Some questions always have the potential of starting a challenging, thought provoking discussion. Always have that potential? Yes, always. How can any question always have the potential of producing a challenging, thought provoking discussion?

First, the question is relevant to every person's life. Any person who asks the question must answer the question. A person can choose to ignore the question, but no one can say the question does not concern his or her life

Second, everybody has an answer to the question. Everyone has a viewpoint, and their viewpoint is the foundation of their answer. That viewpoint might be specific, or it might be general, but every person has one.

Third, each person considers his or her answer to be important. He or she holds his or her viewpoint for a reason. That reason is personally important.

"Can you give us an example of that kind of question?" I am glad you asked! I surely can. My example: what is the purpose of life? You might want to qualify your answer, but I guarantee you that you have an opinion, a viewpoint, an answer. I would be surprised if one older teenager or one adult present could honestly say, "I have never thought about that question." If you thought about it, you have an opinion.

  1. I want you to consider three New Testament situations and ask yourself what all three had in common.
    1. The first situation involved Mary, Jesus' mother, when she learned about her conception (Luke 1:29-38).
      1. God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, Galilee to inform an engaged virgin named Mary that she would conceive a child while a virgin, before she married.
        1. Gabriel greeted her: "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you."
        2. That greeting deeply disturbed Mary; she did not understand it.
        3. Gabriel said, "Don't be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God."
          1. "You will conceive a son and name him Jesus when he is born."
          2. "This son will be a great person; he will be called the son of the Most High; and God will place him on David's throne where he will rule over Jacob's descendants forever in an endless kingdom."
          3. Mary answered, "I don't see how that is possible. I am a virgin."
          4. Gabriel answered, "It is possible because the Holy Spirit and God will cause it to happen, and the son born will be called God's Son."
          5. As an evidence, Gabriel informed Mary that Elizabeth, an older relative, was pregnant (for the first time). He said, "Nothing will be impossible for God."
      2. Mary's response: "I am God's servant. Be it done to me according to your word."
      3. What an incredible response! "I am God's servant. If God wants me to be an unmarried, pregnant virgin and have a special son, let it happen to me."
    2. The second situation involved the son Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:8-25).
      1. This time Gabriel appeared to the elderly priest, Zachariah.
        1. He was offering incense in the temple when an Gabriel appeared.
        2. Fear gripped Zachariah when he saw Gabriel.
        3. Gabriel said, "Don't be afraid; your petition to God has been heard, and your wife will have a son whom you are to name John."
        4. "You and many others will rejoice when he is born."
        5. "He will be an unusual child; before birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit; he will never drink an alcoholic drink; and he will cause many people in Israel to return to God."
        6. "He will prepare Israel to receive someone special."
      2. Zachariah said, "My wife and I are old. How do I know this will happen?"
        1. Gabriel responded, "God send me to bring you this good news."
        2. "Since you do not trust this news, you will not speak until John is born."
      3. John was born and became an unusual preacher.
        1. He lived in the wilderness; he wore crude clothes; and he ate crude food; he never used alcohol; he never cut his hair--we would see nothing physically appealing about John.
        2. But he perhaps was the most powerful, convicting preacher Israel ever knew.
        3. Thousands came to the wilderness to hear him; thousands repented; and thousands were baptized.
        4. Jesus once said that no one ever physically born was greater than John (Matthew 11:11).
      4. In today's terminology, John was weird and lived a very basic, difficult life.
    3. The third situation had to do with the Christian Paul.
      1. Prior to his conversion to Jesus Christ, Paul was a violent, dedicated enemy of Christians.
      2. He organized the persecution and arrest of Christians.
      3. He did everything in his power to destroy the church.
      4. As he was on his way to another country (Syria) to arrest Jewish Christians in Damascus and return them as prisoners to Jerusalem, he met the resurrected Jesus Christ (Acts 9).
        1. Years later Paul explained what happened that day when he discovered Jesus really was the Christ.
        2. This is what he remembered Jesus saying to him:
          (Acts 26:16-18) "But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."
        3. From that moment Paul's life was never the same: the persecutor of Christians became the persecuted Christian.
        4. He endured incredible suffering for Jesus and for Christians.
    4. What do those three situations have in common?
      1. All three incidents provide a powerful answer to our question, "What is the purpose of life?"
        1. Why was a virgin willing to be pregnant when she knew how people would react to her pregnancy?
        2. Why was a preacher willing to live a strange life in the wilderness when God gave him an enormously important people mission?
        3. Why was the persecutor of Christians willing to become a persecuted Christian?
      2. The answer is to be found in their common understanding of life's purpose.

  2. So I ask you, what is the purpose of life?
    1. There are many, many different answers to that question, but you have one of them.
      1. Some say life has no purpose: you live and die, and that is all there is to life.
      2. Some say life's purpose is to survive: whatever you need to do in your situation to survive, do it.
      3. Some say life's purpose is centered in "me:" my happiness, my pleasure, my success, my desires, my future.
      4. Some say the purpose of life is your family: whatever you need to do for the good of your family, do it.
      5. Some say the purpose of life is seen in your heirs: the purpose of everything you do is found in what you pass on to your family when you die.
    2. Genesis informs us that human life began perfectly connected to God.
      1. At some point, evil [through deception] was invited into human existence, and, at that moment, Satan disconnected people from God.
      2. Not only did evil break our prefect connection will God, but it also totally perverted our world.
        1. Our relationship with God was perverted.
        2. Our human relationships were perverted.
        3. Our marriage relationships were perverted.
        4. The home was perverted.
        5. Sex was perverted.
      3. In that perversion:
        1. Innocence become fear.
        2. Love became injustice.
        3. Purity became guilt.
        4. Trust became cynical doubt.
        5. Openness became deceit.
      4. Do you want to see the perversion?
        1. When God presented Eve to Adam for the first time, Adam said, (Genesis 2:23) "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." Awe, appreciation, gratitude, acceptance! Adam knew Eve was a unique gift from God!
        2. Do you remember the first statement Adam made about Eve after they both surrendered to the deception of evil?
          (Genesis 3:12) The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." The woman, blame, rejection, disclaimer! What a change in perspective!
    3. From the moment evil became a part of the human condition forward, God has had a single objective in people: reconciliation; reconnect people to God.
      1. Mary understood the purpose of life was to serve the purpose of God.
      2. John understood the purpose of life was to serve the purpose of God.
      3. Paul understood the purpose of life was to serve the purpose of God.
      4. They each understood that God's purposes are bigger than the convenience and the physical existence of the person.
        1. They understood a reality was at stake that was much bigger than they were.
        2. If God could use them to advance His eternal purpose in reconciling people to Himself, may God be glorified in the use of their lives.
    4. What would I give my children?
      1. If I give my children a great education but do not open their eyes to God's eternal purposes, I give them nothing.
      2. If I give my children a wonderful standard of living but do not open their eyes to God's eternal purposes, I give them nothing.
      3. If I give my children a bright future on earth but do not open their eyes to God's eternal purposes, I give them nothing.
      4. If I give my children wealth but do not open their eyes to God's eternal purposes, I give them nothing.
      5. If I give my children great opportunity for success but do not open their eyes to God's eternal purposes, I give them nothing.
      6. No matter what I do, if I fail to open my eyes to God's eternal purposes, I am nothing.
      7. God's eternal purposes are enormous when compared to anything in physical existence, and that will be beyond dispute the moment you and I die.

[Prayer: God, help us escape the deceit of this physical existence. Help us understand that Your eternal purposes are bigger than physical life. Help us understand that the greatest thing that could ever happen to us or for us is eternal reconciliation with You.]

I am afraid that we are too much like Lot when God sent angels to help Lot escape the certain destruction of Sodom. The influences of Sodom destroyed Lot's wife and daughters. They perhaps destroyed Lot also. Nothing in Sodom that was good for Lot. But he thought Sodom was good for him. Lot did not want to leave. Because Lot refused to see the dangers, he lost everything.

Outside God's purposes, we are the victims of evil and its deceit. Evil tells us the physical is all that matters. We like the physical. We like the indulgence of now. The eternal is an unimportant hypothetical. The physical is real. We are tempted to take our chances with the physical. We don't see the dangers. And, like Lot, if we live for the physical, we will lose everything.

If you serve God's purposes, God's purposes must be bigger than you are, more important than you are. God's purposes moved Mary to accept pregnancy as a virgin. God's purposes moved John to live a very strange lifestyle. God's purposes moved Paul to rejoice in persecution.

What do God's purposes move you to do? In you, what do God's purposes have to do with your real purpose in life?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 November 2000

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