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09-28-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

People are quite upset these days, distraught about so many problems in the world—ISIS and terrorism and global warming and domestic violence and Ebola. And though people with good intentions do their best, the world is still a mess. The human heart is still “desperately wicked.”

Most of us know we can’t fix world problems, but the truth of the matter is we have enough to worry about trying to fix our own problems: We have to pay the bills, earn a decent living, take care of the house, and raise the kids.

Sometimes we have a whole lot more put on our plates: A serious illness or accident, the loss of a job, someone in the family arrested or addicted.

There’s enough trouble all around—with the world, with you, with me. It’s a mess.

So in the midst of all we deal with, have you ever asked yourself questions like: Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? What good can I be? Can I really make a difference?

  • Maybe you’re sitting under the stars, gazing up at the universe, trying to find your place in this world and feeling very small and insignificant. And you wonder about your place in the universe…
  • Or maybe you’ve felt stuck, like you’re on a merry-go-round, going nowhere, doing nothing significant. And you wonder if you’re ever going to amount to anything worthwhile…
  • Or maybe you’ve found yourself just going through the motions. There’s no passion or drive. You’re eating just to work (and working just to eat) but all you do seems so pointless. And just existing for day to day seems so meaningless. And you wonder, “Is there a point?”

If you can’t find answers to questions like these, you can easily become frustrated. Disillusioned. What am I doing? Why am I here?

You might think—what with all the troubles in our modern society, all the desperation, all the despair, all the hopelessness—that this is a modern problem, that people are feeling more frustrated than ever before in history.

But the reality is that this is not a new phenomenon. Such feelings have probably been around since the dawn of time—or at least since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

Centuries ago a very thoughtful man came to a depressing conclusion: “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” he said (Eccl 1:2). Other versions: “all is vanity” (KJV); “everything is pointless” (CEB); “nothing makes sense” (CEV); “Everything is useless” (NCV); “Everything is futile” (NET).

You should know that this man was no slouch. He was not a “loser.” This was a man who had everything. He had climbed to the pinnacle of success. He was wealthy. He had influence. He indulged himself in every kind of pleasure and enjoyment he could find.

But toward the end of his life when he looked back at everything he had accomplished and all he had enjoyed, he concluded, “It’s all meaningless. Pointless. Futile.”

He realized that in the grand scheme of things, everything he had accomplished meant nothing. He was about to die—like everyone does—and he was no better off than the guy who did nothing. Read his book sometime—the Book of Ecclesiastes. It’s depressing.

Without a call—without a purpose—life is meaningless.

Despite all the questions people have and the disillusionments they experience, I’m here to tell you that there is purpose and meaning to life. (You knew I was going to get to that, right?)

However, you can’t find meaning and purpose simply by achieving something great—or by gathering a huge fortune or by doing any of the things that the world generally considers the marks of a successful person.

The only way you can find the purpose and meaning that will make your life worthwhile (Are you ready for this?) is when you give your life away.

We find meaning in life when we give our lives away.

…more specifically, when you give your life away for God’s purpose and plan.

Jesus said: “…whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matt 16:25)

If you feel like life has no point or purpose; if life seems futile and meaningless; if you’re disillusioned or frustrated with it all—then I’m guessing you’ve been investing your life in the wrong things. Full text: “…whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matt 16:25)

God intended for our lives to be abundant and full.

God wants to give us an abundant life, a life of fulfillment and purpose, an eternal life. That’s why he sent Jesus, who said, “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NET)

Without Jesus we will chase the wrong things—and then we discover how futile it is to chase those wrong things.

Paul said: …you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God… (Eph 4:17-18)

They are separated from the life of God because they live in the futility of their thinking! No wonder! “Everything is futile” to them because they haven’t discovered the reason why God put them here on this planet.

Others, however, “lose their lives” for Jesus and find an abundant life—an eternal life that has purpose and meaning far beyond the temporary things this world has to offer!

Some are all wrapped up in day-to-day activities, working to make a buck, taking care of business, pursuing life’s simple joys. But others discover God has a higher purpose in mind for them.

God calls us to give us purpose—a reason to live.

Of course, we know the solution to the human dilemma is Jesus. The world can’t get out of the mess it’s in—but because of Jesus we can get out of the mess. He gives us a higher purpose—a greater reason.

And one day, we will not only get out of the mess, but we will get out of the world! One day, this world is going to come to an end. One day, those who follow Jesus—those who have made him King of their lives, those who are citizens of heaven—will be taken up to glory out of this world. That’s the final solution to the mess this world is in! It is an eternal, spiritual solution for a dying, physical planet.

Until then, God has a purpose for us to fulfill—a reason for being here.

For the next few weeks I want to look at God’s higher purpose—what he wants to do in you…and what he wants to do in us as a church!

I’m calling this series of messages “GOTTA” because there’s a lot of things that GOTTA happen if we’re GONNA to find our place in God’s plan. (See series insert.)

Today: GOTTA BE CALLED!

TEXT: Romans 8:28-30

If you want to find your place in God’s plan—not only for your personal life but also for your bigger purpose, signing up for God’s purpose—you must answer God’s call.

To be in God’s family, to plug into what God is doing, ya gotta be called.

The word “called” in the Bible can refer to a number of things—just as it does in now. You can say:

  • Call him in for supper.”
  • “What did you call me?”
  • “He answered a higher call.”
  • “Why don’t you call me sometime?”
    1. Called out.

We get the English word “call” from the Greek word kaléó.

But what’s interesting is when you combine the word kaléó with the Greek word ek (ex) which means “out” (we get our word “exit” from it) you get a word the Greeks used to describe a gathering of people—an assembly: ekklésia.

Ekklésia is the word the NT used to describe the church of Jesus Christ—the body of believers, the family of God. These were people who were “called out.”  Before you are called to anything else, you are first called out!

Out of the world. Out of your sin. Out of your past. Out of your habits and old ways of thinking and your former expectations.

Rescued! Remember Jessica Lynch? Way back at the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003? She couldn’t escape on her own. She was a prisoner of war—completely controlled by others. She needed someone from the outside to deal with the situation. Her rescue from a hospital in Nasiriya was accomplished by marines, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Air Force Pararescuemen, and Delta Force.

We are called out, but we can’t get out on our own. Jesus came, not only to call us out of the world but to rescue us out of the world.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. (Col 1:13)

  1. Called in.

We are called out of the world and out of sin—but we are called into God’s family!

Some babies are adopted at birth. Others are adopted later—perhaps while they are still infants, but possibly when they are a few years older. And then there are those who are adopted at a later age. (This happened in 1st century Rome—where a person was brought into a new family, with a new name, a new identity, a new family history.)

God calls you into his family. God calls you by a new name. He wants to give you a new life!

[He] 9 …called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. (Eph 1:5)

Renewed. It’s a fresh start. A whole new direction—the old is gone, all things are new. If you could rewrite the story of your life—change the characters; change the plot; change the outcome—the best way would be to be adopted: born to a different family in a different set of circumstances. Born again.

  1. Called up. God calls you higher—up to where he is! To become more like Jesus…and less like you.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. (Romans 8:29)

Restored. Know who you are! A child of the King should live like one.

…urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thess 2:12)

The Prince and the Pauper.

  1. Called to.

God not only calls you out of the world, into his family, and up to his standard, he also calls you to his purpose. There is a God-ordained task for you—a reason for you to get up each day.

We are called by God to be more and to do more so we can fulfill his purpose and plan.

Recruited. Called to be part of God’s great endeavor.

I remember when I was a kid on the playground at recess time. Do you remember when all the kids were lined up and two “captains” began to go down the line, taking turns to pick a team. If you were big and athletic, you’d be picked first. If you were small or awkward and clumsy, you just hoped you got picked quietly. You sure didn’t want them arguing because neither one wanted you.

We’re not on a playground; but we’re called to join a team. And Jesus, the captain of the team, chooses you! He wants you! Not because you are big and strong and athletic, but because he can work in you and through you. He calls you to his purpose!

…has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace… (2 Tim 1:9)

…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)

The church (ekklésia) is people who are called out. We are also called into his family, up to his standard, and to his purpose.

Let’s not settle for less!

Our church staff and leaders (elders) have been working and praying together over several months to define who we are as a church family—to redefine our mission and retool our approach to ministry in this town at this time.

We want everyone who calls this place their church home to understand that God has called us together for a reason. He has a purpose for this congregation, this ekklesia—this group of “called out” people.

We are called for a purpose. We have been given an assignment. We have a mission. We’re going to be providing more details in the weeks to come, so be patient: It’s coming. Get ready.

We’re going to remind ourselves of our mission as God’s people. Of the values that motivate us as a church family. Of the strategies we use to help us accomplish God’s work. Of the vision of what God wants to do in us and through us.

It starts with a simple but radical idea—that God makes it possible for us to change. No matter where you are in life, no matter what you’ve experienced, no matter how hopeless your situation, God has a plan to change you for the better. To become more like Christ—transformed into his image.

This process of transformation begins when we are called. It happens in the family of God, as people come together and learn to live by Jesus’ example through the power of the Spirit (fruit of the Spirit).

This spiritual growth is seen in the church community—but it also should be evident in our everyday lives: at work, at play, in the home, with our neighbors… People should notice! (e.g. plumber Steve)