A Purpose-Driven Church (Part One) (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon Preached at Poole Christian Fellowship 1 September 2013.

Listen to this talk (or download – right-click here and ‘Save as’):

 

We start a new series looking at the subject of what it means to be a church with a purpose, a mission.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us –
 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations” (Psalm 67)

This quote from Psalm 67 is all about the desire for God to bless us with His presence – not for its own sake, but so that God’s name may be known. It’s about knowing God, and making Him known. But before we talk about our own mission statement, some thoughts about what it means to be clear about where you are going:

A conversation from “Alice in Wonderland”:

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take she asked”? The response was a question:“Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know”, Alice answered.“Then”, said the cat, “it doesn’t matter”

If we don’t know where we are going – how will we know what decisions to make, and what we should be doing? In everything in life – we have to have a clear statement of purpose. Jesus was very clear about what he was called to do:

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost”

This sense of mission shaped everything that Jesus did on his three years of ministry. Similarly the church has to have a clear sense of its calling, a clear sense of what it is trying to do.

In our case, we know that we are not here to be a self-help group or a branch of social services, valid though this is. We are called to “know Jesus…and make Him known”. This sense of call or mission underpins everything we do. In this series we will be looking closely at each of the four statements that unpack this mission statement:

  1. Developing our relationship with God, learning to follow him, obey Him and become more like him
  2. Taking every opportunity to  share the  good news of the gospel
  3. Making disciples and teaching them to do the same
  4. Meeting together to encourage each other in our shared mission

Today we look at the first of these goals – developing our relationship with Jesus.

As Graham Kendrick wrote:

“Knowing you Jesus, knowing you, there is no greater thing”. So what does it mean to know Jesus – and how can we do it?

There are two verses from John’s gospel that it is useful to put together:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3 v 16)

And

“For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17 v 2-3)

In these two verses Jesus is showing us that his gift of eternal life is in fact a gift of relationship with Him. The greatest possession we have is the gift of knowing Him. Abraham, Moses, the Psalmists all testified to the absolute joy of having a relationship with, and knowing, God himself. And as Paul said: “I consider everything a loss compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. The question is “how?”

There are two aspects to our relationship with God – there is what we do, and there is what God does. We can not do God’s part – and God does not fulfil our part.

What We Do

We need:

A Priority – we always find time to do what we believe is important. Is our relationship with Jesus important enough for us to give time to?

A Place – a particular place where we spend time with God, that we go to every day can be a real help

A Time – a specific time that we meet with Jesus shows that it is a priority for us. All the great women and men of God have had a specific time and place  – n appointment with God that they keep daily.

Quiet – we can not meet meaningfully with God with the radio going in the background!

Routine – “routine” sounds a bit legalistic, but in fact having a routine to meet with god is no more legalistic that having breakfast every day.

 So what happens?

Everyone’s time with God is different, but there are some elements which will always characterise a strong relationship with God.

Confession – every relationship has to be cleared of problems. Sin no longer comes between us and God, but it does damage the relationship. Here is a daily opportunity to clear it up.

Worship – we need to remind ourselves of who God is, how great he is and how wonderful he is.

Word – this is the meat a vegetable of our time wih God, where we feed on the food that God has given us.

Prayer – and we talk to talk, thanking Him,  and asking Him for the things that we have and others have going on in their lives.

Each of the above elements could have several sermons on their own – this is only an overview, but it does give an indication of what is necessary in our relationship with Jesus. So that is what we do  – and we have to take full responsibility for what we do to develop our relationship with God. But  there is something that only God can do.

What God Does

The Holy Spirit makes our relationship with God possible. It is when God gives us His Holy Spirit that we come into a relationship with Jesus. But look at what Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better”

The Apostle Paul is speaking to people that have already received the Spirit and praying that God will continue to give them His Spirit. Later on in the letter he tells them to “Be filled with the Spirit” – to go on being filled. In other words for all of all we who have received the Spirit are to go on asking God to be filled on an ongoing basis by that same Spirit.  And the reason that Paul gives is “so that you may know Him better”. The key to knowing Jesus better is the ongoing infilling with the Holy Spirit. Jesus says much the same thing when he is encouraging us to  pray:

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then,though you are evil,know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

There are things that we have to do. We have to give the time, the discipline and the priority to developing our relationship with Jesus. But what only God can do is give us of His wonderful Holy Spirit – the life of God himself. Jesus encourages us to ask. Paul asks.

So let’s ask Him. Why? So that we may know Him better. And make Him known.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us –
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations”

John MacDiarmid

September 2013

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