At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a new series called God Likes You.
Ever wish someone would walk up to you, nudge you on the shoulder, and simply share what the point of your life is? Wouldn’t that change everything? Instead, we find ourselves giving life our best shot, slogging through, trying different things, and working to discover our purpose. We wander through life often unfilled and dissatisfied. How can we discover our purpose? What is our identity? What are we supposed to do in this life?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Notes from our teaching team:
I love you, but right now, I don’t really like you… and we laugh about it, because there is a difference, right?
Well today we’re in week 2 of our this series, GOD LIKES YOU, really looking at how God doesn’t just Love You, he also LIKES us too!
We are looking at the book of Ephesians during this series. If you haven’t gotten into a habit of reading the Scriptures on your own during the week, I want to encourage you to try it this week.
- Just read a chapter a day which only takes about 5 minutes.
- Read and reflect on what its saying.
- Pray to God your thoughts and hopes that the passage evokes.
- Memorize a phrase or verse and meditate on it throughout the day.
- Or read through the entire letter each day this week. It only takes about 20 minutes to read the entire letter.
Last week our senior pastor John Burke took us through chapter 1 and all the spiritual blessings true of us in the heavenly realms when we follow Jesus.
The word blessing in Ephesians 1:3 is a translation of the Greek word eulogy,and it means “to speak well of.” Since God is the one acting in this verse, we can say that God has spoken good things about us, or pronounced good things for our benefit.
The good things He’s said about us are all that come next in Ephesians 1:3–14 which is one long massive sentence which in the original Greek is 202 words! Paul was inspired by the blessings of Psalm 103 and is pointing out that these blessings are specifically fulfilled through Jesus.
Today in Ephesians 2 we will look more at our purpose.
Have you ever found yourself asking: “What’s the point?”
And the answer to this question is critical, as we know, because it effects every realm of your life…
- What’s the point of my marriage?
Is it just to get someone to serve me and do my bidding? Probably not going to work.
- What’s the point of my parenting?
Is it just to create perfectly behaved kids? Probably not going to work.
- What’s the point of being single?
Is it just to have unlimited freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want? Probably not going to work.
- What’s the point of my job?
Is it just to get me money to buy more stuff? Probably not going to work over the long haul.
If you don’t ever really truly answer the question, what’s the point?, you will end up, what the Bible describes as “chasing the wind.” Just trying this and that and fulfilling whatever selfish motive you have in the moment. And this will wreak havoc on your relationships and ultimately, on your identity.
And all of this begs the question…
Where do you go to find the point?
In our consumeristic culture, we often think having more things is the point.
In “Longings” a Story by Steven James, he writes:
“Television commercials annoy me. They’re always telling me my car isn’t sporty enough, my breath isn’t fresh enough, my armpits aren’t dry enough, my investments aren’t secure enough, my teeth aren’t bright enough, my beer isn’t filling enough, and my insurance company isn’t cheap enough – and that I’ll be cooler, happier, hipper, more popular, pain free, and handsome if I just chew their brand of gum, use their brand of athlete’s foot cream, and wipe my rump with their brand of squeezably soft toilet paper.
None of the commercials have to convince me that I don’t have enough joy, peace, freedom, love, friendship, or satisfaction in my life. The advertisers just take that for granted. In fact, they put a magnifying glass up to my longings and then offer me solutions both of us know won’t work. That’s the kicker.
And the worst part is that I keep watching their commercials. I keep buying their stuff. I keep hoping that maybe they’re right after all, that all these deep nagging desires will finally go away if I use their product – that happiness really will come from a can of shaving cream or a tube of toothpaste. If this world of chalupas and dandruff shampoo and Viagra is all there is, how come I have hungers that none of those things ever seem to satisfy?”
And most of us, at some point, fall into this trap of consuming more and more things only to be riddled w/ buyer’s remorse. And it’s pointless. (examples)
- Like the girl who thought this time she’d be fulfilled…. I mean he said all the right things the night before at the bar. So she bought it. But she wakes up in the morning, buyers remorse.
- He walks in the garage… had to have it… in red… but how long to I have to pay? Buyers remorse
- He logs onto the site… I can stop anytime I want… something seductive about it… afterwards, buyers remorse.
- She needs the rush… it’s that blouse, gonna make her feel so beautiful… The surge with the purchase that’s going to change how she feels… but alas, buyers remorse
- He’s just self-medicating, just trying to anesthetize… It’s just one hit every few days… then every day, and now it’s every night just to get some sleep… suffering from profound anxiety and extreme insecurity… It’s gotta fix it… buyers remorse
- He works 70 hrs a week… killing himself for success, burning through relationships… manhood riding on every business deal… never got a blessing from his father, “you’re my boy.” And now with every deal… buyers remorse.
- It’s just comfort food, so she ate the whole box… and it was ‘family size.’ She’s stuffed and yet she’s hungrier than ever. Buyers remorse.
- He just goes along with it because his identity is found in people’s pleasure with him. He needs them to like him and be happy with him so he can be happy… So he makes promises he knows he can’t keep. When he can’t pull through and deliver, they’re not happy… neither is he… buyers remorse.
Because 1 cup leads to 2 and now it’s 5 scoops instead of 2 and a 6 pack used to do it and now it takes a 1/5 of whiskey and 2 hits is what 1 used to be and so on and so on…
And it’s all pointless. And we know it. But we keep thinking ‘this time will be different.’
And when we try to find the answer to “what’s the point of life?” in the things of this life, gifts from God that were intended to be good no longer seem like it.
About God’s good gifts, Phillip Yancey wrote:
“By assuming a burden we were not meant to carry, we turn nudity into pornography, wine into alcoholism, food into gluttony, and human diversity into racism and prejudice. Despair descends as we abuse God’s good gifts; they seem no longer gifts, and no longer good.”
Ephesians 2 begins addressing this issue head on…
“You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.” – Ephesians 2: 2-3 (MSG)
We all have walked around like zombies – spiritually dead.
When humans live pointless lives they are riddled with the consequence of selfish behavior. Following the ways of the world, the “chasing of the wind…” We are left wondering, “What’s the point?”
Isn’t God Angry?
Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say: “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
Maybe you’ve read through Ephesians and I am sure that some of you who did got tripped up on Eph. 2:3.
Remember “God doesn’t just love you, He also likes you. But He doesn’t always like what you do, but He likes what He sees in you.”
Why would a loving God not love everything we do, you might ask?
Well, we don’t even like everything we do.
If you read the Bible, God warns about the wrath (or consequence) we experience from living selfishly and the wrath that is to come. This sometimes confuses people. The day of the Lord, his judgement, when he finally brings justice to all things. God says He forgives iniquity, rebellion, sin, but he doesn’t let sin go unpunished forever. What’s God’s wrath about—how is that consistent with a loving, merciful, compassionate, grace-giving God? Completely!
Sometimes we wonder, “Is God angry like my dad?”
Some of us in this room have been victims of a parent-figure’s anger.
Maybe our parents weren’t physical, maybe they were, but many of us grew up in a toxic environment. And to think that hasn’t affected us as adults is simply a fantasy. It’s why so many of us have learned to work the 12 Steps in Recovery and so many of us go to Open Share on Wednesday nights. Just go back and listen to the Triggered series if you missed any of it.
Here’s the problem: Anger is one of the primary emotions we project onto God. He’s angry and vengeful, and so I don’t really want to know him, or we wonder if he’s angry at us for our many sins and shortcomings. Just in the quiet of this moment, any of you want to admit in your heart that the anger of other people has twisted how you see God?
Exodus 34:6 says to his people and to you and me, “One thing you gotta know, I’m slow to Anger.” And God’s anger is never sinful like our version of anger, but God’s anger is just and righteous.
Yes, God gets angry about sin. But his anger doesn’t change his posture towards you.
God’s character as mentioned multiple times in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) is love, compassion, kindness, bestowing favor on 1000 generations who love him.
But He also is Just–and we want that. In fact, many of us feel like God does not show His anger enough at all the evils in this world. We complain about evil and injustice and wonder why doesn’t God wipe out all evil, well then he’d have to wipe us all out.
If we are honest, we want justice but not if it is because of the things we have done.
So his wrath is a response from his love. Love motivates that.
God loves all people, and he hates the evil that, in this word, hurts all people.
But not fully understanding that can lead to another pointless activity:
Religious Zeal in order to avoid God’s wrath or to try to negotiate and get things from God. That’s all pointless too.
If you know the story of Paul, the author of Ephesians, you know he went that direction.
We can learn a lot about him because the book of Acts tells much of his story and through the letters he wrote to churches and church leaders.
- Last verse of Acts 8 introduces us to Saul who was there when Stephen was killed by the nationalistic and religious mob.
- Saul’s devotion to God meant he was trying to purify Israel so the Messiah could come.
- He thought killing Christians would help with that! Miraculously he was blinded by a vision of Jesus in which he heard Jesus’ voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me!”
- Saul surrendered his life to Jesus and now became one of his greatest advocates! A church planter, missionary, and author of most of the letters of the New Testament. (To learn more about Paul and his letters, see The Way of Jesus).
The point isn’t just trying to please God to earn favor… Paul thought he was doing that originally with his religious zeal, but he was missing the point.
Then he met Jesus, and in Jesus, he found the point. Or, perhaps better said, the point found him.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)
So what’s the point?
The point of this life is that you were created to be in relationship with God… to find your identity in Him and through Him.
And so He did all the work to make this possible.
Why though? Because you were created as His masterpiece… a work of art… by the Creator of all things. And as His masterpiece, he designed in you, and for you, good works that give you a purpose.
So the point is to be in relationship with Him, which roots your identity in Him.
Then He designed in you, and for you, good works that give you purpose for living.
He did all of this for you, because GOD LIKES YOU.
So, he rooted your identity in a relationship with him… And he designed in you, and for you, a purpose for living.
A relationship with Him is what roots our true identity
and the good works He designed in us, and for us, give us purpose.
And if you don’t see the point of life as living that way… everything and every attempt you make to be filled, and known, and grounded will get confusing and frustrating eventually, and leave you feeling as though everything is pointless. A masterpiece will be the furthest thing from what you feel… A rag doll maybe, but not a masterpiece.
That’s why the point matters.
In fact, the Greek work we get for being God’s “masterpiece” or “workmanship” is Poema – From that word, we derive our English word “poem” or “poetry.”
God’s intent is that having our identity rooted in Him through relationship, we can live out a life of poetry in finding our purpose. When we are committed to the works he designed for us, our lives can read like beautiful poetry.
But we have a free will, given to us by God, because that’s what love does, it gives freedom. In this freedom, we often choose to go our own way… When we do, this disrupts the poetic verses our lives were made for.
And so it is that in God alone we find the answer to the questions:
Who am I and why am I even here?
We find our identity when we connect relationally with the One who created us.
We find our purpose in life in the works he designed for us, which, in their most basic form, are to love God and love others.
As we step into loving God and loving others, the more specific purposes for our life become clearer and clearer.
For me, it has required a lot of reflection on uniqueness, strengths, personality, ancestry, and passions. A lot of time in prayer and the Scriptures. And a lot of small acts of obedience have helped make things more and more clear.
As we serve God and serve others, we find our calling.
Doing the right thing no matter how small it is…
Responding to the still small voice inviting you to do something selfless and courageous…
Pursuing God and trusting His voice…
Believing Jesus that if you lose your life in serving others in His name, you will find your life.
Finding your purpose is just as beautiful as the journey to discovering it because along the way we experience the beauty of loving God and loving others.
A New Community
The 2nd chapter of Ephesians closes with Christ bringing us together with others, breaking down barriers and other dividing walls of hostility.
Here is a highlight reel of what that looks like:
It starts with being brought near to God.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:13
We have been brought into a new humanity – one without division based on ethnicity or religion.
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. – Ephesians 2:15-16
We have access to the Father.
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. – Ephesians 2:18
We are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. Ephesians 2:19
We are the new Temple!
We are built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:22
The Story of the Bible Overview
Heaven Meets Earth
- In Eden
- In the tabernacle
- In the Temple
- In Jesus
- In the Body of Christ
- At the end of all things when God makes all things right.
As followers of Jesus, we are to bring heaven to earth wherever we go!
We are to live according to Jesus’ prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
God doesn’t just love you, he likes you. And he wants nothing more than to have a relationship with you… For you to find your identity in Him as you are rooted in relationship with Him. To find your purpose through the good works he has designed for you.
I – D – E – N – T – I – T – Y
An assessment tool by Robb Overholt based on a poem written by Shaula Overholt.
What I am going to walk you through is not her poem, but the tool I developed based on her poem.
In the poem she broke down the work IDENTITY in a brilliant way, and it really lays out nicely for us to walk through 5 simple steps to arrive at a conclusion that informs where we are currently finding our identity.
5 areas of self-assessment and reflection with God:
I – Self: The me I think I am
The me I am pretending to be, the image I am trying to curate
God, will you remind me now of who you say I am?
I.D. – Name, Label
The titles others have given me,
Some good, some not,
God, please tell me how do I know the difference?
I DENT – I get hurt…
Broken, warped, diminished by others.
God, what is hurting me right now?
I DENT IT – I hurt and break others…
Hurt people hurt people
Whom have I hurt recently?
God, to whom do I need to be reconciled?
ENTITY – A lie I have believed about myself and others.
That I am something to be used to give pleasure to others.
This is also a way I see others in order to use them for my purposes or pleasure.
God, will you search me and reveal any distortions?
The truth is this: You were never meant to live independently from God, and He does not see you as an entity… a pawn. He sees a masterpiece (a work of art) in you… Made full of potential by the Master.
He sees the same potential in everyone else.
As a result of this realization, we have a new purpose (not just to live for myself – that’s playing God and seeking my will to be done), but to fulfill the plan God had for us when He created us.