. God has laid hands on you, he has anointed you and set his seal upon you.
God has laid his hand on you. Planned through creation, by consecration
3. Planned for Communion
“Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee you’re your presence? … Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:7, 23-24)
David is conscious of a very deep, personal and particular relationship with God. In fact Psalm 139 is the most radically personal statement about God’s relationship with an individual in the entire Old Testament. The “I, you” relationship is expressed in almost every verse. In just 24 verses the words, “I, me and my” appear 46x and the words “you and your” appear 32x. That adds up to roughly 3 per verse.
Planned with purpose through creation, by consecration, for communion. The Bible tells us God is love. It doesn’t say God has love. He is love. Love is the essence of his character. There is perfect love in the fellowship of the Trinity, so God did not need to create you. He wasn’t lonely. But he wanted to make you in order to express his love. In Isaiah 46:3-4, for example, God says:
“I have carried you since you were born; I have taken care of you from your birth. Even when you are old, I will be the same. Even when your hair has turned grey, I will take care of you. I made you and will take care of you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)
You are not an accident, you were made for a purpose. To know God and enjoy him forever.
If God uniquely created you with meaning and purpose, what are you struggling with at the moment? What areas of your personality, your background, your physical appearance do you find hard to accept? What decisions do you face this week? You do not have to make them alone. God already knows what is going to happen to you so you can trust him to bring good out of it. You are not an accident and nothing accidental happens to you. You were planned for God’s purpose through creation, by consecration and for communion with him. So what ever this week holds for you, remember God has a purpose for your life - focus on this fact, meditate on this truth and claim these promises. As James Packer puts it, “I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. my Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother and sister too." Lets pray.
Dear Lord, help me discover your purposes for my life so that I might know you, love you and serve you in my generation so that one day I may hear you say, “We’ll done, good and faithful servant.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This sermon makes use of material from Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” (Zondervan) and is intended to motivate people to read the book and undertake the Purpose Driven Life 40 Days of Purpose.