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RIGHT PURPOSES

Essentials For The Twenty-First Century

John 17:1-5
24th July 2005

Empty lives without purpose. We have been horrified this week with the stories of teenage men assaulting and raping girls as young as thirteen. One four-year-old boy was taken by his brother to a unit where he witnessed his brother allegedly joining four other teenage males, one as young as 13, and a 19-year-old in the rape of a teenage girl, aged thirteen, lured to the unit in Hurstville. Then there were the reports of probably the most violent, prolific gang rapists Sydney has known, with as many as 18 young female victims. Until now the extent of the horrific crimes of four brothers from Pakistan has not been known. They lured girls as young as 13 to their home in Ashfield to rape them. The brothers, who came to Australia from Pakistan in 2000, had claimed in the face of damning DNA evidence that they were the victims of an anti-Muslim conspiracy. Their Pakistani father, a doctor, lied to cover up for them. Given long sentences by the judges, they have been sent to juvenile detention centres. I have been in those centres, but I cannot imagine these young men showing interest in education classes, doing exams our joining in art therapy.

They are typical of a group of young people without purpose and meaning in life, who utter despise our country and who claim Western society is “disgusting”, democracy is “Satan-based”, non-Muslims are “sewer water”, women in skimpy clothing are at fault if they are raped, Osama bin Laden is not guilty of mass murder, and so on. (The Australian, July 23). Without purpose and meaning they continue to be a problem to our citizens both here and in London, and to find nothing in life except for violence and self-centredness.

To discover your purpose and meaning in life is one of the absolute essentials for living. Without purpose and meaning, life can devolve to the lowest common denominator but with purpose and meaning, people can reach their highest potential. You see this in the life of Jesus. From the time Joseph was told, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 that was His purpose and the meaning of His life: He would save His people from their sins.

On the night before He died upon the cross, Jesus prayed: John 17:1–6 “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The prayer began with the announcement “The time has come.”

When Mary spoke to him at the wedding of Cana, evidently suggesting that he should intervene in the tense social situation by manifesting his power, he informed her that his “time had not yet come.” 2:4 He did not then present himself as the Messiah. When his brothers urged him to go to Jerusalem to gain publicity for himself, he refused to do so because “the right time has not yet come.” 7:8 Twice in the prolonged controversy with his enemies Jesus escaped death because “His time had not yet come” 7:30; 8:20 but now He acknowledged that the time of crisis had arrived. 12:23, 13:1 This announcement enhances the significance of the prayer because it becomes Jesus’ evaluation of the purpose of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus prayed: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” The word “glorify” should be applied to the total complex of these events as the climax of the Incarnation. The Son glorified the Father by revealing in this act the sovereignty of God over evil, the compassion of God for men, and the finality of redemption for believers. Jesus focused his entire career on fulfilling the Father’s purpose and on delivering the Father’s message. His purpose and meaning in life was fulfilled.

Note what this purpose was: Joseph had been told it was to “save people from their sins.” Now at the end of His life, Jesus sums it up: v2–3 “For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” He was empowered to impart eternal life to those who had been given to him. This Gospel frequently asserts that life is in Christ: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men”1:4 “The Son of Man must be liked up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 3:15–16 “The water I give him will become in him [who drinks it] a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 4:14; 5:21, 26; 6:33, 54; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6 These words and others like them emphatically express the central purpose of Jesus: to glorify the Father by imparting life to men, life that is eternal. It is not described in chronological terms but by a relationship. Life is active involvement with environment; death is the cessation of involvement with the environment, whether it be physical or personal. The highest kind of life is involvement with the highest kind of environment, that is with God Himself.

A worm is content to live in soil; but humans, the children of God need not only the wider environment of earth, sea, and sky but also contact with other human beings. For the complete fulfillment of our being, we must know God. This, said Jesus, constitutes eternal life. Not only is it endless, since the knowledge of God would require an eternity to develop fully, but qualitatively it must exist in an eternal dimension. As Jesus said farther on in this prayer, eternal life would ultimately bring His disciples to a lasting association with Him in His divine glory. v24

Once I was talking to the great New Testament scholar Professor E.M. Blaiklock. I said, “I am going to preach tonight on the background of the word “mansion.” Dr Westcott, the great Greek scholar, Dr William Temple, Dr Kingsley Barrett, and Professor Lightfoot have said something about this word in their commentaries that I have not seen elsewhere.” He said, “Oh, yes. “monai pollai” the two Greek words meaning ‘many mansions.’” I asked “Do you go along with the understanding of those scholars?” He replied, “I think it one of the loveliest expressions that I know.” I said, “I want to share that with our people tonight.” He said, “I am going to share it in glory.” He did unexpectedly soon. For Professor Blaiklock died soon afterwards.

What did Jesus mean, “In My Father’s house are many rooms.”? Older translations use the word — “mansions”. Some picture a great building of immense opulence. Actually, the Greek word had nothing to do with great wealth. The word “mansion” came to us from the Latin, through the French. The Scots call it “manse”. I lived in manses for years. Now I am going home.

A manse is not a palace, but a place where you rest for a period. For a few years the minister stays in one manse while ministering in a church and then moves on to another. A mansion was a resting place for a short time before progressing further. “Monai” in Greek means to stay or remain for a little while. Our common word for a resting place today — motel — comes directly from it! Dr Westcott said that in the eastern world a traveller would send a friend ahead of him. This friend was called a “dragoman”. He knew the language of the people and the country. He would go ahead and prepare for the next night’s stay. Dr Westcott declares this is what Jesus is saying, “In my Father’s house are many resting places where you can stay upon your journey.” He goes before us to prepare the way.

Dr William Temple, the great Anglican scholar, takes us a little deeper into the word. He puts it beautifully. “Nothing happens in eternal life that does not have its antecedent here in our physical life. We are to grow in grace and when the shadows fall and we find ourselves walking through the valley of death, we find He has gone before us and prepared a resting place. Then, after acceptance, light and warmth, we will move on to another resting place, coming ever closer to the heart of God.” This is what Paul means when he says that we will go from glory to glory, as Charles Wesley put it: “Changed from glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place.” It is the promise of Jesus that in His Father’s house, for members of His family, there are many places of increasing joy and happiness. It is out eternal home. After death we grow towards perfection until we stand before God’s throne, in the eternal city where there is no more sorrow, crying or sadness.

What purpose that Christian conviction brings to everything we do. Knowing that destiny meaning to everything we do. The contemporary theologian, “Walter Brueggemann says “Vocation is finding a purpose for being in the world that is related to the purpose of God.” We need to discover God’s redemptive purpose. Our first step towards finding our vocational calling is realizing that God’s purpose must become our purpose. We are called to work for righteousness, justice, peace, reconciliation, wholeness, and love. We are called to labour for the establishment of God’s reign not only in the hearts of men and women, but in homes, neighbourhoods, corporations, nations, and creation itself. And we want to help you find a purpose for being in the world that is directly derived from the redemptive purpose of God.

Now some will find ways to pursue the purpose of God through their jobs. Others will find ways to do it through their leisure time. But we all need to find ways to be regularly involved in advancing the redemptive purpose of God.” (Tom Sine) Just imagine how much good those men who lure and rape those young girls could do for our world, if all their pent up energy and powerful testosterone, could be harnessed to fulfilling the purpose of God. They could change the world instead of ruining the lives of the innocent. For them, life is full of despair and hopelessness. No wonder they get involved in drugs and pointless living. So many young people do not know where to turn. They have no philosophy, nothing to believe in, no one to look to, and they have no hope which can guide their lives. In jail they will spend their lives gaining only more cigarettes.

There is meaning and purpose behind everything. Life was not meant to be meaningless, full of despair, disappointment and disillusionment. Life has point, purpose and meaning so long as life has faith and hope. Paul says that the church has a special role to play in the history of the world, because it is through the church that a message of hope, meaning and purpose is brought to the people, so that ordinary folk might live with boldness and discover confidence in their lives.

That is the joy of every preacher, to tell people there is a point to living, there ism purpose and hope — it comes from Jesus Christ. That is the central message of the Christian church. The church is there not only because it is a multi-cultural, multi-national group of people, but because it is the example of the way God can give His gifts to ordinary people in ministry and at work. Your life can be a vocation, a fulfillment of the purpose of God for this world. Can you see how members of the church are integral in the plan of God? You are part of His great purpose. You are part of His family. Knowing that can give meaning and purpose to your life, so that instead of becoming a destructive part of the community, you become a constructive part of it. Instead of being a negative aspect of it, you become a positive aspect. Instead of being part of society’s problem, you become part of the answer. That is the difference Jesus Christ can make in your life. Why not accept Him as Lord of your life, and the Saviour from your sin. God is making a new society, the church, a new people with a new life-style, full of purpose!

REFERENCES

  • Why Settle for More and Miss the Best? Tom Sine. pp 139/140. Word

Gordon Moyes

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.