Purpose Driven Life
f anyone ever led a purpose driven life it was Jesus. He seemed to know all along that he was born to fulfill a divine destiny and he relentlessly moved toward that purpose. His purpose was a part of everything he did, especially during his public ministry of traveling throughout northern Palestine preaching, teaching and building a group of Apostles, disciples and thousands of constituents who would be the building blocks of the Church that would soon be established
Our text for today presents Jesus' “Beatitudes,” which were an introduction to his “Sermon on the Mount.” Would we not expect Jesus' primary purpose to be interlaced throughout his most famous words describing what his Kingdom would be like? Those ecumenical scholars who planned our Lectionary for preaching saw the interconnectedness of Jesus' Beatitudes with the Epistle reading from I Corinthians. All Sunday School/ Vacation Bible School children are familiar with the text from Paul's first letter to Corinth in which he deals with “The Foolishness of the Cross” and “The destruction of the wisdom of the wise.” The Cross , which was the great purpose that Jesus moved toward all of his life, is depicted by Paul as, “A stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” However, the message of the Cross is “The Power of God to those who are being saved.
All of our Creeds that we have been alternatively using for the last few weeks say that our faith in Jesus' death somehow makes us right with God: our sins are forgiven and we are thereafter called “Christians.” Last Sunday we recited “The Nicene Creed,” which is the oldest and the hardest to recite together in worship. Look up the intricate theological jargon following “For us and for our salvation.” The “Korean Creed,” call Christ our “Redeemer,” which helps us to get its meaning. Additionally, there are several ways of explaining the Vicarious Atonement, which are helpful for we are reasonably familiar with the concept of vicariousness (one taking another's punishment). But what we really need to experience is that somehow the Father forgives our sin and makes us right with Him through the fulfillment of the Son's great Purpose in coming in human form. And this is the one thing that we must internalize by faith in order to be anything near what most understand a Christian Believer to be. “He died to save us!”
Of course, some have been to college too long and have talked themselves out of our Sunday School faith and teachings. Some say that Christ was a great moral teacher and a wonderful Prophet, but they can't accept him as God. To this copout, C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity , (II, 3) “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be a Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.” Lewis went on to call Jesus, in a chapter heading, “A Perfect Penitent.” Just as a person can eat his meals and be strengthened by them, yet not understanding the nutritional science why; so can we believe in Christ and allow that powerful truth to build faith in us without ever being able to interpret how Repentance and Atonement has made us right with God.
Jesus helped us understand something of the nature of God's transforming grace by describing his divine nature in the “Beatitudes,” implying that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to reflect a shadow of these great characteristics of the divine one. And miraculously, these ideals of Christ become our ideals too. Jesus is sharing a small part of his great “Purpose Driven Life” with us mere mortals.
Seeing the love and loyalty on the faces of the thousands that had already come to follow him, Jesus sat down and began to preach: (v.3) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Don't you know that those who had come to love and worship him saw that great characteristic in the great one? Perhaps they felt some of the power of the Spirit welling up inside of them that perhaps they could be given such a “poverty of spirit,” that they could become a part of His Kingdom. Verses (4 and 5) define mourning and meekness as submission to adversity and Jesus said that we can overcome, even “inherit the earth.” As Dan Cathy, older son of Truitt, says, the 2001 brush fire that nearly took his life turned out to be one of the highlights of his life. It hurt and he was in the hospital for a long time, but out of adversity he found a new beginning. Jesus' great purpose led him to the Cross, but through his victory he changed the world. Then, “Hungering and thirsting for more and more of God,” is the beatitude of verse six. Then, the “merciful, peacemakers with a pure heart,” see this in Jesus' purpose driven resolve and desire it too. And Jesus was “accused falsely and persecuted physically more than any of us could stand; but we somehow want his strength to help us endure criticism and pain inflicted upon the innocent.” Then we rejoice in verse twelve in that we have all of this Christ like strength and then we get “a reward of heavenly eternal life,” thrown in at no extra cost. Who would doubt that Jesus went to be with his Father, and that he said that we would soon follow?
And suddenly, “The message of the Cross does not seem foolish at all, but it is the very power of God that wants to remold our lives.” (I Cor. 1:18, ff) Indeed, we can claim a smattering of “Nobility of soul, understanding of mind and sanctification,” although we have come from a lower state.
In his great sermon we recognize that these “Beatitudes” are really a description of Jesus' higher purpose that drove and directed his life, and that he wants us to open our hearts and souls to share his purpose. Dare we allow him to do his work in us? Can we share an inkling of his higher purpose for living? Jesus is still gathering folks to be building blocks in his Church. He beckons us.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor