As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
When we read the Bible, we think that the stories of Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets, Paul and the apostles are the stories of [img superheroes] extraordinary men. When in fact, they are the stories of everyday, ordinary people who made [img baby uhoh] major mistakes in the way they lived. They doubted God as you and I doubt. They wondered [img cartoon with bubbles thinking] and questioned [img ?] what God was up to and where the world was going. And they were as insecure as many of us here, today. They were ordinary men not extraordinary.
Just consider the lives of these men. Abram, fearing for his life, gave his wife away twice (Gen 12:10-15, 20:2) because he lied, telling half-truths about Sarah’s relationship with him. (Gen. 20:2) and there [in Gerar] Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. Abram slept with his wife’s servant, Hagar, because Sarah told him to do it. (Gen. 16:2) so [Sarai] said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. He refused to lead his family when Hager and Sarah were struggling to interact properly. (Gen. 16:6) “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. Does that sound like a stellar picture of a man? Of a leader? Or is that closer to a picture of you and me?
Or how about his grandson Joseph [img Joseph & many colored coat], he was braggadocious and arrogant. (Gen. 37:6-7) [Joseph] said to them [his brothers], “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” As you can imagine, this upset the entire family to the point that his brothers sold him [img Joseph sold as slave] as a slave and then lied to cover it up to their father. (Gen. 37:27, 31-32) Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed…Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.” There is a story of a man who brought the best out in people.
What about Moses? His anger and rage flowed so freely that he killed a man, (Ex. 2:12) Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He tried to cover up his sin, thinking his position in the royal courts would protect him. He even had the audacity to try to correct someone for his wrong the next day – (Ex. 2:13) “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” Well, Moses, “why did you kill your fellow man?” is the retort he hears and with it, instead of facing the consequences, he became a fugitive [img fugitive] and a man of fear, running away to the desert.
Let me ask you: Are those the character qualities of leaders? Are those the kind of things that make great men – lying, fear, hot-tempered anger, passivity, arrogance, drawing out peoples worst [one slide with words appearing one at a time]? Are those the qualities of leadership that you are looking for in a president, a pastor, a manager?
No! Why? Because those are the things of ordinary people and we have bought into the myth that leadership is the realm into which only the extraordinary [img superheroes Xout] may delve. That is not true. Each and every man present today, and women too, has been called to be a leader, if you are in Christ.
Leaders aren’t extraordinary; they are simple people who have been called by God [img iphone called by God].to a specific work or works. (Eph. 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. Abraham became the Father of a Nation, and hence a leader of all who follow in his footsteps, not because of any innate prowess he had, or wonderful charisma but because God called him to be the father of those who are declared righteous by faith (Rom 4:1,3, 11b-12) he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Joseph became ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, not because he was shrewd, wise or deserving, but because he was called by God to save his people, and many others. Listen to Joseph’s own words about his misfortune and authority – “…God intended it [both the misfortune and the exaltation] for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (Gen. 50:20-21)
Moses became the leader of Israel, the emancipator of the nation from slavery and the giver of the law not because he was more holy or extraordinary, or endowed with great brains and a brilliant plan. On the contrary, we are told, by his own lips, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Ex. 4:10). He even pleads for God to send someone different (4:13). Here is a man you want as a leader – a coward who runs away and argues with God. Moses is like you and I, isn’t he?
So how did Moses become a leader? Again by the call of God upon his life [img iphone called by God].. Moses wasn’t going to save these people God was – he said so in Exodus 3:8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Moses wasn’t going to lead these people, or speak to them by his own authority, on the contrary he was going to say what God told him to say and take them where God told him to take them. He wasn’t a leader endowed with self-confidence, we could probably say he was anything but self-confident. But he was in possession of one thing, like the other men we have spoken of so far, he was endowed with a calling from God. The Lord himself called Moses to a great and mighty task, not because Moses could do it, but because God was going to do it through Moses.
Are you hearing what I am saying? Ordinary men are called to lead. Sometimes, it is even abnormal men and misfits like the story of many of the judges – Go read about Jephthah, Samson, and Gideon. They weren’t leaders naturally, but God calls men [img iphone called by God]. to leadership positions. In fact, every believer in Christ has been called to lead in some area of the church and society.
All believers have a calling on their life by God to righteousness and holiness. Rom. 8:29-30 says, 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. Paul is telling the Christians in Rome that the call of God upon their life is to being conformed [img person working clay] to the image of his Son – that is another way of saying glorification, or true righteousness and holiness. This isn’t the domain of a select few, super Christians. No, this is the calling of God upon [img crowd] every single believer. They will bear the marks of Christ’s perfect life all over them.
The beauty of the gospel is that the call upon the believer is irreversible [img one-way sign]. You and I can’t weasel out of it, or get away from it. God has called us to be conformed to Jesus in all our life, every bit, every way, every thought, word, deed, look, desire – all of them are to be brought into submission and made obedient to Christ. This is the calling of God upon the ordinary man or woman, and those he calls, he also empowers to fulfill his intentions and desires.
And if that is our calling we have a responsibility and a right to be led into this and to lead others as we are led. We are all leaders called to share what we have been taught with one another so that all of the body of Christ may be built up and reach maturity. This ought to be the concern of every Christian.
And that is a wonderful segway to Gal 5:13-14. You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Again, every believer is called to freedom and freedom is most aptly described as serving one another in love [img washing feet].
As a Christian, you are the only people in the world who are able to triumph over the sinful nature. The rest of the human race is enslaved to sin and its vicious desires, but not you, if you are a believer. The believer is called by God to be free – free from sin, free from death, free from the law, and free from the devil. We are freed from selfishness, freed from every other way of life that sets itself up against God and his kingdom ruled by Christ. Again, this isn’t just for some super Christians, this is true of every Christian. And if God has called and the call is irreversible, then God has also made a way for each believer to experience the joy of this new life. And it is called living in the Spirit, and being controlled by the Spirit so that every believer can lead the world into a recognition of their sin and the righteousness that is found in Jesus Christ.
That’s two things so far we are called by God to be: 1) conformed to Christ and 2) free so that we can lead, from our calling, into the imitation of Christ and the recognition of sin. But there is more. (Eph 4:1) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. This tells us we are people with a calling upon our life but to understand that calling we need to back up to 3:11-12 (according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.) Here we are told our calling is to approach God the Father in freedom and confidence.
What a calling – to boldly enter the throne room of God. And we live into that calling as the Spirit dwells into more and more areas of our life, doing that work of conforming us to the image of Christ and the result of all that is living a worthy life. What does that worthy life look like?
It is a life of humility – because we are broken sinners in need of a savior. It is a life of gentleness and patience because we recognize in ourselves the very sins that plague others. It’s a life of longsuffering because our Savior has been longsuffering with us. It is a life of love for God and neighbors. What does the called life look like? It is a life where every believer is ushered into the opportunity and responsibility to lead other Christians and the world into God’s presence. We are the light of the world [img lighthouse/candle in dark], and so we live into our calling from God, not because we have a right, are more worthy or more special than others but because God has called us to a unique position in the world.
As 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us, we are chosen people [img wedding ring]. We are royal priests. We are a holy nation. We are a people belonging to God. We are a people called out of darkness and called into wonderful light, so we as Christians have the unique position of leading the world in declaring praise to God. We get to lead those praises because we are experiencing the light. (1Pet. 2:9 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.)
So Christian lead from your calling. It isn’t because of you, or your suave persona, your grand life, your amazing people skills or even your good looks that you are a leader in the church and the world, it is because of God’s call on your life. And if people reject your leading, if they reject the message, if they reject the Christian life realize that it is God they are rejecting, as 1 The. 4:7 declares: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. If anyone rejects this instruction, he does not reject man but God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
Our authority as Christians to lead in the world lies not in ourselves nor in the consent of those around us, but in the calling of God upon our life!
So fathers, lead your families – not because you know more than your wives – (in many instances, I have found men to be obtuse and spiritually clueless) – nevertheless lead your families [img father leading family worship] in the worship of God and the seeking after a righteous life. I know your life isn’t worthy of following, it never will be, but God has placed a call upon you as the head of the family to lead in love, to lead in sacrificial service, to lead in the good life. So lead – point the way for your children, grandchildren and family.
Wives and mothers, lead your families in submission [img God Designed] – not because you are less valuable, incapable or less educated (Did you know more women have college and graduate degrees then men?). But lead the church into submission because God has placed a call on your life to be a helpmate to your spouse. God has called you to a position in marriage that gives you a unique opportunity to lead the world into submission to Christ.
Children – [img honor] lead other kids into reverencing and obeying your parents, elders and authorities. God has called you to childhood, and there isn’t a person in this room who can get out of this call. So everyone gets to lead the world into honoring his or her parents their entire life. We never outgrow the call to be a child who honors our parents.
Elders, Deacons and Pastors – God has called you [img iphone called by God]. to lead His church. These people didn’t call you. Your superior holiness didn’t qualify you and gain the appointment. Your age or lack thereof didn’t secure you the post of leading the church but God’s call upon your life has brought you to a position where you have great responsibilities:
You are called by God to shepherd his people! [img shepherd]
You are called by God to encourage his people! [img encourager]
You are called by God to rebuke his people! [img prophet]
You are called by God to love and serve his people! [img heart and foot washing]
You are called by God to model a life of complete abandonment to the Lord for these people to witness and emulate!
Do this work – not only when people recognize it and willingly let you, but when they don’t. Do this work when it is easy, but also when it is hard. Do this work of encouraging and rebuking, not because you like it, want to do it, or think others will respond in the affirmative, but do it even when you think people are going to be upset, dislike it and respond negatively. Do it because God has called you to this work and this position.
You never know, like Moses you may lead a nation out of slavery, or a person from the grip of hell. You may turn a sinner from the error of his way…and cover over a multitude of sins (James 5:20). But you may not, yet it matters little – God’s call is upon each of us as men, women, children, and upon some as fathers and mothers or husbands and wives and upon still others as elders, deacons, or pastors.
Wherever you happen to be don’t forget the calling you have received [img iphone called by God w. Eph 4:1].