Sunday, October 09, 2022

A Manner Worthy of Your Calling

 Ephesians 4:1-6

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Sermon for the 17th Sunday after Trinity 10/09/22

A Manner Worthy of Your Calling

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Who are you? Your answer to that question will determine the course of your life and the values you live by. It is said that people actually live out what they believe. And they do, although they don't always live out what they say that they believe. Such people don't, evidently, know who they are.

Now, I'm sure you think you know who you are. If you want to be sure, look at the decisions you make - decisions about your time; decisions about your behavior; decisions about your stewardship of all of that which God has entrusted you for a time. What you do and how you decide will show you just who you are. If you look at yourself honestly and have the courage to face the truth about what you see, you will discover that you are not who you think you are - or at least who you think you want to be - or want others to think you are!

That is because of the flesh, the part of you that is still under the sway of sin. For most people, that is their entire being, but since you are here, this morning, I am going to assume that you are genuinely Christian, and that what you see is a reflection of that part of you that is still awaiting the resurrection. I said ‘that part of you' that is awaiting the resurrection because when you were baptized, part of you - your spirit - died and was born again to a new and everlasting life in connection with Christ Jesus. We don't actually see the baptized die or be raised to new life, we merely witness the means by which God accomplishes this miracle, Holy Baptism. Because God says that this is what He is doing in Baptism, we know that we witness it happening, although we cannot point to a moment when the spirit dies to sin or is raised to new and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.

We don't actually see it because the flesh does not die in Baptism. It continues alive and well, and infected with sin, just as we all are! It is that sinful flesh that leads us astray. It is the flesh that leads us to say things we know we ought not to say, and to do things we know we should not do, and to fail to do those things we know we just should do, as God's people. Things like prayer, forgiving one another, gathering for worship with all God's holy people on a regular basis, and the like.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should walk - that is to say we should live - in a manner worthy of our calling - the calling with which you have been called. That is the same as saying that you should live out what you confess - or what you believe. As we look at our text this morning, our theme is "A Manner Worthy of Your Calling."

You act on what you believe because what you believe makes you what you are. Think about it. Pagans act like pagans. They live without a consistent moral center, because their gods, if they profess to have one in today's world, are of their own making and imagination, and they are shaped according to their own desires. They do what they want to do, and they justify their actions by reference to their god - as Muslims or Satanists do - or by explaining that they have no god, and they are free to do whatever they are strong enough or clever enough to get away with.

Sensualists live for the pleasure of it - however they may define pleasure. The Connoisseur lives for the pleasure of food, or wine, or whatever he or she claims is their specialty. The practitioner of extreme sports lives for the thrill of being on the edge. Some live for the more erotic sensual pleasures. They do so because that is where they believe the meaning of their lives exists.

People who believe that this life is all there is live for the moment, and when life is no longer fun or profitable, they throw it away. The Hemlock Society, for example, lobbies for the right to exit this life at the time of one's own choosing, before it is no longer worth living, in their estimation.

Christians will live out what they believe – or, to put it as Paul does, they will live in a manner worthy of the calling with which they have been called in Christ Jesus. They have been called to faith in God and forgiveness of sins, and the hope of salvation. Please note that they are not called to live in such a manner as would make them worthy of their calling. They are called, rather, to live in a way that is appropriate for one who has such a calling.

Judging by our Epistle lesson this morning, to "walk in a manner worthy" means to live deliberately as a member of the church, as a member of the body of Christ, living out our forgiveness, and our unity with one another and with everyone who places their hope completely on the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

The question is, how do you do that? What is the worthy manner?

We turn to the text again. Paul indicates that the worthy manner includes humility. That makes sense, since we live by the grace of God, which is the undeserved choice of God to bless and save us, through Jesus Christ. We do not merit Christ's gift. The fact that we need to be saved says that much. We are just like everyone else, deserving God's wrath and destruction, if we do not consider the work of Jesus on our behalf. So we have no particular reason for ego and pride that we are Christians or that we will be going to heaven. We have reason for joy, but it is a gift, not something we have earned.

The worthy manner also includes gentleness. The manner worthy of our calling is ‘like Christ.' Jesus did not come with violence or aggressiveness. He had good cause for violence and aggressive behavior, but He came humble and gentle for our sakes. He didn't demand His rights or push people into the pattern in which He wanted them to live. He came teaching and preaching and setting and example, and enduring the sin of those around Him even when it was focused on Him. He chose to lead the flock, not drive the herd.

Paul also included patience in that worthy manner. It just goes with humility and gentleness. Patience doesn't demand its own way or its own time schedule. The manner worthy of our calling is one that recognizes that we have been called to represent Christ on earth - not as employees, but as members of the family who share the same focus, that through Jesus Christ men and women might find salvation. This humility is linked to forbearance. We bear with the weakness and folly of one another, knowing that we, too are weak and foolish, but without regard to our weakness Christ has chosen us and rescued us from sin, death and hell.

Finally, the worthy manner is to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Basically, that means living in the reality of the oneness we have been given in Jesus Christ — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God (who is Father), one body and one Spirit. The body is the Church and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit who dwells in each one that believes.

Jesus said, "By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." We are to love each other first. We are to "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." This love is not about feeling a certain way or doing good deeds, although it certainly doesn't exclude them. This love is about sharing sound doctrine, about peace and harmony and patience and humility with one another. In other words, the love we are to have for one another is another way of expressing the worthy manner to live out the calling of Jesus Christ to eternal life and salvation.

Our unity is first that we are part of that "one body" that Paul writes about. He means "the body of Christ", which is the Church. We share that one Spirit. And we all partake of that one hope - the promise of resurrection from our graves, and eternal life in glory with Him and with all those who have loved the Lord and shared in this unity. This is the truth of God, revealed to us in God's Word, but not by our senses or our feelings, or our earthly experience, necessarily.

Naturally, all those that believe have the same Lord - the Lord Jesus Christ.

We confess one faith. Denominational labels do not matter in this. Everyone who goes to heaven believes what we believe, that is to say we share the same fundamental doctrines. One way I have stated this before is to say that everyone who goes to heaven is a Lutheran, whether they know it or not, because they believe the same Gospel. They hold to the same salvation. They repent. They trust in Jesus alone for their salvation by grace alone through faith alone - or they are not Christians. It isn't enough to know how to pronounce the name, Jesus. A false faith hopes in that which is not saving and trusts in those things which are not promised. So one might say that the Baptist, or the Catholic, or the Methodist that trusts in Jesus alone for salvation is a Lutheran under the skin and unawares, for they share that one faith of which Paul has written to us. That is a big part of our true unity.

Each of us shares in the one baptism. It is the Baptism of Jesus, commanded in Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16, in Acts 2:38 and Acts 22:16. It is a baptism that clothes us with Christ, washes away our sins, causes us to be born again to a living hope, and makes us members of Christ's body, the Church. Without that baptism, we are not a part of this thing called the Christian Church. It is the same baptism no matter where it is done or what method we may us - immersion, pouring the water, or sprinkling. It is all the same, and it is all by Christ's command and by Christ's hand - for He calls the hands of those that baptize into His service, and gives them the command - "Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."

We all worship the same God and have but one heavenly Father who is over all, and in us all, and He works through all of us to accomplish His gracious will here on earth. Living deliberately within this unity, and deliberately seeking to preserve it in peace and concord, is part of what we are called by in this text to live in, the manner worthy of your calling.

Each of us is in the same delicate condition, clinging to a hope which is beyond our power to choose to believe in the first place. We earnestly want nothing to shake us, and, if we are true Christians, we want nothing to shake each other. God has given us to one another to help us stand fast and firm in this evil world.

The American dream of independence is strong in our culture and strong in our flesh, but it is not a part of the Christian faith. We are united, walking together in the manner worthy of our calling, deliberate in love because the Holy Spirit in us works love in us for one another - by this will all men know that you are disciples of mine, if you have love for one another.

So, we answer the question "Who are You?" by walking in the manner worthy of your calling because it is who we are as God's holy people.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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