You Were Planned For God’s Pleasure

Revelation 4:11

October 18, 2003 | Brian Bill

Note: This sermon is based on a message idea by Rick Warren and is used by permission as part of the 40 Days of Purpose Journey.  

Six-year-old Angie and her four-year old brother Joel were sitting together in church.  Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud.  Finally, his big sister couldn’t take it any longer so she scolded him, “You’re not supposed to talk out loud in church.”  “Why not?  Who’s going to stop me?” Joel asked in a challenging voice.  Big sister Angie replied, “See those two men standing by the door?  They’re hushers.”

That reminds me of the enthusiastic visitor who walked into a dignified worship service. The minister had just started his sermon when the guest gushed: “Amen!”  A moment later he yelled out, “Praise the Lord!”  The usher, functioning more like a “husher,” walked down the aisle and whispered to him, “You need to be quiet!  We don’t do that here.”  The man answered, “But I’ve got religion.”  To which the usher replied, “Well, you didn’t get it here!”  I’m thankful that our ushers don’t do that.  And while we hope you feel free to be expressive in your worship, it’s our prayer that instead of finding “religion” here that you will begin a “relationship” with Jesus or grow deeper in your devotion to Him.

Last week we learned that we have three options for discovering the purpose of life.

  • We can rely on introspection as we look within.
  • We can try speculation as we look around at philosophies like survivalism, hedonism or materialism.
  • Or we can look up by focusing on the revelation that God has made known to us in the Bible and through his Son Jesus Christ.  

Relying on God’s revelation is the right way as we strive to revere Him and respond to Him.  

Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at the purposes God put us on earth for.  Today we’re tackling priority #1: We have been planned for God’s pleasure.  That means that we have been made to worship and when we worship God we bring pleasure to Him.  Worshipping God is our primary priority and our ultimate objective.  Look at Revelation 4:11: “You created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.”  Did you know that you were created for God’s pleasure?  God made you in order to enjoy you.       

While all five purposes must be kept in balance, worship must be the primary point of our existence.  Jesus said in John 4:23 that the Father seeks worshippers: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  Friends, nowhere else in Scripture do we read of God seeking anything else from His children.  He craves our worship above all else and therefore this must be the ultimate priority of our lives.

Last week we discovered that God created us to love us.  Today we’re focusing on the flip side, which is that God wants us to love Him back…and He doesn’t want to “hush” us.  In Matthew 22:37-38, after Jesus astonished people with His teaching, a Pharisee came up to Jesus and tried to trip him up by trapping him with an often-debated question.  Verse 35 tells us that this guy was “an expert in the law.”  These law experts carried on lengthy debates about the commandments of God, even separating some into “large laws” and others into “little laws.”  Since they had their own opinions on which of the 613 commandments in the Bible were more important than others, they wanted to see what Jesus would say: “Lord, what’s the most important command in the entire Bible?”  

Our primary purpose is to love the Lord

Jesus gives an unforgettable answer as He summarizes Scripture: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  God says if you don’t get anything else, here’s what you’re supposed to do in life: love Me back, because I made you to love you.  Our primary purpose is to love the Lord.  The word for this “loving God back” is the word “worship.”  C.S. Lewis said, “In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

Misunderstandings of Worship

There are at least two misunderstandings when it comes to worship.  The first has to do with the MOTIVE behind worship.  The reason we worship is to bring pleasure to God, not to us.  Worship is not for our benefit, it’s for God!   As Rick Warren reminds us, if we say, “I didn’t get anything out of worship,” we missed the point.  Of course our worship should lift our spirits, but the main goal of authentic worship is to bring pleasure to God, not to please ourselves.  

The second misunderstanding about worship has to do with the MEANING of worship. Friends, listen.  Worship is more than music!   Every part of our service is worship: the prayers, Scripture reading, singing, silence, listening to the sermon, taking notes, the giving of our tithes and offerings, communion, and even the interaction we have with other worshippers. 

What’s more, worship is more than just what takes place in this room!  Worship is a lifestyle; it’s doing everything for the glory of God.  Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship.  Every activity, short of sinning, can be an expression of exaltation.  You can cut the grass, wash the dishes, change a diaper, program a computer, take a math test, and drive a combine as an act of worship.  

I like what Eugene Peterson says, “Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God; it whets our appetite.  Our need for God is not taken care of by engaging in worship; it deepens.  It overflows the hour and permeates the week.”

What is Worship?

So how can we avoid the misunderstandings?  Let’s start with a definition.  Worship is a shortened form of the old word worthship, which means showing God the worth He holds in my life.  William Temple defined worship as “quickening the conscience by the holiness of God, feeding the mind with the truth of God, purging the imagination by the beauty of God, opening the heart to the love of God, and devoting the will to the purpose of God.”  The verse that probably defines worship best is Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”  I want to point out two words in this verse: “therefore” and “offer.” 

The word “therefore” refers back to all the doctrinal truths in chapters 1-11.  We’re all sinners.  When we put our faith in Christ, we are justified and declared righteous.  Even though we don’t always act righteously, God promises to grow us and will never condemn us.  Romans 11:33 contains a rich doxology of praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”  Romans 12:1 teaches us that authentic worship is my response to God’s love.  Based on all that is true, “therefore” I will give my life to Him.  I worship God “because” of the depth of the riches of His wisdom.  I adore Him because He has manifested His mercy in my life.  When I do that I am “responding” to his love.  

Notice the word  offer.”  Worship is something I give back to God.  Worship is offering God our love and our lives.  Whenever we give back to God, that’s called worship.  And that brings pleasure to Him.  Thankfully, Jesus was very specific about how we offer God our love.  Let’s look at Mark 12:30.  This is our memory verse for the week.  Let’s read it together: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  Let’s also say the verse from last week together.  Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

The word “all” is used four times in Mark 12:30.  Jesus is calling us to limitless love for our great God.  He wants all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength.  We can’t be half-hearted about this.  And God wants me to love Him in some very specific ways:

  • Passionately.  When we love God “with all our heart and soul” we adore Him with our emotions.  
  • Precisely.  To love God “with all our mind” is to worship Him thoughtfully, not mindlessly. 
  • Practically.  When we love God “with all our strength” we do so with our gifts, talents, skills and resources.

Even though God created you, there are three things He does not have:

  • He doesn’t have your affection, unless you give it to Him. That’s how you love God with all your heart and soul. 
  • He doesn’t have your attention unless you give it to Him.  That’s how you love the Lord with your mind.  
  • And God doesn’t have your ability, unless you give it to Him.  That’s how you love the Savior with your strength.  

Let’s look at each of these in greater detail.

1. Express Your Affection to God with Passion.

I remember the first time I told Beth I loved her…I think it was on our first date.  That may explain why she took her time before agreeing to a second date!   Seriously, when I first expressed my love to Beth I was scared to death because I didn’t know if she felt the same way.  It was risky to say these words first because I didn’t know how she would respond.  The great thing about God is that He’s taken away the risk factor because He said, “I love you” first.   1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.” With God you don’t have to worry about who’s going to “say it first.”  He’s just waiting for us to say, “I love you” back.

I like how the Living Bible renders Hosea 6:6: “I don’t want your sacrifices — I want your love!  I don’t want your offerings — I want you to know Me!”  This verse summarizes the first purpose of life: to know and love God.  If you know God and you love Him, you have accomplished that which is of ultimate importance.  When you get up every morning, you might want to sit on the edge of your bed and say something like this, “God, if I don’t get anything else done today, at the end of this day, I want to know You a little bit better and I want to love You a little bit more.”  Because if you do that, when you fall into bed at night, no matter how bad your day was, if you know God better and you love Him more, that day was a success.  And, I would add that if things went pretty well in your day but you didn’t grow in knowing and loving God, that day was a failure.

That’s why expressing our affection to the Almighty is so important.  Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart and all our soul.  The Bible says God has extremely deep feelings for you.  Listen to Exodus 34:14 in the New Living Translation: “He is a God who is passionate about His relationship with you.”   Friends, as a church, we’ve done a pretty good job of worshipping God with our minds, but we’re probably a bit reticent to love Him with our emotions.

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, a long time minister in London, once recalled an incident during the course of an evangelistic campaign.  A prominent figure approached him and asked him if he had been to the services.  Dr. Jones said he hadn’t been able to attend.  To which the man responded, “It was marvelous, just marvelous!  People are going forward by the hundreds…and there is no emotion.  It is simply marvelous!”  Dr. Jones wasn’t very impressed and later responded: “Can a man see himself as a sinner without emotion?  Can a man listen to the thunderings of the Law and feel nothing?  Or conversely, can a man really contemplate the love of God in Christ Jesus and feel no emotion?”  

It was almost 20 years ago that I first told Beth that I loved her.  What would happen if at our next wedding anniversary I came home and threw some flowers on the counter and said, “Honey, here are some flowers for you?  I’m giving them to you for the following reasons: First, I’m your husband.  Second, it’s our anniversary, and third, husbands are supposed to give flowers to their wives.”  How do you think that would go over?  I don’t think she’d be very happy.  Why?  Because she wants me to love her with all my heart.  She doesn’t want duty.  She wants devotion and single-hearted love.  

God doesn’t want our duty either.  He wants our desire.  He doesn’t want us to say, “Oh, okay.  I better go to church this week.”  He doesn’t want ritual and religion and rules and regulation.   He wants a relationship.  And He’s passionate about it!  In his new book called, “Waking the Dead,” John Eldridge writes: “God loves you; you matter to Him.  I imagine most of you have heard it any number of times.  Why, then, aren’t we the happiest people on earth?  It’s because it hasn’t reached our hearts…Christians have spent their whole lives mastering all sorts of principles, done their duty, carried on the programs of their church…and never known God intimately, heart to heart…the point is not activity, the point is intimacy with God” (Pages 24, 48-49).

If you really knew how much you matter to Him then you’d love Him more in return

Friend, maybe you feel like you just don’t love Jesus enough.  If you think about it, that’s not really your problem!   Your problem is not that you don’t love God enough; your problem is you don’t realize how much God loves you.  If you really knew how much you matter to Him then you’d love Him more in return.  In fact, you’d throw yourself at Him.

2. Focus Your Attention on God With Precision

Jesus tells us next to focus our minds on God with some precision.  In a lot of religions, especially the eastern ones, the idea of worship is to empty your mind by putting it into neutral.  God doesn’t want us to be empty-headed; He wants us to fill our minds and thoughts with Him!   He wants us to pay attention to Him.  That’s why memorizing and meditating on Scripture is so important.

Have you been enjoying the “Purpose Driven Life” book?  I have.  I really liked Day 5 this past week where I was reminded that life on earth is a test and a trust.  Let me mention something at this point.  While the “Purpose Driven Life” book is an outstanding devotional tool, and it contains over 1,200 Scripture references, please don’t substitute this for your regular reading of God’s Word.  When I read the book every day, I also have my Bible open so I can look up some of the verses and read them in context.  This book is a tool to help you go deeper, but it’s God’s Word that causes growth.  1 Peter 2:2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”  Hebrews 4:14: “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Why should we focus our minds so much on God?  It’s because our Father is focused on us.  Look at Psalm 139:1-3: “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”  God is concentrating on you.  He pays constant attention to you and He never takes His eyes off you.  Psalm 121:3-4: “He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” 

You and I have a couple of things to do before we can gaze on God with precision.  We’re not like those auto-focus cameras where you just point and click.  We’ve got to work at it.  The first thing we have to do is to stop thinking of ourselves and start focusing on Him.  Tommy Tenney put it this way: “Your problems aren’t too big…perhaps your worship is too small.”  Listen to Psalm 34:3 in the King James Version: “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.”  We’re called to “magnify” the Lord because for many of us our God is too small.  When we force our minds to remember the greatness of God, our problems become less significant.  One of the best ways to magnify His majesty is to listen to music that comes straight from Scripture.

How do we stay focused on God?  By making sure we keep Him in His proper perspective.  He is majestically awesome and we need to magnify Him.  While it’s important to gather corporately for worship, we also need to get alone in a quiet place in order to meet with Him.  This helps us to magnify the Majesty.  Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

In the Old Testament days, people had to go to the Temple to worship God.  Today you can worship God anywhere, just find a place where you can lock into His love and focus on His faithfulness.  Tony Evans writes: “If you limit worship to where you are, the minute you leave that place of worship you will leave your attitude of worship behind like a crumpled-up church bulletin.”  Notice the word secret in this verse.   Don’t do it to be seen by others or to impress God.    

Another effective way to focus on God is to engage in a constant conversation with Him.  We see this in Hebrews 13:15: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name.”  Just think about Him throughout the day and praise Him perpetually.  Keep the conversation going with God from morning to night as Psalm 113:3 says: “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.”  As you fix your thoughts on God, you will reap incredible benefits.  Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”

Let’s summarize.  In order to worship God with everything we’ve got, we must:

  1. Express affection to Him passionately.
  2. Focus attention on Him with precision.

There’s one more kind of love that we need to have in order to express our worship of God.  It’s the practical side of praise as we use our abilities for God.  

  1. Use Your Abilities for God Practically.

If you really love someone you’ll show it in specific ways by fixing, helping, serving, and sharing.  Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.”  You’ll never be the same if you can grasp the meaning of this verse.  You don’t have to join a monastery to worship God.  It doesn’t matter what you “do” in life – you can be a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker.  You can do it all for God’s glory.  Martin Luther put it this way: “A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God.”

One of the words for worship in the New Testament means “to work or serve.”  That tells us that worship involves work.   I really like Romans 12:1 in the Message paraphrase: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, your eating, your going to work, your walking around life — and place it before God as an offering.”  Real purpose-driven living doesn’t happen in church.  It doesn’t even take place in a small group.  It doesn’t even happen in your quiet time with God every day when you pray and read the Bible.  It takes place in the ordinary, routine, mundane, things of real life when you say something like, “God, I’m going to take out the garbage for you.”  By the way, there’s been a lot of worship going on around here as people use their gifts and abilities for the Lord’s purposes during these 40 Days of Purpose!

What if you decided that on Monday you will go back to the same job you left Friday, but this time you’ll go to work with a conscious understanding that Jesus is your boss?  How would things change?  It would turn your regular routine into worship.  God loves the kind of worship that says “Whatever I do today Lord, I’m doing it for you.”  When you do that, your entire life becomes one long, continuous act of worship.  Real worship is a lifestyle as the Westminster Confession reminds us: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Where do you need to beef up your worship?  Are you out of balance anywhere?  Are you focused too much on your affection?  Too tied up with attention to your mind?  Or, are you missing both the heart and the head as you focus almost exclusively on your hands?   In what area do I not love God fully?  Do I need to have more affection, give Him more attention, or offer more of my abilities?

Who Are You Worshipping?

Let me conclude with a probing question. Who or what are you worshipping with your life? Are you living as if you were planned for God’s pleasure?  Everybody worships something.  If you don’t worship God, believe me, you’re going to find a substitute real quick.  It was Augustine who said, “Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped.”  The idol you are worshipping is the one you’re giving your primary affection to, your primary attention to, and your primary abilities to.  Who or what is it?

Some of you may be worshipping your career.  You’re living for your working instead of working for your living.  Some of you are worshipping your play and playing at your worship.  Others of you are bowing before a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Several of you are worshipping your wallets, or revering retirement.  We worship whatever our affection, attention, and abilities are devoted to.     

Now, here’s the good news. If we focus our attention and we express our affection and we use our abilities for the one who made us, God says, “I’ll take care of everything else.” You don’t have to worry about a thing.  Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

A man planned to visit missionaries in Eastern Europe so he asked some friends what to pack.  They gave him some ideas, and as he walked through the grocery store, he prayed “Lord, guide me to what will make it through customs.”  He picked up some Reese’s peanut butter cups, a few cans of fruit cocktail, and some tapioca pudding.

When he arrived in Romania, he stayed with a missionary family who was living in very harsh conditions.  As he got ready to leave, he remembered the snacks he had brought and asked the two teenage daughters what they would like from the U.S.  In unison, they said, “Candy!”  “What kind?” he asked.  “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but they aren’t available here.”  With a lump in his throat, the man pulled out the king size package and the girls began jumping up and down with joy.

Wiping away a tear, the man asked the mother, “What item from back home would brighten your day?”  She said sheepishly, “What I miss most is fruit.”  Reaching into his bag, he pulled out the cans of fruit cocktail.  Now everybody was laughing and crying at the same time.  Next he turned to the father and he thought about just giving him what was left in his bag.  

But before he knew it he heard himself ask, “Gary, what’s your favorite dessert?”  The dad smiled and said, “You know, it’s something nobody else in the world likes…tapioca pudding.”  The man nearly injured himself pulling out the snack pack of tapioca pudding that God had prompted him to buy seven days earlier and 4,000 miles away.  What followed was praise and worship in its truest form as they all thanked God for caring about even the little details of their lives.    

Friends, the greatest mistake you can make in life is to miss your primary purpose.  So let me ask you a question, what do you love the most?  What do you think about most? Where do your best abilities get spent?  Whatever that is, that’s what you worship.  The Bible says you were planned for God’s pleasure.  You were made to know and love the Lord.  So I challenge you as we begin this journey to make as the #1 aspiration of your life to know and love God, because that is what brings Him pleasure.  Make your ambition match what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:9: “So we make it our goal to please Him.  I can’t think of anything better than that.

“Dear God, I wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for you.  Forgive me for all the times I think and act like you don’t matter.  Today I’ve realized that You made me to love me and that the first purpose of my life is to know and love You back.  I’m amazed that You long for a relationship with me and I’m astonished that You’re interested in the details of my life.  But most of all, I’m blown away that You would come to earth to die for me.  Please forgive me, God, for not worshipping You.  I want to learn how to focus my attention on You throughout my day.  I want to turn my work into worship.  I want to learn to love you with a love that You deserve, passionately with my heart and soul, precisely with my mind, and practically with my abilities.  When I go back to work, I’m going to be working for You, doing it with joy because you’re my boss.  Amen.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?