2018.01.20 | What's Your Story? | Pt. 4, Every Story Has a Goal

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What’s Your Story | Pt. IV, Every Story Has a Goal

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead

Philippians 3:13

We started this new year with the theme “What’s Your Story” and the whole point of this theme and sermon series is all about recognizing that God often reveals His truth to us through stories. The Bible is full of stories and the Bible itself can be considered a giant story. In fact, even life itself is experienced as a story.

We went over how every story has a beginning, characters, and last week, conflict/character development. But what’s the point of all that? What’s the purpose of all that? That’s what we are talking about today. Every Story has a Goal.

1. For the Mind: The Goal of My Story is His Glory

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Now we, rightly so, tend to focus on Salvation. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved, you will be a Christian. Yes, that is definitely how we become a Christian. But is that all there is to be a Christian? Like, for the rest of our lives, are we just waiting to finally go to Heaven?

Like really think deeply about this question. If the entire point of Christianity is just getting saved, then why doesn’t God just zap us into Heaven right after we believe in Jesus? Like, how cool would it be the moment you believe in Jesus, all of a sudden a giant curtain just drops and all the angels pop out, “Surprise! Guess who we brought on the show today!” And you turn around and God is there. And it’s like, “Oh my God!” Like why can’t we all just go to Heaven right when we get saved?

Or why doesn’t He just make everything right? Like, if God is so in love with us, truly in love with us, why can’t He just make our lives perfect the moment we get saved? Why doesn’t He just make everything right? If He isn’t going to zap us into Heaven immediately, then why can’t He at least transform the Earth into Heaven?

The fact that God doesn’t do any of this means that there is more to Christianity in this life than just “getting saved.” God has a purpose for us in this world, not just in Heaven, but in this broken world. God has a purpose in all our lives, a goal in all our lives in this broken world. We are not just supposed to sit around waiting to go to heaven. Rather, there is a goal that God wants us to do in this world. What is it? What is the goal and purpose of our Christian lives?

In the book of Romans, Paul summarizes it quite simply and clearly.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:36

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

What is the goal of life, what is the goal of our story, the meaning of our story? The goal of our story, the meaning of our story, is the Glory of God. The Glory of God, to glorify God, is the ultimately goal and meaning of our story and all stories. The story of Creation, of humanity, of life and death and redemption is the Glory of God. All of it is to display something glorious ultimately about God. The goal of all history is to display His glory. It’s all about God all the time.

Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Now, how do we do that? What does that look like today? What does the story of God’s glory look like in human history? It looks like fulfilling the Great Commission.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

We call this the Great Commission. This is Jesus’s great command to all Christians of all ages. To make disciples of all nations, teaching everyone to live with Jesus and for Jesus. And this is what the story of God’s glory looks like in human history. God’s glory is displayed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And yes, there are other ways God’s glory shines in human history, but over and over, we see that when Christ is glorified, when Christ is the focus, when Christ is honored, God is most glorified. It’s Jesus, all about Jesus.

Glorifying God in our lifetime means obeying the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

But what does that mean? Does that mean that our goal in life to glorify God is just to wander around everywhere and tell everyone about Jesus? Yes, but, it’s much deeper than that. Because the Great Commissions doesn’t actually say make converts of all nations, it says make disciples of all nations. Fulfilling the Great Commission is about covering the Earth, not just with the message of Jesus, but also with love for Jesus. It’s not enough for them to just know the words, know the message, through random Gospel tracts. Yes they need the words, but they also need to grow in true love for Jesus. It’s not just converts, it’s disciples. It’s about spreading the glory of God, the goodness of God over the whole Earth.

And this is because this was always the goal. The goal of humanity has always been to spread God’s glorious goodness.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:28

This is the first command that God ever gives humanity in the Bible. Isn’t that amazing? This is the first command God gives humanity in the Bible. And when you compare this command with the Great Commission, do you see the parallel?

The words are different, but the underlying structure and theme is similar. Both verses are about spreading the domain of God, the goodness of God, the glory of God across the whole Earth. At first, we were spreading across the world the goodness that was inherent in all of Creation. Now we are spreading the goodness that is inherited only through Christ. But in both cases, it’s about expanding this sphere, this domain, this kingdom of blessing.

And what you see is that the Great Commission is a continuation of God’s original command in Genesis 1. The goal of humanity has always been to spread God’s glorious goodness and fill the Earth. And the Great Commission is how we do that in a sinful broken world.

So coming back to our original question about what does it mean to be a Christian, we see that the point of Christianity does not end at just, “Get saved.” As we look at Genesis 1, God didn’t create a universe just to save it. Rather, God created a universe to bless it. And saving it is now part of it. The purpose of life is not, “Get saved.” The purpose is to be a blessing to this whole world in every way. Spiritually, Emotionally, Physically, Financially, Artistically, whatever. The purpose is being a blessing for the glory of God. The goal of life is to be a blessing for the glory of God.

By being a blessing to others, and by being a blessing, as we help people fall deeper in love with Jesus Christ, this is what it means to make disciples of all nations, this is what it means to glorify God. All of us have a goal in life as a Christian. And it’s to glorify God by fulfilling the Great Commission and we do that by being a blessing for the glory of God.

2. For the Heart: We Have a New Identity and Goal

As you guys know, I really enjoy music. Specifically, a lot of blues music. Last week, Pastor David was able to come over my house and I was able to show him some guitar I have been practicing.

I love playing guitar. But I don’t enjoy singing. I get very shy when it comes to singing, I feel very uncomfortable singing. I have no confidence when it comes to singing. And there is a reason why.

A long long long time ago, when I was still in grade school, I don’t remember which grade, my friends invited me to a church event. And I went. And during this time, I knew nothing about music and honestly had no interest in music. Anyway, people were singing praise songs. And music was not yet a real part of my life. So I never really sang, ever in life until I sat in a church event.

So I just sat there. But I tried to sing. But remember, I never really sang before in my life. Anyway, I must have been terrible. Because the two people standing right in front of me, I still remember this, they both stopped worshipping, they turned around, looked at me, and then they started laughing during praise time.

Now, many years of past, but I have a hard time singing. Because I always remember that moment, the moment that struck me that I must be bad at singing.

That’s so crazy. That was so long ago. But I still feel very uncomfortable singing. I still feel very shy about singing. I am grown man now! I pay bills, I have a job, I am a church planter, I have a perfect wife, I even play guitar regularly now and music is a big part of my life now, but I still can’t sing, because I still remember that moment.

We have shared this in the first sermon of this series, Every Story has a Beginning. And we said that you can’t move forward if you are always looking backwards. And when it comes to music, I can’t move forward because I keep looking backwards.

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead

The Apostle Paul is so wise. Paul had really strong things in his past, defining moments and identities. Paul had an extremely strong old identity. And it’s not always in a good way. Some of Paul’s old identity was very negative. You have to understand, Paul really hurt a lot of people in his past. A lot of people. Paul’s old identity is not very compatible with Christ-like character. And once again, Paul’s old identity is deeply deeply rooted in him.

However, when Paul is in Jesus, he is given a new identity. We all are in Christ. We have freedom from our old identity.

How much freedom do we have? We have so much freedom that Paul goes as far as to say that he can forget what lies behind to strain forward to what lies ahead. And that’s what Jesus does. Jesus sets us free so that we can move forward from our old identities and pursue new goals.

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Matthew 9:9

Matthew was what was called a Tax Collector. Now even today, people hate the IRS. But it was different back then. Because Israel was occupied by Rome. And instead of absolutely just destroying and annihilating conquered nations, what Rome did was try to get benefit out of conquered nations through taxes and services etc. And that’s where Jewish Tax Collectors come in.

A Jewish Tax Collector was someone who bid for tax rights over a local area. And you would bid for these areas and if you paid Rome the most money, you earned the right to collect taxes for Rome in that area, it’s your territory. Now, the problem is that Tax Collectors were notorious, not only because they were willing to tax their own people for Rome, but to make money, they would demand extra taxes from the people. And they would keep the money for themselves. So if Rome asked for a certain amount, they would round it up, and keep the difference.

This is why people hated Tax Collectors. Because not only did they tax the people for Rome, they exploited their own people for money. They sold out their people, their inheritance. They sided with Rome against Israel just for a quick payoff.

And Matthew is a Tax Collector. Now imagine this scene, Jesus is walking past Matthew. And everyone is talking, “Oh, that is Jesus!” And Jesus is this new revolutionary teacher and leader in Israel. And Matthew is the traitor who sold our Israel. So imagine Matthew’s fear. Matthew knows he is traitor. Imagine if you are Matthew, and then you see Jesus walking straight toward your tax collecting table, and your blood begins to run cold as fear grips your heart, but then Jesus says “Follow me.” Matthew, even you, are being called to be my disciple. Matthew gets up, leaves everything and follows Jesus.

Now, here is the interesting thing. Matthew faithfully follows Jesus, but there is one thing Matthew never does in any of the Gospel. In all 4 Gospels, there is something Matthew never does. Matthew never talks. And that’s interesting. Most of the disciples say something in the Gospels, even if it is one sentence. Even some of the unknown ones say something. Matthew is one of the more well known ones. But he never speaks in the Gospels.

And it’s probably because of shame. When Matthew joined the disciples, everyone knew who Matthew was. Everyone knew his past. Everyone knew he was a tax collector who betrayed his people. Remember, Matthew was a tax collecter, so he counted money as his job. But among the disciples, who do the disciples elect as their treasurer? Judas Iscariot. They chose Judas over Matthew to guard their money. And once again, counting money was Matthew’s job. But no one trusted him.

Incidents like this must have really reminded Matthew of his shameful past. “Who am I to follow Jesus? Who am I to be a disciples?” And Matthew just quietly follows Jesus, never really showing up anywhere. But God has a different plan. God is not discouraged by your past. God still has a future for you.

Because if you open your Bibles to the New Testament, the first book of the New Testament is The Gospel according to Matthew. And God called the silent and shameful Matthew and turned him into an apostle and an author of the first book in the New Testament. God had a new identity and new goal for Matthew.

What if Matthew didn’t embrace the new identity and onto the old identities. What if Matthew so identified with his old identity that he kept saying, “No God! I will not write a book of the Bible! I am too unworthy!” Then we wouldn’t have a book of Matthew. By holding on to old identities, Matthew would be undermining his new goals.

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead

Christian, we all have regretful identities in the past. We all have regrets, sorrow, and scars. But don’t let regrets become your identity. Christians are not marked by regret but redemption. We are imperfect broken people with bad pasts and bad presents. But don’t live in the regret, live in redemption. God is redeeming us. And God is calling us to new goals. Don’t let your story be about regret, let it be about redemption.

Don’t choose your actions and your identities based on past regret, choose your action and your identity in your eternal redemption.

3. For the World: The Goal Makes Sense of Our Stories

John the Baptist

What then will this child become?

When you look at it, the answer seems, “Hmmmm nothing much.”

But his goal was not to be some influential priest or community leader like his father. John’s God-given goal was to prepare the way of King Jesus Himself. And Jesus Himself says that John the Baptist is the greatest prophet until Jesus. Can you imagine Moses and Elijah in heaven comparing themselves to John? John did no miracles! But John is the greatest!

Moses’s goal was to lead God’s people into the promised land. But he failed because of his own sins. Elijah’s goal was to turn people back to God. And he failed, remember how we said he got so depressed he ran away from his job.

There was this one moment when John the B was baptizing and in that moment, his disciples came and were like, “John! That guy Jesus, He is stealing our market!” In this moment, John the B was tempted to follow the world’s goals and expectations to be more successful.

John had a simple goal. Christ must increase I must decrease. That was his goal. And he lived according to that goal.

What if John didn’t say that. What if he tried to take the market for himself and all about himself? What if he got all the acclaim and all the attention for himself. He might have been popular for a moment. But one day, he will meet God. Then uh oh.

Brothers and sisters, it seems awesome to live according to the world’s goals. But when we meet God, we will be judged according to His goals. And we can come doing all kinds of things He never told us to do and none of the things that He told us to do.

And that’s hard right? Because John the B, his life goal probably would not be this way. Suffering and loss. This is not what he would plan for himself.

So how do we do it in the real world? How do we live it out in the real world when God’s goal for us seems so painful in light of our goal for ourselves?

14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

Nehemiah 5:14-19

When I first read this passage, I completely misunderstood it. Specifically verse 19. Let’s set the stage here. Nehemiah was a government official who became a governor of Judah after it was destroyed by the Babylonians and then the Persians. Nehemiah is one of the people who lead his people back to Jerusalem and try to rebuild the destroyed city. However, Nehemiah faces a ton of opposition, from neighboring wicked nations to internal corruption among the people.

Before this passage in Nehemiah, he was talking about the rulers who took advantage of the people of Israel. And how Nehemiah worked to set them free.

Now Nehemiah is talking about how there were several bad governors before him, people who got rich off of the people’s misery. Nehemiah, does not take advantage of the people. Rather, Nehemiah absorbs losses for the sake of his people. And then verse 19, Remember all the good I did for them God!

Wow! When I first read this, I thought Nehemiah was bragging, just flexin his spiritual muscles. And I thought to myself, what a jerk! This guy is totally bragging in his own book of the Bible. I wish I had a book in the Bible, I would brag like crazy too! And I was just so not blessed by this verse.

But then I thought more about it. And that’s when the perspective shifted.

Why does Nehemiah even write this? Was Nehemiah trying to teach God or brag to God or remind God? Probably not.

When you read the book of Nehemiah, he seems like this larger than life figure. Brave, godly, and intelligent, Nehemiah is able to do all kinds of things for the people. He is faithful. Nehemiah is the best. However, the more you read Nehemiah, you start to catch on to Nehemiah’s fears. In the very next chapter, Nehemiah is asking God to give him strength because he is afraid. And throughout the book, you sense Nehemiah’s fear at times.

And that’s when verse 19 made sense. Nehemiah was not bragging, Nehemiah was begging. “God, please make all my sacrifices worth it. Please remember all I have done.” Nehemiah was not being strong, Nehemiah was being weak. And Nehemiah was praying for help and reminding his heart that our stories will one day make sense in light of God’s glory. “God, remember my story. Because I know that everything I did only makes sense in light of your goal.”

We all need reassurance at times that the sacrifices in our story will be worth it in the end. The sacrifices only make sense in light of the goal.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19

It’s hard for us to endure when we don’t know why. The reason why we live our lives for Christ is because Jesus is alive. Paul’s life makes sense in light of eternity. We can endure temporary setbacks when we see the eternal goal.

You see, that’s one of the biggest ways Satan attacks us and discourages us in our story. He makes us forget why we are suffering and struggling. If Satan can’t stop us from serving God, Satan makes us forget WHY we serve God.

When our life story is full of trials and pain, bring it back to the eternal goal, the big picture. If we lose sight of the eternal goal, we will be so discouraged whenever anything happens. Because this world is all we have. But when we remember God’s eternal goal, when we remember all of eternity, only then will we able to let go of this temporary world. That’s why in the story of our lives, especially in the conflicts, the biggest fight is not just setbacks, but actually to remember and see the goal again.

When we go through the conflicts of life and the setbacks, when we take the temporary losses, let’s fight to see the eternal goal again.