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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1285

January 15, 2017 Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 1:27; 2 Thess. 1:11-12

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

"Worthy of the Call"

 

 

I’ve never been much for New Year resolutions. Of course, by now, two weeks into the year, it’s too late to start! But it is never too late to start living worthy of the call God has given us, worthy of the invitation to follow Jesus Christ moment by moment. This is what I want to begin with for 2017, living worthy of our call. Three passages from the New Testament will be our focus for today, and then I want to offer four strategies in the next four Sundays to help us walk in a manner worthy of our call. Every Christian has been called. And if you are not a believer and yet in this place, God is calling you as well! God calls us to repent and follow Jesus. Now there is a lot more that goes along with that call once it begins, but for now we will focus on the worth of that call.

 

First to consider, is who has called. It is God! It is the Creator of all things.

 

Second, the cost of the call, the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Third, the result of the call, our salvation, forgiveness, grace, love, hope, faithfulness...

 

  • Walking in a Manner Worthy of the Calling

 

Ephesians 4:1-3

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 

 

Paul urges believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. Let’s look at a few of the terms in that phrase. First is to “walk”. Walking in biblical literature is often a metaphor for living. Live in a manner worthy. Live in a way that reflects the value and worth of what God has done for you and the value and worth of what he has called you to be and do.

 

The second term is “manner”, living in a manner worthy. Manner is about behavior, conduct, attitude, persona, things like the Great Commandment where our character is shaped by love of God and neighbor. Manner is how we act toward one another and toward God.

 

Another term is call, or in this passage “calling”. It is an invitation but might also be considered a command. When Jesus called the disciples it sounds a lot more like command than invitation, “follow me”. How ever we interpret it, it is given out of love. Imagine for a moment how you feel when you are invited to something. A party, a wedding, invited to participate in an event of some sort. Sometimes it is an honor just to be invited. There is no greater honor than being invited by Jesus to follow him. There is no greater invitation or command to receive.

 

The call to walk in his manner is based on nothing less than the gospel of Christ. We will see this more clearly in the next reading, but for now let us note that God sent his son to die for us that we might live. From that great gift we respond in love and gratitude seeking to follow Jesus with humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and all of it wrapped up in love.

 

The final term I want us to consider is the unity of the Holy Spirit. We all share in the call and the message to live worthy of that call. It is one of the things that unifies the church, being called to walk in the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace. We share the peace that goes beyond our understanding. The peace binds us together. It’s why we are able to stay calm and poised when everything seems to be going crazy in the world. Well, at least we hope to!

 

 

 

  • Manner of Life

 

Philippians 1:27-30

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

 

The next passage gives us more depth for the manner in which we live. When I read this phrase in Philippians, I think about what Paul says in 3:20, let’s start at verse 17:

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

 

The contrast is between a manner of life as a citizen of the world or as a citizen of heaven. I would imagine too that Paul understood the meaning of being a citizen of Rome, as he was, and often took advantage of that citizenship. As citizens of heaven we have all sorts of “advantages”. But we know that we have a tendency to live more as a citizen of the world than a citizen of heaven. We sometimes live worthy enough for the world, but certainly not worthy of the gospel of Christ. Worthy means to hold up to scrutiny, in this case to the scrutiny of the gospel. Our lives are to reflect the gospel, a manner worthy of the gospel. Philippians 2:1-4 gives one example of that manner of life:

 

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 

Worthy of the gospel means many things, but here it is about sharing in the Spirit of God, living a tender gentle, and compassionate life. It means united in love and mind and spirit. I means looking out for others more than yourselves. The rest of the Bible teaches us more about living worthy of the gospel.

 

I heard, last Sunday, Tim Keller speak of the gospel as the center of our existence, not just the beginning of our Christian life but always the core. It defines who we are and how we live. It is our manner of life and therefore our very life (Col. 3:1-4).

 

Let me say one more thing about Philippians 1:29. This is something of an aside! Look at that verse in light of living in a manner worthy of the gospel, For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

 

Living worthy of the gospel means living within and through the entire gospel which includes some things we would rather avoid, like suffering. I have been reading some criticism of some of the President-Elect’s choices for prayers at his upcoming inauguration and some are critical of those who fall under the label of prosperity gospel, which seldom, if ever, speaks of suffering. We might be glad to see one administration leaving that we felt had no respect of the faith, but we may just be seeing one heresy replaced by another. At least we have hope that religious freedom may be honored.

 

 

  • God Making You Worthy

 

2 Thess. 1:11-12

11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s take a look at our last passage on living a life worthy of our call. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of living this life is that we are not alone in our task. Look at this prayer - “that God may make you worthy”. God is at work in us now, but even more so we might say that God has already done all the work to make us worthy by sending Jesus to die for us and raise him from the dead so that we might be made worthy in God’s eyes. It is God who forgives us, justifies us, and makes us right with God. It is God who fashions the heart (Psalm 33:15). Biblically you could make the argument that God may fashion the heart for good or for bad. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus and opened Lydia’s heart in Acts. To those whom He has called He is working toward making your heart a gospel fashioned heart.

 

But notice this in verse 12, God has not made us worthy just for our benefit, but so that Christ would be glorified. so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, we can be joyous knowing that God is at work in us to make us more Christlike, but it is not for us, it is for Jesus! It is that Christ might be glorified in us and us in Him.

 

To say that God is working in us to fashion hearts for the gospel does not mean that we simply sit back and watch God work! We have things to do! But this is not just one more thing to add to your “to do” list. This is life work, gospel work, and therefore our most important work!

 

The next four Sundays we will look at four strategies which I have noted in the bulletin outline.

 

 

 

  • 4 Strategies

    • Have the Mind of Christ

 

Changing how we think. Renew the mind. Reshape our attitudes.

 

    • Have the Manner of Christ

 

Becoming a person of prayer and service. Living in obedience and faithfulness.

 

    • Have the Spirit of Christ

 

Be holy and bear fruit. Walk in the Holy Spirit.

 

    • Have a Witness to Christ

 

All that we say and do is a witness for or against Christ. Taking seriously the words of Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”