The following represents the first in a series about the Mission of God and his church. Over the next several weeks we will be going from large to small, from the Mission of God to my mission as his follower. Check in weekly to follow this series.
If you’ve been around Cornerstone for the past month you may
have noticed a theme in the Sunday morning sermons. We’ve been talking a lot about community and
loving one another. Last week, in the
midst of our discussion on love, we talked a bit about the body of Christ and
what it might look like if we truly loved one another and worked together in a
unified way to accomplish what God has set for us to do.
As I started thinking about this week and the direction I
wanted to go for the next few weeks I thought about where it is that
Cornerstone is headed and what it means for us.
Maybe you haven’t been here that long and you’re just trying to figure
out what we’re all about. You see the
black wall behind me and these weird statements on the wall and you’re not
really sure what that’s all about. Maybe
you’re looking at the paintings and thinking, “ok, so you like art. What else you got?” Maybe you’re trying to figure out if this is
the church for you.
The truth is we’re all on a mission. Whether we realize it or not, there’s a
mission that has been set before us to complete. Not only that, but if you elect to unite
yourselves with Cornerstone as a member, you need to know that there is a
mission we are on as a church. In fact,
there are several missions we are already involved with, which you’ll hear
about more the more you come.
But I was looking for a good starting place for us to define
why it is that we’re here, what it is that we’re doing. I want to spell that out a bit for us and
hopefully build a case for our mission as followers of Jesus. The more one spends reading scripture, the
more evident it becomes that God is doing something in the world. It’s easy to look at your own life and assume
that life is all about you. Interestingly,
if you really think about it, it’s impossible for you to see the world through
any lens than that of your own life. If,
however, you spend time in scripture, if you read through the whole Bible, it
becomes more and more obvious that there is a larger narrative going on, that
maybe life isn’t completely about you.
What I want to do today is to try to explain this larger
narrative and hopefully paint a picture about the bigger story going on behind
the story that we might normally see.
If I look at my own life, I picture things in a certain
way. I tend to think of my own
childhood. I think about my life
experiences, different teachers I had in school, friends I made, and other
people I knew. I usually picture my life
in a series of still photographs or short video clips that play on a loop in my
brain. I can remember specific emotions
from certain times and I can conjure images (sometimes cloudy) of other people involved. The point is, though, that I see my life
through my own eyes. When I look at my
life in relation to the Gospel, though, I begin to see a bigger picture. I begin to see a narrative that places me in
a larger context that shows me that all of life is not about me. I’m sure that’s comforting for you to
know. I finally realized that life is
not about me.
So what is the big picture?
What’s the idea behind what is going on in the world? I think before we ask ourselves these
questions we should perhaps ask the bigger question: If I’m not the center of the universe, who
I think the appropriate place to start would be in the
In the first two chapters of the Bible we meet with
interesting prose. Without really
anything in the way of prologue, we are told that God created. I think that right here we sometimes enter
into some rather useless debate. It’s
funny how we can do that. We’re told
that God created and immediately we ignore the “who” of the story and move
straight to the “how.” We want to know
how God created the heavens and the earth.
We’ll bring in experts who will describe how old the earth is and why
this particular theory is the truth and not the other theory. It’s useless because I don’t think it really
matters. If you continue to read the
Bible, you’ll discover that the creation story is relatively short. It’s basically covered in four chapters in
Genesis (which includes not only the creation story, but the story of the Fall)
and then there’s a chapter of genealogy and then you get to Noah.
If you’re going by space devoted, Creation is a relatively
unimportant part of the text except for this:
God created. Not only is there a
God, but he created everything. I think
it’s interesting that there is nothing said about God that would tell us who he
is. The first thing we encounter about him
is that he is big enough and powerful enough to create literally
everything. With this must come the
knowledge of how to create (because he certainly doesn’t tell us) and the
wisdom to know what to do with it after it was made.
Let me digress for just a moment to talk about
creation. Understand that there was
nothing here at the moment. I think that
maybe we can get confused about creation.
After all, there are creative people, right. Creative people write music and books. Creative people take paint and canvas or wood
and perform feat of wonder with a brush.
Creative people sculpt and carve statues. There are many ways for humans to be
creative, but there is a big difference.
When humans create, they use raw materials and fashion them in a particular
way. If they mess up they can erase a
word, change a note, or cover it up with a new color. There were no raw materials when God
created. He made the raw materials. And he did it thousands of years before it
would be needed. He made iron before it
could ever be extracted from stone and smelted to make steel.
The power and majesty of God, the very holiness of God is
such that all he has to say is “let it be” and it is. These first few words of scripture are
extraordinary because they let us in on a God who is overwhelming. All we must do is ponder that for a moment to
understand what he’s saying.
It seems that he created everything simply because he wanted
to. I had a professor in college who
used to say this about Creation: “It’s
not ‘how’, but ‘who’, moving rapidly towards ‘why.’” The “how” is completely unimportant and I
think the Enemy uses that as a tool to distract us from what’s important. God created.
If that is true and if the “how” us unimportant, then the next logical
question is seemingly “why?”
This is where we get into the fun part of the story. Remember, we’re dealing with the
meta-narrative of the Bible. What is
really going on here? God created
everything. He put the world in
motion. He designed things to run in a
specific way. Everything was
God-breathed, and God-ordained. John 1
says that there was nothing made that wasn’t made by God. God is the center of everything. Everything has meaning because God gives it
meaning. If God is central, then what
does that say about me?
I believe, and I think that scripture bears this out, that
everything that is on earth was put on earth to worship God. Let me try to explain this using scripture.
In one of the most beloved Psalms I think we actually get a
picture of not only God’s plan, but his mercy on us. Perhaps the pastoral nature of this Psalm
throws us off a bit because our society has become less and less agrarian and
more industrial, but the first line in this Psalm is full of theology. “The Lord is my shepherd.” Even the word “pastor” has taken on new
meaning in our society. It has come to
mean someone who preaches in a church.
The word “pastor” literally means “shepherd.” It has a very agrarian, agricultural
connotation. The Israelites would have
understood what this meant because they were used to shepherds. David himself was a shepherd. These were more than words. This represented the idea that God was in
complete control. He was the one around
whom all of life circled.
If you’ve ever been around sheep, you realize very quickly
that they are not very bright animals.
Sheep must be led everywhere.
They can’t think for themselves.
Cows and horses will wander around until they find food and water. Sheep will only go so far if left to
themselves. The shepherd actually had to
lead the sheep to find good grass and still water. That’s another thing. Sheep don’t drink from running water. The shepherd was literally responsible for
the sheep’s life and death. If he didn’t
take care of everything, the sheep would all die.
These words were very real for David. He knew what it meant to be a shepherd, so he
also must have known what it was to be a sheep.
He had seen sheep behavior, knew what they would and wouldn’t do, knew
what it took to lead them. By calling
God the shepherd, he was calling himself a sheep. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not
want.” God takes care of all of our
needs. He makes sure that we have what
we need to stay alive.
If we were to stop with the first two verses of this Psalm
we might get the idea that the sheep are a pretty big deal. If we rested on the first two verses, it
might occur to us that the shepherd does a whole lot so the sheep can stay
alive, therefore the sheep must be pretty special, the sheep must be what all
the fuss is about.
I think that’s sometimes what we do. We sing “Jesus Loves Me” and talk about how
much God must have loved us to send his son to die for us. We make a big deal about Jesus’ sacrifice for
us and it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We are, in fact, pretty special, after
all. God did actually form us from the
dust. Everything else he spoke into
being, but we were shaped from the dust and were actually breathed into life by
It’s nice to be made much of, but in this case it’s an incomplete
thought. There is, after all, verse 3.
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s
sake.” What is that last phrase? “For his name’s sake?” What does that mean? Maybe the sheep aren’t as big of a deal as
the shepherd. Maybe the sheep are simply
sheep. Maybe because the shepherd is the
one doing all the protecting and guiding, he is the one who is important. I’ve heard it said this way: There are two kinds of theology, cat and dog
theology. The cat says, “My owner feeds
me, takes care of me, and cleans up after me.
I must be God.” The dog, however,
says, “My owner feeds me, takes care of me, and cleans up after me. He must be God.”
God loves us. This is
true. God is for us. This is also true. But perhaps, because he does these things, it
doesn’t mean that we are the point, but that he is the point. Did you catch that? God is the point. Not you, not me, God. David told us in shepherd language that the
shepherd is a pretty big deal. The sheep
are just sheep. In fact, being sheep,
the idea that God would lead us to green pastures and still waters proves that
it must be about him. Think for a moment
about sheep. What are they good for? You’ve got wool, leg of lamb, and more
sheep. That’s it. You can’t hook a sheep to a plow and expect
to get very far. You can’t ride a sheep
unless you’re 2. You can make socks and
dinner out of a sheep. If the sheep were
the point, it would be really sad.
So what does this say about God? We’re talking about the mission of God, so
what is it?
2 Peter 3:9
I could stand here for the next 45 minutes and read you
verse after verse that speaks about God’s glory. I could try to weave an eloquent theological
argument about the merits of knowing and worshipping a God who deserves our
worship. The fact is that these things
are true. We exist for God’s glory. We were created to worship him. In fact, all of creation was made to worship
God. From the sunrise in the morning, to
the brightness of midday, to the closing wisps of color that follow sunset,
every moment of every day was designed to draw attention and praise to the
Father. We were created to worship
God. There is an innate desire in the
heart of mankind to worship. We all
praise something. Even nihilists praise
something and it’s nothing.
God has designed us to know him, to worship him. Second Peter tells us that God’s desire is
that everyone would know him, that no one would enter eternity without a
relationship with him. He doesn’t want
anyone to perish.
I want to raise an objection here so that I can speak to
it. This is not an objection that I
have, just one that I can see many people might have a problem with unless they
had some sort of answer to it. It seems
that it would be possible for someone to say, “Doesn’t the fact that God
created us to worship him prove that he is vain?” While I understand this objection, I don’t
think it applies and here’s why. The
creation doesn’t have the right to question the Creator. I once used an example of a Lego man. If I built a little man out of Legos and then
this Lego man looked up at me and told me that making him stand in a castle was
vain and selfish of me, I would be very shocked of course that the Lego man was
that self-aware. Then I would be
incredulous because I created the Lego man, so I get to decide what’s good and
bad for the Lego man. If I was
benevolent, I would want nothing but the best for my creation, so I would do
everything I could to make sure that he was well taken care of.
What if, however, the Lego man rebelled and did his own
thing? This is exactly what happens when
we look at God and tell him that we know better, that there is more to life
This example is ridiculous, I know, but I think it
illustrates the point. The Creator gets
to decide what’s best for the creation.
If, in fact, God is loving, if, in fact, God is righteous and good, and
if, in fact, God has the power to give himself to us in a loving, caring
relationship, wouldn’t the best thing for us, then, be God himself? Wouldn’t God be doing us a disservice, then,
if he withheld himself from us, if he didn’t command us to worship him? I think this is incredibly important for us
to understand. Yes, God leads us in the
paths of righteousness for his name’s sake, but he does lead us to green
pastures and still waters.
So what is God’s mission?
God wants all of creation to worship him. God wants all of humanity to know him, to
reach repentance and inherit eternal life.
Why is this important? We believe
that truth changes our lives. If we believe
something to be true, then it must change the way we live our lives. If we say we believe something, but it
doesn’t cause some change in our life, then we really must not believe it.
Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be spending time
talking about the mission that we’re on.
God is on a mission and he wants us to join him. This means something for us as a universal
body of Christ, as a local body of believers, and as individual
Christians. We must embrace this mission
and make it our own. It must change the
way we live our lives.
I fear that a lot of this today has been rather
cerebral. While that’s not necessarily a
bad thing, I think it can distract us sometimes from the intrinsic value of
understanding and worshipping God. What
I said before about everything in creation being designed to worship God is a
true statement. Let us not get so
distracted by truth that we lose sight of the one who gave us that truth. God is beautiful. He gave us all of this that we might revel in
his beauty and his grace. Think about
the painstaking level of detail that God put into everything he designed. Think about the planets in our solar
system. Think about the rings of
Saturn. When God created that, no one
had a clue it was there. For thousands
of years no one possessed the technology to see the rings of Saturn. It’s only been since the invention of the
telescope that we can see things like that.
Think about the unmanned space craft we’ve launched over the
years that can see farther than we’ve ever thought imaginable. Even 30 years ago we didn’t know what some of
that looked like. The universe is a vast
place. As far as we know, we’re the only
beings in the universe created in the image of God. We’re the only ones with the cognitive
understanding to comprehend God. We were
designed to worship him. Part of that
worship is obedience to his commands.
One of those commands is to take the gospel to everyone in the
world. The mission of God is that his
name and renown would be the desire of our souls. May we catch this vision. May we pursue the mission of God in our own