What I would like to do to begin this morning is have each of you do some of the talking first. I'd like for each person to turn to someone that is seated near you. If there is no one near you, then you may have to move to where someone is near. Now, what I want you to do is share with each other one thought you have about God that causes you to express adoration and thanksgiving!
Question: Did you already have a thought like that on your mind, or did you have to stop what you were really thinking and come up with one? BE HONEST! If you had to think much at all to come up with this kind of thought, you might want to ask yourself why!
Let me ask you another question, "Why are you here today?" I can hear you saying to yourself, "I'm here to worship, why else do you come to church? Everyone knows that's the reason you go to church." Well, how many of you came today to worship God?
Now think about this: If we came to worship God, and thoughts that cause us to adore and thank God were not readily on our minds - what does that say about our worship? Think about this also: if those kind of thoughts are not readily on our minds in this environment, then what are the chances we have thoughts of God like that when we are alone or at work or at play - out there in the world? As Christians, our minds should be flooded with thoughts of God. Our thought life should be dominated by thoughts of God (and they would be if we were spending the time in God's word and meditation that we should be).
What is your thought life like? What thoughts dominate your thinking throughout the week? What is your mind occupied with? WHAT IS YOUR OCCUPATION? What is the principal business of your life? What activity are you engaged in?
Before we get into our primary subject this morning, I want us to first consider and think about the term "purpose". If I were to ask you, "What is your purpose in being here today"? Do you think everyone would give the same answer? This is like the question, "Why are you here?" Why did you get yourself out of bed this morning to come here? I'm not asking you to come up with the textbook answer. I'm asking you to search yourself for the purpose you have for coming to church.
If we were absolutely truthful with our answers, and we were to express them, we would probably have a variety of purposes expressed. For example: some may be here to truly worship God; some may be here to learn from God's word so they can be better equipped to live the rest of the week in obedience; some may be here to receive the only spiritual charge they get all week, because they are too busy or not disciplined enough (too lazy) to charge up on their own Monday through Saturday; some may be here because they've been taught that it is the right thing to do on Sunday (it's their God duty); and some may even be here so the rest of us will think they are doing all right spiritually, when in fact, they are miserable and living in sin, and don't want anyone to know or to confront them.
I think we would all agree that churches around the world are filled with people who are there for many reasons. However, did you know that everyone should be in church for the same primary purpose? And that primary purpose is not worship! Now don't misunderstand me. Worship is a purpose for which we should be here, but it is a secondary purpose, and, hopefully, the reason we worship is to fulfill our primary purpose.
Let me ask you another question to steer us toward that primary purpose, "What is God's purpose for you? When we do the things we do, what does God say our purpose for doing them should be?"
This past month I've been asking myself that question often. When I look in the mirror in the morning, I say, "Hey, what is your purpose anyway?" I do that to remind myself that I'm not here for my purposes, I'm here for God's purpose (something I had been ignoring for far too long), and because I have been focused on fulfilling His purpose for me, I have had more joy and peace and contentment in my life than I have had for a long, long time. And so has my family!
You know, I'm not sure many believers are aware of their primary purpose, because to look at the lives and lifestyles of many Christians, to see the way many believers respond to their circumstances, and to see the ways many believers spend their time, you would have to think they either don't know God's purpose for them, or they are just flat out living in disobedience.
Now, if God's purpose for our existence is to meet together just one day out of seven to remember Him through communion, music, and teaching, then many of us are fulfilling our purpose. And if God's purpose for our lives the other six days is to please or glorify ourselves through our jobs, through our careers, by doing what ever it takes to get a promotion, making as much money as we can, figuring out ways we can make more; getting married, having children; complaining about people who irritate us and offend us, complaining about our circumstances, worrying; seeing if we can cram eight days into seven; entertaining ourselves through TV, movies, football, baseball, golf, racing, hunting, fishing, eating; and so many other things that take up more of our time than God, then, many of us are fulfilling our purpose.
I venture to say, though, most of us here know that these are not our purpose for being. However, most of us, unfortunately, can find ourselves in one, or both of those descriptions. I also venture to say that many of us would not answer correctly if we were asked what God's purpose is for us.
What is God's purpose for us being here? Is it to influence our friends who are living in spiritual darkness that they also may know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it to worship Him? Well, those are what I consider secondary purposes that we accomplish to fulfill our primary purpose. "So, just what is our primary purpose?" you ask.
1 Corinthians 10:31: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
OUR PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR EXISTING IS TO GLORIFY GOD, IT'S AS SIMPLE AS THAT! Our purpose is not to glorify ourselves, it is to glorify God. It is not to glorify someone else, it is to glorify God. So, how do we glorify God? If our primary purpose is to glorify Him, then how do we do that?
If you were here three weeks ago, you know Dave preached a message called "Are You Happy", and we learned that wanting happiness is not a sin. We also learned from the scriptures how to obtain true happiness in life. One of the points of that message that stood out to me was: "Embrace (cherish, love) your relationship with God." I'd like for us to hear again Dave's introductory statement to this point. He said,
I don't know where you are spiritually right now. Maybe some of you here today have never made an effort to walk with Christ. Maybe your spirituality consists of attending church on Sunday and that is all. I want you to know there can be much more to having a relationship with God than what we do here on Sunday morning. Living the Christian life is about more than just doing good deeds for God. It is about having a spiritual connection with God that lasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Then, two weeks ago, Dave preached a message called "True Worship". In that message we heard that we can worship God any time or any place. We heard that unless we learn to worship God everyday through the week, we are probably not worshiping Him on Sundays. We are just "playing church."
Worship, we heard, is a redeemed heart OCCUPIED WITH GOD, expressing itself in adoration and thanksgiving. It is this point, of being OCCUPIED WITH GOD, that we will concentrate on this morning. Being "occupied with God" means to engage our attention and our energies on Him. Let me say this as we now turn our focus on what our "occupation" should be: if you are a Christian, and your mind is not totally occupied with God; if your attention and your energies are not engaged on Him; then you are living in disobedience, and when you live in disobedience, you are not glorifying God, thus you are not fulfilling your primary purpose!
The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. 'Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God' (1 Corinthians 10:31). Now some of us might be thinking that is a high standard to meet! Well, let's look at what Jesus says:
Matthew 22:37,38: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment."
(I thought you might want to know it is not my standard we are talking about here.)
The word "heart" is from the Greek word kardia, and is used figuratively here to mean: "the thoughts or feelings (mind)." The word "mind" is from the Greek word dianoia, which means: "deep thought." Our entire mind is supposed to be engaged in deep thoughts about God. This is why I made the comment that believers' minds should be flooded with thoughts of God, and should be dominated by thoughts of God. This same word is used in Ephesians 4:23: "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind."
An interesting thing about this verse is found in the definition of the word "renewed" which comes from the Greek word ananeoo, which means: "to renovate; i.e. reform." Renovate means: "to restore to a better state, restore to life, vigor, and activity." Can you think of a better way to renovate your mind than filling it with thoughts of God? (Biblical thoughts found in the scriptures.) WE NEED TO RENOVATE OUR THINKING, and if we are not spending time in the scriptures everyday, then I have news for you, our minds are being renovated by the world's thoughts, not God's!
In the passage in Matthew, Jesus wasn't simply making a suggestion - He was giving a command. God, our creator, commands us to love Him, and do you see where this love has to begin? It begins in our thinking!
The word "great" is from the Greek word megas, which means: "exceedingly great."Jesus says that the first and exceedingly great commandment is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind!
Let's stop for a minute to think about human relationships. When you are deeply in love with someone, how often do you think about that person? How much are they on your mind? How many days a week do you spend with them? Only one a week, right? NO!!! They are constantly on your mind, and you want to spend time with them every day. You know this is true!
Now think about how much time you spend with God, and how much your thinking is filled with thoughts of Him, and tell me how much you love Him. How much is God really on your mind? How much time do you really spend with Him? How much of your thinking is occupied with deep thoughts of Him?
Just what is your occupation? What activities are you engaged in the most - Spiritual ones or worldly ones? We will never experience true happiness, and we will never be true worshipers of God, and we will never fulfill our primary purpose until the God of the bible permeates our thinking.
Proverbs. 23:7 says: "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..."
Right thinking produces right behavior, and right behavior glorifies God. Scripture very clearly tells us that our thinking is to be occupied with God and the things of His kingdom, not the things on this earth or the things of the world.
Unfortunately, many Christians are like the Israelites were. The Israelites would live like the dickens all year, being earthly minded, then come together once a year to make a sacrifice to God, and their mentality was one that said, "There, that ought to do for another year."
Similarly, many Christians live Monday through Saturday focused on themselves and worldly things, then come to church on Sunday and have the mentality that says, "There, that ought to do for another week"! Many believers are just "playing church".
Paul, in writing to the Colossians, tells us very clearly that we are not to be earthly minded:
Colossians 3:1-2: "If ye then be risen with Christ, (if is in the first class condition which means if, and it is so) seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection (mind) on things above, not on things on the earth".
Seek is from Greek word zeteo' which means: "to covet earnestly." It implies persevering effort.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that most Christians today don't have a persevering effort in seeking things above. Far too many believers are worldly minded. Their minds are more occupied with worldly thoughts and desires than with the things from above. Folks, that is so wrong! As believers, we need to remind ourselves daily that since we are risen with Christ, we are in the Kingdom of God, and all of our thoughts have got to be different.
Jesus, himself, teaches us that His kingdom is not of this world. He said that His kingdom is not from here:
John 18:36: "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
God's kingdom is the spiritual realm we enter when we believe the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of the regeneration of our hearts (God's work of grace). This verse tells us that this kingdom is not of this world. The word "world" is from the Greek word kosmos, which has several meanings depending on its usage. In this particular verse it means: "earthly origin and nature." So, God's kingdom does not have an earthly origin. That's why Paul would tell the Colossians to seek those things above, not on earth.
This same word is used in 1 John with a different meaning:
1 John 2:15-17: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
In these verses the word "world" means: "worldly affairs; the aggregate (sum total) of things earthly; the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc.", which, although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.
It is used in the same sense in Galatians:
Gal. 6:14: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
The Living Bible puts it this way,
"As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross my interest in all the attractive things of the world was killed long ago, and the world's interest in me is also long dead."
Can you honestly say as Paul said, "Because of the cross, my interest in all the attractive things of the world is dead, it was killed long ago"? Can you, really?
It should be obvious from the fact that Paul penned over half the new testament that his mind was totally occupied with truths about God, and because his "occupation" was God, in particular the cross of God and what it meant, he lived a life that pleased God.
So, let's spend the rest of our time looking at some truths from scripture that our minds should be occupied with all the time.
1. How occupied are you with the truth, that even though you deserve death (eternal separation from God), God has spared you from that fate by choosing you to be saved before the creation of the world?
2 Thessalonians. 2:13: "But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth."
Ephesians 1:4-8: "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--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."
The word "lavished" comes from the Greek word perisseuo: "to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous; abundance, (be more) abundant."
Far too many of us take our salvation for granted. Just think, some people are created to be vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.
Romans 9:13-23: "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory..."
Aren't you thankful you're not one of them? But how occupied is our thinking with the truth that, "except for the grace of God, there go I"?
2. How occupied are you with the truth of God's grace?
Ehpesians. 2:1-10: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them".
We know from the scriptures that the wages of sin is death. We were born sinners, therefore we were born dead. It is only because of God's grace we were made alive. ANYTHING WE RECEIVE SHORT OF DEATH IS PURE GRACE. How often do you remember this truth?
3. How occupied are you with the truth that God is holy and expects us, as His children, to live holy lives that honor and glorify Him?
Lev. 11:44,45: "For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy."
1 Sam. 2:2 (NIV): "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God."
Psalm 99:5: "Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy"
1 Pet. 1:13-16: "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Rev. 4:8: "And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."
Rev. 4:11: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
Let me repeat a question we were asked during last weeks message, "Does our obedience reflect our understanding of God's holiness? We have a problem with obedience, because our minds are occupied with the wrong thoughts. How can we understand God's holiness if His word doesn't permeate our thinking? How can we expect to live lives that glorify God without our minds being occupied by His truths, and being occupied with thoughts of Him that are produced by those truths? And the answer is, WE CANNOT!!!
If I was a betting man, I'd bet that the minds of everyone who has been listening are pretty occupied with biblical thoughts of God - right now, that is. HOWEVER! I wonder what our minds will be occupied with at any given moment Monday through Saturday. Or, when we walk out of here today! That's the real key, folks. As Dave said three weeks ago, "The Christian life is about more than just doing good deeds for God. It is about having a spiritual connection with God that lasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week." Let's be honest with ourselves - most of us do not maintain a spiritual connection 24 hours a day, seven days a week. WHY NOT? WE ARE TOO OCCUPIED WITH OURSELVES!
IT'S TIME TO BE HONEST! All of us are very occupied with ourselves, and I submit to you that this is the very reason our thoughts are not occupied with God. It's time we all stood before a mirror and admitted that when there is something we want for ourselves or something we enjoy doing, we almost always find a way to get it or do it, and whatever it is will be constantly on our minds until we get it or do it. All of us know that is true!
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says this, "What a miserable thing self is, what an ugly thing, what a foul thing."
By the way most Christians live, I'd have to say that most of us aren't very conscious of this fact. Let's face it - many, many Christians allow themselves to be seduced by the world and its goods and pleasures, because they are selfish and as a result, they fail to please God and glorify Him.
1 Corinthians6:20: "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's", or
1 Corinthians 10:31: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God".
Romans 12:1,2: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
We are to be living sacrifices. We are supposed to give ourselves up, we are to be holy, we are to be acceptable to God - that's our reasonable service. After all, God spared us from eternal death and gave us, by His grace, eternal life instead. Because of that, anything he asks or tells us to do is reasonable.!!!! Let's commit today, before we leave this place, to being transformed (changed) by the renewing (anakainosis,; from G341; renovation:--renewing.)of our minds.We cannot, and will not be changed until our thinking is changed.
Proverbs. 23:7: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..."
I AM AT A LOSS FOR WORDS TO EXPRESS STRONGLY ENOUGH THE IMPORTANCE OF BELIEVERS MAKING GOD THEIR OCCUPATION. IF WE DON'T OBEY GOD, WE DON'T GLORIFY HIM. IF WE ARE NOT OCCUPIED WITH HIM, WE ARE NOT OBEYING HIS FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT:
Matthew 22:37,38: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment."
In closing, I want to challenge all of us to be asking ourselves today and everyday, "What is God's purpose for me being here? Is it for my glory or His - for the one who is perfect, who is holy, who is just, who created all things (including me), who chose me to be His child, who spared me from eternal separation from Him?" Folks, everything that is belongs to God, so why do we live our lives as if they belong to us? WE BELONG TO GOD!
Remember 1 Corinthians 6:20: "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's", and whatever you do...do it to glorify God!