Called of God

Title: Called of God

Text: Galatians 1:1-5

Time: September 18th, 2010

“Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers with me. To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen,” Galatians 1:1-5. If you remember, there were twelve original disciples, then they became the eleven disciples when Judas betrayed Jesus. They did add another disciple, Mathias, but we don’t hear much about him later, although we assume that his appointment worked out well and he took his place along with the others. But then there came along later another apostle who unlike the others didn’t actually follow Jesus for the three years, wasn’t actually trained under Jesus like the others, didn’t witness or experience the miracles in the life of Jesus, but was just as much or more so an apostle than the others. I’m referring to the apostle Paul. Paul is a very unique individual in the history of the Christian church for many reasons. One thing is that he all of a sudden appears in the pages of the Bible as this amazingly energetic missionary preacher and leader. Like I said before, he wasn’t with Jesus and the twelve disciples, he wasn’t taught personally by Jesus. In fact, during the time Jesus was teaching the twelve, he was probably in rabbi school sitting under the teaching of a famous Jewish scholar and learning the Torah, the law. After Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead, as his disciples were spreading the gospel for the first time after the Great Commission, Paul began to persecute the early Christian church because at that time he wasn’t a follower but instead was an enemy of Jesus. But as you all know, or you’ve read or heard, Paul had a mighty conversion on the Damascus Road. In that experience Jesus spoke to him and convinced him that he was to become an apostle and take the gospel message to the Gentiles. So suddenly, this archenemy of Christianity became its strongest promoter. It was truly an amazing conversion, perhaps the most famous in all of church history. So then the original apostles had to decided what to do with this powerful convert to Christianity. Well, there was no way to hold him down, there was no way to hold him back, he was a man on fire for God and on fire with the gospel of salvation. So they did the only thing they could do – they blessed him and let him loose. Since they were mostly teaching and ministering to the Jewish people, they blessed his calling to the Gentiles or non-Jewish people. As a result, Paul evangelized and established churches among the peoples of the Roman Empire. He would visit a region and begin to teach and preach. When he had gathered some people he started a church there, then he’d move on to another area and start teaching and preaching there also. Just as soon as he gathered enough people he established a church there, and then moved on again. So he kept doing this all throughout the territories around the Mediterranean Sea. Well, one of the places he did this was Galatia. Obviously he couldn’t be in more than one place at a time, so he’d write letters back to these many churches and encourage the people in their Christian faith. We still have many of these letters preserved in the Bible, so we get the benefit of hearing his inspired words for our Christian lives today. So I’d like to start with the Book of Galatians and work my way through it so that we can learn what God has to say through the writings of the Apostle Paul. Today I’ll cover the first five verses of Galatians.

First, the Christian’s calling is from God not man. Galatians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Paul is saying specifically that his calling to be an apostle and our calling as Christians generally is from God and not from man. He wasn’t recruited by a committee to be an apostle and neither do we become Christians because we were raised in a specific Christian family or raised in a Christian church or attended a Christian school or college. We aren’t Christians because we are citizens of a Christian nation or part of a Christian Western Civilization. God saves us as individuals, one-by-one. Some skeptics like to make the argument that people are Christians only because of their particular place in society. They are Christians because they were conditioned to be Christians by parents or society in general. That’s not true. There are plenty of people raised in Christian homes who reject the Christian faith and become unbelievers despite their Christian upbringing. Then there are people in foreign lands who were raised Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu who become Christians. There are also people who were raised in societies where atheism was promoted like Russia and China who become Christians. Paul is right. God calls people not man. Human psychology and sociology can’t explain the workings of God. For example, Paul was a devout and strict Jew. To the majority Jews even to this day, Jesus is not the Messiah. Jesus might be considered a prophet at best or a teacher of some sort, but not the Messiah. The majority Jews rejected Jesus as Lord early on, and so Paul being a traditional and conservative Jew rejected Jesus also. In fact, he went even further and began to persecute the Christian church and actively oppose Christians. So he had every reason in the world to continue on in that religion and reject Jesus. But God had other plans and appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road and called him not only to be a Christian but also to be an apostle as well. Nothing in the life of Paul makes sense from a human psychological or sociological standpoint. And when we become Christians we may think we inherited the faith of our family, our parents, our nation or culture, but we didn’t because you can’t inherit faith. You can receive the best Christian training, but you still have to decide whether or not to believe it and commit to it. If you are a Christian, you are one because of God’s calling not because of anything man does or did. Parents can’t believe for their children. You can’t make a decision to follow Christ for your friends. They have to do it themselves. They have to respond to the calling of God individually. Does that mean we shouldn’t pray and witness to others? No. We should do everything we can do for them to communicate the fact that Jesus died for all of us sinners so that we might be saved by faith in him, but we need to realize that we can’t make anybody a Christian. They must hear and respond to God’s call for their own life. I can also say with Paul that my calling into ministry wasn’t the result of man but was in direct response to God’s call on my life to preach and teach, because when I received my call to ministry there wasn’t anybody calling me – just God. Now hopefully people would and do confirm my initial calling, but the calling is first and foremost from God and only secondarily from people. It’s the same with Christian conversion. You may respond to a gospel invitation and become a Christian through the ministry of an evangelist, but it’s God’s calling you to salvation that is first and foremost. The Christian leader is only the means that God uses to call you. Thank God our faith is based in God not man! Amen.

Second, the gospel centers on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:1-4, “Paul, an apostle – sent not from men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Notice that even though Paul isn’t preaching the gospel per se here, he talks about the key parts of the gospel – the death of Christ on the cross for our sins and the resurrection from the dead. These are at the heart of the gospel of salvation. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Why did he die on the cross? For our sins. Why did he die for our sins? Because the justice of God the Father demands that someone pay the price for our breaking the law. I was listening to an atheist on the television one day – they were interviewing him – and he said something like, “Well, if God needed to forgive people for their sins, why didn’t he just do it, why didn’t he just forgive them, instead of having his own son die for people’s sins?” This atheist thought it was stupid for God to demand that Jesus die for sins in order to forgive them, instead of just forgiving them. But he doesn’t understand the problem. Sure, if God the Father could just forgive everyone’s sins without the cross of Christ he would have – that’s the whole struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cried out, “If there be any other way, let this cup pass, nevertheless not my will but thy will be done.” In other words, Jesus was asking God the Father if there was any way to forgive sins without his death on the cross, but there wasn’t. Christ needed to die for our sins as the perfect atoning sacrifice. That’s the heart of the gospel and the main theme of the Lord’s Supper and why Christians have observed Communion for 2000 years. Jesus had to die for your sins, he had to die for my sins, because if you died for your own sins, if I died for my own sins, we’d be in eternal damnation forever paying the price. But thanks be to God Jesus could and would make the sacrifice for us in our place. Now what about the resurrection? What does that accomplish? The resurrection that Paul mentions here as part of the gospel message is important because it helps us do what is essential to be saved – believe by faith. We not only need Jesus dying for our sins, we have to trust in Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf. If that were not the case then even unbelievers and atheists and Christ-haters and God-haters and unrepentant enemies of God would be saved too because Christ died for them – but they aren’t saved. Why not? Because they don’t trust in Christ. And the resurrection is for the benefit of aiding us and helping us have the faith to be saved. If Jesus had died for our sins and then slipped quietly into heaven without the resurrection, the message would be this – “Christ died for our sins but we don’t know what happened to him after that, but believe!” No, that wouldn’t encourage our faith. And that isn’t what the gospel asks us to believe. Christ rose from the dead on the third day. He appeared to his disciples and others over a period of 40 days. We not only have the teachings of Jesus about life and death and forgiveness, we have the resurrection to prove that he did what he said he’d do. Do you trust in Jesus today? Do you trust with you whole heart that he died for your sins and rose from the dead? Have you confessed and repented of your sins? Does your life reflect the reality of the living Christ within you? Why not fully surrender yourself to Jesus today or rededicate yourself again to him now.

Third, we are rescued from this evil world also. Galatians 1:1-5, “Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers with me. To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” Now what we often fail to realize is that we are in enemy territory in this earthly life. The Bible tells us that “the whole world is in the hands of the evil one.” The little song we learned in Sunday School, “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” is partially true, but there’s evil out there also. God and angels aren’t the only powers in the spiritual realm because Satan and demons are out there also, along with our own sin and disobedience and the combined evil of all of us sinners in the world. We live in a world that is rebelling against God. I’ve seen as television has gotten worse and worse, along with popular music, movies, and the culture in general. Today, to find good, clean entertainment you really have to work hard at it – it wasn’t always that way, but it is today. We live in an increasingly evil world. How does Paul put it? “The present evil age,” that’s true. If you follow the advice and direction and guidance of what you hear on television, radio, movies, newspapers – in other words, the popular culture today – if you simply follow the direction of pop culture, you’ll go straight to hell. That’s evil. It used to be that if you followed the direction of society – this was years and years ago, but it was in this country in an early age – if you followed society’s lead, you be in church each and every Sunday, you’d read from the Bible, you’d pray and you’d live a pretty good moral life. That’s just following the crowd. But today if you just followed the crowd and did what most people do, you’d be led down a path of spiritual destruction that would lead you ultimately to eternal separation from God. Don’t think that our society is healthy or even neutral; it isn’t. Beware of it. That’s why Paul says that we’ve been rescued from the present evil age. I’d hate to have to resist temptation without the Lord’s help. I’d hate to face the day without the help of the Lord. I don’t think I could do it. That’s why so many people are falling apart, breaking down, cracking up, because they aren’t depending on the Lord. They are trying to face the present evil age in their own power and they can’t do it. You can’t resist temptation without Christ’s power operating within you. You can’t love and obey God’s commands with God’s help. You can’t live the Christian life without God’s power flowing in you. The only hope we have of living the Christian life properly is through the power of God, operating through the power of the Holy Spirit. But with God’s help we can be “more than conquerors” which is why Paul breaks out in praise and worship – or as Baptists call “getting happy” – “according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever, amen.” Isn’t that great news? We are saved to heaven. We already have reservations for that. But not only that, we are rescued from this present evil age by the power of God working within us. Praise be to God.

I’m excited about working with all of you at New Life Chapel. We’ve got so much to be thankful for because God has blessed us with so much already. By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we are saved and going to heaven whenever he calls us home. By faith we are more than conquerors on this earth because we are already rescued from this evil age through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now our task on this earth is to live for God and bear witness to God to others. Can you do that? Can I do that? Can we do that together? That’s our assignment from the Lord together, to build up ourselves in the faith and be a witness to the others in our community here. I’m excited about getting started!

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