October 1, 2017
Have you ever heard someone say, “So and so has found their calling.” We say this if we see someone doing something that seems to come naturally to them. The task, the activity flows from within them. They enjoy doing it. We say, “I think she has found her calling.” If you happen to have a job that fits your calling, then you are to be envied.
Ahimaaz was the son of Zadok, the High Priest during the reign of King David. When Absalom, David‘s son, rebelled and was killed in a coup attempt, Ahimaaz wanted to run to David with the news. Joab, the commander, called up a Gentile soldier to carry the sad news. Joab said to Ahimaaz, “…You may carry news another day, but today you shall carry no news, because the king's son is dead…Why will you run, seeing that you will have no reward for the news?” But Ahimaaz persisted and finally Joab told him to also run. I heard a message on this passage years ago called, “Running without a call.”
Knowing a short-cut, Ahimaaz got to David first. Seeing Ahimaaz, David was sure the news was good. When David asked about his son, Ahimaaz said, “I saw a great commotion, but I do not know what it was.” Ahimaaz wanted to run but he was not called.
Many people today have little sense of any kind of calling on their lives. They get stuck in a job. They feel little fulfillment in their work. But what is often true in our daily lives, can also be true in our spiritual lives. People are religious but they do not have a sense of calling in their faith experience.
This morning I want to consider the truth that God is calling people to his Son, Jesus Christ. From Eph.4:1-6 I want to ask: Have you responded to the call of Jesus Christ?
I. HEAR CHRIST’S CALL. Eph.4:1
As a boy I regularly attended church, Sunday School, VBS, etc. I learned about God, Jesus, sin, and hell. I learned that if Jesus was my savior then my sins would be forgiven and I would not go to hell. I was afraid of going to hell. And hell is something to be afraid of. In those days I thought of hell as a place of burning fire because that is one way in which the Bible describes hell. Another description of hell is outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hell is eternal separation from the eternal life, love and goodness of God. To be separated from God is to enter a hellish existence where there is darkness, and the absence of life, love and goodness. Fire, darkness are pretty good metaphors to cause one to be concerned.
I did not want to go to hell. So I called out to Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to save me and give me his eternal life. I gladly turned to Jesus largely out of fear and guilt. And that has been the story of many. In Acts 2 Peter is preaching to many Jewish people in Jerusalem. He impressed upon them the reality that in crucifying Jesus they had crucified their Messiah. And it says that the people were cut to the heart. They said, “What shall we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. In Acts 2:40, it says, “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." Save yourselves! That is what we are seeking to do when we are afraid of going to hell. We want to save ourselves. In this way salvation is an escape from God’s judgement.
But there is another perspective regarding salvation. In Acts 2:39 Peter says, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
God is calling people to himself through Jesus Christ. We must also view salvation as responding to the gracious call of God to come to Jesus to find life. I have known people who prayed a prayer of salvation in order to escape hell. But as they grew older and began to think less about hell, they also thought less about Jesus and being saved. As adults they grew out of that fear and they grew out of any sense of need for Jesus.
Eventually everyone must respond to the upward call of God to embrace Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Lord of all. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification. Jesus ascended to the Father. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to him. Christ the Lord is calling to you to receive life in him. Have you heard his call?
At Jesus’ baptism, God said, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” Jesus said that he came to seek and save those who are lost. Jesus called all those who are weary, and burdened to come to him to find rest for their souls. The call of Jesus Christ to find forgiveness and life in him is the call of all calls. Have you responded to him? To not respond to the call of Jesus is to run aimlessly in life, captive to sins and selfish desires, driven by fear, without hope and without God in this world. The words from Is.45:22 express the call of Jesus very well. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”
II. ENTER INTO CHRIST’S CALLING. Eph.4:1-2
To respond to the call of Christ is to enter into his calling. His is a calling to receive his life and to daily live out the life that he gives us. Christ himself comes to live in us and through us. What kind of calling is this?
In Eph.1:4 Paul reminds us that we have been chosen in Christ in order that we should be holy and blameless before him. In others words, in Christ we are called to live lives devoted to God and his son, Jesus. We are called to live lives that are blameless. What is more, Paul reminds us that in Christ we are adopted into the family of God. Our calling in Christ is to live like someone who is part of God’s family. If I was part of your family there would be certain things that we do and ways in which we do those things. There would be certain days for celebration and certain times when activities are done.
In Eph.2:10 Paul tells us that in Christ we are called to do good works. Doing the works of Jesus is part of our calling. Beginning in 2:11 we learn that when we respond to the call of God to turn to Christ, we become part of the Church which includes people from every ethnicity and cultural group. So part of our calling is to be in the church. In 3:10 we learned that the church is on display in this world, showing the manifold wisdom of God. All of this is part of what it means to respond to the call of Christ.
All of us who respond positively to the call of God to embrace Christ need to realize that we have found our primary calling in life. Living in these ways take precedence in every other thing we do. And let me point out that our calling in Christ is the most fulfilling calling because it bears fruit both now and into eternity. In fact, as we prioritize our calling in Christ, we will have a wonderful impact in this world. Let me explain.
In v.2 Paul identifies the virtues needed to fulfill our calling. These virtues actually shape the way in which we carry out our calling. As we seek to follow Christ humility is indispensable. A humble person does not presume. A humble person does not push. A humble person does not pretend. Can you imagine what it would be like if all followers of Christ lived their lives in humility? Much of what we see on social media and hear from the lips of Christian leaders these days would be left unsaid. Paul urges us towards gentleness. Sometimes it’s translated, “meekness.” People who express gentleness are not impulsive in their reactions. They don’t fly off the handle. They seek to show restraint and consideration. They express their character and conduct in accordance to the way of Jesus in each situation. According to Chrysostom, the word used for patience means “to have a wide and big soul.” This refers to someone who is willing to endure inconveniences and difficulties over a long period of time. “Bearing with one another in love,” refers to our willingness to intentionally put up with each other with the love of God.
This is our calling in Christ. It’s what we are devoted to. It’s what we are passionate about. It is our primary vocation to live as followers of Christ in this world. Are you a Christian? Have you embraced the calling of a Christian? Would others look at your Christian life and say, “Wow, he, she has found their calling.”
III. ENTER INTO CHRIST’S CALLING TOWARDS UNITY IN THE CHURCH. Eph.4:3-6
“Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” continues Paul’s sentence in v.2. I am emphasizing this because it seems that Paul emphasizes it.
If you join a healthy company as an employee you will enter into a unity that you did not create. The founder of the company created the unity by being a person who highly values unity and who hired people who were willing to prioritize unity in that company. Even though you are new to the company, you will be expected to embrace and promote the company value of unity. “We work together and once a decision is reached we all embrace it.” There is nothing particularly easy about maintaining unity, but it is imperative for the good of the company. It doesn’t mean there are no problems. It doesn’t mean a person cannot express their disagreements or complaints. It does mean that person will surrender themselves to the company’s decisions unless it requires a person to compromise their integrity. When we turn to Christ we are brought into his Church. And in the Church of Jesus Christ unity is a high priority. It is part of our calling. Local congregations do not create the unity. They enter into the unity already created by the Holy Spirit, by God himself.
In v.4-6 many believe that Paul is either quoting from an early creedal confession or that this is a creed that Paul himself put together for use in the congregations he established. The creed is clearly Trinitarian. Each thing that Paul identifies is important in and of itself, but each thing is introduced by the word, “one.” Christians, followers of Christ participate in each of these things. We are brought into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee and down payment of the hope that we look forward to in the new creation. The Lord that we profess is Jesus Christ and there is no other lord for us. We all embrace Christ by faith. The baptism is our baptism into Christ as a public testimony of our life in Christ. God is the one who is the Father of all who are in Christ, and what is more, this God works through all things and dwells in all things because he is present everywhere.
The reality that undergirds our Christian lives is exactly the same for all of us. Our calling is to take this reality, this unity and express it with each other in humility, gentleness, patience and love. It is the only way the local expression of the Church will dwell in the unity of the Spirit.
When we meet someone in the local fellowship here perhaps it would help us to take a moment to remind ourselves that we are one with this person in Christ. We share the same life, the same Spirit, and the same calling. I can’t just dismiss this person or ignore this person. I can’t just decide I’m done with this or that in the church. I belong to the fellowship. Long before we reach the point that we feel like saying, “I’m done with this,” we need to address the situation because the unity of the church is far more important to Christ than our personal preferences and opinions. And if sinful attitudes and actions begin to draw us away we must address those attitudes and actions. We have a calling.
As we come to the Lord’s Table this morning, I can’t think of a better way to ex-press our participation in his calling. The bread and the juice represent his life that he sacrificed on the cross in our behalf. When we eat and drink we are physically and publicly giving testimony to our trust and dependence upon Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and life in him. In eating and drinking we are expressing our ongoing receiving of Christ. In addition to this we also express our unity with each other through Christ. To receive Christ is to dwell in unity with all who know Christ in the church. Everything that Paul writes about in Eph.4:1-6 is expressed at the Lord’s Table. To participate in the Lord’s Table is to commit oneself to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. Amen