Posts Tagged ‘Purpose’

Bricks and Community

Posted: August 28, 2017 in Communities
Tags: , ,

We have a lot of exposed brick inside our home. It’s one of the things that attracted us to the place originally. I’ve been looking closely at all the brick and pondering it in recent days. No two bricks are the same. Many look very different. Some have weathered 117 years of use better than others. But working together, they are beautiful. They endure. They accomplish exactly what they were created to do. Remove even one brick and it would be noticeable. Remove very many and the effectiveness of accomplishing the larger purpose is jeopardized.

When I consider the disturbing division among people in our country, how I wish we valued each other, appreciated the differences, and focused on what unites us instead of what divides us. A nation (or business or church or city or family or…) divided against itself cannot stand.

Together, the bricks are beautiful. They are strong. They endure. They unite for a common cause.

And they don’t have to be alike to do so.

ChristianBeliefs-GrudemMy pastor, Mark Williams, and I are team teaching over several months a class based on Wayne Grudem’s book “Christian Beliefs.” (See my earlier book review here.) We haven’t been recording the sessions throughout, but since I had an acquaintance on Twitter ask for a transcript or summary, I thought I would record this one and post the audio and study handout I prepared. The full audio is 53 minutes long, so grab your favorite beverage and get cozy as you listen to it. The audio follows the study notes posted below the recording, so it should be easy to follow along. There may be a few moments where comments from others in the room are difficult to hear since I was recording from my cell phone, but you should be able to hear nearly everything.

The subject of the session is “What Is Man?” In it we explore a number of Bible passages related to the creation of man, our purpose in life, and what it means to be made in the image of God. I invite your comments here or on YouTube or Twitter.

For the record, our church is Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, USA – a 200-year-old Southern Baptist church in downtown Louisville. You are invited to check us out on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is the audio. The 2-page study handout is below and is available here as a PDF if you like.

What Is Man?

Based on Chapter 7 of Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem

Psalm 8:4 – “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:1-9 – How Majestic Is Your name

Genesis 1:26-31; 5:1-2; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9 – God created man in his image

Why do we exist?

When a creator/inventor creates something, it is made to fulfill a purpose.

Genesis 1 speaks not just to our description of being in God’s image and likeness, but to our purpose of reflecting and representing God, filling the earth with his likeness.

Westminster Larger Catechism (prepared for the Church of England & Church of Scotland in 1647), has as its first question: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”

Isaiah 43:7 – “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

John 15:8-11 – How we glorify the Father and experience full joy

To give God glory is to give him honor and praise. All creation exists for God’s glory (“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands” – Psalm 19:1), but only humans made in his image can do so consciously and by choice. We fulfill our purpose as humans only when we reflect God as his image bearers and bring glory to him.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

“The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.” – Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 442

An image or likeness of something can never be that which it reflects, but it can point to it. It can remind us of that which it reflects and stir emotions, thoughts and actions appropriate to what/who it reflects. This is our opportunity as God’s likeness and image in a sinful world – to represent and point to God.

Partial list of aspects of our likeness to God:

God is personal, rational, spiritual, intelligent, creative, ruling, moral, relational, communicative, emotional and immortal. One made in his image will reflect these characteristics (and more).

Humans as the image of God:

Adam and Eve were created perfect (Genesis 1:26-31). Sin diminished God’s image in them and all humanity thereafter, but it did not remove it. We are still His creatures and the highest of His creation, but we are unable to mirror His holiness on our own. Through regeneration He enables us to begin the process of reclaiming His fuller image in our lives, “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). This image won’t be fully realized until we are made new in the new heaven and new earth yet to come.

Jesus as the image of God:

“He is the image of the invisible God” – Colossians 1:15

John 14:5-11 – the relationship of Jesus and the Father

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” – John 14:9. To know what God is like, look at Jesus.

Hebrews 2:5-9 – Jesus the perfect Son of Man

Mankind’s possible states as it relates to the image of God:

  1. Perfectly reflecting the image of God from the moment of existence. Only Adam and Eve experienced this (and then only temporarily). This is not an option for anyone since the Fall.
  2. Fallen, lost in sin, still God’s highest creation, but woefully lacking as a reflection of God’s image because of sin. This is everyone’s initial condition since the Fall.
  3. Regenerate, saved by grace through repentance and faith, becoming more like God’s image through sanctification (growing in holiness). See 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 5:19-24. This is possible for all.
  4. Fully sanctified and glorified, perfectly reflecting God’s image. This is the ultimate destiny of all who are saved by God. “When he appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). This is assured for all God saves.

Our responsibilities as humans created in God’s image:

Be like God. Reflect him. Represent him. Fulfill our purpose as shown in Genesis 1.

Glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Help restore his people and his earth to the way they were meant to be.

“If we ever deny our unique status in creation as God’s only image-bearers, we will soon begin to depreciate the value of human life, will tend to see humans as merely a higher form of animal, and will begin to treat others as such. We will also lose much of our sense of meaning in life.” – Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 450

Hymn: “Thou Art Worthy” by Pauline Michael Mills, 1963

Thou art worthy, thou art worthy,

              Thou art worthy, O Lord.

To receive glory, glory and honor,

              Glory and honor and power.

For thou hast created, hast all things created,

              Thou hast created all things;

And for thy pleasure, they are created,

              Thou art worthy, O Lord.

[Note: Of course, when you listen to a recording of yourself speaking, you inevitably discover things you said unintentionally or poorly. For example, in listing the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, I said “selfishness” when I meant to say “self-control.” Oops.]

For Such A Time As ThisAt my company, we have many discussions and activities related to the subject of well-being.  Most of these are related to the health dimension of well-being, but we still acknowledge and work toward improving well-being in other areas as well, such as security, belonging, and purpose.  This post addresses a little about the purpose dimension of well-being.

If someone asks you “What is your purpose in life?”, how will you respond?  Will the answer today be different than a few years ago?  Does one’s purpose remain relatively constant throughout adult life, or do you think it’s subject to periodic change?

For a few decades, when I have heard the question, I have immediately thought of the first part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism created in 1647:

“What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

I’m not telling anyone else what their purpose should be by posting the above – just stating that such a clear, concise understanding has helped guide me for many years and continues to do so.  But what does that mean?  It’s a rather broad statement and certainly open to interpretation at the level of implementation detail.  For me, the overall purpose remains constant, but how that fleshes out from one year to the next or even one day to the next is up for grabs.  I certainly have some consistent beliefs, practices and commitments related to that purpose, but there is flexibility that can make what I do today a little different that what I did yesterday, and there’s even a little wiggle room in some peripheral beliefs.  A sense of purpose may provide wide guidelines and boundaries within which we operate, while still being open to momentary, unexpected events that tie to the purpose, yet could never be planned in advance.

I believe each of us is uniquely positioned in this world to do something and to be someone unlike any other.  Nobody else has the exact experiences, motivations, passions, trials, and opportunities as you.  Nobody.  So it seems that each of us has the opportunity to live out our purpose in a wonderfully unique way that has not existed before and will not be repeated again, even if we share the same overall purpose.  It is as though we are actors in a tremendous drama where we get to write part of the script as we go, making the most of each moment.

This unique fleshing out of one’s purpose recalls to mind an insightful thought from one of the main characters in the grand story from the Old Testament book of Esther in the 5th century B.C.  As scenes change from one queen losing favor with the king, and a young Jewish Esther becoming queen, evil Haman plots to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire.  Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, in discussing her risky option of approaching the king to help save the Jews, tells her “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  Being in that place at that time for those actions was central to Esther’s purpose in life.  I wonder how many little things along the way not recorded in the book contributed to the unfolding of events as they played out.  She, and only she, was in a unique position to make a difference in that situation for all time.

Decisions may be seemingly small, random and passing (such as to help that needy person on the street), or large and obviously consequential (e.g., career choices, relationship decisions, and leaps of faith).  It’s possible that coincidence is involved in the timing of some things, but it is just as likely (more so in my opinion) that there is more at work than mere coincidence, even in the daily unexpected moments that bring meaning to our days and that relate to our purpose.

My takeaways from thinking about this: Know the broad overarching purpose that gives your life meaning and significance.  Plan your days and work hard, but always be open to unexpected opportunities uniquely presented just to you at just that moment.  You will respond to them either in accordance with or contrary to your perceived purpose.

Who knows whether you have come for such a time as this?

I had to make a tough decision Friday – one I have struggled with for many months.  The details won’t interest many others, I suspect, except those directly affected at my work.  The process and the lesson, however, should apply to more people.

As the community manager for our company’s internal social network, it is my instinct and basic value to allow conversation on nearly all subjects unless they violate company policy and unless the conversations themselves devolve into disrespectful barbs thrown at others.  At that point, the conversation has to change or be removed.  At worse, the individual has to be warned and, if necessary, removed from the community.

For more than two years we have allowed political discussions on our social network with the hope that they could be civil discussions.  The reality, though, is that far too many of those discussions went south into just a handful of people bickering back and forth and accomplishing nothing useful.  Repeated warnings were given.  I initiated a non-binding poll of the larger community back in May about whether to continue the politics group or not and 58% said to get rid of it.  Sadly, the tone of conversations never improved and the preferred self-policing didn’t work for this crowd.

So on Friday I removed the group and broadcast a long explanation of why I was doing so.  I was very pleased to get nearly 100% positive feedback from the 100+ likes and comments over the next several hours.  That was a good affirmation of the decision.

The tough part in this was the fact that some very important values collided in this situation.  As a community manager, I value allowing people the right to discuss things.  I don’t want to stifle conversation.  On the other hand, my role demands that I do what is in the best interest of the health of the community and to accomplish the company’s business objectives.  This time those values were at odds, so the health of the community and goals of the business had to take precedence.

It was the right call – a tough one, but the right one.

Leap year lesson #206 is When values collide, go with the higher purpose.