Mission Minded: Clear in your calling (Jan 17, 2021)
Mission Minded: Clear in your calling
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Today we are beginning a Sermon Series which will run through the Epiphany season up to the season of Lent. So, about 5 Sundays. Epiphany is a season of the Church Year in which we focus on the revealing of who Jesus is and what he came to do. And as we do that, as we see who Jesus is, we also learn about who we are as Christians – as followers of Christ. As followers of Christ we are to be Mission Minded. That’s the overall theme for these next 5 weeks. Mission Minded. This is also a timely encouragement as we go through a transition of daughtering a congregation in Waco and set a vision and goals for us here in Temple. Let’s do so as Mission Minded followers of Christ.
So, with that overall theme in mind, to be Mission Minded, you first have to be Clear in your Calling – and yes, I get the irony of that as I am currently deliberating two calls and seeking clarity. But let’s look into this reading. Because if you are going to be doing mission work – if you are going to be mission minded – you need to first be Clear in your own Calling. So today we are going to do that by looking at 1) Who am I, that I should be called? 2) Who is he, that I should follow his call? 3) Who are they, that I should care about calling them?
First, who am I? Jesus encountered a great variety of people in his ministry. And even if we only look at the ones he specifically called to be his disciples, there’s great variety. Are you a Simon, Andrew, James or John – the fishermen, the blue-collar workers of the group? Hard workers, dedicated to whatever you do, but perhaps don’t think you have the particular gifts or talents needed to do “real” mission work. Jesus called these kinds of down to earth people and considered them valuable to the work of his kingdom. Are you a Nathanael – one who seems to be well versed in the Scriptures and clear in his understanding of what they say? Jesus called these kinds of people to test the words of others and open up the Scriptures to many. Are you a Matthew – a tax collector burdened with guilt, perhaps feeling as if he didn’t belong. Jesus called these kinds of people to. He called them to receive the forgiveness that comes from him and cherish that. He gave them a ministry which understands those who struggle with similar burdens.
The point is, there is no one “right” kind of Christian. Look through the pages of Scriptures, follow the stories of the different people in the Bible – not one of them were perfect. Every one of them had unique gifts. In fact, I’ll bet that you can find someone in Scripture that is very much like you – sharing your strengths and weaknesses, gifts and abilities. I’ll bet that you can find someone in Scripture that is going through something you are going through. And God used them all. He called individuals just like you – whoever you are – to follow him and serve him in very unique ways.
So be clear in your calling by understanding who you are. Yes, I am a sinful human being who doesn’t deserve to be called. But Jesus called me because he loves me. He called you because he loves you and made you deserving by removing all your guilt and sin and paying for it in full. Sure, you may not have the gifts of this other person that you think you need, but what gifts do you have that God has uniquely blessed you with. What gifts is God equipping you with through the Spirit, and how do they fit in with ministry at your church and in your circles? Be clear in your calling that Jesus called YOU, just as you are. “We ought to thank God for YOU, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God CHOSE YOU as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit… He called YOU to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes 2:13-14) with all your unique gifts.
God called you because he wanted you and your gifts for his Mission. Are we clear on that? Now, we have to be clear on the one who is calling. Who is he, that I should follow him? This is the very question that Nathanael had in our Bible reading today. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn 1:45). These believers considered it important to know their Scriptures, especially as they looked expectantly for the Savior God promised. When considering who Jesus is, Philip tested him according to the Scriptures. Does he fulfill the prophecies of the 5 books of Moses – Genesis through Deuteronomy? Yes! Does he fulfill the prophecies of all the prophets? From the well-known ones like Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, to those lesser-known ones like Micah and Malachi? The answer is yes! Jesus is not only the fulfillment of Moses’ promise of a greater mediator (Dt 18:15), but he also fulfills perfectly all of God’s promises throughout the Scriptures. Philips knowledge of this fulfillment, of course, was not yet as complete as it would become, but it was sufficient to see that in Jesus God’s promises were coming true.
But something caught Nathanael’s attention that just didn’t seem to jibe. “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn 1:45). “Nazareth! Can anything god come from there?” Nathanael asked (Jn 1:46). He doesn’t immediately share Philip’s enthusiasm for this new-found Messiah. Nathanael hears one word with which he can find fault in Philip’s confession. “Nazareth.” The whole land of Galilee was despised as “half-breeds” by the “pure” Judeans. But Nathanael himself was a Galilean. Perhaps his objection, then, lies in the fact that he was familiar with this village, and the Messianic prophecies of the Scriptures, but he knew of no prophecy that said the Savior would come from Nazareth. And he was right. Philip hears the objection but does not counterattack with a cleverly designed argument. His response is simple. His mission work is simple. “Come and see” (Jn 1:46). And with this simple calling, he places his friend’s doubting soul into the hands of the loving Savior. Philip knows that when his friend sees Jesus and has the chance to examine him for himself, the Spirit would work on Nathanael’s heart just as he had Philip’s.
How often have we found fault with Jesus over just one objection? Maybe you are faced with a life-threatening disease, and you are fearful. Maybe you are faced with a difficult decision you have to make – one that will impact your life in a big way – and you are anxious about it. And you start to question God with this objection. But search through the Scriptures and find one passage where God gives you the right to be afraid, or anxious, or object to him. There is none. There is nowhere in Scripture where God says, “Yeah, you should be really afraid.” Or, “Whoa, this is really too big for me to handle, you should be anxious.” There is nothing like this. Sure, there are times when we might be perplexed. How does one from Nazareth fulfill the Scriptures that say the Savior would come from Bethlehem. Well, leave it to God. He saw fit that a census should be taken right at the time when Jesus would be born. So Mary and Joseph travelled and Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Or, how could Jesus possibly be God our Savior when he clearly died on the cross. Well, leave it to God to remain just – punishing sin – while also being the one who justifies by raising Jesus from the dead. If we just listen to Jesus’ calling to “Come and see.” If we would sit at his feet and give him the chance to reveal himself, then you will see. Then you will see clearly and believe who he is.
That’s what happened with Nathanael that day. Yes, it was Philip who called Nathanael to come and see, but really it was Jesus calling him. “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (Jn 1:47). “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked (Jn 1:48). “I saw you while you were under the fig tree before Philip called you” (Jn 1:48). In fact, “I chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and called you through the gospel to do the good works I have prepared in advance for you to do.” Jesus says that about every one of you. Then Nathanael was clear in who was calling. He knew who Jesus was. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel” (Jn 1:49).
To be sure, Nathanael would see much greater things than that – greater things than Jesus’ omniscience. “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (Jn 1:51). No doubt this is a reference to Jacob’s dream at Bethel – when he saw in his dream a stairway to heaven. In Jesus, heaven is brought down to earth, to us. And in Jesus, sinners are assured of their calling to their heavenly home through the One who is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Jesus is the connection – the “gateway” if you will – between heaven and earth, between you and your God.
So, you are clear in your calling of who you are – one called by God to salvation, with a unique place in life and unique gifts to use for his mission. You are clear in who the one calling you is – the Savior who fulfills all Scripture, your one way to heaven. And you can build on that clarity by learning more about him from Scripture. Finally, be clear in who you are called to call. Who are they, that I should care about calling them?
Andrew was one of the first disciples whom Jesus called. The first person Andrew reached out to was his brother. Why? Because he cared about him. There are people you care about as well. Your own brothers and sisters, friends, and relatives. You know you should be calling out to these people because you care about them. But there are other groups too. What about acquaintances, strangers, and passersby? The “sign guy” who dances out on 31st. Or the guy who walks up and down 31st waving at cars – sometimes a little too close to the road for comfort. His name is Sergei. I point out these two because anyone who frequents 31st street has probably seen them. But there are others: Grocery store workers, bank tellers, people at the gym. Who are they that I should care about calling them? I think most of us are fairly indifferent about them. And then what about this last group of people. What about those people who have hurt you, or people living a lifestyle that you don’t agree with? Who are they that I should care about calling them? Frankly, I’d rather not sometimes.
Jesus encountered many of these kinds of people as well. Ones that people were indifferent about and ones that people would rather avoid. The sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume. Or Zacchaeus, who probably gave into greed as he collected taxes. A woman who reached out to touch Jesus’ cloak for healing. Or a centurion seeking help for his paralyzed servant. What do all these people have in common? They are all loved by Jesus. What does anyone you meet on the street or at the store have in common – same as those who may hurt or wrong you? They are all loved by Jesus. He died for their sins. He rose that they could have life. It’s his mission to seek and to save all that are lost.
It’s his mission, but he calls you to join him on his mission. He’s called you specifically. The one who calls you is true. The ones he calls you to reach are ones he died to save.