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About this series
Answering the Call
How to Discover and Fulfill God's Purpose for Your Life
God created you to work. And He created your work to be more than just "what you do for a living," but a place to fulfill God's calling in your life. According to Scripture, work is the platform where you can experience joy, ministry, and personal fulfillment like never before. If you long to experience that kind of job satisfaction, this series will help you get there. Whether it's finding a new job, starting a new career, or just gaining a new perspective on your current employment, "Answering the Call" will encourage and inspire you to see work as a gift from God.More from this series
You are called to a Person – Jesus. You are called to a purpose – to become like Him. And you are called to a people, called the “Church.”
The phone rings, and God says, “I didn’t just save you for a purpose, and you float out there somewhere. I want you connected to a local body of people, because I’ve deposited gifts in you, and I have purpose for you, and you fitting with who you are, and who they are, come together to demonstrate My glory to the world.”
And in the one, you come, right? “Come unto Me.” In the other, it’s “be” – “be perfect.” And then, what did Jesus say? “Follow Me. Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
He wants you to be a part of other people becoming like Christ. You are called to that.
California, you get into lots of conversations, like, “You know, I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian,” to which I say, “You’re right.” “I don’t have to go to church. All they do is talk, and I don’t think it’s that important to be a member of a local church.” God does.
Now, you can describe membership, and some people, “I’m a member,” and they haven’t been in three years, so I don’t think that’s a good one. And some churches don’t take formal membership.
I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is a participating, involved, active, engaged member, where you know your gifts, you’re serving, you’re being loved, and you’re loving other people, and life, community is happening on the basis of the work of Christ. And people’s lives are changing because they’re rubbing up against the Christ in you, and your gifts, and you’re rubbing up against the Christ in them. You are called to a people.
And then, notice what happens, as the evidence of maturity. And He goes on, in verse 14, that we should “no longer to be children.” The reason a lot of Christians don’t look like Christians, they’re immature, little spiritual babies, because they’re not connected, and they’re not in community. They’re Lone Ranger Christians.
He says, “We’re no longer to be children” – and then he describes what is true of children – “tossed to and fro, carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, and cunning craftiness and deceitful plotting, but” – positively – “speaking the truth in love” –that’s how relationships really work – “we’re to grow up” – how? – “into all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, for whom the whole body” – what? The body of Christ – “being fitted and knit together by that which” – notice – “every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
And what I want you to see here is, Jesus said, “Upon this rock” – remember, he makes this statement, Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The rock that He’s talking about is that confession, and on that confession that, “I’m the Messiah, and I’m the head, and I’m going to bring about a bride. Upon the confession of that reality, I’m going to build My Church.”
And, boy, I’ll tell you what, I love the Church. I don’t know where you’re coming from, and the Church gets ripped a lot, and it has a lot of problems, and there are a lot of hypocrites, because there are a lot of people in there like us, and it’s got all kinds of problems, and we’ve got to address those problems. But the local church is the hope of the world.
Now, we’ve blown it, and, boy, there have been things done in the name of the Church, and Jesus, that are just embarrassing. But with all that aside, I want you to hear that if you are going to understand, and fulfill, the unique plan that God created you to fulfill, it starts with His calling to you, and your love for Him, and walking with Him.
And then, it’s you understanding the number one agenda is not where I work, what I do, how many kids I have, or if I ever get married, or how much I make. The number one agenda on God’s list is that I become like His Son.
And then, third, is, I’m called to a people. I am called to engage in the supernatural community, where I give, and I receive, in ways where transformation occurs.
The fourth calling is the calling into a process, into a process. 1 Thessalonians 4:7: “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” Matthew 5 says, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Seek His righteousness. Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be satisfied.
You will be about as holy as you want to be. That may sound heretical; it’s absolutely true. Everything you need to be, to be like Christ, you already possess. The Spirit that raised Him from the dead, if you’re a genuine follower of Christ, lives in you. And, “Man won’t live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
And so, you are called into a process, a walk, a journey, of transformation by God’s Spirit through His Word. And actually, what you see, as I’ve outlined here, is, if you take the big sections, beginning in verse 17 to 32, you’re called in this journey, or process, called “sanctification,” to walk in the light.
Look at verse 17, because it really talks clearly about what has to happen. It says, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding” – get the idea – “darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that’s in them because of the blindness of their hearts.”
And then, He goes on and talks about why: “But you haven’t learned Christ in this way.” Verse 22: “Put off your former conduct, the old man, which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lust, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, that you can put on the new man that was created according to God in true righteousness and boldness.”
We have so dumbed down the expectations of what we think God will do in our lives, we find a handful of people that live the normal Christian life, and we go, “Ahhh!”
I will tell you, when you met a Christian in the first century, that was just normal. And by the way, one of the reasons it’s not normal is the softer and the easier it is to walk with God, the softer and easier the Christianity and the flavor becomes.
Okay? And you know what? All the blessings we have – God has blessed us where we are, because we’re stewards to use it for His glory. And we’ve turned it inward, and we’ve made it about us, instead of Him.
And that’s why a lot of people – you know something? Their phone’s ringing off the wall, but someone came and pushed the “silence” button, and they can’t hear God. Because they think God’s job is to give them a successful career and make them upwardly mobile.
They think God’s job is to make them happy all the time, and if they’re not, then they trade in whatever version or make they have for the next, prettiest, best one. And so, that’s why we have the stuff going on in the Church today, and the divorce rate in the Church today, and the lack of integrity in the Church today.
I’ll tell you what, people have not heard the call of God to a Person, and then to a purpose, and to a people. People change churches like others change underwear –“That’s not very fulfilling, and this program isn’t what I really think it to be, and this –” Whatever happened to, “Let’s build the Church and make it great, speak the truth in love. If it’s not right, tell someone. Go through Matthew 18, deal with hard stuff, and see it purified, and watch God work”?
See, unconsciously, what we’ve asked is, “What have you done for me lately, Church?” And they become big houses to meet our needs. And so, we build everything in the church, and become this little secularized, cul-de-sac community, with our world, and our own social club, and our own everything, telling one another how wonderful it is.
Salt’s got to get out of the salt-shaker, and light’s got to get in the “on” position on the flashlight, to expose and to reveal, so the life of Christ – I’ve got news for you – we are not going to be here forever. And so, there’s a purpose. And part of that is this process to walk in the light. And then, we’re to walk in love. Look at chapter 5, verse 1. He says this calling, this process, is walking in purity; it’s walking in light. There’s a real transformation.
But then he says what? Chapter 5: “Therefore be imitators.” Literally, the Greek word is mimic “[Be a mimic of God], dear children.” And then, “Walk in love.” And he contrasts walking in love with sexual impurity.
He says, “You’re called to this process. You walk in the light. It’s a journey. Yes, there are three steps forward, and two steps backward. Yes, you blow it. Yes, you have struggles.” Okay, that’s fine. But there’s a difference between owning it and asking God for forgiveness, and repenting and knowing you’re on the right track, and just stepping away and saying, “You know, I don’t …”
I’ve done a lot of singles’ things in the last couple of years. We’ve got evangelical single groups everywhere that go, “Well, I don’t think God was really serious about that not sleeping together before you’re married.” I mean, it’s just common in good Bible-teaching churches.
I’ve got a friend whose wife died and he spent a couple years just grief and recovering. And then, he goes, “I’d like to meet someone.” And so, he went to a couple great churches in his city. He said, “I’ve been in Bible studies where, you know, five guys, six guys – I’m the only celibate guy in the room. And they’re looking at me like, What’s wrong with you?” He said, “What’s wrong with me is Ephesians 5 – ‘Walk in love. Let there not be a hint of immorality among you.’”
And so, we’re to walk in the light, we’re to walk in love, and then we’re to walk in wisdom. And that begins in Ephesians 5, and he says, okay, “Don’t be foolish or unwise, but understand the will of the Lord.” And then, he says, “Okay, now, I want you to walk in wisdom.”
By the way, wisdom is not intellect. In the Bible, wisdom has the idea of skill. It’s the idea of doing life the way God designed it to be done. That’s what wisdom is. It’s the skill, the insight, the knowledge, and the understanding, to apply the truth of God.
In other words, wisdom would be handling your money the way God would want you to handle your money, to bring the most glory to Him, and the best benefit for you and for others. It would be handling your relationships His way. It would be parenting His way, or grandparenting His way. Wisdom is the skill and the knowledge to know when and how to apply the truth of Scripture in various areas.
And so, he says, okay, with regard to God, “Be filled” – or literally, “controlled” – “with the Holy Spirit.” Then, he gives evidence of when you’re controlled, and when you’re not.
And then, he’ll say, “Okay, let’s move to the next concentric circle – marriage. Wives, here’s what you need to do. Husbands, this is what you need to do.” Then, he moves to the next one: “Children, hey, obey your parents. Hey, fathers, don’t exasperate your kids.” And then, he gets down to the work world, and he says, “Slaves –”
Imagine, eighty percent of the Church, maybe more, were slaves, and you were a piece of property. When this was written, a master could just say, “I don’t like this slave. Kill him.” No consequences. No more than killing a cow, or a donkey, or a goat. They were a piece of property. And yet, God says to them, “In your work world, I want you to do your work unto this pagan master, as though I were your boss” – Jesus.
And you know what? There’s a reason the first century transformed their world. Can you imagine how countercultural it would be to treat someone like dirt, and have them be your best worker, and then try and figure out, What is going on with this guy? And he keeps making these little fish signs on the sand, and talking about some Guy, who was dead and came back to life, and you’re going, Yeah, right! And then, pretty soon, it was undeniable.
It was the marketplace ministry of the first century. You realize, we think about the churches, and all this stuff we’ve got to have – they didn’t have any buildings! They didn’t have any buildings; they didn’t have any staff.
Paul – you’d think he could be at least one full-time staff member, right? He goes for a while, and runs out of money. The Philippians were the only church that helped him out, so tents by day, preach by night. Peter – a little extra special permission – “Hey, it’s okay. I take my wife with me on some of the trips.” Right? And they turn the entire world upside down.
But the reality is, God’s call goes beyond, first to Him, and to the purpose of becoming like Christ, and to a people, where He changes us, and supports us, and comforts us, and we comfort and love others, into this process of sanctification, where we walk in purity to the light, when we walk in tenderness, the love, and then when we walk in wisdom, doing life God’s way, where we’re salt and light in every relationship. And then, notice what happens then: transformation.
But He’s calling us to these things. He’s on the other end of the phone, saying, “I want you to walk in wisdom this way.” And He wants to whisper, or shout, in your ear, and mine.
And then, notice what He says. Jesus says, “Seek ye first.” You come, you be, you follow, and then you seek. You seek.
Fifth, and finally, God calls us to different places, different places. 1 Corinthians 7:17 to 24 – when you begin to get this idea, and see how calling plays out, you can start to think that, Well, it’s all about: am I called into the ministry, or am I called into a regular job? And if I’m really going to make a difference in my life – well, I can’t, because I’ve got this job to do, or, I can’t fulfill God’s calling because I’ve got these kids, or, I can’t fulfill this calling because I’ve got all this education that I need to get, and I don’t have, or, I can’t fulfill this calling because, boy, I’ve got not one divorce, I’ve got two divorces, and now I’ve become a Christian.
And so, we don’t think we can fulfill God’s calling because of the position we find ourselves: “I’m married,” “I’m single,” “I’m old,” “I’m young,” “I’m uneducated,” “I’ve got too much education” – whatever it is.
And so, the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 – very, very interesting passage, here. He begins to describe some things about when you are called to a Person, to this purpose of Christlikeness, into a people of God, called the Church, into this process of transformation. He now says, God calls you into different places, at different times, and He gives instructions.
Notice verse 17 of 1 Corinthians 7: “But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk, and so I ordain in all the churches. Well, is anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Well, is anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised.” In other words, if you were a Jew when you got called, be a born-again Jew. If you’re a Gentile, be a born-again Gentile.
“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” It’s a heart issue. “Let the one remain in the same calling in which he was called.”
If He’s called you to this kind of work, do that work, unless He shows you something different, and reveal Jesus there. Be an ambassador for Christ. Be a secret agent, full-time Christian waitress, businessman, salesperson, stay-at-home mom, coach. What He’s saying is, “You’re all in full-time ministry! Okay? Every single one – you are a kingdom of priests! I don’t have clergy up here.”
I’ve got news for you: God doesn’t love Billy Graham any more than you.
Billy Graham heard the phone call, and he was called, first, to Jesus – a Person – and then to a purpose – to grow – and if you read his autobiography, you hear about this passion to become like Christ – and then, to a people – and he pastored for a while, and he saw that wherever he went, he would coordinate with the churches – and then, to a process – and guess what, he got a team of guys around him, and they did life in community – and then, to a place, and his place was to be an evangelist. He fulfilled his calling.
And you know what God wants? He wants you to fulfill yours. And his is no more important than yours.
Imagine, if you will, a car, and everyone wants to be the hood ornament, or the leather seats. And there’s one very ugly bolt, down there in the drive shaft, where everything connects. I’ve got news for you, I want that part of the car to work really, really well. And some of us are the bolt of the drive shaft. We are not public. People will never know our name. But we’re called to a place, and where He calls you, He will gift you for.
Lord, thank You so much for Your love for us. Thank You that You have called us. And Lord, I pray, first and foremost – we just so run to the end and want the details of the where, and the what, and the vocation, and location. Lord, I pray that You would, in a new and powerful way, help us understand. You want us to grasp how much You love us, that it’s personal, and that Your real purpose is not our success, or even our impact; it’s this process of becoming like Your Son.
Lord, will You please help every person in this room to discern what part of what they’ve heard is the part You really want them to ponder, and to meditate on, and to act on. I don’t know what that is. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for Your presence. God, thank You for Your Word. In Christ’s name, amen.