Occasionally I hear Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segment. When I do, I am always astounded. Two things amaze me: (1) what the people selected do not know and (2) what the people selected think they know, but do not understand.

Suppose for a moment that you have microphones and a camera crew to accompany you as you conduct interviews. You ask some very simple interview questions. First you go to a state university to interview incoming freshmen. This is the interview question: "Why do people go to universities?" Having spent twenty-eight years preaching for college and university congregations, allow me to suggest some honest answers. The top three answers. (1) "They go to party. Everyone is entitled to four carefree years of fun. You just left the restrictions of parents and home. You will spend adult life facing and enduring adult responsibilities. The four years of university life are supposed to be the fun time transition."

(2) "They go to get a degree. The degree is your key to opportunity. If you want to get a good job, you need to have a degree to put down on your job application."

(3) "They go to make contacts for the future. Everybody realizes that it is not what you know but who you know. People go to universities to make the right contacts for the future."

You would be amazed at how few answers people give have anything to do with education.

We could do the interview with the simple question, "Why do people have jobs?" Probable answers would include (1) "to make money." Or, (2) "to afford fun stuff." Or, (3) "to have good benefits." You would be amazed at the number of answers having nothing to do with the success of the business.

  1. Let's conduct a simple interview with ourselves by asking this question, "Why should Christians exist as the church?"
    1. Our answers to that question might include these.
      1. "It is important to be religious."
      2. "Going to church is good for the family."
      3. "Going to church is something that good people do."
      4. If all of us wrote down honest, heart answers, it would be amazing to note how many of our answers had little to do with God.
    2. Please consider Paul's answer in Ephesians 1. "Paul, why do we Christians exist as the church?"
      1. Paul wrote this letter to Christians at Ephesus.
        1. The majority of them were converted idol worshippers.
        2. In chapter two he explained that prior to being Christians they were spiritually dead, separated from Christ, not included in God's covenant, without hope, and without God.
        3. Their preconversion condition was horribly grim.
      2. In chapter one Paul explained the purpose of their being Christians.
        1. He began by explaining these things.
          1. God is the source of blessings (verse 3).
          2. God provides every spiritual blessing in Christ (verse 3).
          3. Before God created the world, God chose all people who want to be holy and blameless to be His people (verse 4).
          4. Before creation he chose to adopt all people who would come to Jesus Christ (verse 5).
        2. Why? Why would God do those things?
          1. So that those who were alive in Christ would exist to the praise of the glory of His grace (verse 6).
          2. We exist as Christians to be living evidence of how good God is, to demonstrate God's goodness, and to cause people to glorify God.
        3. Paul continued his emphasis.
          1. In Christ you have redemption through his blood (verse 7).
          2. In Christ you have the forgiveness of your trespasses.
          3. In fact, in Christ:
            1. God lavishes His grace upon you (verse 8).
            2. God showed you what He was doing--makes known to you the mystery (verse 9).
            3. God reveals His complete purpose and shows how that purpose is summed up in Jesus (verse 10).
            4. Through that purpose, you have obtained an inheritance (verse 11).
        4. Why? Why has God revealed all those things in Christ? (verse 12)
          1. So that people who have their hope in Christ should be to the praise of God's glory.
          2. People would give God praise and glorify God because of what happens in Christians' lives.
        5. Paul still continued his emphasis.
          1. God placed the insignia of the Holy Spirit on them (verse 13).
          2. To use our wording, God used the Holy Spirit to prove that He made the down payment on them, that they belonged to Him.
          3. The Holy Spirit was proof that God was coming back for them, to redeem them for his own possession.
        6. Why? Why would God do that? (verse 14)
          1. Because He expected them to be to the praise of His glory.
          2. When other people saw what God did in them, those people would praise God and give Him glory.

  2. Paul's emphasis is not some new idea that he thought up for these converted idol worshippers.
    1. That is what Jesus was all about--Jesus lived and died to cause people to praise God and give God glory.
    2. And Jesus did that perfectly!
      1. In Matthew 3:13-17 Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River.
        1. When John hesitated and tried to discourage Jesus from being baptized, Jesus insisted.
        2. He said, "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.
        3. John immersed him.
        4. Immediately the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came upon Jesus and God said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
        5. In the act of baptism, Jesus was conducting himself to the praise of God's glory.
      2. In Matthew 17:1-8 Jesus was transfigured, and Peter, James, and John were able to see him.
        1. He was talking with Moses and Elijah.
        2. One account says they were discussing Jesus' coming death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31).
        3. Peter was frightened and said, "Lord, I am glad we are here. We need to build a tabernacle to honor you, and one to honor Moses [the great Jewish law giver], and one to honor Elijah [the great Jewish prophet].
        4. A cloud covered everyone, and God's voice spoke saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to Him!"
        5. In this unusual moment, Jesus' surrender to God was to the praise and glory of God.
      3. It was Jesus himself who explained that his purpose for existence is to be our purpose for existence.
        1. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
        2. "If you belong to me, do good."
        3. "Do not be ashamed of the good you do; let it be obvious that you are devoted to doing good because you belong to me."
        4. "You do not do good to impress people with you. You do good so people will be impressed with your God."
        5. We are lights to bring glory to God; people praise God because of the good we do.
    3. First century Jews had been God's people for almost 1500 years.
      1. They knew God's teachings; they had known God's teachings for a very long time.
      2. They had known God's teachings for so long that they decided their role was to judge everybody else.
        1. That seems to be our human tendency when we know God's will a long time.
        2. We decide we do not know God's will to serve God.
        3. We decide we know God's will to judge those who fail God.
      3. They could tell you what was wrong with everyone, and they could especially tell you what was wrong with all those people who worshipped idols.
      4. In Romans 2:24 Paul described first century Jews who existed to pass judgment [he used a quotation from scripture]: "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
        1. The Gentiles were those idol worshippers they judged.
        2. Those condemned idol worshippers did not praise and glorify God because of their judgments.
        3. Those condemned idol worshippers blasphemed God because of their judgments.
      5. Christians do not exist to cause people to blaspheme God, but to praise and glorify God.

  3. As a Christian, one of the primary reasons that you exist is to help people see God and praise Him.
    1. Continually over the past 200 years the focus of the restoration movement increasingly has become the church, not God.
      1. Often we are so obsessed with being the church that we loose sight of God.
      2. We assume that if the church succeeds, God succeeds.
        1. And we have a very narrow, restricted definition of the church succeeding.
        2. Far too often we define success in the church more on the doctrinal stands "it" takes than on the way "it" serves the spiritual needs of people.
        3. Far too often we define success in the church on the basis of image rather than on the basis of godliness.
        4. Far too often we are more concerned about our expectations in the church than God's expectations in the church.
          1. Too often we confuse our expectations for God's expectations.
          2. Too often we are more concerned about image than substance.
          3. Often we pick the congregation we wish to be a part of on the basis of approved image instead of spiritual substance.
    2. The problem is more fundamental than our perception of the church; the problem begins in our perception of ourselves as individual Christians.
      1. As individual Christians, we are likely to be more concerned with escaping eternal consequences than reflecting the eternal God.
        1. That is what we have been taught for generations.
        2. That was the basis of conversion for many of us.
        3. That was the basis for producing acceptable behavior and maintaining control of congregations.
      2. How often were you taught, "If you do those things, you will go to hell!"
      3. How often were you taught, "This is the way you reflect the merciful God."
      4. What role did God have in your conversion?
      5. What role does God have in your Christian behavior?
    3. Consider a specific example. If it were possible, would you choose to reflect:
      1. The perfect holiness of God, or would that interfere with your lifestyle?
      2. The perfect purity of God, or would that interfere with your pleasures?
      3. The perfect mercy of God, or would that interfere with your anger?
      4. The perfect grace of God, or would that interfere with your condemnations?

Most of us do not equate being a Christian with accurately reflecting God in an evil world. Do you? Most of us do not understand our purpose as individual Christians and our purpose as the church. We exist to glorify God. Bottom line. We exist so people can see how God helps flesh and blood, and seeing that, honor God for His mercy and forgiveness.

We need to do much better answering the simple questions of who we are and why we exist. We need to understand what it means to be to the praise of God's glory.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 August 2001

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