This sermon was preached on March 6, 2011.
I feel a whole lot better than I did last week. Last week I gave everything I had to give and I made reference to being tired, but apparently I didn’t do it the way one fan thought I should. I got this message from one of my fans in Missouri. [This would be his son, Ryan. And Pastor is reading a text from his cell phone.] He didn’t say, “Dear Dad”, but he said “Random side note,”—he was listening to the CD—“if you tell the congregation you’re tired, you’re probably don’t want to say ‘wasted’ because that means you’re drunk [congregation laughs]. Just a loving tip.” And I sent a one-word response, “Cheers.” [Congregation erupts in laughter and applause. Now referring back to his phone.] I put that on “Do Not Vibrate”, so he doesn’t send me another message during the message.
Hey, it was State Patty’s Day weekend, so. . .[State Patty’s Day is a celebration created by Penn State University students a few years back when the occurrence of St. Patrick’s Day during Spring Break would have taken away the opportunity to visit all the local bars and get drunk on green beer. It was scheduled before March 17 in 2011, hence his reference.]
You know, last week, as I mentioned on the end of chapter 3, that as Paul closes out the chapter with a doxology, saying that: Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. I spent most of the message talking about Heaven and really, you know, most messages from that text have to do with that He said we would do greater works because He goes to the Father. Greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world [I John 4:4], and you will do greater works now [John 14:12]. And I left the message thinking, and I kind of ran out of steam anyhow, but I spent so much time talking about Heaven. Well, last week, Pastor Tom [Reigel, Campus Pastor] told me two stories. There were three young adults who committed their lives to Christ last week and isn’t that wonderful? [Congregation applauds.] Praise the Lord. Pastor Tom told me a story of two of the three–and I haven’t met the people, I don’t have their permission to share it publicly, maybe when they get baptized in water they can share that–but let’s put it this way: God used exactly what was done, even though it was a little bit different than what I had thought or planned, God knew, God-sized stories. He brings people here at the time and the date they need to be here, and they hear what they need to hear and when they respond to God, their life changes forever, amen? Amen. God is good.
This week, I plan to change a little bit from what I had planned. Our text is Ephesians 4:1-5. Would you stand with me—1 through 6, rather. I’m going to focus on verse one and two. And we’re going to make this a two-part message. As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
[Prayer] Father, we thank You that we serve such a great God and You care about each and every one of us. You speak to us, You lead us. Even when we don’t know You, You call us by name. And Lord, when we respond to You, our lives are changed and transformed. I thank You, Lord, for what You are going to do today in this place, the people that You are going to speak to—every one in this room. We all need to hear something different from You so I pray that You will just customize it to every heart, every mind, every spirit in this place. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.
I want to spend a lot of time on verse one and we’ll pick up some of the rest of what this text says next week because it is so important. If you have a King James or New King James [version of the Bible], there is a word there that is not in some of the other translations. As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the—if you have a King James, what does it say? Vocation to which you were called.
I know most of our college students are away on Spring Break. One of the most important sociology books ever written was written by Max Weber who was kind of the father of sociology, a German academic, many years ago. He wrote a book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [Pastor actually calls this “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” and, indeed, the emphasis of the book is work. Written in 1904 and 1905, it was translated into English by Talcott Parsons in 1930], and it was his theory is that coming out of the Protestant Reformation, the teaching that you would do what you do with your hands to the glory of God is what really led to the prosperity in the Western world, and he makes a great case about it. And it wasn’t teaching in the Reformation that—not only does God call people to be, say, pastors or evangelists or whatever, but He calls us to many different callings in life. And maybe you’re called to be a farmer. If you’re Amish, that’s it. If you’re born, that’s what you’re called to, pretty much. Or maybe you are called to be a plumber, or carpenter, or a high school teacher, whatever. Know your calling and do it to the glory of God.
Now, there’s nothing really bad about that teaching, except that the word “vocation” here is not in the original Greek. The word “calling” is the best translation. Walk worthy of the calling, the calling you have received, and the word “calling” is, you are called in verse four to one hope, when you were called, so what is this calling? Well, it’s not that God doesn’t care about your vocation, it’s not that God doesn’t care about your job. He places you where your gifts can be used and where you can be used for the glory of God but as we mentioned before, you know, it used to be, if you were a steel worker, you were a steel worker for your whole life. If you worked for GM [General Motors], you worked for GM all your life. But anymore, people are not only going to have multiple jobs, but multiple vocations. So is it sinful if you are called to be in the restaurant business to go into the insurance business or something? No, I don’t think so at all. I think the Holy Spirit will lead you and open doors for you as you follow Him. Really this calling is deeper than that.
And by the way, I read an article recently where some of the Hollywood stars think they are there because God put them there, that God has a hand on their life, names that would surprise you. [I am not sure of the exact article to which he is referring.] Lady Gaga has said that, that God has put her where she is; Eminem, Snoop Dogg, the Blackwood Brothers Quartet [congregation chuckles]. Maybe they. . .I don’t know. What doesn’t fit here in this picture? And it’s interesting that they feel that they have this calling, that God has placed them there. Well, the first thing you do when you get a call is you check the caller ID and know who’s calling. It may not be God, it may not be God.
So what is this calling from God? Well, what is a call? What does it mean to call someone? In the Greek, it’s very simple, to call someone. First of all, when someone calls someone, they’re not where they’re at. Have you seen one of those 4G commercials, where someone is sitting across the table and they are calling them on their smart phone, 4G, and it’s like, “Silly, I’m right here.” So, usually when you call someone, they’re not where you’re at. By the way, in your house–Arline and I have talked about this for years–what are your family rules? When someone upstairs screams downstairs and you can barely hear them, are they to move toward the person they are calling or is the person being called to move toward them? [Congregation laughs in understanding.] I just want to see. How many families, is the obligation of the person, unless they’re, you know, laying on the floor—I’ve fallen and I can’t get up kind of thing—it’s their obligation to move toward the person they are trying to call. How many, that’s your house rules? [Many hands go up.] Okay, how many expect the person being called, if they can’t hear, that they have to run toward the person who is calling them? [Just as many hands go up.] About half and half, okay. Well, the Fredericks and the Grabills were different. [Arline is a Frederick.] And I’ll let you guess which is which.
Number one, the person is not where you’re at, you know, they’re calling. Number two, they single you out. When God calls us, He singles us out. Isn’t that amazing? Seven, eight billion people on the planet and He knows you by name. He singles you out. Number three, He gets your attention. He does something to get your attention. He initiates contact. It’s God that initiates contact with us, not us with God. He called us, He loved us first. And number four, you expect a response, you expect a response.
Now, sometimes if it’s a faint voice and I can barely hear it, I just don’t respond until the voice comes closer, so that’s kind of a giveaway as to the Grabills and the Fredericks on that. You say, “Well, when Jesus called the disciples, He was where they were at.” Yeah, but He was calling them spiritually to a place that they weren’t at. He was calling them to move considerable distance, considerable distance.
And I wonder how that worked. James and John, they’re working with their dad. Jesus comes along and talks to them, and I don’t know what He said or did to convince them that He was worth laying it down. And I wonder what Zebedee said. I wonder what happened that morning. You know? Did Dad, was Dad being really tough on the guys? But here they go, they’re gone. They were probably single but Peter was married, and here he follows Jesus. Andrew, who was probably single, goes and gets Peter, tells Peter about Jesus, and Peter comes and follows Jesus. What did he tell his wife? “Ah, see ya, hon. There’s this man from Nazareth”–Peter was from Capernaum—“this man from Nazareth, He’s a rabbi, He’s a teacher. I’m going to follow Him.” You know, did he have a good marriage or a bad marriage? I don’t know.
You know, John Wesley, the great preacher, he was away from home 29 days out of the month. And he had a really bad marriage. England had Revival because John Wesley had a bad marriage, and he didn’t want to be home. He was out preaching. They said it was really bad. But Peter, did he have a good marriage? I don’t know. He probably did. One indication, we know he’s married because Jesus healed his mother-in-law [Matthew 8:14-15], and Peter didn’t try to stop Jesus from healing her [congregation laughs], so apparently he had a good marriage.
Well, this calling here is a calling for all of us. Turn with me, if you will to II Peter, or I Peter rather, chapter 2, I Peter chapter 2, and we’ll see what this calling is. Chapter 4, in Ephesians, is going to flesh it out over time over the next weeks and months, but let’s see what Peter says here, inspired by the Spirit. I Peter 2, verse 9[-12]: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. This calling is a calling out of darkness into light; it’s a calling from the world into His Kingdom and then we are sent back as ambassadors.
I think something really bad has happened in American Christendom in the last 40 years. When I grew up–the Bible talks about being holy and being worldly–that was the spectrum. Over and over and over in the New Testament, [it says] Be ye holy as I am holy, says the Lord. [I believe he is referring to Leviticus 11:44-45, though that is in the Old Testament.] Live a life of holiness. What does that mean? Otherness, we are called out of this world. Worldliness means that our attention is given to this world far too much. The things of this world, even the temporal relationships of this world, we focus on them so much. Be holy. We threw that aside and we moved to another spectrum, and that is conservative liberal, and the concept of conservative is in the Bible, where Paul told Timothy to guard the doctrine that you have been given. [I Timothy 4:16] The concept of being liberal is in the Bible; we’re told to give liberally and to be generous [several places, including Psalm 37:21 and Romans 12:8], but they are not a focus of scripture. The focus of the New Testament is that we are called to be holy. We’re called to be like God. We’re called out of darkness into light. Conservative and liberal are both worldly. You with me? That light bulb went on for me here some weeks ago. They’re both worldly. They’re both engaged and focused on the things of this world. You can tell what someone is focused on when they are not in church and you’re sitting, maybe, across a meal, a tabletop. What do they want to talk about, the things of this world or the things of the Kingdom? Which is more natural for them to talk about?
Well, we gave up on the holiness thing because we had done such a bad job with legalism, trying to enforce holiness, and that never works. But that’s what this calling is. It is a calling to live above the world, to live above the world and not get so bothered and so pulled down and depressed by the things of this world. In fact, the word church involves this word, εκκλησία [ekkli̱sía]—the ones who are called out. Church means “the called out ones, called out ones.” And so does the word assembly. Assembly means “called out ones” as well. So that’s why we’re called State College Assembly of God, not State College Assembly of God Church, because that would be redundant. Assembly and church are the same word in the Greek, so it would be like State College Church of God Church, you know. So that’s why it’s just State College Assembly of God.
We are the called out ones, and so we are called, verse one , to live a life worthy of that calling that we’ve received. We live above this world. We’re not worried about the things of this world. You know, I had trouble preparing this message because I was so concerned about whether Kate Middleton was going to wear a tiara or not for the royal wedding [Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton were wed on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London, and every detail was big news, even here in the United States.] I mean, it was just bothering me all week [congregation laughs]. Is she or is she not? And who’s going to win “American Idol” this year? [“American Idol” is a popular reality show/competition for young singers on television.] Yeah, the things of this world just are not important. If they’re not important for eternity, they are not important at all. The things that last for eternity are important and that’s people. People last for eternity. All this other stuff is just noise. It just gets in the way, so live a life worthy.
If we’re saved, should people be able to tell we’re saved? Should there be any evidence of salvation? Absolutely, absolutely. It’d be like if you were a beggar, a beggar child, and you didn’t even have clothes to put on, and you were dirty and you were begging every day, and the royal family adopted you into their family. Let’s say you’re ten years old. They adopt you into the family, they clean you up, and they give you royal clothes to wear, but you want to run around in rags. That’s the concept of “live a life worthy”. It’s not our righteousness, it’s His righteousness, but we put it on. That’s why the Bible talks about clothed in righteousness [see Isaiah 61:10]. It’s not hypocrisy that we’re putting on, it’s just living in His realm, His values. Living like Christ did. Christ didn’t get all hot and bothered by the things of this world. No! He had a higher calling. And you and I have a higher calling than the stuff that we get bogged down in so often. Live a life worthy.
This morning we celebrate communion, and I Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 27 says, it warns us not to partake unworthily, unworthily. What does that mean? Somebody asks, because I summarize it by my understanding of I Corinthians 11 is—did I say 9? I mean 11—I Corinthians 11 is we need to be right with God and right with our brother and sister in Christ. And since someone asked, I went back to what they call the early church fathers, and that is writings right after the New Testament of what they understood, and there is a writing that was written about 20 years after John died. He wrote the book of Revelation, and when the apostle John passed away, the book of Revelation was the last book of the New Testament. But there are writings by Clement and Ignatius and others, early church fathers that they wrote—not scripture, doesn’t have the weight of scripture—but, hey, they walked with the Apostles. There is a writing called The Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles and we don’t know who wrote it, kind of like Hebrews, we’re not exactly sure, but we do know it was written about 20 years after John. And it has two sections that talk about Communion, section 9 and section 14. You can look it up on the web and you can get it for free on the web [it is available on several sites, e.g. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html], and it basically says this: when you take Communion, you need to be right with God and right with your brother and sister in Christ.
Now, years ago, once I postponed Communion. As a church, I felt like we weren’t in the right place that day, and I shared that with some fellow pastors here in town, some from sacramental backgrounds, mainline churches and Catholic, and they were just shocked, because in their teaching, when you come to the Communion table, you receive grace from the Communion. You may have been a dirtball all week, and that’s fine, because Communion will fix that. It will make you better. Our teaching is, I believe, closer to what the Bible says, and that is, like if you are in that royal family, you may be a member of the family, but if you’re that ten-year-old and you’re dirty and you’re in rags and it’s time for dinner, and your new adopted mama says, “You go wash up and get some decent clothes on to come eat at this table,” it’s not that you are any better or worse. It’s just that you are prepared to sit there, you are prepared for that moment, and you treat it with respect. You have respect for that table, and for that family, for what you’ve been called into.
So live a life worthy of the calling. It really doesn’t matter all that much whether you are a plumber or a carpenter or a lawyer or a bioethicist. Use the gifts you’ve been given for the glory of God, and be blessed in it. And God cares what you do, but you’re not bound to it. Don’t feel bondage. So many times young people [ask], “What does God want me to do with my life?” And they mean, what profession do I have to go into? God will lead you but don’t get all uptight about it. Just follow Him and move with Him, and He’s gracious. He’ll close doors and open other doors. He’ll take you where you need to go; you don’t have to worry about that. What we do need to concentrate on though–not worry about, but concentrate on–is living a life worthy of the calling.
If someone looked at your life, let me ask you this. Did Jesus have to die for you to be who you are? If you could have been a good person or a nice person without Jesus, then why did He have to die? Did Jesus have to die for you to be who you are? I’ll tell you what, for me, absolutely. When I was born again, I was born again and I started a new life. And there are things I love this world hates, and things this world loves that I have no time for, because I’ve been given a higher calling, not the pastoral calling. That’s a high calling, but the calling to be in Christ, a prisoner of the Lord. Look at verse two, and I’m going to end with this: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Why do we do that? To get nice points from God? The nicer we are, the more points we get in Heaven? No. That is our strategy, and when we are humble, and gentle, when we love one another, and care for one another, that allows God to do what He wants to do. You with me? It leaves room for His Spirit to move and work, but when we have to make everything happen by force, and then we exclude God from the picture, then we’re not working, we’re not walking out our calling. It’s not by might, nor my power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord [Zechariah 4:6].
[Prayer] Father, I thank You that You called us by name. I thank You that in this room, there are hundreds and hundreds of people who heard that call deep down in their heart, just like those three last week, and they responded to You, and You started a new life in them. Jesus, as we come to Your table, we’re not worthy in and of ourselves, we never can be, but by Your shed blood, by Your redemption, by Your transformation, we’ve been made new creatures. We are a new creation in You. As we come to the table today, Lord, we want to be right with You and right with our brother and sister in Christ. Lord, prepare our hearts in these moments, I pray, for the blessing of eating at your royal table. Thank you for that privilege of being kids of the King and all that’s entailed with it.
I’m going to ask those who are serving Communion, would you please come? And as we worship, let’s prepare our hearts. Make sure you are right with God and with your brother and sister in Christ. If not, just let it pass this week. Just let it go by you. And you can receive next time. Let’s worship Him right now. You don’t have to be a member of our church. Just hold the bread and the cup till we all receive together. God bless you as we prepare.
[Singing] This is my desire, to honor You. Lord, with all my heart, I worship You. All I have within me, I give you praise. All that I adore is in You. Lord, I give You my heart, I give You my soul. I live for You alone. Every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake, Lord, have Your way in me. [Composer Reuben Morgan © Copyright 1995 Reuben Morgan/Hillsong Publishing (ASCAP) admin. in the US & Canada by Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (ASCAP)(c/o Integrity Media, Inc. 1000 Cody Road, Mobile, AL 36695.)]