Galatians 1:1-5 & 2:20-21 – God’s calling…
September 4, 2011 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen
My mother used to embarrass the tar out of me when she would call me in for dinner. She would stand out on our front porch and holler “Leeeeeeee Howard Heeeeemen, come home!” Not satisfied to do it once, she would repeat her siren call for several humiliating minutes. Just one time did I decide not to respond to my mother’s call to come immediately home. Afterwards, my father had a little talk with me and I came to the conclusion that it was best for my emotional and physical health, to answer quickly when my mother called.
The Bible teaches us that God calls each of his followers to his service. Jesus individually called his disciples and Paul writes, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30 NIV) God has always called his prophets, judges, and spokesmen throughout the ages to serve and honor him. God is calling each of us this morning as well. Let’s find out how –
I am excited because God is calling several of our young people to follow him in ministry. He continually calls his people to serve him. What a joy to be part of God calling his people into his work in the world! His calling is not man-made, it has a clear message, and it is always a call to Christ-centered commitment. In Galatians, Paul related that…
I. God’s calling is not man-made! (Vv. 1:1-2)
1. A person can delude himself into thinking he is serving God by watching those who actually are!
1) A Christian’s calling is from God! Notice Paul relates that he was “an apostle–sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father.” “Apostle” literally means, “sent out one.” Paul knew he had a calling from God to be “sent out” to the gentiles. Paul related that “when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man.” (Vv. 1:15-16) Paul recognized that his calling was predestined, because of God’s love, and was specific. His calling therefore could not have been man-made!
2) Our calling is not something we simply “feel”. If our calling were based on feelings or emotionalism then we would run the risk of following our own desires and not God’s will. Our calling must be in line with God’s Word, the church, our prayers, and circumstances. God brings each into focus to show us his calling, just as he did with Paul. This is why Paul would write, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up!” (Galatians 1:10-11 NIV) God’s calling is not based on feelings nor is it not man-made!
3) However, before we are called to minister, we are first called to follow Jesus! Remember Paul wrote that he was “an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead!” Also remember what Jesus told his disciples when he called them, “Come follow me and will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NIV) He first called them to follow him and then he would make them “fishers of men.” The same holds true for us as well. God’s calling always begins with our following Jesus. This is why he would relate, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV) Following God’s calling is never man-made!
EXAMPLE: I remember one year when Denise and I went to a Missions Conference in San Francisco. A young man who had joined our college and career group was sensing that God was calling him into ministry. This was interesting because before that, he was only interested in girls, his looks, clothes, and competitive roller-skating! He asked me how someone knew it was God who was calling them and not simply their own emotions. I reminded him that Jesus said that his sheep respond to his voice. That as we pray, read the Word of God, listen to other believers who know us, and look at how God has brought us to that place to make a decision for him we will know that it is God’s calling. Later that evening, he gave his life to ministering to college students at Clark College. He came to realize that his calling was not a man-made feeling.
God begins by calling everyone to come to his Son Jesus Christ. Peter wrote that it was God’s desire that not anyone should perish, but that everyone would “come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God has called all Christians to serve him. It is not a man-made calling. We know this to be true because Paul relates…
II. God’s calling has a clear message! (Vv. 1:3-5)
1. The world calls us to a muddled philosophy of humanism and situational ethics!
1) The clear message of God has always been “grace and peace!” Job tells us “submit to God and be at peace with him.” (Job 22:21) Psalm 85:8 reminds us that God “promises peace to his people, his saints!” Isaiah acknowledged, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) This is why Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 & Luke 2:14) However, it is not a peace like the one the world offers! Jesus succinctly told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) It is a clear message of grace and peace, but not the same peace the world offers!
2) The clear message of God is about “Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age!” Grace and peace are found only in Jesus Christ. He is our peace with God. Paul writes that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV)
3) The clear message is “according to the will of our God and Father!” Paul knew where his calling came from. His message was not his own. He boldly declared “we preach Christ crucified” and that “when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.” (1 Corinthians 1:23 & 9:16-17) Our calling is to preach the clear message of God!
EXAMPLE: Christians are to discharge the trust committed to them: the clear message of the Gospel! It is the calling of every believer, yet there are those who want to make the message into what they think is relevant. I were watched the news on PBS a few years ago as they interviewed the President of Linfield College. He tried to assert that Southern Baptists were “out-of-step” theologically by today’s standards because even “Paul and Jesus would not view homosexuality in today’s world the same as in their own day and age.” This is simply hogwash. The loving message of the gospel has not changed. Theological relevancy always runs the risk of compromise and capitulation. God’s calling has a clear message: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV)
People talk about getting their lives “centered.” What they mean is that they want to focus their lives on something. While this is a laudable goal, what you focus your life on makes a huge difference in the larger scheme of things. Far too many people will have focused their lives on what they thought as noble, good, or appropriate only to finally find God telling them “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23) Christians, more than ever before, need to realize that…
III. God’s calling is always Christ-centered! (Vv. 2:20-21)
1. The hymn writer Helen Lemmel wrote, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full into his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!”
1) Paul understood that his life was to be lived for Jesus, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” This revelation has escaped many of today’s believers. They think Jesus lives in them for their pleasure, whims, and desires! Simply to fulfill their self-centeredness! Not only is this a false premise, it is an ungodly and selfish belief! This is why Paul could boldly declare, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 NIV) We are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and then all the things God desires for us will be given to us! (Matthew 6:33) Our lives are to be Christ-centered!
2) Paul knew that Christians are to “live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV) This is why Paul exclaimed “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14 NIV) What a difference with many of today’s philosophies that mimic the satanic refrain: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die!” (Luke 12:19 NIV) Paul understood that the life he lived “in the body” here on earth was temporary. His life was to be lived “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself of me!” It is a Christ-centered faith!
3) The reason was completely obvious for Paul because if he lived any other way then he would have “set aside the grace of God!” Paul understood that “if righteousness could be gained through the law (being smart enough, nice enough, good looking enough, relevant enough or wealthy enough), Christ died for nothing!” Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV) Paul knew that “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:3 NIV) God’s calling is always Christ-centered.
EXAMPLE: There is an old spiritual truth that states, “If man can do it alone, then God may not be in it at all.” During our lives, there are times when we will want to respond to God based on our own emotions or our own wisdom. Such an approach will get us into spiritual trouble. I remember thinking growing up that “God helps those who help themselves.” As practical as this may sound, it is not a biblical teaching and is contrary to the actual Scriptural truth: “God helps those who depend on Him!” A mountain climber was pulling himself up a treacherous cliff when his rope broke. Reaching out, he quickly grabbed a branch protruding from the rock face. He prayed for help and a voice from heaven answered him by telling him to, “Just let go of the branch!” Not trusting the response, he prayed several more times only to receive the same answer. Finally, he turned his face heavenward and prayed, “Is there anyone else up there that has a better answer?” We must live lives that are Christ-centered.
God’s calling is never man-made. God’s calling has a clear message for us to know and proclaim. And finally, God’s calling is always Christ-centered. God is calling each of us here today. You are called, will you respond?
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.