WHAT GOD IS PASSIONATE ABOUT
Have you ever felt like you were totally psyched up for something, and then it turned out that it wasn’t what you thought it would be…kinda disappointing?
I heard a story a while back about a couple – they’d been married for ten years. All the wife wanted for her birthday was an iPhone.
Now her husband thought it’s such a great idea! For weeks before, he started dropping hints. It’s going to be great using that new iPhone, hey? What colour would you like it in? What would be the first thing you do with it when you get it?
The big day finally arrived, and the husband pulled out a box – it was the right size – it must be the iPhone! She pulls off the wrapper and it’s…a cellphone charger for her blackberry! “For you to charge your phone in the car,” her husband says to her with a big, excited, sincere smile. All this time she’d thought he’d been dropping hints, but he just loved talking about iPhones.
The disappointments might be somewhat smaller. At the end of last year some people in my family decided to give Sarah and I an awesome gift of a hot-air balloon ride. It was so exciting! We called and chose a date; I did tons of research about what to expect and what to take along; my parents came through from Nelspruit just to drive us to Hartebeespoort Dam and watch us take off; we arrived just at dawn and I was taking tons of pictures and then…the wind picked up and the flight was called off.
As Barry’s been sharing these last few weeks, I’ve been getting so excited. I can honestly say that I believe God is doing a wonderful work in our Church. As young people we’ve been wrestling with this in our small groups for the last two weeks – what does it mean to be the Church, what can we do?? So much excitement!
But in our discussions this last week, I became a little afraid that after all this hype, it might suddenly die out leaving many of us here feeling a little…disappointed.
I mean, how do we take back Sundays; how do we ‘be the Church’ to the Church? What does that mean? What am I meant to do practically? If I want to get involved in the Church, but I don’t know how to preach, can’t lead worship, and don’t want to stand at the door and greet strange people, what can I do? Is there no place in the Church for me?
Tonight I want to help you start off in the right direction. Some of what I will say may be repetition of what Barry has said. But I want to talk to you not just about the Church, but about God’s incredible passion for His kingdom. So I’m going to hopefully give you a glimpse of God’s passion, and from that, we’ll look at where we go from there.
So let’s start out by saying that God is passionate about His Kingdom…
POINT 1: GOD IS PASSIONATE ABOUT HIS KINGDOM
From delivering the Israelites out of bondage to Egypt, to sending prophet after prophet to His people calling them to repentance, to sending His very own Son to die for our sins – the LORD has shown us again and again that He is passionate about His kingdom.
God is passionate about bringing His name and glory and authority and majesty over the whole earth. The Psalms are full of examples:
Ps 22:27 “May those in faraway countries remember the LORD and come back to Him. May those in distant lands worship Him…”
Ps 67:2 “Let everyone on earth learn about You. Let every nation see how You save people.”
Ps 72:19 “Praise His glorious name forever! Let His glory fill the whole world.”
Zechariah speaks of a day when “living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea…And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and His name one.”
Habakkuk speaks of a time which will come “when all the earth will be filled, as the waters fill the sea, with an awareness of the glory of the LORD.”
And finally, John giving us a revelation of Jesus declares to God, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
This is what God is passionate about! God is passionate about His glory and His kingdom spreading and expanding all over the world.
So God is passionate about people like Maura Thompson who shared with us this morning about her call to permanent missions work in Jordan. And God is passionate about people in this Church who are called to give financially so that Maura and others can serve. And God is passionate about the ladies who come early on a Thursday morning to prepare the tea for the ladies meeting because they want to serve. And God is passionate about those who pray for others in the Church. God is passionate about those who make themselves available to God’s leading and will bring a word of encouragement to others in the congregation, either in the Sunday services or in an sms or written letter in the week. God is passionate about those who are passionate about Him and His kingdom!
But I also want to say this; that God won’t be swayed when people aren’t as passionate about His kingdom as He is. God will either cause His people to move, or He will simply move on with other people.
After Jesus died and was raised and ascended into heaven, the Church remained small and afraid. Then there was an explosion at Pentecost, 3,000 people believed and were baptised and joined the Church.
From that point, the Church continued to grow…but only in Jerusalem. God saw that the Church was becoming complacent in Jerusalem, and so allowed a wave of persecution to come against the Church in Jerusalem that saw almost the entire Church chased out into the regions and nations around and the message of God’s glory went with them. God may cause His people to move.
And God may simply move on with other people. You’ll remember the message to Ephesus in Revelation 2; where God says to that Church, “I know the works you have been doing, I know that you have been patiently enduring many trials; but I also know that you’re not doing that anymore. You did many good things, but you’ve become content with where you are.” Then the Lord says this: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place…”
God is passionate about His glory and will advance it whether we work with Him or not!
So let me say this; if in these last few weeks of Barry’s preaching you’ve had any sense that this is the Church’s cry for help, you’ve missed it completely!
It hasn’t been a cry for help, it has been an invitation to get involved with what God is passionate about.
One wise young person said in our small group on Tuesday; but this isn’t even the Church! Where in the Bible does it say that we should meet on a Sunday for these hours and these hours?
And she’s right, it doesn’t say that anywhere. And my response was that this is simply a useful time and place to meet. Trying to organise a get together for four people can be difficult; how much more difficult for 40 people from all walks of life who have little in common but a love for the LORD?
And so consequently we need to learn that the CHURCH is not an end in itself. We are not here to do Church, we are here to be Church. When someone comes into the service with a word of encouragement to the congregation, that’s being the Church. When someone goes to visit and share God’s love in a hospital, that’s being the Church. When someone goes and shares the gospel message with a friend at school – that’s being the Church, and when you come back to these services, it’s an opportunity to rejoice together and encourage one another: that’s what Hebrews 10:25 says.
But the Church service is not an end in itself. That is why I speak about God’s passion for His Kingdom, His Church. God is not passionate about us coming once a week to sit through a lecture or speech from the front, make small talk and go home.
God isn’t passionate about that; and to tell the truth, we aren’t passionate about that. If that’s what it’s become for us, then that’s why we’ve lost our passion for the Church.
So we’re saying that God is passionate about His Church, His Kingdom, but we can also choose to get passionate about His Kingdom. We can choose to be passionate about God’s Kingdom by realising that we are a part of it, and God wants us involved.
Can I get involved in what God is doing? Yes! I can expand God’s kingdom.
POINT 2: I CAN EXPAND GOD’S KINGDOM
Let’s get excited about expanding and growing God’s Kingdom! There’s nothing more exciting than to get involved in what God is doing, to step in line with where He’s moving.
That’s why you’ll find that the writer of Psalm 119 was getting so excited about the Scriptures. The psalmist says, “I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules (vs. 7)…In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (vs. 14-16)…My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times (vs. 20)…Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counsellors (vs. 24)…Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end (vs. 33)…I find my delight in your commandments, which I love (vs. 47)…”
Do we have here a stickler for the rules, someone who finds a manual and just goes berserk with excitement because everything has to be just so? No! The psalmist has come to realise that there’s nothing more exciting than…not rules…but being involved in what God is doing. He’s going NUTS saying, “God, where You are and what You’re doing is where I want to be and what I want to be doing!” It’s the picture of a child so excited to join his daddy in the workshop or her mommy on errands.
So if God is so passionate about His kingdom – and if He’s working to expand His kingdom, then isn’t that something that we should get excited about?
But then the question becomes, ‘Well, how?’ If we start with the, ‘Well, how?’ question then it tends to come from an attitude of, ‘Well…fine…I was going to play golf this Saturday but if I must…’ or ‘Well…I was going to have a drink with my mate this Thursday afternoon, but now the Church wants me to help out with getting food parcels ready for the hand-out on Saturday…’
But if we start with a deep and sincere understanding of God’s heart for His kingdom, and if we start with a deep and real desire to be where God is and do what God is doing, then we become hungry, ‘Well, how?’
Once we get a passion for what God’s doing, then we start becoming desperate to hear where God wants us. I’m talking desperate; I’m talking cutting TV out of our lives because we want to use that time to spend in God’s Word; I’m talking fasting because we want to discipline our bodies and minds to hear God’s voice; I’m talking settling domestic disputes just so that our minds can be free of the bitterness so we’re more ready to do God’s will. I’m talking desperate!
I’m telling you – You can build and expand God’s kingdom. But start with a heart for God; start with becoming passionate about what God is passionate about – and then start asking, ‘Well, what should I do?’
What’s the answer? Well, do what you can do.
All of us have gifts and talents that are given to us by God, and these are for the building up of the Church. Last week in Discipleland we taught the kids the story of Samson, and we spoke about how Samson was given great strength because God wanted him to use it for Israel’s salvation from the Philistines. Instead, Samson was the Bible’s biggest bully – or thereabouts. He used his great strength to wipe out anyone who insulted him or got in his way.
And we said this to the kids in Discipleland: God’s going to make you strong, and smart, and beautiful, and good at so many things; but He’s going to make you good at those things not so that you can use them to build yourself up and to make you look good. God is passionate about His kingdom; He wants you to use these things for Him.
So I’ll say the same thing here. God has grown you up, and made you strong and smart and talented in many areas. Many of you sitting here are so good at many things – organising events, seeing people’s needs, understanding and fixing machines, photography, reading books, writing books, making people feel welcome, cooking, teaching, setting things in a good order, maybe you’re really good with computers, really great with young people, you’re great at decorating, you have an eye for colour-coordination, you’re talented musically, you make a mean cup of coffee, you’re good at planning for the future, you speak well to strangers and you’re quick to make friends, you have little fear of others mixed with a great love for them; ALL THESE and many more are gifts and talents from the Lord.
God has grown you and made you strong and talented in many areas; He wants you to use these things for Him; what will you do with what He’s given you?
Romans 12:6-8 “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
The challenge I’m going to leave with you tonight is to find out what God wants you to do. One great to find out: ask Him. Another great way to find out: ask others. But realise that when you do get passionate about God’s kingdom, then you’re being passionate about what God is passionate about; and if your heart is willing, He will lead and direct you where He wants you to go.
Small group challenge: say one thing that you’re very good at, passionate about and that you feel that God could use to make Him known and loved inside or outside the Church.