Today we’re continuing the sermon series called Renewed.
Often times God wants to do a new thing in us. Sometimes it comes with the changing of the year, changing of the seasons, or even with the changing of life circumstances. No doubt, that every time God wants to do a new thing in you, it’s because He wants to move you into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Him.
If you are feeling as if God is nudging you to do something new, or if your life feels dry, or you feel like you’re just going through the motions, or maybe it’s even a stuck feeling, it may be time for a renewal with God. It’s all because we have a God who is so intimately involved in our lives that we never have to resign ourselves to a hopeless and broken life. Instead, we can experience a beautiful renewal with Him.
In this series, we’re talking about how God might want to renew us so that we can live a full life in Christ. We’re talking about how we can open ourselves up to the work of God.
Last week, we talked about renewing our spirits because let’s be honest, we are more than just physical beings. We have a soul, a spirit that also needs attention and that often can become weary by the circumstances we face, and especially become weary by our sins. So I mentioned about God’s grace. Again, there is nothing we can do to earn it. It’s only by the power and grace of God that we can be forgiven. All we do is pinpoint our sin, repent of it, trust that God’s grace is big enough for even us, receive and embrace His grace, and be transformed by it.
Look if we are honest, we are all in need of some kind of renewal from time to time. Life has a way of making us feel stuck. We can feel like life is happening to us rather than us living the full life that Jesus offers.
Even our everyday things get renewed. We renew a driver’s license, memberships, sometimes we have to renew our passports if we want to travel, and sometimes we even renew our marriage vows. The point is, when something is renewed, it gets new life. It is freshened up.
Speaking of freshening up, it is so frustrating when you go to use some kind of battery powered item in your home, only to find out that the batteries are dead and have no power to make it function. Flashlights are the worst in my house. It seems every time I go for a flashlight, it’s dead. I search the junk draw for batteries only to find none, search for other flashlights – none of them work either or they have just the tiniest bit of light peeking out. So what do you do? Well in my house, you steal batteries from something else which is why, I’m pretty sure, my flashlights are dead. Someone who is not here today, so I won’t mention any names, steals the batteries for his remote control cars. But there is nothing like realizing you have a fresh pack of batteries that are actually the right size that can help renew whatever it is you are trying to use.
I think many of us feel like the flashlight. We feel like our lives have run low on batteries (hopefully we’re not completely dead), but we need a fresh kick or jumpstart of some kind. Often, what makes us feel this way is that we’ve lost our sense of purpose. So today, we’re talking about renewing our purpose.
Because without true purpose for our lives, we feel exhausted by the same office cubicle, the same daily routine, the rat race, the sense that we live each day with nothing to show for it and no meaning. It has left us looking for something more out of life. And that is no way to live! Even this past year, 2020, has sucked the life right out of a lot of us, and we’re looking for something more. But that is no way to live!
Whenever we feel like we are running low on batteries, low on steam, and needing to be renewed, there is only one source that will suffice. We have to go back to the source of life, the source of all life, to the Creator of the Universe. This is the one and only place where we can find our God given purpose that can give us meaning and new life.
It turns out that the struggle with needing a fresh purpose and meaning in life is nothing new. Paul addressed it back in the first century as he wrote to the Christians living in Ephesus.
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.
Paul calls us God’s masterpiece. Some translations say we are God’s handiwork or workmanship. The Greek word used here is poiEma. It means creation or that which is made. It’s actually where we get the word poem from. So if we are God’s handiwork, we are His creation, He dreamed us up, He is the author of our lives, then He (and He alone) is where our purpose comes from. God not only made you on purpose, but for a purpose. (I kind of like that we are called His masterpiece.)
Point 1: GOD MADE YOU ON PURPOSE AND FOR A PURPOSE
Whenever we create anything ourselves, we take great pride in that object, right? Like a child who comes home from school and has painted a picture, molded a clay sculpture or written a great story, they are so proud to show their parents. Their excitement comes from one reason and one reason only: that they created it! And that’s why we post them on our frig or doors or walls.
There is a reason that the creation story in the book of Genesis speaks of God creating each day and ending each day by saying, “It is GOOD.” It’s because God takes pride in His creation. He loves His creation. When He thinks about each and every one of you, He calls you GOOD. Doesn’t that feel good?! He calls you good because you are His creation, and He had made you on purpose and for a purpose.
Because He made us, then He has the right to give us meaning for our lives. In fact, Paul reminds us that we were created for good works that God has prepared for us to take part in.
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.
Though you may feel like you have no purpose in life, God reminds us of the desires He has always had in mind for us. Maybe God wants to remind you today that though you have existed so far in your life maybe only for yourself, or only to show up at work, or to build a social media following, to eat, breathe, and sleep, whatever, He has a new and greater purpose for your life.
Paul, the author of the book of Ephesians, and most of the New Testament, is the perfect Biblical character to look to for a renewed purpose. Before Paul was Paul, his was named Saul. Saul was a Pharisee, which was a Jewish religious group of men who were dedicated to enforcing Jewish law and customs. The Pharisees were not very kind to people to the early church, because the new movement of Christians was seen as a threat to the Jewish establishment. And Saul was incredibly passionate for his Jewish faith. So much that he’s recorded in the book of Acts as overseeing the very first stoning of the very first Christian martyr named Stephen. And that was just the beginning.
If you had asked Saul at that time what the purpose of his life was, he would have told you, thinking he was severing God, that it was to stomp out this new movement. To put an end to it once and for all. Luke tells us that for three years this went on unchecked; for three years, he continued to persecute the Church, arrest Christians, and throw Christians in jail. Many of these Christians put to death.
At the end of these three years of unchecked persecution of the Church, something incredible happened that changed everything for Saul and changed everything for the spread of the Gospel.
You see, Saul was the handiwork of God too, and God had way better plans for him then he could have ever imagined. Way better than the destruction of the early Christians. The scriptures tell us that in one day, in one moment, his life was transformed forever, because he was renewed.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of The Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
So Saul asked the high priest to give him authority to go and continue arresting those who are a part of “The Way” starting in Damascus. (“The Way” was what the followers of Jesus were called at the time. The term Christians comes a little later.) Of course, the priest liked this idea. He was taking care of their biggest problem. So, he’s on his way to Damascus, he has permission to arrest any Christians he finds, and basically drag them back to Jerusalem to be tried.
But Saul had a misplaced purpose. He had a misplaced meaning. He was missing the good work that God had planned for him. He wasn’t living up to his God given potential. Some of us may have the sense that we aren’t either.
I remember someone once coming to me for pastoral support looking for help to get out of the stuck feelings he was in. As we talked, he broke. He began to weep. He shared with me that he had run this very successful business for many years, but he had worked his hands to the bone and he was burnt out. He was ready for something new. He had a sense that God had a new purpose for his life.
You do not have to look far or hard to discover people around you, maybe even you, who are ready and eager for renewal. Because they are in a….
Point 2: MISPLACED PURPOSE
Some of you this morning can relate to Saul in that maybe your life is marked by negative aspirations or even evil intentions. The way you have lived thus far has resulted in harm and pain to those around you.
Others of you may relate to the man in my office. Your life has been marked by responsibility and hard work. You have provided for yourself and your family, but you get the sense there is something more that God wants for you to do.
I want to be clear today that I am not talking about jobs or careers. I am talking about things you give yourself to with passion. This may have to do with your job. This may have to do with a certain cause that is worth fighting for, a person you want to invest in, or a mission that could use your gifts and talents. Remember, God has planned good things for you to do, and He has placed talent, skills, resources, and influence within you to cause you to be effective.
The scriptures do not speak to whether not Paul was at some kind of crossroads within his life’s purpose, but God wanted to use him for something great. It was going to take God’s intervention to help Paul discover a better reason for living and a renewed purpose for his life. Paul is on his way to continue his persecution when something amazing happens.
3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9 He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
Point 3: DIVINE DISRUPTION
The very spirit of Jesus, whom Saul was persecuting, confronts Saul. He is knocked to the ground and blinded by a great light. God steps in to renew Saul’s life by changing his plans and reorienting Saul around a brand-new mission. What this scripture speak of is disruption. It often takes disruption to get our attention and refocus our lives. For Saul, it was a bright light, a voice from heaven, and blinded eyes. For us, it can happen in all kinds of ways.
If you want to know what your current purpose is in life is, then just look at where all your time, energy, and attention goes. Many people invest all of their lives in purposes that do not really matter in the end. So sometimes God offers us disruption that can help us find renewal.
We spend our time partying until it starts to affect our school, family, etc.
We have worked so hard to secure that boyfriend or girlfriend or any relationship to the neglect of more important matters. Then, without warning, they call it off.
We spend all of our time trying to make money. We work constantly until we realize that we have neglected our family.
Saul’s life was completely altered by Jesus’ intervention in his life. Jesus got in the way of Saul’s old purpose because Jesus had different plans for Saul. Jesus cares about each us enough to intervene in our lives as well. And trust me when I say, God will use anything to help us discover our God-given purpose in life.
My plans, my plans for marriage, my plans for more children…God disrupted all sorts of my plans. Why? Because he had something better for me.
The scripture continues…
10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord!” he replied.
11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”
13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.
God used Ananias to help restore Saul’s physical sight. God tells him to go to where Saul is and lay his hands on him to restore him. This restoration though is more than just physical. This restoration is spiritual as well. In verse 15, the Bible says that Saul is God’s “chosen instrument” to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the gentiles. How would it feel to know you were God’s chosen instrument to do good in the world?
God had a plan for Saul, but that plan couldn’t happen if Saul still focused on his own will, killing Christians. So God uses all sorts of things to get his attention. To throw him off his course.
And God uses all different things to get our attention too; to discover the renewed purpose for our lives. Because we are God’s chosen instrument to do good in the world as well. Sometimes God uses people to help get us on track. Sometimes He uses circumstances. Sometimes He uses hardship. Sometimes He uses the Bible. Sometimes He uses opportunity.
Whatever He uses, we have to keep our eyes and ears open to find our purpose for which we were made. Made = meaning it’s not an afterthought. God had plans for you long ago.
But how do we know that it’s God speaking to us? That this is He’s will and purpose for you?
Point 4: THE PATH TO PURPOSE
I. Renewed purpose given to us from God will always align with what God has already stated in the Bible. God will not contradict His Word as He gives us instruction. Does the thing you believe God is leading you to sound like something God would want?
II. Renewed purpose for our lives is almost always something that we cannot do on our own. God’s plan for us requires His involvement and empowerment for us to be successful. The Holy Spirit in our lives will guide us as we move into new endeavors.
III. renewed purpose is often confirmed through obedience. Rarely does God give us the entire picture all at once. Living out God’s purpose for our lives requires faith and means we must step out in order to find out.
After Saul is visited by Ananias, he receives his sight and his entire life’s purpose is changed. He goes from trying to destroy the Christian movement to being the main contributor to the spread of it. And still is a big contributor today since he wrote most of the New Testament.
You may feel like you are too far gone. You may feel like there’s no way God could use you. And even if there was, you feel like you don’t have much to contribute. However, the example of Saul would suggest that God will use anyone for his Kingdom Purposes, and that He is never done with us.
God has created each of us with a plan for our lives. We are his handiwork, His masterpieces, and He longs for us to take part in the good work that He has for us to do. So in order to come alive to this plan for our lives, like Saul, we often have to die to the way we used to live and start something new. I really believe God will use each of us for a powerful purpose.
So do you know what your purpose in life is? If not, let’s begin to find out. And even if you think you know, let’s ask God anyways. Because it can change. God may have a new plan for you or a plan to take you further on the path you are on. Today, I want to give you time to invite God to clarify His purpose for your life.
So I ask you to place your hands out before you with your hands open and palms up. In a moment, I’m going to pray that God will speak to you about your God-given purpose. But before I do, I invite you to tell God your hands are open and you are willing to do whatever He asks you to do. I’ll give a moment of silence for you to do so, then I’ll join us together as I continue the prayer.