The Call of Christ

March 24, 2024 ()

Bible Text: 1 Corinthians 1 |


The Call of Christ | 1 Corinthians 1
Brad O’Dell | March 24, 2024

Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1 this morning.

We’re starting in the church calendar what’s called Holy Week, and it’s a little more than a week; it’s a week and one day, Sunday to Sunday. In the traditional church calendar this is Palm Sunday; it’s the Sunday that Jesus comes into Jerusalem and people spread the palms on the road, or the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and he’ll start about a week-long preaching ministry there in Jerusalem before he is arrested and betrayed and goes to the cross. So we start some focuses that we have regularly this year.

At this time year, I always think of that old song that says,

“I love to tell the story,
’Twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love.”

That’s what we do during Holy Week every year; we tell the old, old story. We cover some of the same passages. We cover a lot of the same truths. If you show up to a lot of our services throughout the week—our Good Friday service on Friday, Resurrection Sunday next Sunday—you’ll hear some of the same old, old truths that we like to cover every year. Usually you’re not going to be like, “I’ve never heard that before,” but it is a time of the year to receive these truths anew and let them make an impact in our lives, and to pray that God would take the old, old story and make it new and fresh and live in our lives. So my prayer is that this sermon would be a piece of that, and that this whole week would be part of that for you.

My sermon today is called “The Call of Christ.” In these messages this year we’re going to be working out of the book of 1 Corinthians, and I’m going to be working out of 1 Corinthians 1. What we’re looking at in this passage is a repetition of the word “call” or “calling” that comes up in this passage, and we’re going to see what it has for us, what we can learn from it; the call of Christ in our lives.

When I was thinking about a calling on our lives, it reminded me of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. Katie and I have been reading through this again together—you know, you just have to keep repeating it every few years, start it again. We’ve been reading through it again, and if you’ve only seen the movies instead of reading the books, you get a different impression of Aragorn. In the movies, the calling that Aragorn has on his life to be the king who takes up the throne, it’s something that he wrestles with. He wants to not really take it up immediately; he has to come to terms with this and embrace it in time.

But the book is quite different. In the book, it’s early on that Aragorn knows that he is the king, and he kind of has his eyes set toward Minas Tirith, as it were, set toward Gondor, as it were, knowing that that is where his destiny is taking him and that he’s going to take up the throne eventually.

Now, he has all the aspects of his responsibilities to the Fellowship, and he wants to play those out as he can; but he has this focus, this calling, that he knows is his throughout the book, and it sets a lot of his path and a lot of his decision-making as he goes through.

I think one of the key moments is at this point where this prophecy becomes clear to him. As he is going on this path to take up his throne in Minas Tirith, he realizes that there’s a path that he has to take that no one would take, and it’s called the Paths of the Dead. It’s a place that no man has ever come back alive from, and there’s a lot that happens in the Paths of the Dead. But what happens is everybody around him is telling him, “Aragorn, don’t go there. You shouldn’t go there. There has to be another way. Why would you go to the Paths of the Dead?”

But he knows, “I must fulfill the calling that I’ve been called to, I must fulfill my purpose, and my purpose goes through the Paths of the Dead.” And he kind of talks in this way. “I don’t ask anyone to go with me, but that’s where my path is, and that’s where I’m going.”

So even when things are fearful, even when things are in doubt, even when he can’t even see why this is true, he knows that that’s where his path lies, so he faces it head-on and he goes through the Paths of the Dead. He has a calling on his life.

What I want to draw attention to is that when you have a calling on your life, it sets a focus in your life. I determines your actions in moments when it might be tough and you don’t quite know the decisions you’re going to make. It gives you a focus and a zeal that’s determinative in a lot of ways.

As we look at the calling of Christ on our lives from 1 Corinthians 1, I think we’re going to see some of those aspects as we study it. So let’s read 1 Corinthians 1. We’re going to read the entire chapter. It’s a lot of text; it might be small on the screen. I couldn’t quite tell on the PowerPoint. So bring up your own Bible, bring it up on your phone where you already have it blown up, and that way we can read it together. We’re going to read the whole chapter, and then we’ll launch into the message.

It says this:

“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

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

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

This is God’s word.

My outline today is going to be this:

1. We Are Called to Be Saints
2. We Are Called into the Fellowship of Christ
3. We Are Called by God’s Grace

What I did was I read the whole passage because as we work through it today I’m going to be referencing different parts, and I might need to just jump in and reference something quickly. Now we kind of have an idea of what’s going on in the whole of the passage. It helps us do that a little more efficiently.

1. We Are Called to Be Saints

This is the first call that we see on our lives. We see that right there in 1 Corinthians 1:2. He writes “to the church of God that is in Corinth,” and he calls them “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” They are saints. They are those who are sanctified. This is who they are.

What he’s getting at is, if we were reading in the Greek here we would see a word that is showing up pretty regularly that we don’t see as easily in our English, but it’s the same root word that is the same root word for “sanctified” and “saints,” and it’s this word that really means “holy.”

What he’s saying is, “You are the holy ones of God. You are the ones who are holy, you are the ones who are being made holy.”

What we have in mind here with holiness is something of being set apart for the purposes of God. Think about the vessels in the temple in the Old Testament and the priests who were ministering in the Old Testament. They were known as ones who were “holy unto the Lord.” They were set apart for God’s purposes. As the people of Jesus, we are called holy; we are set apart for God’s purposes in this way.

But it also carries the idea of a moral purity, a righteousness. That’s really something that is of the very nature of God himself, and as the people of God we are people who get to grow in and get to receive this very character and this very essence of God, and that is his moral purity, his righteousness, his holiness. The call on our lives is that we would be saints, that we would be a people who are holy in our conduct, holy in our way of life.

Now, this is a pretty common emphasis in the New Testament. Here are a couple references:

2 Timothy 1:9 says, “God saved us and called us to a holy calling.” That’s the nature of the calling to which we have been called.
1 Peter 1:5: “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all of your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” That’s a striking verse, isn’t it? God is holy, and as he is holy so you also in all of your conduct ought to be holy. You ought to pursue this moral righteousness, this moral purity in your conduct. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

I think as we hear these things and as we’re reading these Scriptures, there’s something in us that maybe makes us shrink back a little bit or maybe innately distance ourselves from it, because this idea of holiness, a holy lifestyle, being people who are called saints and are called to this holy lifestyle, it just seems too high. It maybe seems too serious in a lot of ways.

Honestly, if we think about what that life might look like, there’s maybe something in us that says, “It doesn’t really seem that fun or free to be holy or to live holy in this way.”

I like this quote from Jonathan Edwards, because he speaks to this reaction that we tend to have. If he had this reaction and the people in his day did, I think it’s true in ours as well. I think it helps us. He says this:

“Holiness is the most beautiful and lovely thing. We drink in strange notions of holiness from our childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. It is the highest beauty and amiableness, vastly above all other beauties. It makes the soul a little sweet and delightful image of the blessed Jehovah.”

I love this quote. I turn back to it pretty regularly. And I especially like this last part. Why is holiness lovely? Why can we think about it differently than maybe some of our innate reactions? How can we think of it differently than the ideas we have brought in from our childhood of being the Goody Two-Shoes and always being who’s right? What is it that’s sweet and lovely about holiness? It’s this: it’s something of God himself that begins to manifest on our souls. It makes the soul a little sweet and delightful image of the blessed Jehovah.

I think that is sweet. That’s something of God’s nature. I think it’s astounding. Something of God’s very nature, his very essence, his other-worldly, transcendent purity—as Christians, as the people of Jesus, we get to grow in actually experiencing of this with the promise that when we are complete in Christ on the final day that we will be holy as he is holy. What an astounding thing!

But the call of this text is that we are called saints now, and we supposed to pursue this now. This isn’t just something that we know will happen down the road and it doesn’t affect what we do now.

He says we are sanctified in Christ Jesus; we are called to be saints. What we see here is the two notions that we are already saints—this is something that’s already true of us—but also we are becoming saints. It’s something that isn’t quite true of us fully yet, and we’re trying to grow into it. This is the idea that we have here.

Scripture does this a lot, where it takes these two ideas that in our minds seem to pull against one another or don’t seem to line up, and it says, “Hold both of them together and you will find a harmony in them as you hold them together.”

We see it like this in Hebrews 10:14. He says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” There it is. He has perfected us in Christ—that’s great. It’s there. It’s true. Then we are still being sanctified into this reality of being perfect in Christ.

What we need is we need to hold both of these truths together. If we kind of unbalance and lean on one of these it can lead us into some error. If we say, “Well, we are already saints, and so therefore I don’t really have to worry much about my conduct. I don’t have to think about it very much. It’s not really a concern in my life. It’s already sealed; I’m good for the final day.” That can lead us into something like a licentiousness.

Or we can say, “Well, I’m not yet a saint, and I’m trying to grow in holiness,” and this can lead us into some type of legalistic pursuit where we’re trying to achieve this and we’re always in despair because it seems so far and we just realize, “Boy, I’m a long way off.”

What Scripture does is it wants us to hold both of these together, and it does this with a lot of truths in Scripture.

I think of it like a balance board. Do you know what a balance board is? It’s a cylindrical piece of plastic, and then there’s a board that goes over the top of it, and you’re supposed to stand on it. It’s supposed to help you do things that most of us aren’t doing in life, right? But if you’ve ever stood on one of those balance boards, what happens is immediately you wobble and fall on the side. Then you try again and you roll over and you fall on the other side.

What happens is it’s easy for all of your weight to shift to one side, to where you let off the other side as well. The way you correct on a balance board is if you start to feel your weight shift to one side you have to put a little more pressure on the other side to balance out. What happens is when you’re figuring it out you just fall back and forth onto each side of it.

I think that’s what happens with a lot of these doctrines. We emphasize one side ot the neglect of the other side, and what we need to do is we need to be aware of this tendency in ourselves, and we need to get good at putting some emphasis back on the other side when we find ourselves leaning too heavily on one side. Then as we go this way and we find that we’re putting too much emphasis and starting to compromise this, we need to put our weight back on this side.

What happens, just like with a balance board, the more you do this, you actually find a stasis where you can actually stand still and you’re perfectly balanced with the two truths, and you’re in harmony. You can do all kinds of things at that point. You can jump up and down, you can spin around, you can get really good because you’ve found the balance between the two things.

Scripture calls us to this a lot, and I think this is one of these keys about this call to being saints.

Here’s my application, some errors where we’re maybe falling off onto either side of this.

The first is this: if you’re honest with yourself and you look back on this season of life, have you fallen into an over-appropriation of these truths, such that you’ve made peace with your sin? You’ve kind of fallen into this idea that, “Well, I’m good; I’m giving myself a lot of allowances. I’m going to be good in the final day. You know what? I’m human, and all of us make mistakes,” and you’ve fallen into having a peace with your sin.

I think Holy Week—a lot of my application today is going to be focused on Holy Week, something that we can grab onto and focus on in the here and now.

I think Holy Week is a really good time to remember if you’ve fallen into this error, this licentious antinomian error, that we recall that we were bought with a price. As we see Jesus crucified for our sins, we recall we were bought with a price. That’s 1 Corinthians 6. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Remember that you were bought with a price, and remember this call of God on your life, that you are called a saint, so it’s time to start living as if you are a saint and grow in this holiness. It’s time to try to put sin to death a little bit more. It’s time to get help in those ways if you fall into that error.

Maybe you’ve fallen off on the other side, though, and you’re kind of in this place where you’ve given in to a defeatist mentality with your sin. You’re just in a little bit of despair. You’re kicking yourself, you can’t take your eyes off of your own failures, and you just think, “Man, this is always going to be. I’m always going to be a screw-up.”

I think Holy Week is a great time for you to reset and refocus and remember that the grace of God has been poured out in Jesus Christ, and the resurrection power of Christ to make me new is available. That is true, so I’m going to refocus, I’m going to reset, I’m going to rebalance on the board, put some weight back the other way, and I’m going to remember the fact that God has said that I am a saint and I can rest in that, in God’s purposes. If he has called me to this, then he will surely pull it off.

Here’s a tool for you if you tend to fall into despair. I think it’s this: focus on success in the process instead of success in meeting the goal. You know, sometimes when we’re focused on “Am I meeting the goal?” it can be really defeating.

Think about if you’re running a marathon. If you’re like, “Boy, I want to run a marathon,” you say, “Can I run 26.2 miles? No. I can’t actually stretch and touch my toes right now.” That can lead you into despair: “Man, I’ll never be a runner; I’ll never be a marathon runner.” That will keep you from ever engaging in it at all.

However, that’s not the way you train for a marathon. The way you train for a marathon is you look at a schedule that says you’re going to run one mile three times this week, and then you’re going to run one mile again on Sunday. Then next week you’re going to run a mile and a half three times a week, and then you’re going to run two miles on Sunday. Then you’re going to run two miles every day or three times or a week, and then eventually you’re going to run three miles on Sunday. You just do that.

What you do is you just pay attention to the process. I can’t run 26.2 miles, but what can I do? I can stretch out and I can run a mile and a half. Maybe I’ll walk some of it, but I get there. Next time I actually run the whole thing. And the next time I’m able to do two, and the next time I’m able to do three.

When you get there, after four or five or six months—maybe ten—you realize, “I’m running twenty-six miles!” What happened? You focused on the process instead of focusing on the goal.

Some of you need to remember, “Hey, if I’m in despair about not reaching the goal, maybe I focus on the process.” Am I seeking the Lord in his word a little bit every day? Am I making sure I pray to the Lord? Am I confessing and repenting to God and maybe to other people? Am I engaging in the process? If I am, I’m going to thank the Lord; I’m going to rejoice. I’m going to say, “I’m can show up and I can do at least that tomorrow.” Trust God to get you to the goal.

2. We Are Called into the Fellowship of Christ

Next point—we see another call on our lives, and we’re called into the fellowship of Christ. We see this in 1 Corinthians 1:9; I’m going to read verses 9-17. We’ll skip a little bit of it, but you’ll see. It says,

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Then he starts to spell out a little bit of what this fellowship means. He says,

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.”

Then he starts to go into the nature of what the quarrel was in 1 Corinthians. Go to verse 17. He says,

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

We see two things here in this call.

(1) First, there’s a call to participate. When we think about the fellowship of Christ, we’re called to be a part of the fellowship of Christ, there’s a call to participate and then there’s a call to participate in unity.

Where do I get this idea, the call to participate? It’s really kind of in the nature of that word “fellowship.” Another way to say it is a “joint participation in.” To be in fellowship with one another in some common thing is to have a joint participation in that thing with someone.

I think of it like a rowing team. In the rowing boat, there’s no dead weight in the rowing boat. If you are in the boat, you have a task and you are at your task, and you are jointly participating with everyone else in the task of sending that boat where it needs to go. Even the person who’s calling out the orders has a role, right? If he’s not keeping people on, then the whole team gets off and they aren’t as efficient and they aren’t going somewhere. And usually he’s really small and light, right, so he’s not even that much of a burden for that calling role. A rowing team is a good image of what joint participation looks like.

As we think about being called to be a part of the fellowship of Christ, we’re talking about the church—we’re talking about Redeemer Church for those of us who are here, or another local church if you’re a part of that somewhere else. The question is, are you an active participant? If you’re in the boat, are you actively participating? Are you a joint participant in the task of sending this ship or sending this boat where the Lord is sending it? Or have you fallen and are saying, “Well, most of the other people are rowing. I can pull up my paddle a bit. Yes, I’ll put my paddle in the water here and there—there’s that one event I like every year, so I get in there and row a little bit, but then I pull up my paddle and most of the other people are doing the rowing. I just kind of hang out and let it go where it will.”

What happens when you say that? First of all, the boat doesn’t go as efficiently, but also it might even get off course a little bit, if people aren’t playing their roles.

The idea is, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I a joint participant in this body? Am I being a part?”

(2) We also see the call to participate in unity. We’re participating, but there’s a right way to participate. What Paul focuses on here is the importance of unity. We saw that in verses 10-17.

What’s he talking about? He’s essentially saying, “Listen, as you participate with one another, together in community, going where the Lord’s sending you, there ought not be division. There ought not be pride.” There shouldn’t be any quarreling between you, where you get offended and they get offended and you both kind of entrench. Maybe you have some people that are on your side and some people that are on their side. This shouldn’t be a part of who you are in Christ; this isn’t what it is to be a part of the fellowship of Christ.

Instead, what you should be known for is your unity and your humility, your personal humility, such that you don’t easily get caught up in these situations where you would divide or quarrel or have some type of hostility towards one another.

I think this is another common New Testament emphasis. We see it in most of the New Testament letters as a call to unity, but with it being Holy Week I think a better for us to focus on this week is in John 17. That’s Jesus’ own words. John 17—remember the setting. It’s Jesus with his disciples in the upper room, and in the upper room something’s happening, right? Jesus is laying out his final teaching and some of his final prayers for his people, and right after this he’s going to go to the garden of Gethsemane and pray with this earnestness and this focus that ends up making him sweat as if with drops of blood as he faces the cross.

One of his final prayers for his people right before he faces this trial of the cross is this; he says, “I do not ask for these only—” that is, “I do not ask for just these apostles here, but I’m asking for those who will come after.” That’s us.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Here Jesus’ prayer for us as a church, right before he goes to the cross, is that we might be one even as he and the Father are perfectly one. That’s a high calling. That’s a hard calling. It demands a lot of us. It’s something we have to work at. But I think it’s a beautiful call.

I think it’s helpful to think of the other primary place in Scripture that we get this oneness language, and that’s a Christian marriage. I think we can look at a couple aspects of Christian marriage and say this helps us apply some of these things to us in the church, right?

In a Christian marriage, we don’t say, “Hey, the key in a Christian marriage is not to think in terms of you and me who are alongside each other and hopefully this works out as we both kind of do our thing . . .” No, we think in terms of “we.” Who are we? What are we about? What are we going to do with our time? What are we going to do with our finances? What are we going to do to pursue what God has called us to in our lives? How are we going to parent? If you’re thinking, “How do you parent, how do I parent; how gets to say and who gets to win in these battles?” that’s usually not the way it works. But you think in this “we” language, this joint participation.

What do you do? You pursue these common goals together. They’re not your goal and my goal and we hope they line up, but we have our goals that we’ve talked about together and that we’ve prayed about before the Lord, and we pursue them together. We’re committed for the long haul together, and we’re committed to even this idea that we would be shaped by one another as we continue this journey together with each other toward what God has called us to. We’re committed for the long haul; we’re going to be shaped by one another.

I think some of us have this mindset in our own marriages, but I think when we come into the body of Christ, the family of Christ, that which Jesus also prays would be one such that it would radiate the wonder of who Jesus is the way a marriage might radiate the wonder of who Jesus is at is united and as it is one, I think a lot of us don’t carry any of these ideas in. Some of us are not committed hardly at all. We’re ready to get out of here at any point.

If it goes against our preference—if the church was about the right size when I came here but now there are thirty more people per service! We’re like, “Ah, it’s not me anymore,” and we’re ready to leave. Or we get offended—maybe there’s something in a message that “I don’t love it when they emphasize that,” or maybe the music has shifted a little bit. We have these preferences, and they’re not all silly preferences. We are the people we are, right? But some of us don’t have this commitment.

We definitely don’t have a commitment to this idea that God has designed us such that as he works in these relationships he’s going to shape me for the time that I stay committed to pursue some common goals with these people for a season. By God’s grace, he’s going to maybe use me to shape this institution, to shape these people as well. But there’s a humility. I’m not thinking about me, what I want, what I’m about, and whether these people line up with me; I start to think of myself as “we.” I’m a part of this church. Where are we going? What are we pursuing? How do I get on board? I think that helps us.

Here are a couple application questions that might help us as we think about what it is to receive and to embrace and to pursue this calling of God to be a part of the fellowship of Jesus.

First is this: how’s your attitude? Ask yourself this regularly. I ask myself this all the time. Do I have any bitterness in me? Do I have any bristling that I’ve kind of been holding onto? “No one listened to me in staff meeting, and that was three times,” and I can really start to get offended. “Boy, does anyone care? Does anyone hear what I think is important?” And it’s okay to bring it to bear and make sure we hear, but also, are you bristling about it? Is there bitterness?

Are there any dismissive feelings toward others in the church or a tendency to maybe look down on someone? “What’s that person doing here? I wish they wouldn’t come around here.” Right? Maybe that’s not a conscious thought, but that can sneak around in the back here, or maybe you can start to see yourself as just a little bit better than others. Some of these class distinctions, or other distinctions that exist out in culture, can sneak into the church. Just ask yourself, is there any aspect of that? Do we give each other the benefit of the doubt and think the best of each other’s intentions? I think that’s really good.

We’re going to be offended. People are going to offend us, we’re going to have some tension that comes up here and there. There’s going to be some of that that comes up. When that happens, do you assume the worst about the other one, or do you give them the benefit of the doubt and think the best of others’ intentions? There’s a way to engage in these things with a heart of unity as we seek to respond to this call to participate in the fellowship of Christ well.

Second one—this is personal. It’s individual. I don’t have anyone in mind here or anything like that. It’s just a question for all of us to ask ourselves, right? “Is God calling me to take another step into fuller participation in this body?” Maybe this is a season, and I don’t know what your season is; you make your own decisions about this. There’s no pressure from us. But what I want you to ask is, “Am I a full joint participant? Am I joining in as fully as I can? Can I take a step further?” We have teams to serve on, we have groups to connect to, we have some social events where you can show up, eat with people, play some games—that’s important. That strengthens the body.

We want to be able to have everybody here join as fully as possible, because as that happens this fellowship is sweeter, it’s stronger. There’s something about the nature of who Jesus is that radiates more and more to our fuller joy in him. It’s a good question to ask ourselves.

3. We Are Called by God’s Grace

Last point: we’re also called by God’s grace. This is a foundation. As we talk about in a lot of these things, the battle with sin, the pursuit of holiness, walking together in unity, not having division and the battle with my own personal pride and how it might come up in responding to other people’s pride when it flares up and affects me—these are hard things, and we need something that gives us strength, gives us encouragement. We need something in us that helps us do what needs to be done in those hard times when it’s not so clear what needs to be done otherwise in and of ourselves. That’s why it’s important that we are called by God’s grace.

Look at 1 Corinthians 1:26-30. It says,

“Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

What I want to focus on in this point is the fact that it is God’s sovereign choice, it is God’s sovereign move to call you to these things. If he has called you to these things, then he will surely sustain you and he will surely strengthen you to actually work these things out and pursue them a little bit more. We have to have that deep-seated, sure trust in our lives if we’re going to pursue this call that the Lord has given us.

Now, this isn’t everything, right? We also talked about this aspect earlier in the chapter (verse 2), where it says we are those who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a responsive thing, right? God calls us, and then we are the ones who call upon the Lord Jesus Christ. But of course, to call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord, as Savior, something needs to happen first that lets us know him as Lord and Savior. Everything in the passage earlier was about how the cross seems like foolishness, the message of Christ seems like foolishness, unless God calls you.

That’s what it says in 1 Corinthians 1:25. It says, “. . . but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.” You must be called to know Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God, but if you do know Christ as the power of God and wisdom of God, then you know that God has called you, and that is a sweet, sweet foundation under your feet. If God has called you, then he surely will sustain us in this call as we pursue it.

Here’s my question to wrap up: Are you regularly rejoicing in God’s grace towards you in your life? Here’s the thing—we can know about God’s grace, and it has no operative effect on us, right? It’s not operative in the day to day. But if we are rejoicing in God’s grace, then we are filled up with the wonder of who God is, we’re filled up with his love, and he gives us strength to do these things that he’s called us to.

What does that look like here, this week, in Holy Week, as we’re trying to remember these sweet truths and reappropriate them, put them in our lives? I love the seasons of the year where we get these opportunities to recall and to remind ourselves of these core things. And I think Holy Week is a premiere time of year where we get to recall the grace of God that’s on display in Jesus Christ and receive this fresh strength to pursue what he’s called us to in the Christian life, to his great glory.

As this week—Good Friday service, Easter service, maybe you have an Easter reading you’re doing with your family, a Holy Week reading that you’re doing—as you’re telling the old, old story again, what I want for us is to see that it’s time again to see Jesus praying for his church as he goes to the cross, that they would have a oneness and a unity that is representative of his very oneness and unity with the Father. Then we see that he pays for that unity with his precious blood. As we see that, it makes that unity to us precious as well, something that we see as sweet and lovely and worth laying ourselves down for.

I think Holy Week is a time to see again the seriousness of our pride and our lack of love and to see how it’s those sins that land as lashes on Jesus’ flesh, and as we see that it leads us to hate those sins and to not be so easily drawn into their deceptive lure; to lay them down, to lay ourselves down for the sake of others, like Jesus, and trust that life and joy is the result of that.

Holy Week is a time to see again Jesus praying for others who brought such hostility against him while he’s on the cross. If we see Jesus praying for his enemies on the cross, then surely we can be a people who as we pursue unity in this church we can forgive others when they give offense to us.

Holy Week is a time every year where we can witness again the resurrection power of Jesus that raises him to new life, knowing that that newness of life, that resurrection power, can be ours as well as we trust in Jesus Christ. So in our battle with sin, in this pursuit of holiness, we do not fall into despair, because we know that Jesus rose again, and that resurrection power can be true in my life, and I can put that sin in the grave and leave it there a little bit more.

I’m remembering that this Holy Week, and I’m starting to walk in those truths again. It’s just a time to embrace this calling more and more. Maybe it’s embracing it again. Maybe all these calls that we’ve talked about, you’ve kind of been lax on it, you’ve kind of been passive. Maybe it’s time to pick it back up again. Maybe it’s time to embrace it more than you are right now, this call that God has put into our lives to enjoy his grace as we pursue the new life that he’s called us to.

Here’s our hope, here’s our promise from the Scripture we just read this week. It says this in 1 Corinthians 1:8-9: “[The Lord] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called.” Amen? Let’s pray.

Lord, we thank you for your word. We thank you for some of the direct portions of your word that say this is what we’re called to, and it calls us to take an account of ourselves and see if we’re walking in it.

Lord, we thank you that what you’ve called us to is good and right and true. We thank you that it’s an upward call of God in Christ Jesus, as it says elsewhere. As Edwards said, this life of holiness is sweet and lovely, it is full of goodness. We stand in wonder that something of the nature of who you are, God, can be manifest in our lives as we walk in holiness.

Lord, we ask that you would just press home on our hearts right now what we need to hear. For your glory, Lord, we want to pursue this call; for our joy in you we want to pursue this call with some freshness, with some vigor, with some new joy in you. So we ask that this Holy Week you would draw the eyes of our hearts to you again, that you would encourage our hearts in you again, that the wonder of the gospel would just blow our minds again and we would stand in awe before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We ask that you would be honored and magnified in it. It’s in your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.