Pastor Terry Tatum
Last week Pastor Craig introduced our new sermon series and church-wide study, What on Earth am I Here For?, based on the book The Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. Through this study we are looking at what God has called us to be — our purpose. More details about this study are on our website: mylhumc.net/purpose-driven.
I have to confess that I got a little emotional when Craig mentioned to me that he wanted to do this study. You see, almost 18 years ago in the fall of 2003 our church went through this same study. At that time my wife Carrie and I were seeking God and trying to understand what all this Christian stuff really was. I woke up around 5 am each day to read that day’s Purpose Driven Life reading before I went to work. I was truly searching for God. I was attending church, going to Sunday School, and even coming for a Wednesday night study. I was walking, talking, and acting like a Christian but I had never given my life to Christ.
When I read the first line in the book again last week, I had a flashback to a moment that changed my life. When I first read Pastor Rick’s opening statement, “It’s not about you,” I vividly remember thinking to myself, “Oh really?” Nevertheless, I dug into this study trying to discover my purpose. Along the way I found Christ.
One morning, by myself at my kitchen table I gave my life to Christ. That decision not only changed my life but also my family’s life. That one decision will have an impact on my family and church family for years to come. I speak from experience when I tell you that this study will change you if you let it!
Since that day I have been on a journey with Christ. I now understand that “it’s not about me” and that my purpose is to serve Him. But before I could do that, I had to learn how to do one thing: I had to learn how to be loved. I was learning how to give love, but I needed to learn how to receive it.
It’s been my experience that at the end of someone’s life there are really only two things that matter: Were they able to love and were they able to receive love?
Truly receiving love starts with understanding how much God loves YOU.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will … (Ephesians 1:4–5 NIV).
Your number one purpose isn’t to do something for God, it is to receive something from God … His love!
If church isn’t your thing, if you’re reading this only because someone you care about emailed it to you, or if you think you really don’t need to hear this today…YOU do! A lot of people are going to miss out on Heaven by 18 inches: the distance between our head and our heart. You may understand God’s love intellectually, but you need to understand it in your heart! This message is for YOU!
Let me ask you a question: How would your life be changed if you began to be aware of God’s never-ending love for you? How different would your life be if the first thing you thought of when you got out of bed each day was, “I am deeply and unconditionally loved by God”?
Let’s consider four ways our lives would be changed if we truly understood God’s love:
First, understanding God’s love allows us to feel accepted rather than ashamed.
I bet everyone reading this message has battled the feeling of insignificance. We all feel sometimes as if we don’t matter and that our past actions have made it impossible to be loved by God. Even though I know we have all felt it, I want you to know that YOU are wrong.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Roman 5:1 NLT).
You are completely and totally accepted by God. Do you understand what that means? You don’t have to act or dress a certain way, you don’t have to do things you know you shouldn’t do to be accepted, you “have been made right in God’s sight by faith.”
If you want to be set free from feelings of insignificance, you need to wrap your mind around this truth. Please don’t misunderstand and think that I’m suggesting a license to live an ungodly lifestyle or that you should just go around sinning. What I am saying is that God’s love gives you the freedom to know that, no matter what, you are loved and accepted by God. You don’t have to feel judged or ashamed by taking anything to Him.
You were created for God’s pleasure and he loves you. When you sin, He still loves you. When you feel unworthy, He still loves you. When you feel like there is no way you can go on, He still loves YOU!
When we understand this we become bold in bringing our needs before God.
I learned almost 18 years ago that I was a child of God. He’s my dad, my Heavenly Father. I’m a part of the family of God and YOU are a part of the family of God, too!
The Apostle Paul wrote: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14–15 NRSV)
I don’t know if you caught this or not, but two of the scriptures we’ve looked at so far reference the word “adoption.” Think about that, God loved you so much that He not only created you, He made you part of His family. He thought YOU had what it took to be called his child. With that mindset it should be much easier to be bold in bringing your needs to God.
No matter what has happened don’t ever forget you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. And because of that we can cry out, “Abba! Father!” In other words, “Daddy!” He’s YOUR dad. You can tell Him anything.
When you understand God’s great love and have experienced it, you can have peace in pain you don’t understand.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 NIV).
Paul is writing this from a place of love, a place where God has rescued him from situations he didn’t really understand and has given him “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.”
A lot of times when people realize I’m a pastor — after they give me a funny look and say “You’re a pastor?” — one of two things happens: the conversation either becomes really spiritual or they put all their issues with God out there for me to fix. When the latter happens, the only thing I know to do is to tell them about the peace I’ve found in Christ. It’s a peace “which transcends all understanding.” That’s what God did for me. I still have lots of problems but I have peace that transcends all understanding.
Now, there are still a whole lot of things I just don’t understand … Why do people die young? Why do people get addicted to things? Why won’t people just do what I want them to do? I have more questions for God now than I did before I became a Christian. And I have had my share of heartaches and disappointments. I bet you have, too.
Just about all of us have felt rejection at some point in our lives. Somewhere along the way someone has done you wrong, or just been awful to you. How many of you have felt the pain of judgment from yourself or from others?
You may not believe it, but most all of us have been there. And even though I’ve given my life to Christ, I don’t know why these things have happened. But I do understand how much God loves me. I understand I’m his child. And that means I can peace in pain I don’t understand. You can have that, too.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28NIV).
You were called to God’s purpose for your life. You were called to be loved.
The fourth thing that can happen when you know that you are totally loved by God is that you can worship instead of worry.
I’m guessing that when you hear the word “worship” you think of the music at church. That is very much a part of worship but that isn’t all worship is. Worship is the sermon, the prayers, the offering, the note-taking, the hellos and smiles, and even things you do outside of church. Worship should take place every second of every day, in every aspect of our lives.
How in the world do I do that, you ask? As the Psalmist says: Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. (Psalm 105:4 NRSV) From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. (Psalm 113:3 NIV)
Constantly seeking God is worship. Living your life for Him is worship. It’s what we are designed to do. You can’t do that if you are worrying!!! When you understand that God loves YOU no matter what, you begin to realize who is really in control. If we will just get out of the way, the Creator of the Universe can handle things, I promise.
I mentioned earlier about feeling insignificant. Worrying is the opposite of that. Somehow, we think that our worrying is going to change things. It won’t because we aren’t that powerful! But God is!
Our powerful God has called you to be loved by Him for eternity. But consider this: The problem isn’t that you worry instead of worship. That is a byproduct of the real problem. The problem is that you have not fully accepted how truly loved by God you are! Or as Rick Warren says, “The problem is not that you don’t love God. The problem is you don’t know how much God loves you.”
God can handle your problems! Don’t ever forget when Jesus said, “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)
Remember: YOU are loved by your Heavenly Father! Live your calling – YOU have been called to be loved by God!