I got into a discussion of the book, “The Purpose Driven Life” by the Rev. Rick Warren, with my father during a recent visit. Now, I must admit up front, that I use the phrase ‘discussion of this book’ loosely. I don’t know whether my father has ever read the book or not, but I have only briefly looked at the jacket cover and the index. In looking at these few parts of the book, my impression is that Pastor Warren believes our main purpose is to praise God; specifically, that “You were planned for God’s pleasure”. The fourth purpose is to serve God; “You were shaped for serving God ”. (The second purpose suggested by Pastor Warren is that “You were formed for God ’s family ”; and the third purpose is that “You were created to become like Christ “. We will not deal with these two purposes in this piece.)
Back to the discussion with my father. I stated that these two purposes (the first purpose, and the fourth purpose) are reversed and that our first purpose is to serve God. I further suggested that God is praised through our service. It ’s worth noting here that in my opinion, my father has served God as faithfully as anyone I know. This is why I find it somewhat ironic, that he would suggest that our first purpose would be to “praise God”. Would this qualify as a case of “do as I say, and not as I do?”
For a better understanding of our first purpose, (serving God), let us look for a moment at Yeshua ’s final instructions to his disciples, as recorded in the Gospels. I would propose that his last instructions to his cherished friends, would highlight the things which he felt were most important, because it would be “the last thing ” he told them, in person.
In Matthew, we find the first version of the “Great Commission” (Matt 28:16-20). “Go and make disciples of all the earth! ”
In Mark, we find another version of this “Great Commission” (Mark 16:15-18). “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. ”
In Luke, the disciples are told to “go back to Jerusalem” (Luke 24:44-49). and wait for the Holy Spirit. (It may be that the disciples spent this time in prayer, meditation and praise; but they were not specifically instructed to do so, in the recorded words of the Master.)
And finally, in John, we find Yeshua on the beach with Peter, with another form of the “Great Commission” (John 21:15-19).“Follow me!” With these words, Yeshua is telling Peter, and indeed, all of us, to carry on His mission. To tell of, and demonstrate God ’s love for His people, to the world.
In three out of the four Gospels, Yeshua tells us (his disciples) to go and serve. It is not a coincidence that in this way, he highlights another important element of New Christianity: Service, out of Love for God, and love for others, for the benefit of others, and to the glory of God. This service does not require an extreme sacrifice, (unless you feel called to do something big). Instead, we can do small acts of service, in our everyday lives.
For instance, serve God at work. If you don ’t want to evangelize at the water fountain (that's ok!), find some other way to serve Him. Help keep the office picked up. Bring someone a cup of coffee, or a doughnut. Fill the paper in the copier machine, even if you didn ’t run it empty. Find ways, to help your co-workers. This serves God.
Or, serve Him at school. If you don ’t want to stand up in the classroom, and tell the class that they are saved (that's ok!), then find some other way to serve Him. If someone has dropped a pencil, a book, a paper? Pick it up for them. Did someome leave their mathbook at home? Let them look on with you (if the teacher is willing to let you do so). If someone is picking on another student? Perhaps you could say something to the bully, (or a teacher, or the Principal) and stop it. Or maybe you could find a way to help the victim. Find ways, to help your classmates. This serves God.
I could go on, and on. The mall, the grocery store, the street corner, In these places, God is served, but not only by those who are willing to stand up and shout his message. God is also served by those who humbly live out his message through their actions, in their everyday lives. And through these small services, God is praised, very loudly!
Grace and peace to you all,