Living Life on Purpose - Week 4

Living Life on Purpose

We all want to live lives of purpose, not lives that we wish we could do over. All of us want to do better still, but often we go about it in the wrong way. It's a spiritual myth that wanting to be Godly is all it takes; we must participate in the process by trusting God more. Here is a challenge to take action on the truth that God has revealed to each one of us.

Todd WagnerJan 29, 2004

Carlos was 39 years old, and his dad was 69. He talked to his dad about what he wanted his life to be about. We talked about the very first few weeks we were together here, how when we're at that moment of life, when you're looking back over what life is all about, what matters and what doesn't matter is easily distinguishable. The difference between Carlos and his dad is when his dad now started to think about what he wanted his life to be about and his life to be summed up about, his dad abandoned much of what he had lived for the 70 years he was on earth.

Carlos said, "For 25 years, my purpose hasn't changed. There was no sense of wishing I could do this over or wishing I had the last 25 years back." But his daddy, who thought that 15-year-old was crazy because that 15-year-old had that perspective of the ageless one, the timeless one, had the wisdom that the father didn't.

What we've been trying to walk through here and talk about in our time together here is how you can have a life that you don't wish you could do over again. How to live a life on purpose, a life you won't regret, a life that is going to be increasingly full of meaning and purpose and significance.

What we talked about last week is how we have to get to a place in our conversation together where we have to make a decision. "Am I all in or not?" We realize there might even be some guys who are still going to be with us (we hope there are) who aren't all in, but they're going to continue to watch us and hear what we say the sweet life is.

Men who, by faith, have gotten to the place where it's no longer about what we perceive is the best thing to grab in life, but we are, if you will, looking up to a Father who has revealed himself to us and loves us and says, "We want to show you, Todd, the sweet stuff. I want to show you the abundant stuff, the stuff that makes life full."

Don't hear me say the stuff that makes life prosperous, but the stuff that makes life meaningful, significant, and full. That's what we're talking about right here. There are some stories in this room that are filled with some pain. We're going to find out today that part of the reason that pain is there is because of what God is about in leading us to a sweet place which is into his image.

What we're going to look at this morning is if you believe God loves you, if you believe there's a Father who wants you to have a life that is different, that over 25 years you wouldn't have to look back and change what is that's going to ultimately shape you, this is what it means. All of us, as men, want to constantly improve. We want to go to the next level. Self-leadership is something that is a major market in our country and our world because all of us are wired to do better still.

Many of us just try a different strategy that might give us more meaning or fullness in life. The Lord is saying, "I'm going to give you one purpose and one meaning, and I'm going to constantly work you towards that purpose to excel still more." That's what we're looking at today.

Just as a fun way to get us started this morning, I want to show you a little clip to let us laugh together. You should recognize this if at any time during your last 10 years (especially through the 90s) you have spent some form of your Thursday night potentially watching a comedian by the name of Jerry Seinfeld and his friends go through life.

This is one little scene where his buddy had just had a heart attack and was looking to change and looking to get better. There was the traditional way to go and get better, and then there was his buddy Kramer who encouraged him to consider an alternative path for healing, a way to change, a way to get over the sickness that was in his life. This is what they ran into. Check this out.


Tor: What month were you born?

George: April.

Tor: You should've been born in August. Your parents would have been well-advised to wait.

George: Really?

Tor: Do you use hot water in the shower?

George: Yes.

Tor: Stop using it.

George: Okay.

Kramer: I'm off hot water.

Tor: Kramer tells me you are interested in an alternative to surgery.

George: Yes. Yes, I am.

Tor: I think we can help you. See, unfortunately, the medical establishment is a business like any other business. And business needs customers, and they want to sell you their most expensive item, which is unnecessary surgery.

George: Can I use hot water on my face?

Tor: No. You know, I am not a businessman. I am a holistic healer. It's a calling. It's a gift. You see, it's in the best interest of the medical profession that you remain sick. You see, that ensures good business. You're not a patient. You're a customer.

Jerry: [Thinking to himself]And you're not a doctor, but you play one in real life.

George: What about shaving?

Tor: You're eating too much dairy. May I?

George: I guess so.

Tor: Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. You see, you are in disharmony. The throat is the gateway to the lung. Tonsillitis, adenoiditis is, in Chinese medical terms, an invasion of heat and wind.

Jerry: [Thinking to himself]There's some hot air blowing in here.

Tor: You know, I lived with the Eskimos many years ago, and they used to plunge their faces into the snow.

George: Could it be lukewarm?

Jerry: Too much dairy? You really think I'm eating too much dairy?

[End of Video]

All right. It goes on for a while. The reason I showed you that is just obviously the lunacy of looking to have what was a heart condition for George be what moved him to a place of greater health. What's going to move you? I would challenge you to consider that if you don't find the Divine Physician's plan to move you, whatever you choose is going to be ultimately as silly as that.

What we're going to talk about today is what changes us. What makes us become the healthy people that we really want to be? We're going to walk through that together. Let me just pray with us.

Father, I thank you for these men. The fact that we continue to be stirred to get up, to deprive ourselves of a little extra sleep that we might be introduced to your perspective again to renew and deepen our convictions, to give us energy on our journey and our path or to clarify what path that is that we should consider or even begin to take. I pray that you would move all of us to get more into you to move all-in and respond fully to you that we might experience the life that we're looking for. I pray this in Christ's name, amen.

I very rarely get to read the Dallas Morning News because I get up early on Sunday morning to spend some good time alone before I get to be with many of you, and then I get home, and there are five or six kids and a wife and maybe a soccer practice or two that usually has most of my time. By the time I get towards the end of the day and get a good shot of Sports Center just to still my soul, the last thing I have much energy left to do is to read the paper.

But there are always three sections my wife pulls for me before she throws it out. One of them is the Today section ("Texas Living" now). I always get to read that little Dave Barry piece. If you're not a Dave Barry fan, he's worth the price of admission on that Sunday Morning edition of the Dallas Morning News in the "Texas Living" section. This guy just always got a great fun perspective on life. I always read Dave Barry.

I always like to read the Parade magazine, one section there specifically. Just the questions they ask Marilyn vos Savant. If you don't know who she is, she is a person who has an incredibly high IQ and always answers questions that people write into her. I love to hear her perspective on life or sometimes just the riddles and problems people ask her to solve. I try and see if I can answer them or how I would answer them as compared to how this particular person might.

I always enjoy looking through the "High Profile" section to see what the Dallas Morning News is saying that somebody ought to know about in your community. This last Sunday, there was an article in there about Dallas' head of pediatric chair. It was an individual that they basically said, "This is a life. She is more than a kids' doctor," Dr. Pita.

In this article, as I read it, I was really struck by the fact the Dallas Morning News was just observing this person's life, this doctor's life, and the things they said about her. I want you just to hear this. If your life was going to be profiled, I'm going to tell you, I don't know what ultimately it would say about you, but I think you would be pleased to ultimately have it say something like this.

It's usually somebody who has been fairly successful in business or industry, somebody who's made some major inroads or somebody who's been advancing some corporation's interest. It's interesting what they did with this doctor, and they really talked about the fact that this person's life was full. This person's life was a life that was lived on a purpose, that if we could all align ourselves with it, this world would be a better place. Let me just read you a few little paragraphs right here.

One comment from the doctor at the beginning says something like this. "I may be still doing hands-on doctoring one day a week after I retire, but ultimately, the main thing for me now is to give God space in my life so he can act and guide me. Not that he hasn't been acting and guiding me in my life before. Over the years, I have learned to be more accepting that God does love me, and he does love other people, and we should all act that way, as if other folks mattered.

We should remember this. All people are loved by God. We can't give up on anyone because if God created each of us, we'll all have dignity and worth. We can disagree on some of the details, but we have to accept that God created us, and we have dignity." It goes through here and talks about some of the things that this particular pediatrician did.

For instance, she saw that there were a number of folks who would come through her office. She saw they had more than medical needs. She began to introduce a number of things including getting volunteers to come into her office and to read to the young children who were there, if their parents couldn't read to them, to teach those kids the value and joy of reading. To give their parents a desire to want to learn to read when their kids' eyes lit up.

Volunteers would sit in her office and read books to kids who were there, and how that began to affect some different families. She talks about how she got connected with the part in the city of Dallas. It's called the Vickery area. For years, it's been one of the major drains in the city of Dallas. The highest crime area in our city is not what you think maybe south of I-30, but where it is is east of 75, south of Forest and north of Northwest Highway. That little section right there, the Vickery area.

What she didn't do was get some big program going. She decided as one person to find another person, and the two of them would do what they could do. She happened to hook up with a guy who had been there for some time, and the two of them thought, "We can't do a lot, so let's just invest in one particular apartment complex."

They said, "All we did was go in and try and develop relationships with people, begin to build some trust with them, begin to share with them some different resources that I knew about in this city that might help them in their condition and then to begin to love and serve these people, not wanting anything from them but the opportunity to show they matter to Christ."

It talks about how this woman was not just eager to serve others as she was a person of some significance in stature, but how this person always cared about those she shared life with. She didn't go somewhere to make a feel-good experience. She dragged them into own neighborhood. She then got comments from her neighbors.

Comments like this. "She's the kind of a person who allays anxiety and meets people where they are. She loves children. She has a nurturing nature about her. That's why she's such a good doctor. She wants parents to understand how to parent the kid." She says, "She's a patient person, optimistic. She sees everybody as her friend. She's dedicated, persuasive. I can't help but make my life better because I'm around her."

Then one person said, "I've known her for a while, and I've always appreciated her generosity." It talks about the time that this neighbor's husband was out of work. "My husband lost his job in the late 80s and Alice and David (our neighbors), would bring us groceries. I'd find them on my doorstep.

Or she'd come over and knock on my door and say, 'Hey, I'm going to Sam's. You can come and get what you want, or I'll just bring back what I think you need. What can I get for your family?' I'd tell her I didn't know how I'd ever be able to pay her back, and she'd say, 'You don't need to pay me back. Life is full of concentric circles, and if my life touches yours, let the ripple effect of that go out into other people's lives.'"

This whole article goes on (this is the Dallas Morning News) just saying, "This is a life worth following." The key to this entire life is all wrapped up in one statement at the very end. Guess what it says? "It's a God thing. It's not about me." When I read that, I thought, "How incredible to have this testimony in our Dallas Morning News about what a life worth living looks like."

It's where we started our conversation a couple of weeks back. It's not about you. When you see somebody who lives life that way, the world stands back. In a world that's full of incredible people and folks who make incredible inroads to success, the thing that makes a life ultimately admirable is a life that is conformed to this one image.

Here's what I want to tell you this morning. I want you to imagine this. It goes to our very first couple of points right here. I'm going to give you the blanks together, and then I want to go and talk about them as a group. I want to tell you that you have the opportunity this morning to get in step with a God who wants your life to be the most incredible thing that humankind can imagine.

I want you think about the opportunity for your life to be like John Heisman. They sculpted this guy, a picture of this guy, and he's become now the paragon, the icon, that the most outstanding football player in all of college football looks like. I want you to imagine a trophy being made for what an outstanding life looks like is being named after you.

You could make a case that the "Dr. Pita trophy" would be handed out in the city of Dallas now for perpetuity that was given every year to the person whose life looked like a life ought to look. That's the first little statement right here. This is amazing. You and I both, but, "You were created to be the most attractive, glorious, awe-inspiring facet [part or piece or element] in all of God's creation."

What I mean by that is there is a lot that makes us stop and be shocked and in awe. As a kid, for some reason, I was always taken by this thing called the aurora borealis. The fact that it could be night out there, but there'd somehow be multicolored lights in the sky.

This last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to be up in British Columbia for a few days. I was sitting out in this place that shut the electricity off at 10:00 p.m. I was sitting out there on this porch, and I looked up. I knew I was facing the Yukon. I knew that all that was out there on the other side of this mountain range in the far north British Columbia was ice and the Antarctic.

All of a sudden, it looks like the county fair is about 10 miles on the other side of this mountain. I'm thinking, "What in the world is going on other there?" I started to think, "Is it like an oil rig? Is there some drilling going on over there?" Then I saw the light move. It jumped over here. Then I saw it shoot up over the sky, and I started to go, "That's the stinkin' northern lights." I was with a couple of guys. I go, "Look at that. Do you know what that is? We're getting to see this."

For about three hours, you would watch this stuff dance all over the sky. It would shoot up over here. Lights out of nowhere. Just the magnetic response to what was going on with the shape and the curve of the earth and what goes on up there and all that different stuff. I sat there, and I was just amazed at both its beauty and the wonder and the mystery behind it.

When you guys see certain creatures out in nature that are just awe-inspiring, when you see mountain ranges, when you see a beautiful sunset, you and I just go, "That is awesome. The God that made that is awesome." What I want to share with you this morning is that as taken as we are by elements like that, do you understand that what God wants is your life to be something that people stop, they run up against, and they go, "Wait a minute. I cannot believe what I'm seeing here. This is so contrary to anything I would hope to see that would be this beautiful, this powerful, this compelling, this challenging."

That's what God wants you to be on course towards and to get to be that kind of person that there would be, if you will, a Heisman made after you that others would say, "This is the most glorious thing that a person could be." Ultimately, all you're going to be is a representation of what it is that God wants to make us like.

Flip over your little sheet right there, and there are a couple of verses I want to show you. There's a great little verse in Ephesians 2:8-9. It's not down there, but you're pretty familiar with it. It says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

It talks about what it means to have a relationship with your Father. It's not something you're going to earn. It's something you're going to receive. It's not something you're going to try. It's something you're going to accept. It's a gift that you have to take. Upon taking that, though, it goes to verse 10. We talk about how grace is what allows us to be his child.

Then it comes back in verse 10, and it says, "Once you become his child, you are his workmanship." That word is literally, "You are his masterpiece." There's only one thing in all of God's creation that he said, "Let us make this one thing in our image. In the image of who I am, I want to create humankind. They are going to be our masterpiece. If you think the northern lights are awesome, if you think it's amazing to watch a whale breach…"

I love those Pacific Life commercials. I have TiVo at my house. I put that sucker on pause, and I go frame by frame. I think to myself, "How can that animal get out of the ocean like that? Is it just having fun? Did it hit a needle, and it's getting out there?" I don't know what it's doing, but it's amazing to think how that happens. I just get filled with awe at that. God says, "As much as that's impressive, I want humankind in right relationship with me to be the thing that makes everybody just stop and go, "Man."

Probably most of us have moments in our life when somebody goes, "That was awesome to watch," but God wants us to have more than moments. Here's the vision I want to give you guys. Can you imagine (for those of you who are married) your wife, anxious to let you fall asleep first just so she can sit up on her side of the bed and stare at you, amazed at the goodness that God has brought into her home?

And have her look and go, "I cannot believe that this man serves me, that his life revolves around honoring me and cherishing me. I am overwhelmed as a person who has to live these 70 years because, for 30 to 40 of it, this man's life is all about serving me." Can you imagine that? It'd probably freak you out if you wake up and your wife was looking at you. "Why are you doing looking at me? Take your clothes off. I can make you appreciate this."

The point is that's why I love men's breakfasts. You won't hear that on Sunday morning. "Wake me up, woman. Don't stare." Can you imagine your kids every time they're asked who their hero is, saying, "Do you want me to do the game everybody else is doing? Do you want me to look you in the eye and tell you who my hero is? You wouldn't believe my dad. You wouldn't believe the way this man loves me. You wouldn't believe his care for me."

How about coworkers? How would you like for all your coworkers to say, "There are a lot of guys who make this thing tick. There's nobody in our office who brings the component that this one individual brings. I've never seen anybody be so others-centered, so caring, so loving, so helpful, such a servant. I'm telling you, this guy being around us… We can't even describe what it's like to have him here"?

Can you imagine having a life that is so outstanding that your enemies are ultimately silenced, and all who criticize you are known by the world to be fools because of the integrity of your life and care of it? That's the vision you have to have for your life. That's what God wants you to have. A lot of folks at different times for different reasons say nice things to me.

You know, I do, I dream, I purpose to have my wife to be able to go, "Thank you so much, but if you knew the half of it. You don't know the half of it. You just get to see this part of Todd's life. I wish you knew how great it was to be his wife. Thank you for encouraging me with what you see out there, but you don't know the half of what this man is like." She's never done that. To my knowledge, she hasn't.

One of the things I love to do with my kids is I love to say to my kids a lot, "I'm so glad I'm your dad." I love it when they say back to me, "I'm so glad you're my Ally. I'm so glad you're my Cooper." I am firmly convinced that no man will ever rise above the opinion of their children. I shared that in here before. No man will ever really rise above the folks in their life who know them best.

What I want to share with you this morning is that God wants to put you on a course that isn't crazy, and that if we become this, you will be a masterpiece of what human life should look like. People are going to say, "I am so glad I am your friend. I am so glad that my life, by some incredible act of grace, is in your gravity."

How about that? This is what it says right here. "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." He wants you to be an individual who becomes increasingly like Christ. That's the goal. Always be ready to explain to somebody why your life is like that. "Dr. Pita, why is your life like that?"

"Because it's not about me. Because, by the grace of God, I came to understand that people need more than physical healing. That people need physical healing because they value to God."

"Why?" Then she could go on to explain that. It says, "When you answer, do it with gentleness and respect," or "…gentleness and reverence," this translation says. In 1 Peter 3:16, it says, "and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame."

Plato was a guy who used to say the way you deal with your enemies is to live your life in such a way that all who speak ill of you were known to be a fool. That's 1 Peter 3:16. Look what it says in Romans 8 right there. "And we know that

God causes all things to work together for good…" That's the purpose that we're going to focus on this week. God is working everything in your life for good. Why?

"…to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…" This is why I said what I said earlier. "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image…' God said, "I want man, more than anything else, to carry who I am with them everywhere that they go.

God says, "You're my masterpiece." God says, "There's a problem in your life that got you off course." As a result of that, the Scripture says, "…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" What that means is that all of us have had the glory that God embedded in us and intended for us to reveal in some way defaced.

It hasn't been erased in anybody who is a human, but it's been defaced. You and I can all look around, and at different moments, we would look at our life and go, "Man, in that particular action, that particular response, that particular priority, Todd was less of what the glory of God intended him to be then I've seen in quite some time.

There are some people whose life is an ongoing display that they don't look like what God intended them to be. They're crass, they're selfish, they're self-willed, they're perverse, they're destructive, they're angry, they're deluded. We just go, "That's a tragic life. Everywhere you look, there are concentric circles around them of destruction, angst, bitterness, hurt, pain." You just go, "The glory of God is not on that person, and God is calling them back."

Each of us at different moments throughout our day, maybe in our life right now, you might go, "I've fallen short of the glory." Here's the point. The Scripture says, "All of us have fallen short of the glory enough that we've offended God, and we need God's grace to allow us to be restored into relationship with him through which he will begin to make us to will and to work towards his good pleasure."

God says, "I want to bring you back to the full glory with which you were intended. I want to make you my masterpiece." How will that happen? The answer is that he will conform you into the image of his Son. That's what he wants you to do. "Why into the image of his Son? I thought it was about becoming like God?"

Why? Because the Scripture says that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. You want to know what God looks like? You look at Jesus. He is loving. He is compelling. He is non-compromising. He is focused. He is servant-minded. He is others-centered. He is joyful beyond circumstances. He is hopeful beyond the moment. He is kind. He is full of self-control. He could surround himself with his enemies.

One of the most amazing places in all of Scripture was in John 8 when Jesus said, "Why do you hate me so much? Why do you criticize me? He's in a room full of enemies, and he says, "Who here can convict me of any wrong?" Guess what their response was? Silence. Why? Because Christ was a masterpiece because he was a man who was fully man and fully God who became all that God intended for humankind to be so he could pay the price that fallen humankind could not pay.

He was 1 Peter 3:16 embodied. Those who criticized him, reviled him were put to shame. When it came to the very end of the day, the reason they didn't like Christ is because he confronted their sin and pointed out to them that they needed a Savior. They didn't like that. It says in Hebrews 1:3, "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…" What I want to share with you this morning is that God wants you to be that too.

How is that going to happen? It's not through the latest self-help book. It's not through a new year's resolution. It's not through a working up of emotion and discipline within. It's through something else. Flip back over, and this is the point. Second set of blanks.

"Becoming like Christ is about transforming your character, not your personality." It's about making you in character like Christ was. There's a guy who recently came into relationship with Christ who we know. One of the things he said as soon as he became a follower of Christ (I wrote it down because I thought it was great). He goes, "Now that I trust in Christ, I am afraid I'm going to be boring. I'm afraid I'm going to lose my drive, I'm going to lose my ambition. Will I still be funny?"

The awkward part was to explain to him, "You've never really been that funny. If you thought you were funny, yeah, there's no reason to stop being what you thought you were." The point is what I want you guys to know is that Christ doesn't want us to be a bunch of zombies who isolate ourselves, to walk in some sterile way where we all think we look like somebody else. No. Christ created you just the way you are.

He made your uniqueness. The last thing he would want you to do is to destroy that uniqueness. One of the reasons the Scriptures are so stinkin' different is there are 40 different authors who God worked perfectly in them to produce a perfect book. Yet, you'll find they write very differently. Why? God allowed them to keep their characteristic and their nature, but he just ruled their nature to produce something that only he could produce, which is a perfect, infallible, inerrant, timeless, infinitely true book.

That's what he wants to do with you. God is not about jacking with your personality. Do you understand that? The worst thing I could do is try and become… I don't want to embarrass anybody here, but sometimes, guys who are a little bit more soft-spoken and quieter, who aren't bent as toward feeling like they need to speak into a moment or encourage people in a way that you might see in a little more public way…

I sometimes so admire that in somebody else's life. I go, "I wish I was that gentle by nature, by personality." The worst thing I could do is go, "God, why don't I look like that?" He goes, "Because I'm going to make my masterpiece known through you, Todd. That's the kind of work of art I'm doing with you. I painted myself in glory through this guy in this unique way. You let me glorify myself through that work of art that is that person. You make sure that what you do is you make the canvas of your life available to me. Don't paint it some other way. Let me paint your life the way I wanted your life to be."

Understand this. God made you uniquely. When he makes you like Christ, he doesn't want to jack with your personality. He wants to transform your character. Do you understand the significance of that? You can be who you are. You should be.

Could you imagine how foolish it would be if a great piano virtuoso heard a testimony of a guy who was a godly devoted follower of Christ who was a great athlete, and he said, "Okay, I'm going to follow Christ, so I have to become a great athlete because that's what that follower of Christ is"? It's crazy. You glorify God with your instrument and your musical gifts. Let this guy glorify God with this gift and who he is.

Look at the third set of blanks. "You will never be, though, God." As we talked about the fact that you're going to be conformed into the image of Christ, don't hear me say that we want you to be a god or become God. You will never be God. That was the original lie. That's why I put Genesis 3:5 right here. That's the very first lie that was sold to man. "You can be God. You don't need God. You can do what you want when you want and control the environment and the universe that's around you."

You were not created ever to be God or a god. You were created to be godly. Not become a god. God wants you to become like him, not be him. Do you understand that? What are we going to do about that? How's that going to become a reality in our life? The answer is we're going to purpose ourselves to align ourselves with who Christ is.

Look at this next little set of blanks. "Growing older is not the same as growing up." What do I mean by that? This is not going to happen through some process that will be miraculous to us. God wants us to participate with him to allow our lives to be transformed from whatever glory is there in its defaced condition to a greater glory as we partner with him.

Let me give you the next blank. I want to talk about these two for a second. "It's a spiritual myth that if you just want to be godly, that's really all God wants." How many of you guys when I sit there and gave you that vision of how great it would be…

There are guys in this room, there are certainly guys who fill this room up on a regular basis who have had incredible success in the world who have never had a woman look at them and marvel at the greatness that is their life. They've had all kinds of women exploit them and use them to get some things they want and all the time resenting who that man is.

There are a lot of guys who when I describe to you what it would be like to have a woman so appreciate who you are as a person and create that vision, all of us want that and imagine that in some form or way. That our children would speak of us that way, that those who know us best would speak of us that way. Isn't that the question you always ask people who know somebody personally who is great? "What's he really like?"

It's not enough that we, as men in this room, say, "I really want the people who know me best to speak well of me." Your wanting to be godly is not all God wants. God wants us to participate with him and do the things that will lead to us becoming who he wants us to be. You will be what you are now becoming. You realize that. You will be an increasingly fit person or an increasingly unhealthy person based on what you're doing today. You will be what you are now becoming.

We hear as kids, "You are what you eat. Garbage in. Garbage out." That is exactly true with our spiritual life. You will become what you meditate on. Some of us spend three hours a night watching TV and three minutes a day reading the Bible, and we are, for that reason, more conformed into what TV is projecting than what we say is what we want to become like.

"The Lord wants us to become like Christ, but it's not going to happen by osmosis. We have to participate with him and discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness." If you want to write down those two little sections right there, you'll see it. You have the verses: 1 Timothy 4:7 and Philippians 2:12-13. In fact, I want to read the Philippians verse because this is very key. If you'll just turn over and look at that Philippians 2:12-13. It's right in the middle.

"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…" Watch this. "…work out your salvation…" This is very important. I want you to draw a line around what I've already blackened right there. Draw a circle around it and put a line up, and write down, "It's doesn't say workfor."

It's very important. Not work for your salvation, but it says, "…work out your salvation with fear and trembling…" In other words, there's a lot at risk here, gang, for it's God who is at work in you if you have, by grace, received that relationship with him. He indwells you and wants to produce in you something great and glorious. His masterpiece is at stake.

Can you imagine being one of the children of Leonardo da Vinci, and everything you did was to walk into his studio and throw paint on Mona Lisa or to doodle on TheLast Supper? You go, "No, that's the last thing you'd want to do as da Vinci's son. You want to help him in every way you can create a masterpiece."

God is saying there's a lot at stake here. The reputation of the artist is in your life, and God rewards those who help him make masterpieces. Participate with the grace that's there in your life. You work that out with fear and trembling, knowing what's at stake. Because if you jack with God's name as an artist and what he creates, there is an accounting for that.

If you partner with him, you'll never stop marveling at the goodness that he puts in your life. It doesn't say, "Work for your salvation." Why? Salvation is a gift by grace that you receive. It does say, "Respond to it and work it out well." There are four great sources of revelation. In other words, there are four ways that God shows us truth. Write them down.

First, the Word of God. Secondly, other people. If another person tells you, "I have a word for you. This is what God wants," the first place you go to check it out is where? God's Word. If they ask you and encourage you to do something that is contrary to God's Word, you can be sure that whatever God is revealing to that person is not his will and way. Sometimes, they might say, "I really believe this is something you might consider."

You want to confirm that on your own, even if there's not something in chapter and verse that can direct you from God's Word. God sometimes uses others around you. For instance, there are some guys who would tell you, "I really have a desire to have a teaching ministry," and other people need to come around you sometimes and say, "There are a lot of ways you can serve the body, but every time you teach, people have a tendency to not show up, to nod off, to fall asleep, to move away from you."

That would be my experience if tried to sing to you guys. You'd go, "Todd, let me just speak into your life. You might consider another ministry form. It's not the way God really apparently designed you." It's not be affirmed through other people. Thirdly, through circumstance, and then, fourthly, through inner promptings.

I want to say this very quickly about all four of these things. God's Word, other people, circumstances, and inner promptings, convictions, or whispers are how God reveals himself to us. Guess which one you can fully rely on, and the other three always need to be tested by? The one that is sure; that never changes.

Circumstances change. Inner promptings change. Other people's opinions change. It all ought to be tested by God's Word. If you start to think about, 'What should I do? How should my life look? How should I order my life to be this masterpiece?" it starts with God's Word.

That gets to the next place. There are four great sources of transformation that God uses in your life. Guess what they are. The exact same things, with one difference. Instead of that last one being inner promptings, the Scripture tells you in Philippians 2:13 and other places it's God who's working in you to will and to work for his good pleasure.

That last one I'm going to call today, "Inner power." God's Word changes you. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2.

I mentioned last week that nothing other than God's Word has had such a radical transformation activity in my life as other people who love me, sharpen me and me spur me onto love and good deeds. Circumstances. By the way, guess which one of these four God uses most often. The answer is circumstances. Why? You can't get away from circumstances. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, you're in a circumstance, and every one of those circumstances is, in God's sovereignty, used to push you towards him. Then his inner power, which ultimately is the means through which transformation happens.

Next blank. Remember this. "You are a work in progress that needs to be committed to the process that God uses to progress you." I say that because we ought to all be patient with one another, extend grace to one another. Let me tell you something. I really do believe if you hang around with me, you'll see some glorious moments.

I've had places where folks came up to me later, or I heard through another story, "Man, I saw this guy handle a moment, and in this moment…" I know there have been folks who've said, "This guy at this moment really showed up, really did something, loved in a way…" When I didn't think anybody was watching me, somebody saw something that later on came back to me as a form of encouragement.

I'll tell you, you're also going to be around me sometimes when I'm going to hurt you, I'm going to disappoint you, I'm going to offend you, I'm going to bother you. I want you to know something. The grace of God is working my life that I need grace from you while the grace of God keeps taking greater ground in my life. So do you.

I am not a done deal yet, but I am committed to the process. I need you to encourage me when I get it right, admonish me when I'm missing, and love me through the whole thing. That's my commitment to you and what we ought to be about as men. Here are the blanks again.

"We have to realize we're a work in progress and need to be committed to the process that God uses to progress us." I told you, there are four things God uses to change us. His Word; are you reading it? Other people; are you connected to them? Circumstances; do you resent them, or do you see everything as the means through which God can ultimately use to push you in your life?

There's a guy named Dawson Trotman. He founded a ministry called The Navigators. His wife was very much like Christ because she as committed to God's Word, surrounded in community, and there was no circumstance that could be thrown at her that she didn't squarely see as a gift from God, including when your very godly, influential husband drowned.

They came up to her, and they said, "Mrs. Trotman, we don't know how to tell you this, but your husband can't swim. He's dead." She quoted Psalm 115:3. She looked at them, and she said, "My God is in the heavens, and he does whatever he pleases, and it will be good." That didn't mean she didn't grieve. She wasn't a cold woman, but she knew that.

I loved that there's a story of a king and a servant that almost was annoying in his optimism and sense that God was with him in everything. Everything that happened, the servant would always say, "It is good." One day, he was out with the king, and he was sharpening the king's knife, and he lopped the king's thumb off. The king, obviously, was irate, and the servant said, "It is good."

The king said, "It is good? Are you nuts? I just lost my thumb." He fired that servant into jail. So his servant was in jail. The king went back on another hunt one day, he was captured by a group of cannibals. These cannibals were ready to cook him and eat him, and then they realized he was deformed. In their tribal system, they believed they shouldn't eat somebody whose body was deformed, so they released him.

This king was overwhelmed, and he thought, "It was, indeed, good that my thumb was cut off." So he went back, and he begged for mercy and forgiveness from the servant who he had put in jail. He said, "You have to forgive me because I didn't believe you when you told me it was good that my thumb was cut off. I'm so sorry I put you in jail. It was a lousy thing to do. It wasn't a good thing to do." The servant said, "No, it was a great thing to do. It was good because if I had been with you, they would've eaten me."

The point is you have to have that perspective in life where a lot of… What's your authority about what's going to change you? A lot of people make culture their authority. Everybody else is doing it. "That's what's going to change me. I'm going to be changed based on what culture does. It's okay because everybody else does it."

Other people will make tradition their authority. "I'm going to do it because it's what we've always done." Other people make their emotions their authority. "It feels so right, so I'm going to do it." Other people make reason their authority. It's logical. What I want to say to you guys is each one of those things is a holistic healer who's going to slap himself on you. Every one of those things is affected by the fall.

Culture is defaced because it's not God's culture. Tradition has been screwed up because imperfect men have established it. Your reason isn't always God's reason, and you don't think like he does. Your emotions are not what should pull your train. God's Word is. What's your authority? What are you using to make you that kind of man that would make you a masterpiece?

Let me say this. Fill in the blanks. "Every time we try and control our future, our circumstances, or people around us, we are pursuing the lie that we can be or that we are God." What do I mean by that? I want to remind each of us that we are not God, we are never meant to be God. So it's not about me, and I am not the one who has to control people around me.

What does God want me to do with people around me if I'm his masterpiece? Jesus said, "I did not come to be served but to serve and to give myself as a ransom for many." It's not about me to control my circumstances. If you have stress in this room… I guarantee you do, and some of you have stress because you can't control certain circumstances in this business world that are around you, and it freaks you out. You want to control it, so you try and become God. You try and control what happens in the Asian market, what happens on Wall Street, and you can't.

Do you know that God loves you, and it's going to be good if you'll just trust him even when it's not okay? You certainly can't control other people, can you? You can't control your kid. You can't control the way your wife responds to your loving, or you can't control how people perceive you ultimately. If you think you can and you think you're God, you're going to be frustrated the rest of your life.

God is about transforming your character, not increasing your comfort. I say that because Jesus says, "I've come that you might have life, and have it abundantly, but abundant life is not the comfortable life. God does not promise to make you more prosperous. He doesn't promise to make you thinner. He doesn't promise to make you more beautiful. He doesn't promise to make you a better date. He does make you a better person to share life with, but not necessarily somebody who is going to be the new Bachelor on ABC.

What he's saying right there is that God is more concerned with your holiness than he is with your happiness. God will let circumstances that aren't so happy come into your life, and those circumstances are going to be the means to push you to him. In God's sovereign design, there is no circumstance that isn't ultimately about moving you towards him.

This is the last blank. "That is why, if you forget God's purpose for your life, you're going to be frustrated every time you don't become more comfortable." You're going to shake your fist at God and be angry at God because you're going to go, "God, if you loved me, you'd make my life more comfortable." What did we start this whole morning by saying?

If God loves you when you're 15, he's going to show you how to live your life that 25 years later, you can look somebody in the eye and say, "I'm so glad I've lived my life this way. They're going to look at you when you're 70 and say, "I wish I'd have done the same thing. Is it too late for me?" It's too late for you to live the first 69 years this way, but it's not too late for you to receive the gift that is going to make you God's masterpiece in his economy.

God is not about our comfort. This is not your heaven. Can I say that one more time? This is not your heaven if you know Christ. If you know Christ, this is as bad as it's ever going to get. But I want to tell you something very sobering. If you don't know Christ, if you purpose to be your own God, this is as good as it ever is going to get. That's a very sad thing.

I asked you, 'What's your authority?" Is it culture? Is it feelings? Is it emotions? Is it reason? Is it tradition? Or is it God's Word? If you tell me God's Word is your authority, that's going to help you have a perspective on other people, perspective on circumstances, and a perspective on the power of God that works in you for his good pleasure.

I want to ask you this. How much time are you getting around your authority? Because you will be what you're now becoming. What are you spending time with daily to transform you from glory to glory? God's Word is the key. People who don't have a Bible are no worse off than those who have a Bible but never read it. In fact, I'm going to make a case they're better off.

A lot of folks in this room own a Bible, but for a lot of us, it's a bookmark, or it keeps other books up, or it gathers dust. We don't really read it, or we read it so devotionally, it doesn't transform our life. God wants to use his Word to transform you. The reason people who don't have a Bible are better off than those of us who do and don't read it is because we are accountable with what we've been given.

Do you know that for largely the first 2,000 years of Christendom, nobody but the priests were educated enough and allowed to read God's Word? There are still certain denominations that will tell you if you go back and read your doctrine that to read the Bible apart from a priest is sin.

God says, "That's crazy. You read the Bible with your High Priest, Jesus Christ, in relationship with him, and he'll illumine it and show you what it should mean." You interpret it in the context of community, but you need to read it. Do you realize the gift that we have living in 2004? What are you doing with it? Do you realize how accountable we are?

What I put on the back of here, and I end with this, if you'll turn it over, there are a couple of different verses. You just remember when circumstances aren't going well that you have that perspective of that slave, "Why am I in jail? Why I am sick? Why did I lose my thumb? It's good."

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." God wants us to be people who have a perspective on circumstance because we look at his Word. Some of you guys are good worriers. Do you know what worry is? If you can worry, you can meditate. God tells us to meditate on his Word and to memorize his Word.

If you're someone who sits there and goes over and over and over, "How can I control my circumstances and people and events," and you worry about that, what God wants you to do is to get out of the idea that you're God, start trusting him as him being God, and meditate on his Word that will give you the perspective that this circumstance or person is there to make you more like Christ, so you can be more glorious in the masterpiece that he wants.

You cannot read the Bible as some little rabbit's foot and leave it. We're not to be just hearers of the Word that delude ourselves but doers of the Word. How can you start to make the Bible come alive to you? The answer is, I've given you seven questions that I often use when I'm reading a simple text of Scripture. I go, "Lord, I'm not going to leave here until I get something out of this that is helpful and useful to me. Is there something here that I need to learn about who God is, who Christ is, and about what truth is? Is there an example for me to follow?"

You can read the rest of it. I'm not going to bother you. When you get down to number seven, though, it says, "Is there a difficulty here to further explore?" Can I tell you what I love to do? I love to spend time with other men who are spending time in God's word, who get hung up on a place of Scripture they just can't make sense out of, who call me and say, "Todd, can you or somebody on the staff team, can you or somebody who's been journeying with Christ longer explain this part of the Bible with me? I know God gave it to me for a reason."

I promise you that we will commit to you to spend whatever time we need to, as a team of folks, who by the grace of God have been around his Word a little longer. If you read that Bible and you get hung up or confused on something, you ask us to spend time with you, and you will get it. We want to share with you what God, by his grace, is doing in our life and showing us.

Here's how you end all these things when you make those observations. With a simple, "So what? What am I going to do with this? What's the action step?" In your book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren did put this down in a way that I thought was good as I'd ever seen it. I'm going to give it to you. You can read it in the weeks ahead as you read these chapters, but here they come. Three things.

After you get through making those seven observations and find out which one there is, you're not done with your Bible that's going to transform you and make you that masterpiece until you ask yourself, "So what?" Meaning this. Your action step. "What's my action going to be in light of what I just read?" God is going to change me. Not because I read this as a magic rabbit's foot that I rub and move forward without it impacting my life. God wants it to take root in my life and change me. So he does this. It's pretty well done.

  1. Your action step ought to be personal. In other words, it ought to involve you. It should not be, "Hey, that's a good one. I can't wait for my wife to apply this to her life." If your action step doesn't involve you, you have the wrong action step.

  2. Your action step ought to be practical. Something you can do. Believe God more. Memorize this verse. Meditate on this. Serve this person. Share this resource.

  3. Your action step ought to be provable. Which is to say there ought to be some deadline attached to it. "By noon today, I will call that brother I am hacked off at and say, 'We've got to get together because our relationship matters.'" I'm going to say, "I will prove that I'm applying this to my life because I'm going to say, 'This is going to happen by then.'"

Don't say, "For the next 40 years, I will…" Say, "Today, I will…" Then if you get the same action step tomorrow, then do it again. Every action step changes your relationship with God, your relationship with others, or your character. When those three things change, you're going to be a high-profile masterpiece.

Father, I thank you for these men. May your grace continue to work in their life as it needs to in mine. May we love each other, extend each other care and tenderness as we blow it, as we deface your glory. We thank you, Lord, that you never stop reworking us until our life is a masterpiece. We thank you that even at the grave is when you finally do the final transforming work in our life, and you finish what we lack.

Right now, we can work out our salvation with fear and trembling knowing you will reward us, honor us, and glorify yourself in us in as much as we participate with you in this moment. So, Father, help us to do that. Thank you for these men. I pray that grace prevails in this room in the way our lives look and in the way we love and accept each other on the journey.

Father, would you let guys not leave this room without having to deal honestly about what their authority is? If it's God's Word, would you convict them that they need to be in it and let it be in them in an actionable way? For your glory, because it's not about us.

Have a great week, guys. We'll see you next week.

About 'Living Life on Purpose'

Self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself, but until you begin with God's reasons for creating you, life will never make sense. So where does real purpose come from and what does it look like? Find out as the men of Watermark study "The Purpose Driven Life" and look at over 1,500 places from God's Word where He answers this question.