The beginning of the year is often a time of deep reflection. Our hope is that your thoughts are not only directed toward your resolutions but also about more profound existential questions. We will help you get there: our first two months of sermons are entirely directed toward the subject of purpose!
I’ve been part of many dialogues between Christians and Atheists, which often circle around whether everything (including humanity) was intelligently created. In essence, does humanity have a God-given purpose? Or are we merely an accident of the universe’s own chaotic doing? The question, however, has far-reaching implications, especially when it comes to love.
If God created us (and he surely did!) then we are loved into existence!
We will unpack that. First, though, it is important to note how this is not just some novel philosophical idea. Rather, this observation is embedded in Scripture itself. We see this clearly in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV)
Prior to receiving Christ as Lord, the Ephesians grew up in an ancient Greco-Roman pagan background that told a drastically different narrative than Christianity. They were religious but they might as well have been atheists since their so-called “gods” did not care about them. Greco-Roman religion would never use language such as “Artemis loves you,” or fill in the blank. They served a purpose to the gods, sure. So they had a “purpose,” but it was not a purpose born out of love. Rather, their purpose was born out of utilitarian causes. Pagan religion taught that the “gods” created humans to serve them and do the grunt work they didn’t want to do, such as feeding themselves (via the sacrifices) and so on. The relationship was transactional: you do this for me, a god, and I’ll bestow some blessings on you.
Enter Paul, who introduces the Ephesians to a Trinitarian God of love and grace.
We do not know what exactly was the catalyst for faith to be spurred on in Ephesus. Was it the miracles that demonstrated God’s power? Could it have been the hope of life beyond death and the future resurrection? Perhaps it was the logic and rhetoric of Christianity that outflanked their pagan philosophy. We do not know. But if I had to guess, I would venture to say that one of the main reasons the Ephesians were drawn to Jesus was because of love.
The God revealed in Scripture and who entered our world, died on the cross, resurrected from the dead, ascended to glory, and promised to come again is also the God who started it all. He is the Creator and the Redeemer. He is the one who fashioned humanity with purpose but lavishes humanity with his own love.
Paul makes this explicitly clear at the very beginning of his letter…
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. (Ephesians 1:4 NLT)
“Even before he made the world, God loved us.” In other words, even before he made you, he loved you.
It’s impossible to speak of purpose without speaking of God’s love because our purpose is born out of God’s love.
- Ephesians 1:4 tells us we were chosen because God is in love with us.
- Ephesians 2:4 tells us that God’s love compelled his saving action.
- Ephesians 3:17–18 tells us to continually ground ourselves in God’s love.
- Ephesians 4:16 tells us that our unity as the “body of Christ” grows in love.
- And Ephesians 5:2 tells us to walk in love, because how could we conduct ourselves any other way when our whole existence and redemption are born out of love?
To live with purpose is to live fully alive in God’s love.
No matter how deep we probe into the motives of God, we will never arrive at a layer beyond love. Geerhardus Vos, one of the great Princeton theologians of the late eighteen-to-mid-nineteen hundreds sums it up well:
“The best proof that He [God] will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.”
May you walk into this new year knowing you have a purpose, yes, but even more so, knowing that your purpose is born out of love because, after all, you were loved into existence by God himself!