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Living with Purpose

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 30, 2023 9:00 am

Living with Purpose

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 30, 2023 9:00 am

Have you turned the will of God into an idol? Many people today desire to know God’s will more than they do his purposes and seek it more than they do his glory.

A New Beginning
Greg Laurie
What's Right What's Left
Pastor Ernie Sanders
A New Beginning
Greg Laurie
A New Beginning
Greg Laurie
What's Right What's Left
Pastor Ernie Sanders

Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. You want to know what God's will is for your life. Most of us, because we're Americans and we're narcissistic, we have turned the will of God, even the will of God, we have turned into an idol where we seek to know the will of God more than we seek to know the purposes of God and we seek it more than we seek the glory of God.

You're never going to understand the will of God for your life until you understand the will of God for the world and how your little story fits into that bigger story. Happy Monday and thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, let's start with a difficult yet important question. Have you turned to knowing the will of God into an idol?

You say, how is that possible? Well, many people today desire to know God's will more than his purposes and they seek that knowledge more than they seek his glory. In other words, know his will more than they know him.

Confused yet? Well, today Pastor J.D. helps us understand God's overarching purpose and how to know what he has equipped and empowered us to do as a part of that purpose. The more we walk in obedience, the more our calling comes into focus. This is how we know the will of God. So listen close.

If you missed any of the other messages, you can listen now free of charge at Now let's jump into today's teaching that Pastor J.D. called Living with a Purpose. Romans 15, we are coming to the end of the book of Romans. As I have pointed out to you throughout this series, the very book of Romans itself is arranged in a way that teaches you a lot about the Christian life. The first 11 chapters of Romans are all about what God has done for you in the gospel. Christianity does not begin with what you need to do for God to make yourself acceptable to him. Christianity begins with the good news that what you could not do, God did in your place by living the life you should have lived and then dying to death you were condemned to die, that he will take away your sin through his perfect substitution, his death on the cross, and he will give you resurrection life that he puts into you through the resurrection of Jesus by the power of the spirit. The last five chapters of the book of Romans are how we're supposed to respond to that.

That's the Christian life is that in light of what Jesus has done for us, we go and do. Every other religious message in the world teaches you the opposite. Every other religious message in the world is if you obey, then God will accept you. The gospel flips that on its head and says no, no because you are accepted, therefore you will obey. And that's how the whole book of Romans is arranged. As we approach the end of this letter, you're going to see how the gospel reshapes Paul's personal goals. If the gospel is true, then what ought to be the priorities in your life?

If the gospel is true, what makes for a worthy life and what makes for a wasted life are different than what the world usually tells us about those categories. One of the most powerful moments I've ever experienced in a sermon took place about 20 or so years ago in a large field on a farm outside of Memphis, Tennessee. It was not a great day. It was chilly. It was windy and rainy. There were about 40,000 college students present that Tuesday afternoon and they were restless.

Many were holding their bags above their heads to protect them from the rain that had begun. When the preacher stood up to preach, a gust of wind blew half of his notes out into the crowd. That's like top of the list of worst possible things to happen to a pastor when he gets up to preach.

He had to lean down on the lectern with his arm and pin his remaining notes to the lectern to keep them from blowing away. He said a quick prayer, he regained his composure, and then he told this story from their church. He said three weeks ago we got word at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards, both members of our church, had both been killed in Cameroon. Ruby was over 80, single all of her life. She poured it out for one great thing, to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura, her companion, was a widow. She was a medical doctor.

She was pushing 80 years old and she was serving at Ruby's side in Cameroon. The brakes on their car failed and the car went over a cliff and they were both killed instantly. He said, I then asked my people, my church, were their lives wasted? Is their story nothing but a sad tragedy of two older ladies who wasted their lives doing what they ought not to have been doing?

The crowd of 40,000 college students seemed a little confused almost, but a few of the students in the audience yelled back, no, no, no, the preacher echoed. That is not a tragedy, but I'll tell you what is a tragedy. He then pulled out a page from a travel magazine and read, he read this story. Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was only 59 and she was only 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler every day.

They play softball in the afternoons and they collect seashells. He continued, the American dream, come to the end of your life, your one and only life, and let the last great work before you give an account to your creator be, I collected shells. Lord, see my shells. That, I tell you, is a tragedy. Yet people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream.

Today I'm here to plead with you, don't buy it, don't waste your life, don't waste your life. John Piper was the preacher and this sermon became known as his seashell sermon. I read an article recently that pointed to an unbelievable number of Christian leaders who point back to that message as a turning point in their lives.

It certainly was that for me. That message came at a time where I was thinking about what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life. And it sets up the question that the apostle Paul answers today. In light of the gospel, what constitutes a well-lived life?

What's the difference between a wasted life and a worthy one? I read a survey recently of 20-somethings who were asked what their top post-college aspirations were. Number one answer on the survey was finding meaning in my work.

By the way, these were not Christian students, just ordinary American college students. Making lots of money was on the list too, but it placed behind helping others and providing aid to those in need and after finding meaning in my work. And that's great. We seem to know, we seem to understand, the rising generation at least seems to understand that we are put here on this earth for a purpose. And that purpose is not just making money and you're never really gonna find satisfaction and fulfillment until you know how your life is contributing to the good, to the benefit of your fellow man. I mean, how many celebrities do you need to follow on Instagram before you figure that out?

Last year I saw Katy Perry say on Instagram, 100 million digital singles and I still feel insecure. Comedian Jim Carrey said, I think everybody ought to get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that that's not the answer either. Maybe quarterback Tom Brady, who gives us all over 40 guys hope, by the way. I think he said it best. After winning his third Super Bowl, he was asked on 60 Minutes by Steve Croft. He was asked, Steve Croft said, hey, this whole upward trajectory you're on, right, in this rapid rise to fame. What have you learned about yourself? Tom Brady said, here's what I've learned. Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there's something else out there greater for me? Maybe a lot of people out there would look at me and say, hey man, this is what it is. I mean, you reached your goal. I reached my dream, my life. But me, I think, God, there's got to be more than this.

What else is there for me? The interviewer, Steve Croft, responded. He said, and what is that answer? Tom Brady smiled for a minute and then his smile kind of faded. He said, I wish I knew.

I wish I knew. In Romans 15, Paul tells you the answer to that question. In Romans 15, he's gonna pull a lot together, a lot of themes that he's been developing in the book of Romans, and he's gonna show you how the gospel enables you to live with purpose. To be clear, I want you to understand, the apostle Paul's calling is not going to be the same as yours. His call, as I'll show you, is very unique, very special to him.

But how he thinks about his calling will show you how you should figure yours out. One of the really striking things to me about that passage is all the very personal ways that Paul talks about the ministry, his ministry in that passage. For example, verse 15, he said, there's a grace given to me. This grace wasn't given to everybody. This grace I'm talking about was given to me for ministry.

It's my ministry that I have. Verse 16, I think, yeah, my offering. This is the offering that I am going to be making to God. Verse 17, my, this is my work for God, the work that God has given to me. Verse 20, this is my aim. In fact, look at verse 20 if you got your Bible open.

My aim, some translations say my ambition, right, my personal ambition. It's to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named so that I do not want to build on somebody else's foundation. But as it is written, those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard about him will understand.

That's a quote from Isaiah 52, 15. Paul's personal calling was to preach Christ in places where Christ had not even been heard of. And in his case, he was talking about Spain.

At that point, that was the farthest ends of the earth as far as he was concerned. And he wanted to get the gospel to Spain because Christ had never been heard of in Spain. This assignment to preach Christ where he had not yet been named was not the same assignment even given to everybody in the early church. Peter, after all we know, was called to stay in Jerusalem. And Paul affirms that in Galatians 2.7.

He recognizes that Peter was called to stay in Jerusalem and lead the church there. Apollos, whom Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians. Apollos was a build on somebody else's foundation kind of guy. Apollos stayed behind in places where Paul planted churches to build up those churches and strengthen those churches. And Paul praised Apollos for that. And just think about all the people that Paul is writing this letter to in Romans.

Paul does not tell each reader they need to quit their job and start traveling with him. So that's Paul's calling. But his personal calling was to preach Christ in places where his name was not known.

That's his purpose. In verse 22, he explains how his understanding of that purpose functioned for him like a decision making grid that helped him make decisions. In verse 22, he says, for example, this is why, this calling, this thing that God has given me to do personally, that's why I've been prevented many times from coming to you.

In other words, in other words, I wanted to come. I really wanted to, but I couldn't because of this other calling God had given me. Paul had the confidence to say no to certain really good opportunities because he was clear where God had called him.

Now just think for a minute, wouldn't that be awesome? Wouldn't it be awesome to have such a clear sense of calling that it would help you make decisions? Paul knew how to turn down good ideas for his life so that he could focus on the God idea for his life. Many of us are just pulled in all these different directions and we kind of, we hear a good thing over here and our problem is we're just constantly like, I've got to do this and I got to do that. Paul understood I can't do everything, but I know what God has called me to do. Paul's understanding of his purpose came from two things. That's what we're going to look at today. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We hope you've been enjoying today's teaching and that it's been an encouragement in your daily walk with God. Before we continue, I wanted to remind you about a daily resource that can also help you stay connected to God's word throughout the week. Our daily email devotionals written by Pastor J.D. offer insightful reflections on the Bible and practical applications for your life. Each day's devotional corresponds to our current teaching series here on the program, so you can stay plugged into the themes and ideas that we explore here even if you miss a day.

So to sign up, simply visit slash resources and enter your email address. Thank you for your financial support that makes this resource and the rest of Summit Life possible. It's because of friends like you that we are able to proclaim the gospel each day to a dying world. Now let's get back to today's teaching with Pastor J.D.

Greer here on Summit Life. First of all, Paul's understanding of his calling and his purpose came from, number one, understanding the purposes of God in the world. Understanding the purposes of God in the world. Notice how Paul grounds his understanding of his calling in God's purposes on earth. In verse 20, right after he states his purpose, my aim, my personal ambition is to preach Christ where he's never been named.

I'm going to limit myself to preaching in those places. The first place he turns to kind of substantiate that calling is back to scripture. He said, I do this because it is written.

Those who were not told about him will see and those who have not heard will understand. Now the reason I think this is surprising is personally I would expect Paul to have grounded his explanation of his purpose in that Damascus road experience. Right, you know where Paul's traveling to Damascus and Jesus knocks him off his horse and that's where Jesus tells him, this is what I want you to do. If that had happened to me in college, right, on my way to class, God had knocked me off my skateboard and, you know, and revealed his will to me what he wanted me to do. Every time you asked me about what I was doing and why, I would start with that. Well, here's why I'm doing it because I was on my way to class, I was on my skateboard, and boom, God knocked me down. This is what he told me. But Paul didn't do that.

He didn't start with that. Why? Well, here's why. I think it's to be an example to you and me. You see, very few of us in here are going to have a Damascus road experience, but all of us have got the Bible. And Paul wants us to be able to find our purpose the way that he found his, so he grounds his understanding of his purpose first in scripture. That's the place you're supposed to begin in figuring out God's purpose for you. So let me just ask, have you ever asked how well your life goals line up with scripture? When I ask people in this church sometimes what they want to do with their life, I'll hear things like, well, I want to be a great doctor. I want to be one of the best heart physicians in the world. I just want to teach kids. I want to maximize my talents and I want to become the best that I can be. I want to just do what I love so that I never have to feel like I'm working a day of my life. I want to own my own business so I can make my own rules and treat my employees the way that I think they should be treated.

I just want to make a good living so that I can take care of my family. And there's nothing inherently wrong with any of those answers. In fact, some of those answers are really good. But often when I ask believers, again, in this church, what those ambitions have to do with God's agenda, I get blank stares. Now listen, God is doing something on earth that he has told us about very clearly in scripture. And our understanding of our ambition, our understanding of our purposes have to begin with his.

You see, for many of us, and this is the culture that we're raised in, we're Americans, we're basically narcissists when it comes to the will of God. We're all into our enneagrams and our strengths finder and our personality profiles. And we just want to know all about us, right? And that's where we start when we were trying to figure out our purpose, but that's not the place you're supposed to start.

Old Testament scholar, Christopher J. H. Wright, he pinpoints a problem. He says, we ask, where does God fit into the story of my life? That's what most of us are wanting to know. I know my enneagram number and I got my strengths and my personality. So God, what's this, you know, what have you created me to do? The real question is, where does my little life fit into the great story of God's mission?

That's the place you got to start. Listen, I'm a Star Wars fan like many of you. And like many of you, I feel like they made entirely too many movies. The only one from that last batch of movies that I really liked story-wise was Rogue One. And the whole movie is a tragedy because just about everybody dies in the end. And that is not a spoiler because they tell you that in episode six of the original trilogy, you're like, well, I haven't seen the original trilogy.

Look, it came out 42 years ago. Okay. So I'm not feeling bad.

You're like, well, yeah, well, we're going to go and watch it this afternoon. Okay. Well, that's just bad luck. That's not on me.

All right. Rogue One examines the backstory for one little scene that gets reported in Return of the Jedi. And basically all these rebel fighters die so they can get the plans of the Death Star to the rebellion so that Luke or somebody Lando can use the force and blow it up. The story of the people in Rogue One ends tragically, but the big story ends awesome. And see that reshapes how you feel at the end of Rogue One after everybody dies. If Rogue One were the only part of the story that we had, we would have no choice but to conclude that that story was a tragedy.

But if we see that story as part of the bigger story, we know that even though that story is sad, it's part of a story that ends in triumph. That's how Paul saw his life. Paul understood he was part of one grand story that superseded the outcome of his small one. You understand that when Paul finally got to Rome, it didn't turn out well for him personally, right? When Paul finally gets into Rome, he didn't go to Rome for the same reason you would go to Rome. He's not touring stuff there.

He's not eating at Italian restaurants. Paul arrived in chains. He would never escape those chains. And ultimately, he would be beheaded. He would be beheaded in Rome.

He never made it to Spain. And Paul understood that might happen. But Paul had seconded his story to the grander story that he was positive was going to end in victory, and a story in which no sacrifice was wasted. A story in which he could look at every tragedy that befell him and say, that's okay. That tragedy is okay because this story ends in triumph. Or he could look back at any sacrifice, and he could say it's worth it. It's worth it.

Yes, I was deprived of this. But it was worth it because of what I saw God doing through it. Here's a question. Do you want to live in a way where you can say that?

Have you ever looked at your life through the lens of eternity, and then through the lens of what God says he is doing in the world? Earlier in this series, I told you the story of C.T. Studd, who most of you have not heard of, but he was the greatest, one of the greatest athletes in the world around the turn of the 20th century. And one of the only worldwide international sports, cricket. He was like the Tom Brady of cricket. He was the goat of cricket. And he was the star of the best team in the world, England's national team. And at the height of his career, he resigns because he feels like he says, I don't feel like my life has any or is making any eternal contribution. And I told you, I mean, he resigned that and he went to be a missionary in India and in Africa, and ultimately we go to China where he would spend the rest of his life. I told you, imagine if like Kyrie Irving or Drew Brees did that today. I mean, everybody was like, what are you doing?

Why would you do that? Well, he was also kind of an amateur poet and he wrote this poem to explain why he did it. There's a little line in that poem that you've heard me quote for years. Only one life to live will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.

Undoubtedly now, C.T. Studd looks back on his life and says, worth it. Yeah, I walked away from what the world would have said is a lot. In fact, by most people's estimation, they think I wasted my life because I wasted my talents.

I took my talents from cricket and I went overseas where I never even used them, but it's totally worth it because God's purposes were first and foremost. You want to know what God's will is for your life. Have you started by asking what his big purposes are on earth and how your life contributes to that?

I'll just go ahead and tell you, as an American speaking to mostly Americans, most of us, because we're Americans and we're narcissistic, we have turned the will of God, even the will of God, we have turned into an idol where we seek to know the will of God more than we seek to know the purposes of God and we seek it more than we seek the glory of God. You're never gonna understand the will of God for your life until you understand the will of God for the world and how your little story fits into that bigger story. We always talk now, and this is like everybody, oh, I gotta find God's will. I told you before, it's not lost. God's will is not lost.

You don't have to go looking for it. 2 Peter 3.9 tells you right what it is. The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but he wants all to come to repentance. And if they're gonna come to repentance, it's gonna be because you and I live in a way and position ourselves in a way that we can tell them about Jesus and now bring them to repentance.

So don't think about your life narcissistically. Think about it in light of the purposes of God. Here in Romans 15, when Paul quotes from the Old Testament, he does something that no other New Testament author does.

And this is just because Paul is spooky smart and he's showing off how intelligent he is. He quotes in a row, three verses right in a row, he quotes from all three major divisions of the Jewish Old Testament. He quotes from the Torah, the law, then he quotes from the prophets, then he quotes from the wisdom writings. Those were the three basic sections of the Old Testament. And what he was trying to show you is all these parts of the Old Testament have one theme. And that theme is that Jesus is coming and that he will be worshiped by all nations. And so if that's God's plan that he talks about on literally every page of scripture, then that's gonna be the center of my life as well. To our students, I often tell them, our college students, our high school students, one of the greatest things about your generation is that it is a cause-driven generation.

That's why the number one thing that you wanna do after college is find meaning in your work. You wanna eradicate poverty, you wanna extend human rights, you wanna end global warming, you wanna save the planet from plastic straws. And many of those are good causes and worthy causes.

And I commend you, I don't like paper straws, but I still commend you for all of it. But we ought to care about many of those things. But for the Christian who believes the Bible, for the Christian who believes the Bible, there is one cause that trumps all of them. That cause is advocated on every page of every genre of the book that we study every weekend. There is one great cause, one great purpose, the Lord is not willing that any should perish. He wants all to come to repentance. That's the most important thing you can do for your fellow human, is help them understand the way of salvation. As we finish our journey through this book together, we'll grow to understand God's righteousness, our unrighteousness apart from Him, the significance of God's Son, Jesus Christ, and the implications of the gospel message for our everyday lives.

And that's the subject of our newest featured resource written by the late Pastor Tim Keller, called In View of God's Mercy, which takes you through the second half of the Book of Romans. We'll send you part two of Pastor Tim's Roman study as an expression of thanks when you donate today to support this ministry. You can give now by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can give online at That's

You can also request volume one when you give today and complete your set. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us tomorrow as we spend a little more time looking at two things that we need in order to realize our calling. We'll see you Tuesday for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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