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Oct 06, 2019

Our Jesus-Calling

Passage: Romans 1:1-7

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Romans

Keywords: identity, faith, slaves, calling, obedience, called, new nature

Summary:

Ever tried introducing yourself in a letter to someone you've never met but with whom you want a deep relationship. This was Paul's challenge with the book of Romans as he introduced himself to people who who wanted to bless with the most important book he ever wrote. You'll be surprised what he chose to focus on in our shared life in Christ.

Detail:

Our Jesus Calling

Romans 1:1-7

October 6, 2019

 

COMMUNION

This past week, one young man just 18 years old, demonstrated to our entire country the power of Jesus Christ and the power of really living life under the shadow of His forgiveness. 

  • Name: Brandt Jean
  • Younger brother of another young black man, Botham Jean, who was killed by a young, off-duty policewoman, Amber Guyger. She was Botham’s neighbor. She had parked her car on the wrong floor of her apartment building and entered what she says she thought was her own apartment. In fact, it was Botham’s apartment and he was watching TV.  In an instant of terribly poor judgment at best, she shot and killed this unarmed African-American man. 
  • Having been found guilty of murder by the predominately female, African-American jury, she could have been sentenced to from 2 years to life. The prosecutor asked for 28 years.  The jury sentenced Guyger to 10 years and she will be eligible for parole in 5.  She is 31 years old.

I’d like you to watch what happened last Wednesday in that courtroom. 

[Video

As we come to communion today, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of that young ex-police officer, Amber.  Because the reality is, my sin and your sin resulted in the torturous murder of the Son of God on the cross of Calvary.  And every day, God calls out to us and offers us true forgiveness.  God offers to even take what should be our “prison sentence” of punishment for our sin.  And He exchanges it for His love, His forgiveness and His holiness. 

            As you take the bread and juice today, consider it a bear-hug from God.  Consider it His act of mercy and forgiveness.  And let Him embrace you through these elements which Christ said are Him—his blood shed and his body broken for you.   

SERMON INTRO

            How many of us are on Facebook?  So you probably get occasional “Friend Requests” like I do, right?  If it isn’t a name you recognize, what do you do before you hit the “Accept” button? 

  • Click on their name and see the picture.
  • See who your “mutual friends” are.
  • Look at their bio info—work experience, educational history, organizational connections, etc.

THEN you decided whether to hit “accept” or “decline”…basically whether you want to relate in any way with them or want to keep them out of your life and page! 

            It gets a little more serious when you’re single, right?  Now we’re talking about dating websites and profiles.  What you put on your profile could make or break the difference between missing theman of your dreams” OR wedding the “woman of your nightmares.”

            Introductions and first impressions matter!

Take a moment and think about all the possible ways you might introduce yourself to someone who had never met you in your first letter to them.

What characteristics of who you are would be most important for you to communicate? 

  • Physical features? Probably not the most important but probably the easiest to describe 
  • Personality: pretty important.  Talkative or quiet?  More introverted or extroverted?  Thinker or feeler?  Task-oriented or relationship-oriented?  Driven or along for the ride? 
  • Relational life: Married or single? Family man/woman or burned all those bridges?  Prefer casual relationships or deep ones?  Like to listen or like to talk? 
  • Spiritual qualities & characteristics???

Does that last self-description (spiritual) leave you searching?  Wondering?  Inventing things? 

            We’re in a series in the biblical book of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.  Suffice it to say that this is indisputably the weightiest and most theological of all of Paul’s epistles.  Frankly, it is one I have shied away from most of my pastoral life because it has some tough passages that can leave people scratching their heads and wrestling in their hearts.  But it is also a book that, as I’ve already mentioned in previous Sundays, contains some of my favorite verses and definitely my favorite chapter. 

            Because of its length, we’ll be interspersing it with various short series throughout the year.  We’ll also, as Jesse mentioned, be accessing our preaching team from time to time. 

 

 

Back to HOW you introduce yourself to someone who has never met you in person.  What you communicate says a lot about both how you see yourself and who you are as a person.  Today’s text in Romans 1:1-7 is Paul’s way of introducing himself to people who have never met him but people whom he hopes will be and become deep and lasting family members in Christ with him. 

            Paul is going to talk about himself a little.  And he’s going to talk about the Romans a little.  But in and through it all, he’s mostly going to be talking about his calling in Christ and our calling in Christ. By doing so, he’s telling us a whole lot about what kind of man he is and what kind of message he’s bringing.  So let’s jump in!

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 

regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

            How long are most of our introductory greetings in a letter?  “Dear so-and-so.”  If you’re writing a formal letter, you might put it on some personal stationary that has your name and address at the top and possibly their name and address on the first lines.  Ancient letter-writing wasn’t exactly like that.  They did start out usually telling you from whom the letter was.  But last/family names were not such an identifying factor.  So Paul needed to set himself apart from other Pauls/Sauls so people who had never seen his face would know his heart and soul when he was eventually able to visit them. 

            The first word of verse 1 is “Paul”.  Then you have 6 verses of scripture until he finally gets to the part about WHO is recipient of this letter:  vs. 7-- To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people. 

            In between you have Paul doing essentially two things:

1.) Introducing himself to you.

2.) Telling you a lot about his one driving passion and focus in life, namely the Gospel and person of Jesus Christ

By the way, Paul had SO intensely hated Jesus previously in his life that his entire life had been determined and dominated by that hatred. Now that hatred has given way, not to benign indifference or tolerance of Christ, but passionate and unconditional service and even worship of Christ.

That kind of transformation didn’t happen through more intellectual inquiry into Jesus.  It didn’t happen through arguments with Christians or better laws from Rome. Apart from the power of Christ and a radical encounter with Him, Paul would have simply been remembered for hating, persecuting and killing early Christians. 

So here is a man whose whole identity has been radically altered.  APP:  He’s powerful proof that none of us have to stay stuck in any kind of toxic attitudes, ideas or outlook.  And in this paragraph Paul is going to tell us some of the things that Christ did in his life that Jesus also wants to do in the life of every one of us here today. 

There is a THEME running through this paragraph.  It appears in verse 1, 6 and 7.  It’s the little word “called” (Gk: kletos).  It only appears in the N.T. 10 times, 4 of them in Romans, and 3 of those 4 in this paragraph

Paul applies it to himself first (vs. 1) and then to everyone who will ever come to Christ by faith (vs. 6) and finally, in vs. 7, to the Roman Christians specifically and thus all other Christians like us throughout the ages by our association in Christ. 

ILL:  Remember getting “called for dinner” as a kid?  I grew up in the day…and a part of town…when we could play out in the neighborhood anywhere and just needed to be home for dinner.  So my Mom would use a…get this… cow bell (very flattering now that I think of it) to summon me prior to dinner. 

            Any guess what happened if I didn’t pay attention to the “call”?  I must have learned the answer to that pretty early on because it was kind of like Pavlov’s bell in my mind.  If I wanted dinner that night, I had to drop what I was doing and run home.  No response; no dinner! 

            But this word is used even more narrowly than that here.  It’s almost used like a descriptive title for Christ-followers.  Paul is using it to talk about himself—“a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”  And it is used twice here to talk about all true believers in Jesus, those who have actually responded to God’s “call” on their lives and thus become “called.”  And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:

God’s “call” is, in fact, what we would label “effective.”  Those God “calls” in fact become “the called.” 

            Back to my dinner bell example. When my Mother rang that bell, that “call” actually created a certain kind of son—one who came, washed his hands, sat at the table and enjoyed the meal she had worked hard to prepare.  My Mom’s dinner call created a diner son!  What she called for is what she got—a hungry, responsive, appreciative and loving son.  (You’ll have to take my word for that since she’s deceased!)

            So here is a wonderful truth about God’s call to all of us:   God’s call creates what it calls, namely “called people.”  Nobody comes to God without getting that “call.”  The active agent in all of this is God.  We’re simply the responders to the one really doing the work…just like I was the responder to my Mom’s dinner call after she had done all the work of preparing a great meal. 

            This word “call” has changed through the years.  The idea here is not simply someone who “receives a call” from someone else.  In fact, if I ask you, “Did you get a call from Sandy this week,” you are thinking of something quite different in its strength or power than what Paul is referring to.  You’re probably thinking of a phone call, right?  That kind of call you can silence, reject, answer, put on hold, mute and a host of other options.

            But the emotional tone of our English wordcall” still is a pretty positive one.  If someone calls your name on the street, it means they recognize you, know you and notice you.  They probably want to interact with you a bit, maybe find out how you are doing or maybe just want to brighten your day. 

            Sadly, texting is replacing even the common phone call.  To call someone takes a bit more effort and time.  It requires more attentiveness and focus.  (I can text someone while I’m in a meeting listening to a speaker or at home watching TV.)  In fact, some of you are probably doing that right now! 

            The point is, when someone calls you, whether on the street, in the mall or on the phone, it indicates interest in communication at the least…even if they are a bill-collector!  But more often it indicates a desire for relationship and friendship or simply to express love for you.

            The N.T. notion of “call” is even stronger.  It has the idea of a summons, a request to come near to the one calling with a distinct purpose in mind. 

ILL:  When Sandy and I were in college together in Portland, one of her friends in her dorm worked as a legal secretary.  So one day about 6 of the gals in the dorm got together and had this gal write in legalize and formal legal summons format what appeared to be a “summons.” It was addressed to 6 guys on campus.  We were “summoned” to appear at a certain time on a certain Friday night at a certain dorm wearing certain formal attire. 

Trust me, that summons was the envy of every guy on campus!  It obviously had life-changing impact on me! J  The evening unfolded with similar creativity and to this day, I have fond memories of that group-date and “table for 12” at the Red Lion Inn at the Key in N. Portland.  Would that every legal summons had that kind of happy ending! 

The “call” or “summons” God gives has THE best of endings, the best of beginnings and the best of everything in between.  If getting a call from Sandy for a night on the town when we were college kids resulted in not just spending an evening with a beautiful and delightful young woman of God but spending a lifetime raising 6 children, enjoying a growing number of grandchildren, living all over the world and spending a lifetime ministering together to truly wonderful people like you in the name of Jesus, what does responding to the eternal call of God Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of all that exists and all that is good and beautiful… what does that call hold? 

As 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 

APP:  Friends, if you are here today because you heard God call to you in the past and you said “YES!” to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it ought to give you goosebumps at times just knowing that our amazing God loved you SO much that he called out your name so that it echoed through heaven, reached your spiritual ears and caused you to stop, turn around to face God and open your heart to Him.

            Sure, it is nice to get a phone call from a good friend, a loving spouse, a caring brother or sister.  But to get an eternal call from God!  No call any of us will ever receive from the greatest of people will come close to God’s “call”. 

APPPerhaps you are here today and you are hearing God’s call in your heart right now.  I plead with you:  don’t tune Him out!  Don’t hang up on Him.  Don’t postpone answering.  As the Bible says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart” (Hebrews 3:15).  Answer that “call” of God on your life.  But know that, if you answer, you must answer Him as Lord over your life, as Master of your soul, as the only One from now on who has the right and the right love to tell you how your life is to be lived. 

[Prayer of faith in and surrender to Christ]

            When we answer God’s call and actually become “the called” in His Kingdom, what is that call going to actually make us?  What will it DO to us? 

            Paul gives us a hint in the role he applies to himself in the 2nd word in Greek in this verse—doulos.  The NIV translates it “servant” of Christ Jesus.  It’s a term that meant “bond-servant”.  While the nature of the Master determines more than anything the nature of servitude, this word is not one that any Roman or any American citizen would aspire to. 

            America has a sad and sordid history with slavery.  American slavery has stained and marked and soiled our entire nation.  Slavery rent us asunder and its effects continue to tear us apart.  It led to the dehumanization of millions of human beings, both slaves and masters.  And it has resulted in the destruction of millions of families, millions of friendships and millions of hopes and dreams. Americans rightly have an aversion to the very word and certainly the institution.

            So did every Roman and every Jew and every Gentile of the Greco-Roman world.  While slavery was practiced widely in the Roman world, it was something to be avoided.  It was something to strive to get free of.  It was something that was anathema to the Greek mind.  Liberty and freedom, as with Americans, was a value that we very deeply ingrained into the psyche of ancient Rome. 

            So Paul begins his letter to the believers in the capital city of the Roman Empire—ROME itself—by identifying himself as both “a slave of Christ Jesus” and “an apostle” (or “sent one”) for the Gospel of Christ.  It was this “calling” to be an Apostle that Paul says made him a “slave” of Christ.  It was the very fact that his life now belonged to the One who had bought him out of slavery to sin and had made him a slave of righteousness which enabled Paul to embrace the rather exalted status of “apostle.”

            And in verse 6 Paul reminds every one of us who has responded to God’s gracious call to come to Christ that you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”   That’s slavery vocabulary—“belong to” someone.  Even when talking about the amazing Gospel God had given Paul to preach, Paul reminds the Romans at the end of vs. 4 that “Jesus Christ” is “our Lord.”  Vs. 7 ends with that reminder that the grace and the peace we all long for comes from our Master, our “LORD Jesus Christ.”  This paragraph overflows with slave-master language.

            Slaves belong to their masters.  Every waking moment and every sleeping hour belongs to their master.  Every decision and every chore must be submitted to the master. Every activity must give account to their master.

That is a frightening, even horrific thought, IF we are ever made the slave of another sinful human being.  Why?  Because we know how evil people can be.  And we know how quickly they can use power over another to ravage and destroy.  And we know how dangerous that kind of power is in our own sinful souls.

But when you are made the slave of God—the only truly good, truly holy, truly kind, sacrificially loving, long-suffering, patient, pure, lovely, grace-filled, truth-bound, just and noble Being in the universe—when He is your Master…really your Master…life is not only achieves a level of freedom not possible apart from God; life opens up to whole new vistas of experience totally impossible without God.  Being the humblest servant of God far surpasses being the wealthiest, most powerful master of men.  The latter corrupts and corrodes our souls while the former frees, cleanses, revives and rebuilds our spirits. 

APP:  Have you really come to reckon with your “called” status as a slave of God?  If you are a “slave of Christ Jesus” but unhappy with life, it’s not because the Master is wrong or evil or abusive.  It’s either because 1.) you are fighting against what Christ, your Master, is asking you to do or change or stop doing or grow up into, OR, 2.) you are feeling the sometimes hard, sometimes painful, sometimes difficult but always loving hand of the Father disciplining you and purifying you like gold in the fire and you are still looking to life rather than to Christ to give you what you long for in the process.  Having the Best of Masters in the universe does not guarantee that we will always have the best of responses or even the best of relationships with Him.  That all depends on how closely aligned with His character ours is at any given moment. 

            So if you want to start talking about yourself…introducing yourself to people by your spiritual nature, spiritual position, spiritual role…we might want to start telling people (even Americans obsessed with independence and rights) that, “Well, I’m a slave of Jesus Christ and my whole life and everything about it belongs to Christ.”  We are called to the role of slaves.

But our calling is not only to that ROLE of slaves of Jesus by faith. According to vs. 5, we are called to EXPERIENCE ofobedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake” (Vs. 5). 

Obedience is a word that our culture usually associates with children…or laws…or company or school policies.  It has become unfashionable to demand obedience let alone actually value it.  Sadly, this is one of the reasons our culture…and to some degree our city…is in decline.  Those who are failing to obey what makes for healthy, prosperous, respectful and safe society have been told by word and lack of action that they don’t need to obey the laws of the land or the laws of nature or the laws of God.  The result is more destroyed lives and right around us a declining inner city. 

            So what exactly is the relationship between faith and obedience?  FAITH is key to OBEDIENCE

ILL:  Just think about disobedience as a child in your own life.  Toddlers and teenagers alike disobey because they think their idea is better and their parents are just not as smart as they are. We’re talking about good, healthy parenting here.  It is possible for a parent to demand something of a child that is not in their best interest.  But assuming that a parent is wise and truly loving, whatever a parents asks a child to do will be, in the end, in the best interest of the child.  Every time a child disobeys it is a declaration of lack of faith in their parents. 

Conversely, obedience, at least obedience that is voluntary rather than coerced, is a declaration of faith in the one you are obeying.

ILL:  Good and just governments hopefully make laws that are for the good of its citizens. 

  • Speed limits exist and are enforced because we know that the faster you drive, the greater the chance of an accident and the greater the damage done when there an accident.
  • Drug laws exist because we know that consumption of certain drugs leads to devastating addiction that destroys not only the addict but most everything and everyone around them.

Governments can make evil and unjust laws.  But those types of laws and governments will only last as long as the people under them are terrorized into submission or refuse to throw off the yoke of immoral governments. 

            But the issue of obedience to God is in a class all by itself.  If we believe in the God of the Bible—the God who alone is all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving, all-just, all-merciful, all-knowing, etc., etc., when He calls us to a life of faith with Him, He is doing that because he knows that faith-filled followers of Him will be obedience-filled people.  Every sin we ever commit is a declaration that we do not believe God is right about something and are therefore choosing to trust ourselves and doubt God.  And every time we say, “God, I choose to believe You rather than my point of view…You rather than my culture…You rather than my friends or my family or even my own eyes—when we say that is when faith flows and obedience results. 

APP: Is there an area of your life that pretty consistently trips you up?  There may be multiple reasons for that.  But a very large component of that sin is, according to Romans 1, a failure of faith. How about asking God for bigger faith, greater trust and belief in His wisdom and His commands?

1.) So we are called to a roleslaves of Christ.

2.) We are called to a continual experienceobedience that flows from faith.

3.) Lastly, Paul tells us that we are called to a core identity: “to be his holy people”, or as some of your versions translate that, “called to be saints” (hagios) (Vs. 7). 

            Before we encountered the Good News of the Gospel of Christ, we all had a different identity.  Instead of being saints, we were what?  SINNERS!  That is a term the Bible uses for us before we responded in faith to Jesus Christ.  Romans 5:8--But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

            But once we respond to the call of Christ, we move from our primary spiritual identity being sinners to our primary spiritual identity being saints—holy or set apart for God’s use and service. 

            Calling shapes identity. 

ILL: 

  • If you have a calling to be a medical professional, that shapes how you act when you are in a room and there is a medical emergency. It shapes what you wear when you are on the job, where you go to work, what you say and don’t say both on and off the job. 
  • I’m by calling a pastor. That calling has shaped how I relate to my family, how I behave in public and in private, what I say to someone who is a stranger and what I say to my best friends.  It shapes how I spend my day and what I spend it doing. 

Calling shapes identity.  For every one of us who has made this move from enemy of God to slave of Christ, God wants us to live into our new calling, not our old self.  Our very nature has changed.  We may still view ourselves as primarily a sinner who sometimes does good things but whose deepest nature is constantly pulling us down into temptation.  But that’s not WHAT we are or WHO we really are, according to God.  We are primarily holy people, saints, people with a new dominant nature that wants to always do right but sometimes chooses to live by the old, less-powerful nature of the flesh. 

            Sixty-one (61) times in the N.T., God’s redeemed people are referred to as “saints.”  Zero (0) times, we are referred to as sinners

This makes a really big difference when it comes not only to how we choose to conduct our lives in every area of life.  It makes a huge difference how we should view temptation.  If I view temptation as requiring me to say “no” to my deepest, truest nature, then living a holy life is going to seem like a betrayal of my true self.  But if my true self is created in the image of Christ to live a holy life, then I will view temptation as a denial of my truest self and nature. 

ILL: 

  • Patience vs. impatience/anger: If I know that the nature of Christ in me is to be patient rather than impatient, when I am faced with an opportunity to react to someone or something with impatience and even anger, I have a choice to make—will I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me with patience and thus enable me to actually live out what my deepest nature is now as a “saint” OR will I be honest enough with myself to say, “You know, I’m just going to hide and reject the best part of my character right now and opt for an attitude/action that denies who I really am”?
  • Sexual purity vs. sexual compromise (porn, defrauding others, sex outside marriage, etc.):
  • Laziness vs. diligence
  • Entertainment choices: what glorifies God and things of His nature or what glamorizes sin and the agenda of Satan’s?

This 3-fold calling we have in Christ has the power to change every part of our lives.  The whole country saw that power last week at work in that courtroom in Texas when Brandt Jean lived out his calling as a slave of Christ, as a holy young man called by God to path of forgiveness and love for an ex-cop, Amber Guyger, who had shot and killed his own brother. That is the Gospel of God in action.  That is the power of God to save.  That is what we are ALL called to--

1.) a new role:  to be slaves of Christ.

2.) a continual experienceobedience that flows from faith.

3.) a core identity: sainthood and holiness. 

CLOSE:  Which of these three has God spoken to you about today?  Which is He asking you to embrace more fully?

  • Greater surrender to Him as a servant?
  • Greater faith in Him through obedience?
  • Greater identity with Him as holy in saintly-living?